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How software can help support the changing role of academic librarians

For many industries, new technologies have resulted in the implementation of significant change. The academic library is no exception. Academic librarians are re-thinking their management of collection, curation, and acquisitions. As a result, changes to the librarian’s role are dramatic.

Today’s librarian spends more time assisting students and patrons to access educational resources. Finding the time required to carry out administrative tasks and gain different skill sets is problematic. This poses a staffing challenge for many educational institutions.

Far from seeing this as a problem, some forward-thinking academic institutions see it as an opportunity. They are proactively redefining the librarian’s role.

Currently, academic librarians must hold a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree. But, some universities are beginning to see the benefit of hiring staff with PhDs. Such staff provides specialist knowledge to support students.

The goal is to make the librarian a more integrated part of the learning process. Rather than facilitating learning, librarians become valuable liaisons. They provide specialist field knowledge to help students achieve their goals.

So where does this leave the management tasks of the traditional librarian’s role? While academic librarians manage many tasks and responsibilities, the following section looks at the future of curation and selection.

Managing curation and selection in the future

Software vendors and publishers have a role to play by providing reliable and robust methods for material selection and ordering. All Library Management Systems (LMS) should be capable of providing accurate information.

Information on all the library’s material – what they have, what is due for publication and what is on order, must be easily accessed via an LMS. Librarians use this information to make purchasing decisions.

That many librarians have limited knowledge in all disciplines, taught at their institutions, is a long-standing issue. As a result, purchasing of material containing information already held in the existing material can occur. It can also result in a lack of information depth required to support the curriculum.

Collating more detailed metadata from publishers can solve this problem. Metadata in the LMS is used to provide highly accurate information to faculty members. This allows lecturers with specialist knowledge to make decisions that are more informed.

A good LMS can display details of material being considered for purchase. Those details can then be made available to students for review as part of a purchasing decision process. They are, after all, the ones who will be using these books the most. It makes sense to involve them early in the acquisitions process.

The benefits of this system are two-fold:

  • it removes the librarian from the time-consuming task of administrative curation and acquisitions
  • allows the library to buy books which are better suited to the curriculum

The benefits reduce expenditure on material seldom used or of little value. It also frees up more time for librarians to carry out student support activities.

An adaptable library management system becomes a partner. It contributes to maintaining high standards of student’s education and institutional reputations. As an academic library evolves, its choice of LMS is vital. It must be capable of keeping up with technological advancements. Softlink’s library management solution Liberty is that partner.

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