American Council of Learned Societies
Occasional Paper No. 14

Scholars and Research Libraries
in the 21st Century

Billy E. Frye
Patricia Battin
A. Richard Turner
Richard A. Lanham


Statement from the Research Library Committee

The Future of the Library: A View from the Provost’s Office
Billy E. Frye

D. Kaye Gapen

Access to Scholarly Materials
Patricia Battin

Lights Are On, Will Anybody Be Home?
A. Richard Turner

Electronic Texts and University Structures
Richard A. Lanham

The Needs of Scholars:
Libraries in Transformation

D. Kaye Gapen
University of Wisconsin, Madison

I would like to share with you a few examples of faculty requests for library support which I am seeing at the University of Wisconsin, Madison:

  • A significant increase in the amount of intra- and interdisciplinary research — with requests from faculty members in the many disciplines involved for the creation of new libraries to meet their needs:
    — asking for collections to be brought together
    — asking for expert librarian reference and information assistance
    — asking to be able to acquire, store, and retrieve new formats
  • A significant increase in the kinds of research which involve simulation, modeling, and visualization — working from digitized and numerical primary sources:
    — requiring the archiving of the primary digitized source
    — requiring the storage and retrieval of graphical and visual result
  • In the humanities a significant increase in the use of scanning and the Kurtzweil technologies to turn print publications into digitized formats for computer-based analysis
  • A steadily increasing number of requests for assistance in choosing the software for managing individual faculty information — PIM’s (personal information management software)
  • A steadily increasing number of requests for assistance in choosing and using the communications software packages required for using online library systems and other online information resources
  • Requests regarding the library’s present or potential capabilities for the creation of online textbooks
  • A steadily increasing number of faculty members developing video- and micro-based courses wishing to be able to place the courses in the library as a type of reserve collection for student use
  • A steadily increasing number of requests for classes conducted by librarians in the introduction to libraries, to online information resources, and in personal information management software and techniques — for their undergraduates, for their graduates, and often for themselves
  • On Bitnet, over 2,000 subject interest lists created by faculty and staff members for communication regarding topics in their disciplines — with requests for information noted in the Bitnet list

What do trends like these mean for libraries and their parent universities? Before we begin to draw conclusions, we must consider a few facts:

  • Print and near-print publishing has doubled every 10 years since the 1930s and the trend is continuing
  • Digitized publications available for purchase or selection by librarians have been doubling in quantity annually since the middle 1980s
  • Rapid growth of campus, state, national, and international high-speed telecommunications networks
  • Growth in faculty interest in librarians’ information literacy-focused courses

Patterns such as these have produced a research library which today combines four models of library service. These include the following:

  • Library as repository
  • Library as electronically supported channel for scholarly communication — for both teaching and research
  • Library as teacher — beyond bibliographic instruction to information literacy which flows into the faculty teaching of critical thinking
  • The physical library and the logical library

Supporting the four models congruently has many implications for the functions, financing, contents, and accessibility of library collections and programs. First, all four models must be supported at the same time. We know how to manage and fund the repository library. We are learning how to manage the electronic library, but we are still learning how to fund it. The electronic communication channel library requires a much higher level of equipment budget, as well as significantly higher budget support for reskilling staff and for staff development.

In fact, staff support is one of the most serious challenges facing libraries and their parent institutions today. We need new skills which encompass the newer technologies. Thus, we need new and different training programs. In addition, staff with different skills and professional experience are joining with librarians in the continuing development of library programs.

Integration of other professionals requires the refinement of staff evaluation programs and a new look at the assessment of professional service as it relates to merit considerations, promotion, and tenure (or its equivalent).

Second, the resulting library is intellectually labor intensive more so than the repository library which is more physically labor intensive. Therefore, today’s library requires more staff rather than less, and the library staff need to be more highly paid as responsibilities are becoming more complex. Finally, competitive salaries must be responsive to a greater variety of markets. Resulting salaries among types of professional library staff at times may create uneasiness among all library staff.

Third, in today’s library “access” is becoming as important as “ownership” of scholarship and information. Comparing today’s experience with that of the past indicates that faculty use of libraries continues to differ by discipline. In order for today’s library to be responsive to faculty in the varied disciplines of a university, varied patterns have to be budgeted for and implemented. For example, not only do print collections have to be acquired which support teaching and research programs, equipment and staff training also have to be provided for gateway access to digitized databases and information sources. Both have to be in place to meet the needs of faculty members who continue to rely heavily on print and near-print publications, as well as meeting the information needs of scientists who are beginning to rely heavily on digitized publications and online databases.

There are a bevy of new copyright and intellectual property rights issues related to campus reliance on digitized publications. In addition, accreditation standards must be adapted to include an assessment of information gateways established via the library, complementing the evaluation of the library’s repository print and near-print collections.

Finally, the communal environment in which libraries have forged partnerships is also in evolution as a result of the impact of technology. An increasing number of interleaving decisions are now being made by librarians in conjunction with computer center staff, telecommunications staff, and by faculty and deans in the purchase, implementation, and use of information technologies.

Wisconsin as a scenario

The University of Wisconsin, Madison, libraries can serve as a useful scenario exemplifying the results of the kinds of changes which I have been describing. An online library system has been in use since mid-1983, now supporting all of the major functions of a normal library system: public catalog, name and subject heading controlling capability, journal control system, ordering/acquisitions system, circulation system, and telecommunications capabilities.

To that basic online information system is now being added a software subsystem which will provide online campus access to the full-text databases becoming increasingly available: e.g., The New York Times, encyclopedias, chemistry journals, and so forth. In addition, the software also handles indexes and abstracts like Medline, Biosis, the Humanities Index, and so forth. It is a simple step in imagination to realize that the same information handling capabilities can provide access to faculty research databases, procedural manuals, and the like.

The next horizon addition to this evolving fully capable information system is the exploration of expanding the capabilities of the online information system centrally to store and retrieve large databases of “images” — digitized photographs, graphics, modeling, visualization research, acidic and deteriorating publications, and so forth. All of these capabilities are available through telecommunications linkages and networks such as Bitnet and other networks which together comprise the Internet.

Finally, microcomputer laboratories have now been located in five of the 22 libraries of record on campus. These centers are staffed by librarians who not only provide assistance in the use of general software, but also provide networking of CD-ROM publications, courseware put on reserve by faculty members, courseware on the use of library and information resources developed by library staff, and telecommunications linkages to the online library information system.

In summary, the libraries on the Madison campus are still very much “repository libraries” providing physical housing and access to print and near-print publications. We expect to continue that role well into the next century. Complementing that collection and supporting staff service programs is the expanding capabilities of the library as electronic communication channel with its accompanying expansion in potential for enhancing faculty and student productivity. Finally, we have the emerging role of library as teacher, bringing sense and sensibility to what can seem a chaos of information glut. Taken together, balanced through careful and daring budgeting, and continually supported by expert librarians who creatively anticipate future academic needs, the library of the 21st century begins to exist today.