Seattle University students, faculty and staff, as the new Dean, Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, and on behalf of the Library and Learning Commons faculty and staff, it is my pleasure to be joining you at the start of this 2017/18 academic year. I hope everyone had a wonderful summer full of rest and relaxation mixed in with plenty of hard work and time for reflection. It is difficult to believe another academic year is here.
The start of the academic year has always been a special time for me – both as an undergraduate and graduate student, and as an academic librarian and senior library administrator working in higher education. It is a time full of mixed emotions – eagerness, excitement, a sense of anticipation, and well, a bit of nervousness too. For me, and especially as a newcomer to Seattle University, this year is no different. I suspect all of you are experiencing the same range of mixed emotions.
The Year Ahead
Higher education, information technology and technology strategies are changing rapidly, and academic libraries are changing along with them. Understanding what’s trending helps us frame and prioritize what’s important, and helps us focus – or refocus.
Even the most cursory review of the issues and challenges facing higher education suggests that the coming year won’t be one of business as usual. Sliding enrollments, concerns about costs and access, questions about value, a focus on careers and job placement, collisions over campus climate, and the defense of academic freedom and free speech are a few of the most serious trending issues that are likely to affect colleges and universities. Those of us who work in higher education recognize these issues and know that the tensions are mounting and so are the stakes.
Let’s dig deeper, and look at some of the current issues and challenges facing information technology, strategic technologies, and academic libraries. Even the most basic environmental scan of these issues and challenges suggests that the coming year won’t be one of business as usual.
Information security, student success and completion, data-informed decision making, strategic leadership, sustainable funding, data management and governance, and sustainable staffing are a few of the trending information technology issues that are likely to affect colleges and universities.
Turning our attention to strategic technologies, consider for a moment the following – active learning classrooms, technologies for improving analysis of student data, blended data centers (on-premises and cloud-based), technologies for planning and mapping students' educational plans, database encryption, technologies for triggering interventions based on student behavior or faculty input, and technologies for offering self-service resources that reduce advisor workloads. Mobile devices pose their own set of challenges, including the incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning, use of APIs, and mobile apps for enterprise applications. Business as usual? Hardly!
Going one step further, a review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education further confirms that the coming year will not be business as usual. In academic libraries here at Seattle University, in Seattle and nationwide, my colleagues are grappling with a range of issues and challenges, including research data services, digital scholarship, collection assessment trends, content provider mergers, evidence of learning, new ways to transform teaching and learning, alternative metrics, emerging staff positions, and open educational resources.
The Year Ahead Take Two
Make no mistake, there is uncertain terrain outside and inside the academy, outside and inside the Library and Learning Commons! At Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, we’re ready to roll up our sleeves. For my Library and Learning Commons colleagues, it comes down to this - helping students successfully navigate the increasingly complex information landscape. Student academic success is our priority. Specifically, we seek to help students develop both a conceptual understanding of the information landscape and a practical understanding of how to locate, manage, use and create information. By all means, let us know how we’re doing.
Without further ado, welcome back to school – it is time to get to work!
Sarah Barbara Watstein