Library of the Future Progress Report

A survey has been developed as part of the campus-wide effort to define Northern’s “library of the future.” President Les Wong initiated the discussion in his fall 2007 convocation address, saying the university must confront the challenge while awaiting funds required for the long-planned renovation of the Learning Resources Center. He called it one of the most complicated issues of his presidency.

“When we can [renovate], what should we do?” Wong asked in his convocation address. “What should our new library look like and have in it? How can we build it so it remains a highly functional facility 20 years later? With our talent, our IT infrastructure and notebook computers, we must begin to think and talk about this. The tradition and power of reading won’t change, but the nature, scope and challenge of managing information in meaningful ways will—it’s doing so already.”

Wong enlisted Darlene Walch (Academic Information Services) and her team to lead the effort. Over the past year, they have been preparing to solicit feedback from the campus community and reviewing similar studies at other universities.

Walch said the Academic Senate’s AIS Advisory Committee is distributing surveys to faculty and staff to seek input on the LRC and Olson Library. Feedback will be accepted until March 2009 to allow employees ample time to make comments. Even those who don't use the library are encouraged to complete a survey because some questions pertain to the LRC.  

On a related note , Kevin McDonough and Rachel Jorgenson (AIS-Library) have started the process of replicating a study conducted by the University of Rochester on its library environment. Walch said the methodology distinguished that study from others:

“It was created and implemented with the help of an anthropologist. It wasn’t just a survey or focus groups. It was done in steps. The University of Rochester interviewed faculty to find out what they expected of students, then moved into a different phase where they obtained input from students. We may adapt some elements as we study our institution, but Kevin and Rachel have been in contact with the University of Rochester and they’ve submitted their phase one proposal to NMU’s Human Subjects Review Board.

“The bottom line is that defining a library of the future is an ongoing process, not something that is completed overnight. It takes time and a deliberate strategy.”

While the effort progresses, Walch said the library continues to make improvements in services and resources. One example is ARTstor, a recently acquired database containing nearly one million images in art, architecture, humanities and social sciences. 

The library also is implementing ARES software to improve reserve reading services. Instead of going to the library to read reserve materials, students have the option of reading the materials in a digital format, where access is authenticated and limited to students enrolled in the class. This preserves the author's copyright while making the readings available to students wherever they are.


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Updated: November 19, 2008

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