ATG Article of the Week: 2020 top trends in academic libraries: A review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education

by | Jun 15, 2020 | 0 comments

2020 top trends in academic libraries: A review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education” was compiled by the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee and published in the June Issue of CR&L News.

This article summarizes trending topics in academic librarianship from the past two years. These highlights provide a starting point or an update, depending on one’s familiarity with the topic. Overarching themes across the profession continue to emphasize the significant amount of change our institutions are driving, managing, and navigating.

Change management: New skills for new leadership

A recent Association of Research Libraries report focuses on managing change in libraries and states that there are “. . . three categories of urgent changes: changes in the research library relationship with institutional partners, changes in the research library organization, and changes in skills.”1 The urgency described in this report indicates a need for preparing a workforce for uncertainty and ambiguity. A 2017 Library Journal article encourages new skills for library leaders to manage change in a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) world and a need to “get it right.”2

Managing change on this scale requires academic library leadership to be steeped in best practices for systematically adjusting the work of an entire organization. If our libraries are going to be successful in a VUCA world, current and future leaders will need to develop their change management skills. There are a number of leadership courses, workshops, and residential programs, and those which focus on these needed skills will be of greatest use to leaders looking to move their libraries into the future quickly and confidently.

Evolving integrated library systems

In December 2019, Ex Libris announced a deal to purchase Innovative.3 Questions immediately arose among Innovative’s customers, wondering how and when this might affect them. Innovative provides a number of integrated library system (ILS) products, including Sierra and Polaris, but its saturation of the ILS market for academic libraries is relatively low compared to its market share within public library systems. In contrast, Ex Libris controls a much larger market share within academic libraries, primarily thanks to Alma, its cloud-based library management system (LMS). Ex Libris is likely to focus its near-future efforts on transitioning and expanding its public library business to cloud-based systems, rather than making immediate large-scale changes within its academic library business.4

Large mergers like this tend to reignite concerns of interoperability between all the different systems, platforms, and devices that now comprise modern library systems. The Future Of Libraries Is Open (FOLIO) is one of the products aiming to quell those concerns, with beta testing well underway and a general release planned for 2020.5 FOLIO is an open-source LMS being built around the idea of flexibility, with different modules available (and interchangeable) depending on need. It seems the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) is preparing for further development along these lines with the FASTEN document.6 The FASTEN document was posted for public comments during Q4 2019, and contains recommendations for vendors and organizations on steps they can take to streamline and improve the interoperability of their library systems. The wider launch of FOLIO and the potential adoption of FASTEN will need to be closely watched.

The goals driving the development of both FOLIO and FASTEN are touched on in a recent issue brief by the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK) and Ithaka S+R.7 However, the document quickly moves past them to look even further ahead. It describes the challenges seen with current ILS products and imagines what the ILS of the future should be, highlighting four qualities and recommendations: true “next-generation” systems should be user-centered, enable the use and access of facilitated collections, integrate with other institutional platforms, and provide modern business intelligence capabilities…”

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