CLIRinghouse Number 12

Quick insight into information-investment issues for presidents, CAOs, and other campus leaders from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Number 12, September/October 2002

The Issue for Presidents and CAOs:

New Possibilities From The Campus Library

A new report identifies ways that digital-era libraries have begun to transform themselves to produce new benefits for the universities and colleges they serve. In the report, Diffuse Libraries: Emergent Roles for the Research Library in the Digital Age, Wendy Pradt Lougee explains how these benefits go beyond simply expanding the information resources libraries provide their campus communities by leasing digital content from many other sources. Additionally, libraries can or are

  • working with instructional technologists to create online curricular resources
  • packaging digital resources to meet particular research needs
  • creating “metadata harvesting” services that enable scholars to find digital resources in the “deep Web,” which conventional search engines tap inadequately
  • taking reference questions by e-mail, consulting librarians worldwide for answers, browsing networked resources with patrons, and placing reference services within electronic research “collaboratories”
  • sending electronically equipped “field librarians” to work directly with faculty and students in academic departments outside the library
  • providing facilities for individual computer use, undergraduate group study, electronically supported research, and digital resource development
  • &educating; students and faculty about information concepts and processes while developing their skills for searching online and evaluating what they find
  • demonstrating externally the value of libraries’ colleges and universities by providing online information services to alumni, other supporters, public school systems, and scholars worldwide.

Significant Shifts in Library Services

As campus librarians develop electronic services, Ms. Lougee explains, the collections they draw on become “distributed”; the boundaries of “the library” become “diffuse,” and librarians themselves become “more deeply engaged in the creation and dissemination of knowledge.” Library roles are shifting

  • from emphasizing the value of collections to emphasizing the value of expertise
  • from supporting information description and access to taking responsibility for greater information analysis
  • from serving as support agencies to serving as collaborators
  • from being facility-based enterprises to being campus-wide enterprises.

Implications for Top Administrators

Administrators who see these shifts as beneficial to their institutions will not limit their attention to building technological infrastructures to support digital collections and services, but will also invest in what Ms. Lougee calls “intangible elements such as leadership and organizational development.” Support will be needed for experimentation, for development of staff who can create and manage new information services, and for collaboration across the boundaries of library units, institutional divisions, and individual colleges and universities. Not all institutions will be able to afford all desirable capabilities for new information services, nor should they, in Ms. Lougee’s view: “Collaborative development of tools, services, and capabilities will be far more common in the future.”

Additional Information

Ms. Lougee’s report, Diffuse Libraries: Emergent Roles for the Research Library in the Digital Age, is available at, where, also, printed copies may be ordered.
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