Chapter 5: Future of academic branch libraries – Academic Branch Libraries in Changing Times


Future of academic branch libraries


To speak of the future of academic branch libraries, one should look at the future of academic libraries. The future of academic libraries is related to current trends that exist in society. In the late 2000s experts and organizations published data that could give us some indication of what the future might look like.

Key words

information commons

learning commons

collaborative spaces

digital libraries

Publications of note

Several studies recently published by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) will be discussed below. They do not speak explicitly about branch libraries, but the recommendations and findings can and should be implemented when thinking of the future of branch libraries.

ACRL’s Research Planning and Review Committee in 2010 published in College & Research Libraries News the top ten trends in academic libraries based on their in-depth review of the current literature. The top trends are:

1. Academic library collection growth is driven by patron demand and will include new resource types.

2. Budget challenges will continue and libraries will evolve as a result.

3. Changes in higher education will require that librarians possess diverse skill sets.

4. Demands for accountability and assessment will increase.

5. Digitization of unique library collections will increase and require a larger share of resources.

6. Explosive growth of mobile devices and applications will drive new services.

7. Increased collaboration will expand the role of the library within the institution and beyond.

8. Libraries will continue to lead efforts to develop scholarly communication and intellectual property services.

9. Technology will continue to change services and required skills.

10. The definition of the library will change as physical space is repurposed and virtual space expands (ACRL).

A year before, in 2009, Kathryn Deiss and Mary Jane Petrowski prepared the ‘ACRL 2009 Strategic Thinking Guide for Academic Librarians in the New Economy.’ The guide ‘considers three important drivers in the current environment and poses questions to stimulate conversations and action in your libraries and on your campuses.’ The guide offers strategic questions for libraries for each driver, including:

 Driver #1: The Economy and Higher Education

‘What new organizational structures are necessary to support emerging client demands given new fiscal constraints? How can libraries creatively redesign functions and services to realize cost savings and support student success and faculty productivity?’ (Deiss 2009: 5)

 Driver #2: Students

‘Given the growing information-rich networked environment, should information literacy be re-envisioned as media literacy? Does the library have a role in helping students develop the more sophisticated skills (including trans-media navigation, networking, distributed cognition, simulations, etc.)’ (Deiss 2009: 7)

 Driver #3: Technology

‘The expending capabilities of mobile or “smart” devices, such as phones and other handheld devices, are increasing student expectations for services.. Prices for mobile devices and ultraportable laptops are dropping. As more students purchase these devices, there will be less reliance on the fields of computers typically found in information commons.’ (Deiss 2009: 7–8)

In June 2010 the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) published the Futures Thinking for Academic Librarians: Higher Education in 2025, prepared by Dr. David J. Staley (Ohio State University) and Kara J. Malenfant (ACRL). The document ‘presents 26 possible scenarios based on an implications assessment of current trends, which may have an impact on all types of academic and research libraries over the next 15 years’ (Staley 2010: 3). During a two month period the authors completed an intensive environmental scan, looking for and envisioning changes to higher education and academic librarians. They developed an elaborate survey instrument and invited almost 3,000 ACRL members to participate. The survey participants identified four scenarios – high impact and high probability that will occur the fastest.

 Increased threat of cyberwar, cybercrime, and cyberterrorism

College/university and library IT systems are the targets of hackers, criminals, and rogue states, disrupting operations for days and weeks at a time. Campus IT professionals seek to protect student records/financial data while at the same time divulging personal viewing habits in compliance with new government regulations. Librarians struggle to maintain patron privacy and face increasing scrutiny and criticism as they seek to preserve online intellectual freedom in this climate. (Staley, 2010: 13)

 Meet the new freshman class

With laptops in their hands since the age of 18-months old, students who are privileged socially and economically are completely fluent in digital media. For many others, the digital divide, parental unemployment, and the disruption of moving about during the foreclosure crisis of their formative years, means they never became tech savvy. ‘Remedial’ computer and information literacy classes are now de rigueur. (Staley, 2010: 15)

 Right here with me

Students ‘talk’ through homework with their handheld devices, which issue alerts when passing a bookstore with material they need to cite. Scanning the title page, this information is instantly embedded in proper citation style with an added endnote. Checking in on location-based services, students locate study team members and hold impromptu meetings without the need for study rooms. Their devices have whiteboards and can share notes with absent members. (Staley, 2010: 18)

 Scholarship stultifies

The systems that reward faculty members continue to favor conventionally published research. At the same time, standard dissemination channels – especially the university press – implode. While many academic libraries actively host and support online journals, monographs, and other digital scholarly products, their stature is not great; collegial culture continues to value tradition over anything perceived as risky. (Staley, 2010: 18)

The authors suggest ‘academic librarians think about what questions to ask and choices to make to thrive in the future’ (Staley, 2010: 23). Many institutions have recognized the need for change, as is shown later in this chapter.

Later that same year, in October 2010, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) published the ARL 2030 Scenarios: A User’s Guide for Research Libraries.

The ARL 2030 Scenarios are rich descriptions of four possible futures. Each presents a particular exploration of many critical uncertainties in a way that considers the dynamics that might unfold over a twenty-year time frame, as well as synergies and interactions between uncertainties. As a set, the four scenarios are designed to tell widely divergent stories to explore a broad range of possible developments over time. (ARL, 2010: 8)

Below you will find the ‘list of three strategic questions research library leadership should address in the next 1 to 5 years to be well positioned to succeed in the potential future’ grouped by the four scenarios:

Scenario 1 – Research Entrepreneurs

 What non-traditional sources of funds or revenue should we be nurturing today to supplement our traditional sources of funding?

 How do we begin now to develop the library professional of this future – a highly capable and credible service provider who can work directly with data preparation and curation capabilities? What skills are we currently developing in our library professionals that may not be valued in the future?

 How do we successfully position our organization for this potential future given our traditional library values and culture? (Association of Research Libraries, 2010: 38–9)

Scenario 2 – Reuse and Recycle

 How do we develop new, competitive, and diverse revenue generating models?

 How do we understand our mission in a world with abundant, but low-value information and only scarce high-value information? Strategically, what levels of support are we willing and able to apply to (redundant) general collections and services if they are not adequately funded or able to generate revenue?

 How do we develop the library professional of this future – an informatics professional with discipline knowledge and project management skills? What skills are we currently developing in our library professional that may not be valued in the future? (Association of Research Libraries, 2010: 39)

Scenario 3 – Discipline in Charge

 How do our organizations identify areas where we are uniquely positioned to focus resources to further build expertise and distinctive competency?

 What relationships do we need to build with the research community?

 What relationships do we build with other research libraries? How do we best support the development of the network of research libraries? (Association of Research Libraries, 2010: 40)

Scenario 4 – Global Followers

 How do we position ourselves to flourish in the role of follower to leading eastern institutions and research agendas?

 How do we effectively build cross-cultural and multicultural participation and expertise?

 What is required to develop common cause and cooperation around intellectual property issues? (Association of Research Libraries, 2010: 40)

A study that would be the most relevant for branch libraries to replicate would be ‘The Library as Learning Space’ published in Educause Review, conducted by Keith Webster, University Librarian and Director of Learning Services at the University of Queensland, Australia. The starting point for this study was the model for academic libraries 2005–2025 published in 2007 by David Lewis, dean of IUPUI University Library. For Lewis there are ‘five parts of a strategy for maintaining the library as a vibrant enterprise worthy of support.’ Lewis suggests the following:

1. Complete the migration from print to electronic collections.

2. Retire legacy print collections in efficient way.

3. Revamp the library as primary informal learning space. Partner with other campus units

4. Reposition library and information tools, resources, and expertise so that they are embedded into the teaching, learning, and research enterprises.

5. Migrate the focus of collections from purchasing materials to curating content (Lewis, 2007: 420).

Twenty-first century creations

Information/Learning Commons, collaborative spaces, digital libraries and the like were created at the end of the twentieth century, but their popularity took off especially in the twenty-first one. But, what do these terms mean?

Information/learning commons and collaborative spaces

Laura Wernick, an architect by profession, speaks of learning spaces from the perspective of her profession. In ‘The Learning Center’ she speaks of public libraries’ recent transformations of ‘expanding their role as community-wide resource centers as well as maintaining their stature as places for reflection, sharing, and learning’ (22). But Wernick also recognizes that changes are coming to college and university libraries. ‘Endless bookshelves are going into hiding from the public view and into off-site archiving centers. They have been replaced by spaces for sharing, teaching and working’ (Wernick, 2010: 23).

One can find substantial published work on the topic of information commons first, and in more recent years the term has evolved into learning commons. According to Donald Baily, library director of Providence College in Rhode Island and Barbara Tierney, Head of Information Services at UNC Charlotte, ‘the terms information commons and learning commons are often used interchangeably, it is helpful to understand them as different levels of a similar concept’ (Bailey, 2008: 1). According to them, ‘the information commons provides students the opportunity to conduct research and write their papers at a single workstation.’

The information commons (IC) strives to unite both electronic and traditional library resources to provide a one-stop service for students at all levels. This guide provides information that will be valuable for institutions considering the development of an information commons. Readers will learn the historical context for information commons and understand what practicalities need to be part of the planning process. Academic, public, and school librarians who are considering an IC or looking for ways to improve their IC will find the information here. (Bailey, 2008 Jacket)

Bryan Sinclair’s guiding principles state: ‘The Commons 2.0 adheres to the following five guiding principles: it is open, free, comfortable, inspiring, and practical’ (Sinclair 2007: 5). He is right when he says that ‘The software, spaces, and instruction provided to today’s students should encourage them to become well-equipped participants in an online global community, skilled in written and visual communication and critical thinking’ (Sinclair, 2007: 4).

Digital Libraries

The term Digital Libraries has been in use for a number of years. The term has evolved, and is still a term that is hard to define. It means different things to different professionals. The D-Lib Working Group on Digital Library Metrics chaired by Barry M. Leiner in 1998 defined the digital library as follows:

The Digital Library is the collection of services and the collection of information objects and their organization, structure, and presentation that supports users in dealing with information objects available directly or indirectly via electronic/digital means. (Leiner, 1998a)

Some other discussions on Digital Libraries (but we’re not talking about digital repositories when talking of the digital branch. The digital branch is more than a repository, it’s the entire interaction: staff, building, community, collection - as David Lee King correctly defines):

A digital branch is a branch library, delivered digitally, on the Web. It offers much more than a traditional library website in many ways, because a digital branch has real staff, a real building, a real collection, and real community happening on and around it. (King, 2009: 8)

David Lee King, Digital Branch & Services Manager, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, when he announced the redesigned library website in 2008 gave some tips on the website presence of a digital library:

 RSS Everywhere. You can subscribe to the whole site via RSS, or parts and pieces of it.

 Content is provided by library staff - we consider our Digital Branch to be an actual branch … our library staff is providing content, answering comments, creating resources, etc.

 We’re trying to be very community focused - and we’re showing that via open commenting on the site, our IM Meebo widget prominently displayed, and via RSS feeds and multimedia.

 Modern visual design and a new logo for the library (

These tips can be applied to any type of library, including an academic digital branch.

Thomas Frey, executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute, was interviewed by Tom Sloan, executive director of the DuPage Library System in Genera, Illinois. Sloan acknowledged that Frey had written and spoken about libraries becoming ‘Electronic Outposts’ and asked for the definition of an Electronic Outpost library.

An Electronic Outpost is a satellite branch of a central library designed to be an efficiently run community gathering place. Size, shape, and purpose will vary. Some may fit well in shopping centers while others may be better suited to function as stand-alone buildings. Some will take on a homey, living room-like feel, others a more traditional library reading-room setting, and still others will opt for the look and feel of a cyber café.

Frey goes on to say:

My hope is that communities will begin to experiment, and electronic outposts be synced with the needs of the surrounding community. In the end, they will serve a different role than that of a traditional branch library. (Sloan, 2010) ( columns/newsmaker/future-libraries-interview-thomas-frey, accessed December 19, 2010)

Examples of changes

The examples below are just a sample of innovative services offered at branch libraries at research universities. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. It is meant to illustrate the wide range of new services offered by the libraries, but outside of the main library.

Brown University Science Library Friedman Center

In 2006, three floors of the Science Library or more than 27,000 square feet (the first and second floors and the basement) underwent extensive renovations and were transformed into the Susan P. and Richard A. Friedman Study Center. It quickly became a central gathering place for students. In addition to comfortable seating, public computer clusters, and collaborative study rooms there is a café on the first floor, assistive technology room, and a multimedia workstation area. It is staffed by expert library and technology consultants. It took two years of planning and $4 million funding to make this a reality. In order to vacate/repurpose the space 100,000 books from the Sciences Library were moved to the Library Annex. The newly renovated space called SciLi by locals was well received by students. In a blog entry from April 6, 2006, the sentiment of many students is well summarized.

It’s casual. Going to the study center doesn’t feel like a big, intimidating thing. You can eat and drink there, you can have a conversation, you can spy on other users. The study center feels like part of everyday life, rather than a cordoned-off academic space. (, accessed December 19, 2010)

University of Michigan Digital Media Commons

The James and Anne Duderstadt Center, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to members of the University of Michigan community and located on the University of Michigan North Campus, houses the Art, Architecture, and Engineering Library, the College of Engineering Computer Aided Engineering Network (CAEN), the Digital Media Commons, and the Millennium Project. Although independently operated, there is plenty of collaboration and interaction between these entities. The expertise present in the building helps students in their projects.

The Art, Architecture, and Engineering Library is home for the collections in Architecture, Art, Design, Engineering, Theater Studies, and Urban and Regional Planning. Also in the library are the standards and patents collection and expertise. An extensive collection of visual materials (digital images, slides, DVDs, and VHS tapes) for art and design, architecture, science, and other disciplines are available in the Visual Resources Center. The Computer and Game Archive – materials collected relating to games for the purpose of academic inquiry (programming and technology, artistic and literary expression, social and cultural impact, instruction and education) – allows users to play a wide variety of games from the 1970s to the present.

The College of Engineering Computer Aided Engineering Network (CAEN) provides the College of Engineering community with a wide range of computing and other information technologies.

The Digital Media Commons consists of several labs: Collaborative Technology Lab, Digital Media Tools Lab, UM3D Lab, and USE Lab. The Commons, a state-of-the-art multimedia facility, is restricted to University of Michigan faculty and students. It provides access to visualization and virtual reality technologies, and is a development center for new collaboration technologies.

The Digital Media Tools Lab incorporates an Audio and Video Studio, Design Lab 1, and GROCS (Grant Opportunities Collaborative Spaces). The project Chance-It multi-touch table won an award from Yahoo to continue its development. The students working on this project were recipients of one of the yearly GROCS grants hosted by Design Lab 1, which is part of the Digital Media Commons.

Harvard University

Lamont Library at Harvard, opened in 1949, ‘was the first university library building in the United States specifically planned for undergraduates’, Several changes and renovations happened over the years, and multiple collections and services have been added. The latest is the addition of Research Services supporting research in Social Sciences and the Humanities, which also includes the research collections in government documents and microform collections across all disciplines. In 2006, the Library sponsored the opening of a café that became popular with students very quickly. The year before, in 2005, Lamont initiated 24/5 service for library users. In 2009, Collaborative Learning Spaces opened at Lamont. The space was designed to encourage collaboration — from the technology to the movable tables, chairs, and whiteboards. Instead of sitting in fixed rows, people are expected to gather in groups. The movable furniture allows for infinite variations. The statement below, published in the Boston Globe, illustrates well how students have accepted the new settings at Lamont.

Harvard’s libraries are no longer solemn tombs of silence. These days, undergraduates flock to the library to socialize as much as to study, thanks to a popular cafe, opened three years ago in Lamont Library, where they can eat, drink (coffee, tea, juice …), and even talk until 2 a.m.

The reporter goes on to say

On a recent afternoon, students chatted in groups and on their cellphones, while others at neighboring tables tapped out papers on their laptops and studied for finals. The new amenities are a way to draw undergraduates back into the libraries. (Jan, 2010)

University of Georgia (Athens)

University of Georgia (Athens) Miller Learning Center (sometimes called Student Learning Center), opened in 2002 (, accessed December 5, 2010). ‘The Miller Learning Center represents a unique combination of digital library, campus computing, and classroom instruction space.’

Unlike most information commons, the University of Georgia’s (UGA) electronic library is not housed within a traditional library space. It occupies the third and fourth floors of the new Student Learning Center— a large, multipurpose building that also contains general classrooms, group study rooms, a coffee house, computer instruction labs, and a small, non-circulating reading room

write the authors A. M. Van Scoyoc and C. Cason.

It is intended to be a comprehensive learning environment for undergraduates, a place where they can attend classes, conduct research, write papers, study individually, work in groups, and socialize all under one roof.

Since the space has plenty of light and comfortable seating, extended hours and an open food and drink policy, the authors conclude:

Not surprisingly, the Student Learning Center has become a popular place. (Van Scoyoc, 2006: 48)

The Georgia Student Learning Center was featured in Chapter 41 of Learning Spaces, published by Educause. The Center, which opened in August 2003, has more than 200,000 square feet. As William Gray Potter and Florence E. King explain, although led by the university architects and Cooper Carry (the design architect), several university departments collaborated on the design of the facility

and continue to service it: the University of Georgia Libraries; the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) … and Enterprise Information Technology Services (EITS), UGA’s computing services. Other partners include the Office of the Vice President for Instruction and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. (Potter, 2006)

University of Southern California

An interesting model of providing services is explained by Linda Weber and Ruth Britton from the University of Southern California after closing the Education and Social Work branch libraries in 1998. In the process, most of the collection was merged into the humanities and social sciences collection, and a smaller part was sent to off-campus storage. Before implementing this plan, it was presented and agreed by the deans of the Schools of Education and Social Work. However, its implementation encountered resistance from faculty and students. ‘ “Their library” was no longer conveniently located in “their space”. A second loss, unexpected in the planning, was a loss of a sense of community’ (Weber, 2000: 55). The subject specialist librarians heavily marketed their new settings as Library Information Centers, housed in the individual professional schools. The spaces were remodeled and refurbished with library funds. Each of the spaces was designed to meet the needs of the specific audience. The Social Work Information Center has two study/conference rooms, comfortable public space with computers for students and faculty, and an office for the Librarian. In contrast, the Education Library Information Center consists of a graduate student lounge, an office for the Education Graduate Student Organization, and an office for the librarian (Weber, 2000: 56). In the conclusion, the authors acknowledge:

The Library Information Center model at the University of Southern California with Subject Specialists in Residence at the schools, is an option that deserves consideration. It offers personalized library service without the maintenance of separate branch libraries. It succeeds because of the vast array of electronic resources available, a condition sure to expand in the twenty-first century. (Weber, 2000: 59)

University of Texas at San Antonio

The top news at the University of Texas at San Antonio on September 9, 2010 was the opening of the Applied Engineering and Technology (AET) Library, the nation’s first completely bookless library on a college or university campus. As reported by Chris Fish,

The 80-person capacity library, which caters to College of Sciences and College of Engineering students, is a satellite of the larger John Peace Library on the Main Campus.

Fish notes:

The trend to move higher education library collections online began in October 2000, when Kansas State University opened the Fiedler Engineering Library. The branch library’s collection is completely electronic with the exception of a series of reference books and a few journals that are unavailable electronically … Stanford University continued the trend when it removed all but 10,000 printed volumes from its Engineering Library.

As for the University of Texas at San Antonio AET bookless Library Fish says:

The spaces reflect an emphasis on teamwork, communications and problem solving, skills integral to the success of professional engineers and scientists. (Fish, 2010)

The library held its official opening in September, but was open in May 2010. The data collected shows an average of 1,000 visits per week. As stated by Jeff McAdams, Science and Engineering librarian, in a listserv email: ‘The AET Library came to existence because of the Dean of Engineering’s need for student study space. He had an empty research lab, so he and our Library Dean worked out this solution.’ He goes on to say: ‘Many of our features are the same services that most of your engineering libraries provide. The big difference is that we don’t store any books there.’ (McAdams, 2010)

Stanford University

In August 2010 the Stanford Library announced the move of the Terman Engineering Library from the Terman Center, to the new Jen Hsun Huang School of Engineering Center. In the process, the print collection was cut down substantially, from 80,000 to about 20,000. The number of e-books was increased to around 40,000, and the library circulates a variety of e-readers. In addition to 12,000 electronic journals, electronic access is provided to a variety of industry standards including ISO, ACI, IEC, ASME, ICC, ASTM, ASCE, and NFPA, and digital collections from professional societies including ACM, AIAA, AIP, ASM, ASTM, ASME, HFES, ICE, IEEE, INFORMS, IWA, MRS, and SPIE.

Roger Edelson, a graduate of Stanford University Engineering School, in an article published in the November 2010 issue of Information Today looks at the ‘reengineered’ library from a former user’s perspective. Edelson quotes from Stanford’s Library Vision statement: ‘As engineering courses increasingly evolve to include tightly integrated information discovery and retrieval components, the library needs to adapt to this multidimensional workload’ (Edelson, 2010: 42). The Library’s Mission reads: ‘Library space and services designed to foster collaboration among students and faculty, and to support discovery, retrieval and integration of print and digital information.’ The library employs four subject specialists as department liaisons, and three library assistants. (, accessed December 6, 2010)

Priddy Library at The Universities at Shady Grove (Author: Irene Munster)


The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is a unique and innovative partnership of nine University System of Maryland universities on one campus located in Montgomery County, one of Maryland’s most vital economic regions. The nine universities in alphabetical order are: Bowie State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; University of Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland, College Park (UM); University of Maryland Eastern Shore; University of Maryland University College. The Universities at Shady Grove is one of two regional higher education centers administered by the University System of Maryland (USM).

Since its inception in 2000, The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) has offered quality higher education programs to undergraduate and graduate students. In these first 10 years, with 63 degree programs offered on campus, more than 3,000 students have received their degrees, with additional programs to come in areas such as bioscience, allied health sciences and engineering.

USG works closely with schools in the community and local colleges to support its mission to ‘expand pathways to affordable, high-quality public higher education’ to local students. USG staff continuously monitor the workforce needs and incorporate new programs to meet the growing and diverse needs of local employers in business, government, and education. To achieve these goals USG partners collaborates ‘with academic, business, public sector and community organizations that promote student success, high academic achievement and professional advancement.’

Demographics and diversity

In 2010 USG expanded and is offering academic degrees to undergraduate full-time day students, undergraduate parttime students and (full-time and part-time) graduate students: a population of almost 4,000 students. The ethnic and racial representation of the undergraduates includes 35 percent Caucasian; 22 percent African American; 16 percent Asian; 12 percent Latino; 6 percent foreign; 9 percent other. Most of the undergraduates are the first in their families to attend and earn a higher degree or diploma. Other aspects of the population are that many of them are transfer students from two year degree colleges – mainly Montgomery College; reside in Montgomery County or are older students who aspire to a better opportunity in life while working to try to advance in their careers or are in search of a new one.

The Priddy Library

In the fall of 2007, USG opened its third building, the Camille Kendall Academic Center which was awarded the LEED® Gold Certification from the US Green Building Council and is currently the largest higher education center in the state of Maryland to achieve that status. The Camille Kendall Academic Center was constructed to be both energy-efficient and an environmentally-sensitive building. It includes green roofs, recycled building materials and the use of sustainable materials among its many innovative elements. The Shannon and Michael Priddy Library, located on the first floor of the building occupying 22,500 sq feet was designed as the centerpiece of the building, showcasing many of the green features such as bamboo floors, FSC certified wood and terrazzo made with recycled glass. All equipment is Energy Star certified and there is a native garden behind the library that complements the peace and tranquility of the area.

Since its opening, the library has become the most popular place on campus to study and collaborate with other students and faculty. There are a variety of areas, such as group study rooms equipped with technology; workstations; a comfortable lounge space area to relax and enjoy the green viewing, and several individual carrels located between the stacks and seating in the main reading room. Two classrooms have been built for instruction. A self-serve glass enclosed copy and print room is located adjacent to the Circulation and the Reference Desks. All areas are near stations designed for accessibility by disabled users.

The Priddy Library is one of seven branch libraries of University of Maryland (UMD) Libraries and the only one located off-campus. The head of the library reports to the Executive Director of USG and to the Director of Public Services Division at UMD Libraries. The professional librarians are hired by UMD Libraries as faculty members and have to go through the same tenure process as their colleagues at the rest of the Libraries.

The library primarily supports USG students, faculty and staff and their academic work related to research. As a branch of UMD, the Priddy Library has access to the databases and e-resources subscribed by the main campus. But this access is only granted at the library premises and no user can access them outside the facility without a UMD ID and password. This causes some confusion to the patrons of partner institutions when they are denied access to these resources while in other buildings on USG campus or trying to access them remotely because they need to log on with their own university library ID (students enrolled in the different programs identify themselves as Shady Grove students rather than their home institutions).

The library has its own operating budget. Although small, it gives the librarians the needed freedom to select from vendors the material needed for courses and develop a robust targeted library collection. The selection process is a patron driven collection strategy as opposed to predicting what the users might find useful in the future. Technical processing has been handled by UMD Libraries but with the shift of vendors, from Blackwell to Yankee Book Peddlers (YBP), UMD and USG determined that the time was ripe for outsourcing USG’s processing.

Circulation polices are set by UMD, however the staff follows and applies the circulation policies of the other library partners as needed. As mentioned above, the students and faculty are members of the partner universities so they carry and use their home university IDs. Currently there isn’t a USG ID, because of information confidentiality, which brings challenges and headaches to staff and users alike.

Course reserves are handled by each partner library respectively. In this instance USG acts solely as an intermediary and displays the print material for use, while the e-resources are accessed through the Blackboard platform from each university. An advantage for the library is that it can rely and benefit from the collections of the nine partner institutions through hold requests and ILL services.

In Fall 2007, the University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions (USMAI) Council of Library Directors appointed a Shady Grove Ad Hoc Working Group. The group was charged to gather information about the resources and services offered by the Priddy Library and home libraries, discuss the successes and barriers to providing optimal access to resources and standardize services to USG students; and develop recommendations to address effective services to USG library users. As a result interlibrary loan and document delivery service from home campuses was finalized for students and faculty at USG from the nine participating institutions. The Priddy Library homepage was updated to make the library services from home campuses easily accessible to the students and faculty at USG.

Another service recently provided by USG staff has been library instruction. In the past subject librarians from the partner institutions had to have a physical or virtual presence in order to teach their user community. Now with the presence of a Health and Life Science librarian, an Education Librarian and two Humanities and Social Sciences librarians this has changed. The four professional librarians and some staff members have embraced the LibGuide capability and are reaching out to faculty and students by developing general and course specific guides for them to use to their advantage.

There are several challenges librarians face in order to succeed in this unique environment. Just to name a few: 1) The librarians need to build and sustain relations with their colleagues at the main campus. It is expected that librarians at USG should serve on library committees at UMD, but the distance and the lack of opportunities to personally interact with them on a daily basis makes this goal difficult to achieve. 2) Many of the faculty members who teach at USG are adjunct faculty who are hired just before the start of each semester, making it difficult for the library to acquire the needed material and organize the course reserve section in advance. Several adjunct faculty do not have interaction with their home campus libraries and are not aware that USG librarians are there to provide them and their students with the kind of needed assistance. Trying to reach out to this ‘phantom faculty’ population and explaining to them that they are considered USG patrons, and that librarians are willing to assist and address their needs has become a full time job. 3) A major challenge for the Priddy Library staff is to respond to the user needs of the nine institutions that partner with USG. Each of these libraries support their users in different and unique ways and these users have a difficult time understanding the complexity of accessing electronic resources and library services from their home campus.

In 2007 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by USG, UMD and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to move and integrate the MCPS Professional Library into the Priddy Library. This process, which is still taking place and monitored, consists of integrating the print reference, journal and book collections, concluded in 2009, with the incorporation of all the bibliographic records into the UMD catalog and the staff and services to USG/UMD. Through this partnership, MCPS teachers, and professional and support staff have access to USG library resources. In addition a new paging service developed by UMD which will provide access to the circulating materials of the seven UMD libraries will benefit MCPS users. The agreement provides for the development of joint USG and MCPS collections with access to support teaching, professional and curriculum development.

Among the future initiatives the library wants to embrace is the creation and development of an immigrant experience archive in Montgomery County; the use and experimentation of new technologies acting as a possible incubator for UMD; and the sourcing of new venues to better serve the different patrons.

Community patrons have access to USG facilities and resources. So the surrounding community is one of the targets, since they are still not aware of USG’s existence and the resources it provides. Consequently, the Priddy Library has been asked to act as a cultural center for the institution. Its first event was an art exhibit: Come Together. Artists of Maryland!, which brought together several plastic artists from around the state. The ideal would be to have the possibility of organizing art exhibits, lectures, and film screening which would complement the curricula and could become joint projects with all our university partners.


Boundaries between academic disciplines are becoming increasingly fuzzy, even as deep expertise becomes increasingly focused. In order to serve faculty and students, academic libraries will be pressed to provide more effectively for both the specialist in a particular discipline and the experts from other disciplines who want to draw on resources that have not traditionally belonged to their fields of study’ wrote Diane Walker in discussing the music libraries of the future. (Walker, 2003: 821)

Derek Law from the Centre for Digital Library Research at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, suggests ‘key areas of strength and core activities which should be exploited to secure libraries future.’ In his view ‘libraries are attempting to face a future in which almost every fixed point has disappeared. Users are changing; content is changing; research is taking new forms. Indeed the very need for libraries is being questioned in some quarters.’

Emphasis on local content, data sets and learning objects in the future will be an important part of Libraries’ activities. Data sets will play a larger role in research, and printed version will no longer be the manuscript of record. Born digital materials and assets produced for the digital medium will be the norm in all disciplines. In this environment, branch libraries should no longer remain depositories of print resources, they should look at transforming themselves to meet the new needs of users. Small branch libraries in this environment are the most vulnerable. Partnering with institutions within the university and outside becomes a crucial component in the transformation process.

As David Lankes says in his presentation to the friends of the Dallas Public Library in December 2010 on the ‘Libraries of the Future’ - the nature of libraries should change from

 Quiet Buildings with Loud Rooms to Loud Buildings with Quiet Rooms

 Places of Knowledge Access to Knowledge Creation

 Territory of the Librarian to Territory of the Community. (Lankes, 2010)

Erich Schnell, Associate Professor at the Ohio State University Libraries, in his blog entry of October 18, 2006 quotes the following statement by Lorcan Dempsey:

In a pre-network world, where information resources were relatively scarce and attention relatively abundant, users built their workflow around the library. In a networked world, where information resources are relatively abundant, and attention is relatively scarce, we cannot expect this to happen. We cannot expect the user to come to the library any more; in fact, we cannot expect the user even to come to the library Web site any more.

Schnell suggests:

libraries need to look at the information commons, small group study spaces, and other academic support services which could be offered within the library in order to protect their space. (Schnell, 2006)

The words of Lauire MacWhinnie, head of reference series at the University of Maine at Farmington, resonate well when she states: ‘The future of the academic library will continue to be molded by user demands and driven by technological advances. Wireless networks, virtual reference, and remote access have altered the way libraries serve patrons, but have not meant an end to the physical library or the need for skilled librarians’ (MacWhinnie, 2003: 251).

Harvard’s initiative through the program dubbed Harvard Library Lab is an interesting way of soliciting student and faculty proposals in fashioning the information society of the future.

By offering infrastructure and financial support for new enterprises, the Lab offers opportunities for individuals to innovate, cooperate across projects, and make original contributions to the way libraries work.

The Lab promotes the development of projects in all areas of library activity and leverages the entrepreneurial aspirations of people throughout the library system and beyond. Proposals from faculty and students from anywhere in the university will also be welcomed and the Lab will encourage collaboration with projects being developed at MIT. (

The Lab, for which funding was accepted by the Harvard Library Council, is encouraging people with ideas, even if they are not yet ready to submit a proposal, to use the ‘online inquiry form to start a dialogue about your proposed project.’ Or, as explained in The Harvard Crimson, the Lab ‘aims to support bottom-up projects conceived by members of the library community that can be shared in such a way that, according to the guidelines, a “reasonable investment can have substantial and lasting effects,” even if the project carries the risk of failure’. (Srivatska, 2010)

The question: are branch libraries going to survive in this new reality? Are we still going to call them branch academic libraries? That remains to be debated in the near future. As libraries go through the latest reinvention, the branch libraries will be reinvented as well.


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