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ITHAKA S+R: It’s Not What Libraries Hold; It’s Who Libraries Serve

It’s Not What Libraries Hold; It’s Who Libraries Serve

Seeking a User-Centered Future for Academic Libraries

Executive Summary

In 2018, OhioLINK engaged its membership to envision a constellation of platforms and applications that would take the next step beyond “next-generation” commercial integrated library systems (ILS). This paper is the result of that process.

The business of higher education, as it relates to libraries, is amid continued and drastic change. Managing collections is now but one aspect of library management. Libraries support teaching, affordable learning, and innovative research. They are managing services and products, online and off, amid expanding service offerings and technological advancements while under added pressure to reduce costs and barriers for people who want to learn—be it for a certificate, a two- or four-year degree, or a Ph.D.

The responsibilities of academic libraries have evolved, yet Integrated Library Systems (ILS) still narrowly focus on the acquisition, management, and delivery of objects while the end user remains in the background. It is OhioLINK’s belief it is imperative to shift that focus, moving from collections and holdings[1] to those that use them. It’s not what libraries hold, but who libraries serve.

OhioLINK’s membership encompasses 117 higher education libraries with a range of institution types and a total headcount of more than 800,000. Its membership consists of 16 public university libraries, 48 independent college libraries, 23 two-year college libraries, 16 regional campus libraries, eight law school libraries, five medical school libraries, and the State Library of Ohio. The sheer diversity of the collection of libraries that comprise this consortium makes OhioLINK a microcosm of the nation’s academic libraries in higher education. Its importance and influence in the higher education market is well-established, and its needs have outpaced existing industry offerings.

To this end, this paper does not serve as an indictment, but an invitation to collaborate: OhioLINK members are issuing this white paper to assert that the systems it buys and invests in will require a fundamental re-orientation to the needs of the academic user, and similarly a fundamental re-architecture and re-configuring to meet the changing business requirements of institutions. This paper serves to articulate those needs in greater detail, as well as their current availability or unavailability in the marketplace. This white paper is not about a systems migration, or a critique of OhioLINK’s current ILS. While its membership is not initiating immediate change, it is making a clear statement that systems that support the return on investment of higher education institutions and provide great value to the range of their users, from students to world-class researchers, are imperative in enabling libraries to meet their respective missions and goals.

Now is the time to invest in creating a new type of library system that is fundamentally centered on the user, enables libraries to create a facilitated collection, integrates with the higher education institution, and provides rich analytics and intelligence.

OhioLINK has a long history of envisioning and executing systems for managing library collections and services. These include the collaboration with Innovative, Inc. in the early 1990s that resulted in easy-to-use, user-initiated interlibrary loan as a foundational service, and peer-to-peer lending across library consortia. OhioLINK has also created multi-publisher digital journal and e-book platforms, as well as a multi-tenant statewide open access digital theses and dissertation platform.[2]

The Primacy of Print is Past

Fig. 2 The library is not where our users start

OhioLINK user routes to all Wiley Content 2016-2018. Google and Google Scholar are by far the greatest source of access sessions for OhioLINK users. Almost all our 117 libraries have implemented either EBSCO Discovery Service or Summon as discovery layers.”


Posted on: February 29, 2020, 6:09 am Category: Uncategorized

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