Libraries Leading the Way in Times of Change

October 1, 2019 Jen Cheng

island, shore of Thailand

Change – it’s inevitable. It’s the way that life moves forward and it's also a hot topic of discussion in libraries.

As a point of fact, more than 150 librarians recently gathered at the Wiley Research Seminar in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss and embrace the possibilities brought about by change. Here are three key themes from the vibrant discussions at this event.            

1. Delivering New Services and Upgrading Existing Ones

Librarians need to demonstrate that we are capable of change so that our library customers trust and continue to find the library relevant and value-adding.

– Assoc. Prof. Wanida Kanarkard, Khong Kaen University

Librarians in a room for Wiley Research Seminar 2019 in Bangkok, ThailandThe Wiley Research Seminar 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand

Assoc. Prof. Kanarkard delivered a powerful opening keynote on how librarians can become agents of change by reshaping the purpose of the library to meet actual and emerging needs within its institution.

Over the last few years, librarians have answered the call for change by offering new services to help researchers on their research journeys. Examples of such services include text and data mining services, research data management, and more.

The transformation of the library space and services also provides users better experiences. Some examples include shorter wait times made possible by help from machines when librarians are unavailable, longer library operating hours, and community spaces like Makerspaces.

In the future, being actively aligned with government strategic plans will help librarians further innovate their services for library users. Professor Wanida described how Thailand’s national plan to shift towards a value-based economy offers libraries a role in supporting the nation to build smart cities and tackle issues around an aging population.

2. Working Together to Solve Global Library Issues

 “In the past, insufficient information was a common issue and the focus is quite the opposite today. How should we help our students cope with so much information?

- Dr. Shirley Wong, University Librarian, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

In her presentation, Dr. Wong talked about the changing landscape of information literacy driven by the rapid growth of information and the inseparable role technology plays in the way information is generated, disseminated, accessed and managed.

All these factors contribute to the importance of a student’s ability to not just search, but to evaluate information. Students today need to develop a critical mind to distinguish real information from fake, and to understand intentions behind the way messages are constructed on social media and major media outlets.  

These global issues can sometimes be too challenging for a single library to tackle. Can libraries come together to create impactful and sustainable programs? The answer is a resounding yes.

InfoLit For U in Hong Kong

In 2015, libraries from eight publicly-funded universities in Hong Kong collaborated and the results were amazing. InfoLit For U - a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) led by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPU) was developed to enhance information literacy in higher education targeted across eight disciplines.

Students can learn from a range of interactive, scenario-based modules delivered through animation, gamification, tasks, information literacy subject matter experts and more.

3. Transforming Library Spaces, Adopting a culture of assessment

Makerspaces, fast-casuals, incubators, event halls and more. Library spaces around the world are transforming to stay relevant and deliver new experiences.

The library is no longer a space that merely provides information, but a place for students to experience information, Dr. Wong mentioned. The HKPU hopes to lower the barrier to entry for all students to experience emerging technologies and is doing so by providing access to tools such as 3D printing, virtual reality devices, and video recording studios in the library.

These technologies are often too expensive for students to be able to afford outside the library.

Adopting a Culture of Assessment

It is important for libraries to establish a culture of assessment to justify its spending and return-on-investment (ROI).”

- Salihin Mohammed Ali, Manager, Library Technology & Innovation,
Singapore Management University

Besides innovative learning spaces, the Singapore Management University (SMU) library tracks Wi-Fi signals to provide library visitors with live information on the availability of space.  Cameras are also used to measure the footfall in the library and specialized rooms.

An iterative process is required to clean and analyze the accumulated data. When done right, these data insights can be used for space and collection management to help librarians make informed decisions on library services and demonstrate the value it brings to the institution.

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About the Author

Jen Cheng

Content Marketing Strategist, Wiley //

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