universities prepare students for careers, or should they be grounded in a broad
intellectual framework? Both! Doesn’t it make sense for today’s engineer to have
exposure to sociology and international
relations? Shouldn’t every humanities
major know what a genome is? To succeed
over the course of their lives, our students
will need broad, cross-cutting skills, ease in
working across cultures,
more than one language, and the ability to continue learning forever.
Looking Toward the Future
The industrial age is over. The workplaces our students and new professors
are entering will morph and change more quickly than at any time in history.
Developing flexible, porous, fluid chambers of knowledge that our graduates can
apply to an ever-changing workplace is very different from “training” a worker
to do one thing for 50 years. Fortunately, we have three factors on our side:
• one—the human brain, whose very design is flexible, porous, and fluid in
• two—the university research library, whose multi-dimensional intellectual
architecture is as close a representation as we will ever get to humanity’s
collective intellect; and
• three—you, our librarians who shape and steward these extraordinary
resources and connect others to them.
I will close with some of the conclusions that emanate from the policy work
I have been involved with, in the North American and international contexts,
conclusions emanating from benchmarking the postsecondary, research and
innovation policies of our two countries against those in Europe and the
emerging economy countries.
I will leave it to you to determine the extent to which you, as leaders of our
university libraries, currently engage in these practices or not, and whether it
makes sense for you to do so.
1. Understand the mission, distinctive strengths, and vulnerabilities of your
organization and the programs you lead within them.
2. Develop goals and targets to build on and sustain these distinctive strengths
and to overcome or reshape vulnerabilities.
Ahead of the Storm: Research Libraries and the Future of the Research University
C O N T I N U E D
SEPTEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Developing flexible, porous, fluid chambers of
knowledge that our graduates can apply to an
ever-changing workplace is very different from
“training” a worker to do one thing for 50 years.