to his dissertation. Not knowing that the field librarian could purchase digital or
microfilm copies of those manuscripts for him, the graduate student simply
never thought to ask a librarian for help. The student’s research needs were only
uncovered due to a conversation on another matter. This serendipitous
encounter saved the delighted graduate student an expensive trip abroad.8
Of course, although there is great value in physical proximity, a virtual
presence can be equally important. Another great example of improving the
likelihood of serendipitous encounters is an outreach librarian who may be
active in social networking sites, enabling librarians and multiple patrons to
interact and share dynamically and to learn from one another.
New Roles for Academic Librarians
Perhaps more important to many of you than knowing that academic libraries
are forward-looking “pull” organizations, is discussing how we are achieving
the strategic directions articulated in the ARL Strategic Plan. In his article,
“Accelerating Learning and Discovery: Refining the Role of Academic
Librarians,” Andrew Dillon wrote:
The academic library is tied to the academic mission of the
university. In contextual terms, we must recognize the shifts in
scholarship practices that are occurring in our universities and
research labs, and then seek to understand how the library
functions appropriately in this new world where large data
repositories become the norm for some disciplinary practices;
where many students never visit a physical campus, let alone a
library; where libraries assume part of the role of publishers;
where tenure decisions are loosened from the documentary
formats we have known for decades; and where special
collections become indistinguishable from museums…. With
digital collections becoming boundary objects between
academics, librarians, students and designers in a manner that
has no obvious historical parallel, the ability to engage in the
most fundamental way with the mission of a university will
define the importance of academic librarianship in the future.9
I wholeheartedly agree with Dillon and also believe many academic
librarians across the country are recognizing the shifts he suggests and are
RLI 272
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Transforming Roles for Academic Librarians: Leading and Participating in New Partnerships
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C O N T I N U E D
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OCTOBER 2010 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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