From the Ithaka survey of US Faculty , and library perceptions Figure 44 in full report.
“Percent of respondents agreeing strongly with each statement”
Because scholarly material is available electronically, colleges and universities should redirect the money spent on library buildings and staff to other needs
- 2012: ~18% (results annoyingly seem to only be given in bar chart form, requiring me to graphically estimate numbers, sorry)
- 2009: ~10%
- 2006: ~8%
Because faculty have easy access to academic content online, the role librarians play at this institution is becoming much less important
- 2012: ~20%
- 2009: ~17%
- 2006: ~4%
Around 1/5th of faculty surveyed agree with those statements in 2012. According to report narrative, even higher in the sciences, somewhat lower in the humanities.
What do you think those numbers will look like in 2015 when they run the survey again?
At what number (if not already) will the percentage of ‘strongly agreeing’ faculty (especially to the first one, ‘redirect money spent on library…’) result in lowered funding to libraries?
Because there is certainly some point, at any institution, it will, right?
Different institutions have different decision-makers for library funding, depending on public vs. private university, centralized vs decentralized, etc. But in almost all of them, faculty opinion is going to have an effect on library decision makers, and when a substantial number of faculty think the library should have it’s funding reduced…. ?
While I think libraries ought to continue to have a huge role in university teaching, research, and culture — I think it’s indisputable that our role is, in fact, lessening. And I think, at most institutions, faculty are right that the value they are getting for the substantial investment the university makes in the library… is getting smaller and smaller. Less and less justified.
It’s not an issue of marketing, or just properly ‘branding’ ourselves. (Or do you think that our marketing has gotten much poorer in the past 6 years, and that’s why the number of faculty thinking our budget should be reduced has doubled? Really?)
Our decades-old service models will not justify our budgets to our host institutions. The services we used to provide are, in fact, no longer as needed/valuable as they once were — no longer as succesful even in cases where what we’re trying to do is still needed and wanted, we’re failing at fulfilling those needs.
We will not survive by focusing on what we think our patrons need and ought to want, in contradiction to what our patrons say and believe they need and want. We will not survive by trying to convince them to want what we provide, but only by changing and coming up with new provisions that excite and delight them.
We need to change. We need to provide new and different services. We need to preserve some services, but significantly change the manner in which they are delivered.
And yes, that means we need to reduce and eliminate other services too. Change is hard. Yes, there are still some staff and patrons who are used to and rely on the services we’ve got now exactly how we deliver them now, and are going to be disrupted and upset by change.
But the number of patrons who think we are decreasingly relevant — and deserve a smaller share of the university’s budget — gets larger all the time.
When those numbers start effecting the relevant decision-makers, who start cutting library budgets as an overall share of the university budget (not just because overall university budgets are shrinking, which they are too) — our services will be reduced and eliminated then anyway. Our staff and organizations will be cut, and in some cases even eliminated.
Insisting that what we’re doing really is valuable, and our patrons are wrong not to realize it — isn’t going to work (even if it were true, which I do not believe it is). We have to learn how to change faster and better, or we are not going to exist anymore.
The need for expert assistance in organizing and finding information is not going away, it’s only getting larger. There is — or ought to be — an important place for libraries in the contemporary university. But only if we learn how to provide the information services that our host institutions need today, not what they needed 20 years ago — and are willing to seriously change up our game. Many of our library organizations are not willing to do this — in their practice if not in their leaders words, do not exhibit a willingness or capability to change. Those are going to be the organizations that disappear in the coming… decade? There will come a point, if it has not already come, that it is too late to recover our value to our host institutions.