True, there hasn’t been much activity lately in this space, which doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about the potential and possibilities of future academic libraries. But, you know, summer happens. And then it is fall. And, here we are.
Fall 2012. Academic year 2012-13.
Persistent challenges remain - - resource, service and space planning within the “box,” creative thinking and stewardship alike impeded by conventional constraints that face our academic library colleagues in public higher education.
Persistent challenges aside, I suggest that it is still important not to lose sight of big thinking. Okay, so today, we are not, at UNCW, engaged with a project the size and magnitude of a new academic library. Still, for me, thinking about the potential and possibilities of future academic libraries is not only inspiring, it also infuses, in various ways, daily decision making.
So, back to big thinking.
When a project the size and magnitude of a new academic library comes forward, where do you start? Does every voice count equally? Or, do some voices count more than others in shaping new academic libraries? How do you begin to create a vision that will help guide the project from beginning to end? A vision that applies across multiple generations of students? A vision that is both big and bold?
Stepping back and thinking about what the purpose of the library is might be a good place to start. Today setting a high-level vision is a particular challenge because first, academic libraries do so many things and second, we are at a crossroads in which the fundamental nature of academic libraries is undergoing dramatic change.
At UNCW, Randall Library is a major campus landmark that makes an important statement about the UNCW community and its values.
A few big, tough questions for our students, faculty and staff are in order. Is Randall Library a place where you convene to create community? Is Randall Library part of your academic identity? What role does the library play in supporting your overall education? Does Randall Library inspire you?
As I said, today, we are not planning for a new academic library. Still, it’s not too early to think about the potential and possibilities of that new facility, when it comes, and not too early to ask big, tough questions - - questions which just might make a difference in the design and delivery of today’s resources and services.