As digital content increasingly drives academic research, and the belief that information sourced online will overtake printed formats in coming years grows, libraries are going through their own physical and strategic transformation. The library’s former scope of organising, cataloguing and storing information has been expanding over the past few years and we wanted to look at how much digital content had influenced this change.
The digitisation of book archives along with increased print on demand services has enabled libraries to move large collections of texts into offsite storage whilst making the same content more easily accessible via online discovery services. For students, increased group-work space supports growing peer-to-peer learning practices and group assignment work. For researchers, there is more structured, on-campus space to facilitate cross-disciplinary research practices.
eBook collections that are DRM free enable unlimited numbers of users to download, print and share whole texts or chapters with peers or colleagues at the same institution. For institutions that are spread across multiple campuses, sometimes in different international locations, this can make a big difference to the speed and efficiency multi-authored work and group research projects. For students it means that everyone on the course has access to the same edition, at the same time, creating more of a level playing field and also increasing opportunities for group work.
More flexible working practices, frequent conferences and travel commitments mean that often a group of researchers or faculty working on a joint initiative could be spread across several different locations but still need access to the same texts as the rest of the team. At the same time, millennial students are more accustomed than any other generation to remote learning, whether they are students of fully online courses or they simply choose not to work in the library. eBook collections offer unlimited, 24/7 access to complete subject libraries and provide researchers, faculty and students exactly the same learning experience off-campus as they would get in the library.
The explosion of online information in recent years has introduced a much greater need for libraries to teach the latest research skills and empower users to efficiently locate, retrieve and validate the most credible material. Through online content catalogues and integration with discovery services, librarians are not only able to manage vast collections of metadata to make texts more discoverable, they also have a host of bibliographic data at their fingertips to help users locate and produce higher quality research.
Much greater insight can be drawn from eBook collections than from print, including the number of book and chapter downloads, user sessions, pageviews, peak activity times, the types of devices used to access content, and user profiles. Rich usage and bibliographic data not only helps the library adapt and improve its services based on evolving trends, it also provides a powerful source of intelligence that can help the institution shape future strategies, attract new students and maintain its competitiveness.