Monday, August 05, 2013

Not dead yet - the University Library

I was prompted to write a few words in response to this article in the Financial Review "Last hurrah for the traditional university library" by Geoff Hanmer.

I am tempted to walk through the article doing fact checking but I'd rather focus on one of the underlying assumptions than be sidetracked by the sweeping, inaccurate 'the internet has everything' generalizations.

The university library of today isn't simply the library building and the books, journals and study spaces within (though these have ongoing value) but also a vibrant virtual space. I've presented my thinking about the physical and virtual library elsewhere and posted about it. The physical library space is being transformed but much of the heavy lifting of the university library is now being done in the online, virtual space. When I hear 'I haven't been to the library for years' I feel like responding with 'I haven't been to the bank for years' - but I use the bank all the time, I'm just not going into the physical branch. For an academic at a university the library comes to them, when and where they need it. Like the bank. And like the bank this virtual service doesn't happen by magic, there is an industry of effort required to make a virtual space work.

I guess Geoff Hanmer can be excused for focusing on the physical library, he does have an architectural background, but he is only seeing half the scene and that makes all the difference.

University Library - not dead yet!

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