The Evolving Library: Degrees of Change

On a recent business trip to the University of Chicago, I took the opportunity while on campus to visit with Judith Nadler, Dean of University Libraries at UoC. We had a wonderful discussion about the evolving role of the library. Judi shared a fascinating diagram along with her thoughts on the degrees of change occurring within the library.

“One may think of the diagram as the five fingers of the extending hand of the library. Central (middle finger) are the Collections; or, more broadly, the information resources; the fingers of Discovery, Access, Service, and Preservation add value to resources and enable their use.

The base (upper ends) of the fingers describes traditional library activities and roles that will continue, to differing degrees, into the foreseeable future. The extending tips of the fingers highlight evolving and future directions. Technology fuels this movement, raises expectations, introduces challenge, and enables change.

The center of the diagram is the institution of the library, which is evolving from a sole source of responsibility of discovery, access, collections, services and preservation to a shared source of stewardship, playing both a leadership and a collaborative role with other intellectual partners at the table. In the context of the hand metaphor, it is the mix of choices and directions that we hold in the palm of our hand. Choices are acted upon to different degrees according to character of institution and point in time.”

This diagram may be of value to library leaders in the context of strategic planning, budget building, library programming, space configuration, staff planning, performance expectations, etc.