How Library Vendors Can Support the Changing Role of Academic Librarians

Workflow | April 12, 2018

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As academic libraries evolve to meet the changing needs of faculty, researchers and patrons, so has the role of the academic librarian. No longer focusing primarily on collection development and acquisitions, many librarians are becoming more directly involved helping faculty and patrons discover, access, and utilize library resources, thanks to the automated support made available through library services vendors.

Colleges and universities are evolving their libraries to keep up with emerging technologies. As the needs of academic libraries change, the academic librarian’s role of assisting students and researchers has started to evolve. In some instances, staff attrition or retirement, coupled with shrinking library budgets, resulted in a net loss of a staff member and a re-allocation of duties among the remaining librarians. But in a growing number of institutions, staffing changes are part of a strategic shift of the academic librarian’s role, with libraries opting to re-define librarian responsibilities rather than simply redistributing them.

A session at the 2017 Charleston Conference spoke to the change that one library was making in their library staff hiring strategy. Entitled “No MLS? No Problem; Acquisitions Essentials for the PhD Subject Specialist,” Denise D Novak from Carnegie Mellon University described the university’s strategic decision to favor PhDs over an MLS degree when hiring new library faculty. The goal was to make the new library staff more valuable liaisons and research partners for their faculty and students by hiring content area experts and leaving the bulk of the collection development to the profiling systems and expertise of library services vendors. They are not alone.

A recent article in No Shelf Required entitled, “Let it Go: Automating Collection Development to Enable Librarian/Patron Collaboration,” discusses how library services technologies can streamline collection development, and open up opportunities for librarians to focus on collaborating with and supporting students, faculty and researchers. Supported by case studies discussing how two separate university libraries are leaning on approval plans and the profiling expertise of their library services vendors to streamline their workflow, the article also summarizes some of the current book acquisition models available to libraries today.

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