From the University Librarian: The Way We Roll is Both Print and Digital

Tom Wall expresses his line of thought in maintaining library print resources and pleasant physical spaces, while developing the digital prowess of staff, collections, and services.

Thumbnail for Tom Wall's articles.

I started at BC eight years ago this spring. At that time, we had virtually no digital presence, and certainly no digital initiatives or programs. Now, as I consider my comments for the BC Libraries Spring Newsletter, I’m struck by the fact that almost all the articles revolve around digital programs and/or content in some way. Moreover, the delivery of the Newsletter is now entirely digital. Does this mean libraries are becoming only digital? Not at all.

In 1978, Frederick Lancaster wrote a provocative book entitled Toward Paperless Information Systems. Around that time, many people were predicting the demise of libraries, and one could argue that for much of the 1980’s that seemed like a real possibility. Then the idea of “Library as Place” began to germinate, perhaps partly inspired by the trend in bookstores offering open comfortable spaces for potential customers to read and relax in, and continuing as expectations of information service evolved, exemplified by the success of the Apple Store “Genius Bar”.  I was fortunate to be at the vanguard of the transformation of library spaces throughout that time. Academic library spaces were becoming centers, places where students and faculty could meet and collaborate, access scholarly resources and research support, attend lectures and events, and learn from the early computing programs and resources available.  In essence, the library became a destination for all things academic and a place to see and be seen.

These trends in transforming library spaces have continued throughout academic and public libraries, and we have been active in incrementally making similar changes here at Boston College. We have remained committed to print resources while introducing a variety of digital initiatives and services that integrate well with traditional services and allow us to expand the reach and impact of the work done on campus. In fact, folks should realize that much of what makes libraries successful goes on behind the scenes in the form of technical and technology services which in turn make items, both digital and print, easier to find and use from any location. At the same time, the physical library provides the tools, collaboration spaces and services for students and faculty to better discover, present and create using the vast amounts of content available through the BC Libraries. The positive reception of such changes at BC is evinced by the tremendous increase in the number of visitors to the library, up nearly 200% since 2009.

I’ve never been more excited about the role of the BC Libraries in providing services, spaces and content to our community and the global academic community. We have recruited staff from the best universities and research centers in the world, while developing strong, committed teams. We have become leaders in establishing undergraduate use of special collections; developed an increasingly global library in support of our unique content and mission; provided robust and collaborative digital scholarship opportunities; and maintained rock solid operations from a number of unsung heroes throughout the library. We continue our commitment to trying new things, exploring interesting ideas and taking strategic risks. Most of all, we greatly value input from all of you. Throughout the spring, we will be reaching out to the community to gather your ideas and perceptions of the Library and our services. If you have comments or suggestions in the meantime, we encourage you to reach out to the library staff directly or through our feedback form. We take your feedback seriously as we strive to live up to the BC motto of “Ever to Excel”.

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