Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Higher Education libraries

Fascinating article on the BBC website today about HE libraries without books.  Even better, it takes a fairly considered perspective, instead of seeking cheap headlines as do most of the new articles on this subject. The direction that HE libraries are taking seems clear, with more eresources and less paper, but the consequences of this are less so. At the moment libraries still seem to be valued as a physical place to work, but if there’s no longer a reason to maintain a large expensive building, students are either likely to be directed to cheaper environments or expected to study at home. The examples of new libraries given in the article all have significantly less capacity than their predecessors.

As a librarian, I was also glad to see that the article recognises that librarians still have a role to play. Many people link librarians just to books rather than to information, which is a sad misunderstanding of what librarians do. There are important roles played by librarians that many people (including some academics and IT Services staff) don’t see, in selecting and organising resources as well as in helping people to understand and use information.

But cost saving is also mentioned, and cutting costs is a focus of the current UK government at the moment (in all areas, not just HE).  Cheaper education is indeed possible at a distance using planned learning, with digitised/ born digital resources and VLEs and remote support available where necessary – just look at the success of the Open University. But the result of this is an educational experience very different from that of the last century, where students actually got to know and speak personally to their educators, and by the experience of searching for information in less well-indexed times grew more familiar with their overall field of study. Moreover by living away from home in an entirely different environment their mental horizons were changed in a way that is happening less in the modern HE world. The educational experience is thus very different and in turn is bound to have an influence on the society which these people in their turn contribute to forming.  Information is changing society in ways we can only speculate about.

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November 12, 2010 - Posted by | Libraries, Universities

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