Reports on the state of the library typically recount accomplishments and challenges that the library faces, along with statistical data. This report takes a different approach by creating a mosaic of the many issues and factors that contribute to the management and successful development of modern library services. Each of the following essays from the library's divisional directors and associate university librarians focuses on a different theme that has an impact on their unit, but in reality these issues affect all units of the Heard Library system. This mosaic represents the rapid change and evolution that libraries must undergo if they are to survive and be meaningful in the digital age. Although our core mission remains the same, the way in which we accomplish almost everything we do has changed. Our users' assumptions of what a library is no longer necessarily hold true, and this report is designed to give insight into many facets of the modern library.
Libraries are institutions in a state of becoming, and their future is still evolving. Each new wave of technological advancement brings the need to rethink and recast the role of the library and the functions and services we provide. Electronic publishing, wireless connectivity, streaming video, digital images, more powerful search engines, and the ever changing landscape of publishers and providers of information affect our services and the way in which we serve the students and faculty at Vanderbilt. Therefore, the Jean and Alexander Heard Library, as do all research libraries, faces many difficult choices and decisions.
Changing Information Needs
As the cost of access to medical, scientific, and technical information continues to outstrip our budget,
Libraries now face hosting an ever-widening array of cultural heritage materials, from African folk music and excavation data of biblical archaeological sites to the history of broadcast television news. Never before have we encountered such choices. As the library accepts these new responsibilities, we must then reallocate our resources and we must make difficult choices of which services we can no longer provide.
Changing Service Needs
The Central Library was designed at a time when books were paged from the stacks and brought to users in our reading rooms. Today, as our electronic resources proliferate, many of our students and faculty members access these resources remotely from their offices, dorm rooms, and homes. Yet we firmly believe that there is still a significant need for library space devoted to quiet contemplation and study. The library, as place, can offer a new nexus for faculty/student interaction outside of the classroom and potentially play a role in the Residential College concept at Vanderbilt. Group studies, digital studios for the creation of teaching objects by the faculty, cyber cafés, and information commons are all standard features in today's modern libraries. We have a mandate to advance in many of these directions, and from this report it is clear that we have done so. However there remains a great deal to do if the library is to retain its relevance to the University in the future.
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