How to Improve College Library Services

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It’s a brave, new world when it comes to college library services. After maintaining a reliable suite of library resources and services for many years, college libraries are now evolving to keep up with students’ changing needs in the post-pandemic collegiate experience.

Although a simple definition of a library’s role is that of the keeper of books, a better explanation comes from Shan Sutton, Dean of University Libraries at the University of Arizona: “We are a library that still holds to the mission of leveling the playing field for all students.”1 Today, that mission translates into adding and adapting the following vital student services.

Invest in More Digital Resources

Digital transformation is at the top of the list for most library administrators. Not surprisingly, investment in print resources is at the opposite end of the school library service spectrum. According to a recent survey among library deans and directors, if a 10% budget reduction were mandated, 54% would cut the print monograph budget, and 45% would decrease the print journal subscription budget.

Incorporate Digital Searching and Checkout

Most college libraries today have invested in RFID self-service kiosks, security gates, and dedicated library apps, but not all. These technological library service improvements directly translate into lower labor costs.

Add Smart Speaker Technology

With over 500 million people using Apple’s Siri technology worldwide, speech recognition is here to stay.3 It leads to better search results for library resources, as humans add more details to voice searches than keyword searches.

Focus on Technology and Hardware Investment

Podcast equipment, 3D printers, maker spaces, and data centers are pivotal to the next generation of students – and to university campus improvement ideas as a whole.

Create Private Study Spaces

Over 500 college students were surveyed about how they use library spaces. Almost 59% responded that the top reason for spending time in the library was for a “quiet study space.” Libraries are leaning into this research with soundproofed rooms and unique quiet study spaces to help improve the overall campus experience.

Install Group Collaboration Spaces

Comfy desk chairs, giant video screens, electrical outlets, desks, and movable furniture are essential to ensure success with library group student spaces. Many universities also offer webcams, videoconferencing, and reservations for group study areas – dorm amenities some institutions may not be able to provide.

Add Creative Tools

Citing the philosophy that college students need job-ready skills, Adobe recently donated $100K to the University of New Mexico to create the Adobe Creative Commons. Adobe’s Creative Campus initiative focuses on giving students access to graphic design, video creation, and podcast tools.

Offer Fast, Free Internet

With textbooks, assignments, and syllabi transforming into digital data and experiences, university students expect, if not demand, free, fast internet throughout the library and campus as part of their university’s standard student services.

Introduce Tutoring and Study Sessions

Offering regular, organized tutoring and study sessions gives students a reliable resource when they’re in need of extra help with their coursework. Sam Houston State University, for instance, has opened the First-Generation Center and Academic Success Center, which offer mentoring and tutoring resources. “The goal is for the library to become a one-stop shop for academic services and support, so when students need certain things, they know where to go,” says Lisa Shen, the campus director of library public services.

Go Beyond the Books

Look into lending e-books, movies, videos, and free streaming services to libraries such as Libby and Hoopla. These and other digital services help make multimedia learning more accessible for students.

Offer AI Classes

With Artificial Intelligence’s seismic change to the web and beyond, harnessing its power and understanding its limitations are critical for the next generation of learners. ChatGPT, Midjourney, Bard, and DALL-E all take time to learn better prompts and provide better results. Determine when and where your institution can implement generative AI technologies, and consider circulating AI guidelines and policies where applicable.

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