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Discussion Panel: Challenges and Opportunities for Libraries in Higher Education, chaired by Jeremy Upton | Talis Insight Europe 2016

Natalie Naik
talis insight

Jeremy Upton, Director of Library at the University of Edinburgh chaired a panel on the Challenges and Opportunities for Libraries in Higher Education. He was joined by Judith Keene, University Librarian at University of Worcester, Nick Bevan, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Director of Library and Student Support at Middlesex University and Dagmar Langeggen, Library Director at BI Norwegian Business School.

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Their introductions are as follows:

Jeremy began by introducing four key topic areas:

  • Matching standards of offline vs. online services. A big challenge for the University of Edinburgh with increasing numbers of distance learners is the level of quality of their online delivery, ensuring that they can replicate what they provide in a physical space.
  • Personalisation. Jeremy asked how they might provide a level of personalisation that students are used to and how this can be replicated with online library services.
  • Use of data. As ‘learning analytics’ becomes a hot topic, how libraries and universities make better use of data to drive services forward.
  • Space. The library is a key space for students, it should be focussed on improving collaboration and providing a ‘neutral’ space for students for effective study. Jeremy asked, what should this look like?

Judith has worked at the library at the University of Worcester for many years. She explains that she once knew every member of academic staff by name, but as the university rapidly grew this is no longer the case. This also meant that it became much harder to engage in what was happening which presents a challenge as it makes it even harder to support academics and introduce new technologies.

Nick explained that in his experience, listening to students is crucial. In the past they had asked students at Middlesex University what issues they had, created a solution, delivered it and then the journey ended. Nick believes that continuing the conversation and working with students to provide a better service is key.

One of Nick’s major concerns was that as we go digital, it may grow faster than libraries can keep up with. Many students have expectations of technology in line with what is provided by the likes of Amazon or Google.

Dagmar ended the introduction segment by giving context to her institution in Norway. Her biggest struggle is being a small fish in a big pond. Her institution wants to compete with business schools in Europe, but as a very small institution with a very small library, funding is their biggest challenge. Norway has a total student population of 200,000, around 60% of London’s. Exchange rates and inflation increased their 2016 cost by 36%, their budget is very tight therefore development is difficult.

Watch the video below to hear the introductions and discussion starters, as well as the full discussion between panelists.

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What do you believe is the biggest challenge for Higher Education libraries? How might we overcome it and what opportunities do you see on the horizon? Tell us in the comments below.

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