HSLI Newsletter

Serving Illinois Health Information Professionals

ACRL Report on Library Trends, Part III

A summary of the remainder of ACRL’s 2015 Environmental Scan is below. The full report can be read at http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/publications/whitepapers/EnvironmentalScan15.pdf.

Discovery Services

Shared Integrated Library Systems (ILS)/Resource Management Systems (RMS)

  • In an effort to make all parts of the collection as accessible as possible, regardless of the type of item (print, electronic, media, etc.), libraries are increasingly putting “discovery services” into place, which will require having staff with the relevant training. Additionally, with the growth of consortia, institutional repositories, and other forms of sharing across institutions, opportunities abound for sharing of resources on an ever-larger scale. (The Illinois Heartland System is an example.)
  • Since this sharing of resources involves many stakeholders (individual libraries, the institutions of which they are a part, consortia, individual patrons), the differing expectations and information-seeking habits among users need to be taken into account when designing discovery services. In particular, options for sorting and organizing results should be flexible enough to accommodate various types of users.


  • With discovery services becoming increasingly common and diverse, resource-sharing is occurring on an even larger scale than before, with partnerships between national organizations and private companies substantially increasing the amount and variety of information that is available to the public. This includes sources that are not in “traditional” format, such as tweets; an agreement between the Library of Congress and Twitter will create a searchable database of them.
  • As the different organizations involved in these large-scale collaborations often have incompatible computer systems, making them “information silos”, combining their databases while ensuring ease of access is an ongoing challenge. Open-source programs are allowing searching across databases, while saving organizations the trouble of integrating their computer infrastructure.

User-Driven Research: Linked Data, Data Mining, and Analytical Tools

  • With research increasingly being directed by individual interests and skill levels, libraries need to provide users with the tools for effectively locating and evaluating information on their own. These include platforms for data mining, such as HathiTrust.
  • Libraries need to keep in mind that, for those conducting independent research, the goal is not just uncovering hard data, but making the connections necessary for creating new knowledge. Such efforts can be aided by text-analysis tools, such as Voyant Tools and Google Books N-Gram Viewer, and the new information that is uncovered can be conveyed not just in written format, but also visually.


Library Facilities

Making New Use of Space

  • Libraries continue to be seen as crucial to students’ success, but their role has changed from being repositories for information to acting as “learning commons” fostering collaboration and active learning. As print items take up less physical space in the library, it will need to be transformed into a user-friendly environment that accommodates different learning styles and provides various services, from tutoring assistance to cutting-edge technology. Creative use of space will be especially critical for those libraries that do not have the funding for a renovation, or that have limited space to begin with because they have to share the building with other departments on campus.
  • As libraries make these changes, they will need to be certain that the modifications meet curricular needs and help the institution as a whole achieve its mission. One area in which the new technology might be able to play a particularly relevant role is digital scholarship. At the same time, however, libraries will also need to ensure that they don’t disregard the “traditional” library services, such as circulating books and providing a space for quiet study and research.

3-D Services, Makerspaces, and Technology Services

  • Many libraries are going beyond just the “usual” high-tech services and are providing devices and programs, such as makerspaces (workshops for hands-on activities, such as building a robot), that have generally not been associated with libraries in the past. Having this new technology not only enhances library services, but it also increases the library’s profile on campus and makes it even more of a “hub” of student and faculty learning and interaction. Even when some students do not need to incorporate technology into their assignments, it can still act as a “draw”, since students may not have experienced the technology before and are interested in learning how it works.
  • In the process of implementing these changes, libraries will need to make certain that they have adequate support services for the new technologies, such as multimedia labs and 3-D printers. Since existing staff don’t always have the time to maintain the new technology, even with training, libraries may need to hire additional staff, or, if that is not possible, seek assistance from the IT department on campus. Given that much of the equipment is quite expensive and fragile, libraries will also need to have policies in place that clearly explain proper use and list fines or other penalties for damaging or misplacing equipment.


Scholarly Communication

Academic Library as Publisher

  • In recent years, libraries have played an increase role in scholarly publishing, and even those libraries that are not currently involved have expressed an interest in becoming so. Most of the materials that libraries have produced are journals (the majority of which are open-access), although libraries have also put out monographs and technical reports.
  • In addition to providing libraries with an opportunity to work with scholars in various fields and build campus relationships, publishing also gives different libraries another opportunity to collaborate on a project of shared interest. The Library Publishing Coalition, a member-backed organization that was formed in 2014 and provides support for research and publishing by libraries, is an example of this kind of cooperation.

Copyright Issues and Fair Use

  • Since the forms of technology and scholarly communication that libraries use are changing rapidly, copyright law is not always able to keep pace. As a result, libraries are often forced to rely on best practices, particularly the guidelines for fair use. There have been efforts in recent years to devise a universal set of rules, such as those drawn up by the CMSI (Center for Media and Social Impact) at the American University School of Communication.
  • It is necessary for libraries to have staff members (either through training existing staff or, when possible, by hiring new staff) who are conversant in the main issues related to copyright, including fair use and authors’ rights. Having this expertise available puts libraries into an ideal position to develop institution-wide policies on these issues.


  • With an increasing amount of scholarly communication taking place online, including in “nontraditional” formats (i.e., comments made on social-media websites), “alternative” metrics are being used to measure research output and keep track of scholarly communication. These measurements are in addition to the traditional ones, such as citation counts.
  • A standard set of altmetric measures is still in the planning stages, although several major initiatives have been undertaken, including the NISO’s (National Information Standards Organization) “Alternative Assessment Metrics Initiative”. So far, altmetrics has received broad support from the scholarly community, especially since using altmetric measures would likely increase the reputation of a journal and, by extension, the papers published in it.

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