Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Than a Glorified Study Hall

An Inside Higher Ed article, “Embedded Librarians,” highlights a “distributed” approach to librarianship at Johns Hopkins University:
Two years from now, the [Welch] medical library at Johns Hopkins, a world leader in medical research, will have realized a “distributed” library model — one that nearly everyone else in higher education considers either a far-off goal or a theoretical guidepost. A library located everywhere, and nowhere.
The plan includes: online access to “the library’s website and its vaults of electronic journal articles and e-books”; “'recycling' much of [the library’s] print collection, and storing other books offsite” (“faculty and students will be able to send away for the hard copies via snail mail — like Netflix”); embedding library personnel (“no longer called librarians; they are 'informationists'”) in various departments; and being out of the building by 2012.

Interestingly, the article has a section titled “Limited Implications.” But what is missing here, although it is suggested in the comments, is a deeper appreciation of the library as a place—it’s not just another study space. For some insights into this, see Library as Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space (CLIR, 2005): “each [essay] underscores the central, growing importance of the library as place—or base—for teaching, learning, and research in the digital age” (vii). (The Welch Library is featured in one of these essays as a base for new services rather than as a place; but supplementation has now become supplantation.)