Spreading digital fluency is now a core responsibility of academic libraries, and Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) are poised to amplify the utility and reach of library services like never before. These are just two of the revelations part of the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Chur, Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB), ETH Library, and the Association of College & Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Annual Horizon Report: 2017 Library Edition.

The report, which decides the trends and technologies that will have a dramatic influence on academic libraries in the next 5 years—thanks to a panel of 75 experts composed of library leaders, librarians, technologists, industry leaders, and other key stakeholders from 14 countries—aims to help leaders seeking inspiration, models, and tactical insight around strategy and technology deployment for academic libaries.

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“We are invigorated that the partnerships behind our library report have grown even stronger over three editions,” said Eden Dahlstrom, executive director of the NMC, in a statement. “Academic and research libraries are not just a vital part of scholarship, but also advancing knowledge and society as a whole. They play an important role as curators and purveyors of high-quality research, supported by innovative infrastructure.”

Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption

According to the report, the trends that will affect technology use and adoption in academic libraries are:

(Short-Term, 1-2 years):

  • Research Data Management: The growing availability of research reports through online library databases is making it easier for students, faculty, and researchers to access and build upon existing ideas and work. “Archiving the observations that lead to new ideas has become a critical part of disseminating reports,” says the report.
  • Valuing the User Experience: Librarians are now favoring more user-centric approaches, leveraging data on patron touchpoints to identify needs and develop high-quality engaging experiences.

(Mid-Term, 3-5 years):

  • Patrons as Creators: Students, faculty, and researchers across disciplines are learning by making and creating rather than by simply consuming content. Creativity, as illustrated by the growth of user-generated videos, maker communities, and crowdfunded projects in the past few years, is increasingly the means for active, hands-on learning. People now look to libraries to assist them and provide tools for skill-building and making.
  • Rethinking Library Spaces: At a time when discovery can happen anywhere, students are relying less on libraries as the sole source for accessing information and more for finding a place to be productive. As a result, institutional leaders are starting to reflect on how the design of library spaces can better facilitate the face-to-face interactions.

(Long-Term, 5 or more years):

  • Cross-Institution Collaboration: Within the current climate of shrinking budgets and increased focus on digital collections, collaborations enable libraries to improve access to scholarly materials and engage in mission-driven cooperative projects.
  • Evolving Nature of the Scholarly Record: Once limited to print-based journals and monographic series, scholarly communications now reside in networked environments and can be accessed through an expansive array of publishing platforms. “As different kinds of scholarly communication are becoming more prevalent on the web, librarians are expected to discern the legitimacy of these innovative approaches and their impact in the greater research community through emerging altmetrics tools,” notes the report.

(Next page: The 6 influential technologies on the academic library horizon)


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