April 11, 2019, by Susan Lim
Libraries of the future
For decades, the library has been an integral part of learning institutions. Over the years, and with the rapid growth of digitalisation, libraries have evolved to meets the needs of students and lecturers. But what makes a good library and does it still maintain its primary function as a resource centre?
Library Services Manager at University of Nottingham (UNM) Ng Siew Ling says that the main functions of an academic library are to manage information resources for learning, teaching and research in the university; and providing full support to students, staff and researchers on their use of the library.
“We have the same library management systems across three campuses so that our students can have the same user experience. For example, online reading lists that are embedded into the e-learning system (Moodle) that links students to resources in the library catalogue,” she adds.
Ng says that with the advent of digitisation, UNM has started a digitalised library that provides e-resources such as e-journals, e-books, e-dissertations, e-theses and so on. In total there are about 65,000 e-journals, while physical books amount to 60,000 and e-books stand at about 180,000.
Students’ learning habits have differed significantly over the years. Nowadays, students prefer flexible learning environments with more spaces for different activities.
The library at UNM offers students a wide variety of learning environment from flexible learning spaces for groups to silent areas for individual study and research. The University also has a variety of vibrant and cutting-edge learning spaces that are spread across the campus to showcase new services, innovative technologies and a variety of individual and group learning and study areas to support student preferences.
“These days, students prefer easy and instant access to information and e-resources, preferably using mobile technology. They prefer electronic copies compared to print copies. Our loan percentage of borrowing physical books has dropped between 15 and 20 per cent in the past three years,” Ng explains.
However, this doesn’t mean that print books have become obsolete. William Liggett, a Foundation in Engineering Student says that while he prefers online resources for school work, he still enjoys reading physical books for leisure.
Brandon Quek, a first-year International Relations student says that he uses both print and online resources for his studies adding that the diversity of readable materials does service for both the pursuit and transmission of knowledge.
Ng says that an ideal library is one that puts the users at the heart of everything that is planned and done. Good collaboration with academics will enable the library to deliver a connected and interactive environment that supports both teaching and learning.
“I believe most libraries need to be technologically up-to-date, with a mix of both physical and digital resources,” says William.
Sweta Vigneswaran, a first-year Psychology student, concurs. “Personally I believe physical books give a library its feel, however, it is vital to have a good selection of e-books and audiobooks as well as these would enable students to access information in a much easier manner. Plus, e-resources are more sustainable and much easier to find.”
Brandon too agrees with his peers. He believes that libraries of the future should place emphasis on making both physical and e-resources widely available to users.
While digitisation has certainly made accessing e-resources much easier, the lure of physical books has not faded away. An ideal library is, without a doubt, one that combines the best of both old and new.