Annual Meeting Reports

Libraries 101

“It’s not your mother’s library.” And how! The guiding principle in academic and health-sciences libraries today is repurposing: staffs, spaces, and budgets.

This session was an outgrowth of the Chicago Collaborative, a working group established in 2008 to promote open communication and education among the primary stakeholders in scholarly and scientific communication. CSE is a member, as are other organizations dedicated to editing and publishing.

Libraries come in different sizes and have different specialties, reporting structures, and funding sources. They serve different types of student bodies and faculties. But the one factor that they have in common is that they are changing rapidly in response to various positive and negative forces. Positive forces include the shift from print to electronic publishing and the rise of the millennial generation; negative forces include shrinking budgets, pressures for campus space, and reductions in circulation and inter-library lending.

Texas State University is an emerging research institution that serves a large ethnic-minority population among its 35,000 students. Its library’s mission is to advance the research and teaching mission of the university, which it accomplishes by providing user-centered services; comprehensive, diverse collections; individual and collaborative learning environments; and many opportunities to learn, create, and discover. It has more than 2.4 million titles and 8,000 linear feet of archives. However, 80% of its new acquisitions are in electronic form, and 542,000 e-books are available in its catalog. The librarians these days focus on in-depth reference or research work with faculty and students, serving as consultants who have expertise in specific disciplines.

The library of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio furthers the institution’s mission of making lives better through education, research, health care, and community engagement. Print collections have been pruned and consolidated to a single floor to provide students with comfortable spaces for collaboration and private study. Little-used materials are being discarded, donated, or moved to offsite storage, and print items are being replaced with digital versions whenever possible. The library staff has decreased from 60 to 36 in the last 10 years. Librarians are needed less to support print materials and more to interact with and assist faculty and students in their academic pursuits.

The University of Texas libraries cooperatively store print journals and books to reduce duplication and participate in other sharing programs among libraries in nearby states. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio receives a portion of its funding from the state of Texas, but state funds are decreasing. Increased student fees are being used to supplement the budget, but planning is problematic as budgets continue to shrink. In 2013, the University of Texas Southwestern was the first major research university given a mandate to move all print materials to another facility with the goal of achieving an all-electronic library.

Trinity University is a small (2,400 students), private liberal-arts institution in San Antonio that serves primarily undergraduates. However, it is well funded for its size and is known as a leader in the library world, having received the 2007 Association of College & Research Libraries’ Excellence in Academic Libraries Award (college division). Trinity was an early adopter of the Learning Commons concept—which promotes the creation of educational spaces that can be used for collaboration, distance learning, and individual study—and a founding member of the Oberlin Group, which encourages best practices for libraries in top-ranked US liberal-arts colleges.

How do librarians make decisions about which materials to purchase? They work closely with faculty to identify the key resources in the various disciplines, but they must review the choices every year and often make the difficult decision to cut a subscription because funding is insufficient.

A library without books is no longer a contradiction in terms but, in many cases, an accurate description. The long-term test will be how well scholarly communicators and those in higher education work together to maintain academic standards while reducing costs.