Half of UK librarians 'won't meet users' needs'

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Nearly half of UK university librarians do not believe they will be able to meet student needs in the 2022/23 academic year due to inadequate funding, according to new research.

The study by the learning experience and engagement platform Kortext asked senior librarians about their 2021/22 experiences, and expectations for next year, with 43 per cent stating they do not believe their library will be adequately funded to meet student needs.

The Kortext Future of the Library Study 21/22 also revealed over three quarters (77 per cent) believe their library deserves a ‘significant budget increase’ due to the increasing demand on the library to provide access to learning resources for all students.

Librarians also reported an increased focus on green issues, with three quarters (75 per cent) considering their library has now become a department that actively supports its university’s sustainability agenda.

Meanwhile, in a sign of the evolving data-driven direction for university libraries, nearly two thirds of librarians (63 per cent) foresee their library’s involvement with their university’s teaching and learning strategy becoming more involved. To illustrate this, nearly three quarters of respondents (72 per cent) have increased their reliance on content usage analytics in the current academic year.

Kortext spokesperson Robin Gibson said: 'Librarians have worked tirelessly to deliver the best possible outcomes for students during the past two pandemic-impacted years, and have borne much of the responsibility of integrating digital functionality into their university. And, while librarians have not always received the plaudits they should have, this has been an exceptional achievement.

'However, by demonstrating how essential digital learning has become, both students and university leaders have increased their expectations of the role of the library. This includes students expecting access to their textbooks and learning materials anytime and anywhere on their devices. At a time when the cost-of-living-crisis is putting even more pressure on students, this means libraries are requiring increased budgets to ensure they meet demand.'

On what the study says about the future of higher education, Gibson said: 'For centuries the library has been the beating heart of a university, but as technology develops, and the influence of paper books diminishes, there have been many who doubted libraries’ role in the future of university learning. The results of this research show these people are short-sighted, and instead the development of technology will make librarians even more relevant than ever.

'Librarians have always excelled in understanding and sharing knowledge, and by embracing the unique benefits of digital learning librarians have shown a real affinity with a more data-driven approach to supporting students and course leaders alike.

'For example, librarians are now using Kortext’s learner analytics to track student engagement through their reading habits. In the past, once students left the classroom it was not possible to monitor their actual engagement of their learning materials. Now, librarians can see when a student’s engagement is suffering, and alert their course leader to offer instant personal support. This improves a student’s chances of achieving their academic potential, and also completing their studies.

'Ultimately, the research offers an exciting glimpse of the future for any university seeking to solidify its long-term position as a high-ranking student-first contemporary institution.'

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