The ACRL Research, Planning and Review Committee recently published a review of the 2010 top ten trends in academic libraries. I decided to take a look at how our medical library is dealing with each of these trends. In our daily efforts to keep up with the changes in library services, are we racing down the court and throwing up a prayer? Or are we strategically and collaboratively working toward a goal?
#1. New Resource Types. Number 1 is the trend toward electronic access to materials. As a medical library, we’ve been all about this for years. We are not hanging on to stuff “just-in-case”. Our print collection is lean and getting leaner. We do have some odd things around. Training films on VHS. In general, we are highly responsive to the patron demand for electronic access.
I do agree with this review– Despite our efforts toward electronic access, patrons remain frustrated when encountering an abstract instead of the article. They don’t like needing to request an article. Even if our Document Delivery Specialist gets it to them in 24-48 hours! And, let’s not even get into link resolver problems… a frustration shared by the librarians.
#2. Budget Challenges. Ah, the budget. The economy doesn’t seem to be snapping back very quickly. This is the trend that could put a damper on some of the innovative efforts found below. But–I think the point is–we cannot let it.
#3. Diverse Skill Sets. Trend #3 is about facing the inevitable. As our libraries become more technology-oriented, we need to pursue professional development so that we can learn new skills. The alternative is to watch more tech-savvy people getting hired any time a job opens up (if the budget allows for new hires). My personal feeling is that we need to be proactive in our willingness to learn and, if necessary, learn on our own time.
Learning new skills is a bit scary. No grown-up likes to look stupid. I am lucky to work with supportive colleagues. If we take a risk with a new skill, we know we have teammates to encourage us and to back us up.
#4. Accountability. This trend is all about framing our work in context of our institution’s mission and accomplishments. In other words, this isn’t about changing what we do (as in Trends # 1 & 3) or in facing dire circumstances (Trend #2). It is how we talk about what we do.
In my experience, librarians are hesitant to assert our role in the successful grant applications and notable faculty research happening within our institutions. I don’t doubt that library collections, document delivery, database tutorials and literature searches are an integral part of that success. Not to mention, in a hospital setting, our impact on health outcomes and patient safety. But, doesn’t it seem rude and out-of-place to claim any credit?
So, maybe it helps to think about this in terms of “accountability”. The ACRL review sees this trend as part of a broader movement of transparency. If someone asked me, “What are all you librarians doing anyway?”, how would I answer?
I need to practice verbally connecting our work to the work of the institution.
#5. Digitization. This is a trend that we’ve dabbled in. The Health Sciences Library at Baystate Medical Center launched our first digitization project in 2009. We were offered a low-cost opportunity to professionally scan and digitally display 10-20 items through our membership in the Central/Western Massachusetts Regional Library System. We chose 10 items that were previously published by Baystate Health, Springfield Hospital, or the Springfield Hospital School of Nursing. These items are now available to view as part of Digital Treasures.
#6. Mobile Devices. Hooray! We are on the court with this, too. Last year, our Web Services Coordinator developed a mobile website for our library . This website displays the most pertinent pieces of information: location, hours, contact information, and article request form. It also includes links to mobile databases.
To be quite honest, not many people have accessed it. I am on a mission to promote it as the new medical students and residents arrive this summer. Especially since I am now a proud iPhone user! And, I see how cool it all is. (BTW, I have a 3G phone …I am not exactly an early adopter, which drives home the need to embrace Trend #3).
#7. Expanding Role. Trend #7 mentions the embedded librarian. Our librarian:scholar ratio does not allow for embedding ourselves in any practical sense. I do see possibilities in terms of our efforts toward Consumer Health. We have a small branch specifically for addressing the needs of consumers, but we have very low foot traffic. So, maybe we should get out of the library? Go to where the consumers are?
I have lots of ideas bubbling up: teaching public librarians, public health workers, and interpreters; teaching at public libraries in conjunction with computer literacy classes; utilizing social networking for consumer outreach; and investigating in our role with in-hospital kiosks.
For our clinician scholars, I do see the benefits of customizing services on the department-level. Maybe integrating library information with other departmental information on the intranet? A comment that often arises in the scholarly communications circles is that researchers are more aligned with their discipline than their institution (harsh reality). Librarians often organize information so that it is easy for us. We convince ourselves that we are reducing redundancy and making efficient use of resources. But, maybe a little redundancy will make our scholars happy. Adapting rather than embedding.
#8. Scholarly Communication. Speaking of scholars, Baystate developed a database called Scholarly Pubs to track scholarly work from 2003 onward. Publications and presentations are recorded in this database as citations. Files are not stored, as in a repository. The citations are reviewed by our Serials Coordinator for completeness and correctness. So, yes, we are on the court with Trend #8.
#9. Technology. Within the ACRL list of technology tools, the social networking tools jump out at me. I am not sure what networking tool is most appropriate for us. We serve a diverse crowd! Our clinicians, students, employees, and consumers all have unique communication styles.
For a couple of months, I monitored Facebook and Twitter for activity that mentioned Baystate. (This monitoring was done on the one-specific-library-staff-computer-that-doesn’t-have-social-networking-blocked.) From that brief period of time, I noted that nurses and residents were most likely to have Facebook groups. The majority of tweets were job opportunities or news articles. So, people are using social networking to communicate about us, but how can we communicate to them? Especially considering that IS blocks social networking?
But, maybe there is a way to use Trend #9 with consumers? I am in the middle of viewing the discussion of Public Health: What’s Digital Got to Do With It? (scroll down mid-page for the video) This June 2010 event highlighted efforts to use social media to improve health outcomes. It is really worth a look!
#10. Repurposing Space. In the tenth trend, the ACRL comments upon the irony of providing access to larger number of resources that occupy less space. Research libraries nationwide are facing pressure to give up square footage. We are among the crowd that is embracing the concept of repurposing space (rather than giving up space) for individual and collaborative work. We are maintaining our computer instruction lab and a small conference room. We outfitted another room with couches and ottomans. And, there’s a study room that we affectionately call ”the closet”. We emptied a closet and furnished it with a small table and three chairs.
There is talk about breaking up our open space (with tables, chairs, and carrels) into enclosed collaborative workspaces. No timeline on that.
Recap. Each of these trends is impacting us. From resources to skill-development to space. My belief is that we are strategizing for success. We have our eyes wide open, and we are ready to move in the right direction.