Envisioning Future Academic Library Services: Initiatives, Ideas and Challenges

August 19, 2010

Covering a broad range of topics, this edited volume will appeal to information professionals who are interested in the future direction, challenges and opportunities for library and information services in higher education. Its 12 easily digestible chapters address a range of issues, including information-seeking behaviour, online support for library users, Web 2.0 technologies, new business ideas in publishing, knowledge management, leadership of the future, library buildings, managing research data, partnerships with academic departments and even the future of academic libraries in China.

Most of these are topics you would expect to find in a book about library services, but of particular interest are the suggestions of new ways for practitioners in the field to further engage and work in closer partnership with the academic community.

A chapter examining the management of research data gives reasons for and against library services taking on the role of opening up access and managing all data generated by university research, in conjunction with research repositories. If a library service currently has limited involvement with research (other than supporting researchers and providing access to information), this chapter will challenge its managers to think outside the box when considering the future direction of its offerings.

Partnership work within a university setting is a theme that is emphasised in other chapters, challenging the traditional role of the university library and familiar ways of working.

The overall focus of the book is on library services, but one or two chapters stray from this and are a bit generic. In the introduction, editor Sue McKnight refers in particular to the chapter about future leadership and management challenges, written by leadership consultant Liz Wright. It is the longest chapter in the book, but mentions library services the least. However, it is always valuable to have an outsider's perspective in such a volume, as he or she can offer a great deal of advice about future planning to those in leadership positions in academic libraries.

Envisioning Future Academic Library Services challenges practitioners to consider prospective approaches and throughout discusses and suggests initiatives, technologies, services and projects that libraries can and should be more involved with in order to develop their offerings. Readers are reminded of the challenges facing academic library services, and a key message is that libraries, managers and information professionals must continue to diversify and expand in their roles, especially in light of the current financial situation in higher education.

In the penultimate chapter, McKnight argues that "doing the same things but differently will not alone serve us well", and that the adaptability and skills of library staff are crucial to libraries' future success. This is an inspiring chapter that points to the value of library services to the academic community, and encourages readers to see that the future of the field is not only exciting and challenging, but also ultimately what we as library professionals make it.

Envisioning Future Academic Library Services: Initiatives, Ideas and Challenges

Edited by Sue McKnight. Facet Publishing, 2pp, £44.95. ISBN 9781856046916 Published 20 April 2010

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