Our Spring 2020 semester started with a familiar, welcome rush to meet the needs of our community as we returned from the winter holiday well-rested and ready to process new materials, support course reserves, and identify key areas of improvement in library systems and software. The early months of this semester brought a revised materials request form, alongside the development of an email-based document delivery service in preparation for the closure of Gottesman Libraries’ long standing multi-use materials platform, DocDel.
Soon after, the materials team adjusted to working remotely and operating virtually for the first time in Gottesman’s history. While the library offers a breadth of digital library materials, preferencing digital books, streaming video, and electronic serials whenever possible, our new realities highlighted the absence of our print collection, the intimacy of our beautiful, welcoming spaces in Russell Hall, and the inspiring students, faculty, and staff that make our library a true treasure.
With the library operating virtually without its physical counterpart, David Weinberger’s “Library as Platform” comes to mind. He asks us to switch our thinking from the library as “a portal we go through on occasion” to an “infrastructure as ubiquitous and persistent as the streets and sidewalks of a town...as co-extensive with the geographic area it serves, like a canopy, or as we say these days, like a cloud.”
Much has changed since Weinberger wrote about libraries as platforms in 2012, and many would cringe at the thought of libraries aspiring to the likeness of Facebook or Uber. Accepting the platform “as is” simplifies the relationship between traditional library values and technological change. It is within this friction, however, that dynamic instructional opportunities within the library arise.
In an article for The Library Quarterly, Shannon Marie Robinson shares a web-browsing interface developed at Cornell University that displays personal data as the data are collected, raising questions about misinformation and bias. Robinson applies this logic to library interfaces, and imagines a similar scenario where data are collected and displayed to library users in real-time while navigating library resources, vendor platforms, and the internet during a given session. Opportunities like these allow for users to regain a sense of agency, and nod to Weinberger’s library as platform ideals of openness, visibility, and knowledge building.
These ideas echo D.W. Krummel in Fiat Lux, Fiat Latebra (Let Light, Let Refuge), who in 1983 categorized the contemporary age of librarianship as technocratic, or an instrument for social change, utilizing "all communications media, in the interests of implicit values." He urged us to see the modern library “no longer as an archive, or a seminar, or a monastery, or a museum, but rather as an engine.” If we see the library as an engine as Krummel suggests, the diagnostics below offer some insight into a busy semester for our library in the cloud.
All stats reflect the time period January 1, 2020-May 15, 2020
157 print books ordered via student, faculty, and staff request
8,075 ebooks acquired via request, automatic purchase, DDA, and subscription ebooks
774 received materials requests
- Studies in Art Education
- Teachers College Record
- The Reading Teacher
- Journal of Educational Psychology
- The American Psychologist
- CINAHL Plus with Full Text
- APA PsycNET
- OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson)
- Academic Search Premier