Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Perceptions of Libraries

Just read an excellent post from Carl Grant of Ex Libris about OCLC’s ‘Perceptions of libraries 2010‘ report. Academic libraries need to change, and that change needs to come fast.  Although the report is based on US data and Carl’s view is from the Ex Libris perspective, this lesson applies as much in the UK as the US. He talks of a revolution not evolution being needed in libraries today. There is a growing disconnect between libraries and users, and librarians are failing to realise this.

So what should we be doing? This is less clear, as is inevitable, but he does say:

We must meet the end-user on their terms, delivering information to the interface of their choice, at the place, time and format of their choosing.

For me as a systems manager this means things like single search boxes covering all library resources, smartphone interfaces and external availability of data.

But we must also be recognised as delivering this information: too often users don’t realise that the library has made available the database from which they have just skimmed an article – the information is just ‘out there’ and the user found it via Google. Even worse, our funders don’t understand this. Hence there’s a difficult job there of both branding information and making it easy to find and use. It isn’t just a challenge for the systems managers but for the subject librarians (student and faculty facing) and the library managers (university management facing)  so demands fundamental change at all levels.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Libraries | , , , , | Leave a comment

Government plans for Universities

There’s an excellent opinion piece in todays Times Higher on the events in London last month. I’m not sure I agree with every word, but it points out how the media has been manipulated to accentuate the unfortunate violence at the student demonstrations in London while ignoring the very real concerns of the demonstrators. For over a decade young people have been told they should go to University if they wanted to be successful, and it has become almost an expected part of growing up for a large part of the population. Now the process has been made much more difficult for them, and not surprisingly they’ve reacted. Big changes in a short space of time inevitably cause social unrest, and happen in an uneven way with unpredictable effects on other parts of society.

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Universities | | Leave a comment

Higher education funding

There’s an interesting juxtaposition of HE stories on the BBC news website this morning. The Russell Group has responded in the Guardian to government plans to reduce University funding over the next 3 years, pointing out the damage that it will cause to Higher Education in the UK. There’s a dramatic quotation:

“It has taken more than 800 years to create one of the world’s greatest education systems and it looks like it will take just six months to bring it to its knees.”

Compare and contrast that to another article arising from a student survey by a technology firm Olympus. This highights how seriously lack of money is affecting current students. Most are missing lectures to do part-time work to support themselves, and are worried about the longer-term benefit they will get from their degree.

These financial problems are arising from a government which must be regretting stating an intention for 50% of young people to attend Higher Education. While France and Germany are putting more money into their Universities, the UK is instead cutting funding and making it more difficult for students to find time to learn. The UK’s Universities are seen internationally as one of its strengths: cut them and in an increasingly-competitive world the UK loses another of its assets.

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Universities | | Leave a comment