Been to the library lately? Not much? Well, maybe you haven’t been going because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. And maybe, too, you think you can do all your research online, starting at a search engine portal.

Librarians miss you, and they want you back. That’s just one finding of an unprecedented survey of 4,000 librarians and patrons. It turns out library patrons also really appreciate librarians, yet a significant knowledge gap lies between them.

Librarian Futures, a white paper based on the survey, was published by SAGE in early November. Andrew Barker, library services director at Lancaster University in the UK, told Research Information that the report underlines why libraries “need to be seen not simply as a repository of silent students and print books, but actually at the forefront of a user’s university experience, both digital and physical.”

According to Matthew HayesLean Library managing director and co-author of Librarian Futures, “Patrons recognize that the librarian is one of those pillars of expertise that they should be able to rely on.”

There’s A Library in Your Future

Nevertheless, Hayes doesn’t “think it’s necessarily contradictory to prefer workflows outside the library, like Google Scholar and Wikipedia and so on, in terms of convenience.

“I think you can reconcile the two,” he tells CCC. “There can be a sea change if the library can be delivered in ways that patrons are now used to in their workflow, as opposed to being something they need to go to and to visit themselves. The library actually can come to them.”

Earlier this month, SAGE launched Technology from SAGE, a portfolio of technology businesses providing workflow solutions to libraries. Lean Library is one of three companies that make up the newly created division of SAGE Publishing; the others are Talis and Quartex.

Lean Library was founded in 2016 to develop software solutions that support researcher accessibility and improve remote user experience. In 2018, SAGE Publishing acquired the startup.

“We talk at SAGE about our mission being to build bridges to knowledge, that our purpose is about creating connections between learners and researchers and teaching faculty, leading to research impact,” explains Martha Sedgwick, vice president, product innovation, for SAGE.

“Our publishing and our content strategy has been how we fulfill that mission. But at this point, you can’t see content without the technology around it. The technology is what enables the discovery, the access, and the engagement around that content.

“We see the library as fundamental to learning and research on campus, and through these businesses, through their services, we want to amplify that value. We’re doing that not through services that support back-end, back-office functions at the library, but that are focused on workflow solutions,” Sedgwick says.

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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