During World War II, most of R-MC’s students either joined or were drafted into the military. In order to keep the school going, President Moreland lobbied for military training programs to be held on campus. Coursework was taught by College faculty as well as military instructors.
In 1942-43, 96 young men attended the Navy’s V-1 pre-flight training on campus while learning to fly at a nearby airport in Hanover County. The Navy moved the training elsewhere in 1943, so the College brought the Army to campus. R-MC was chosen to give courses designated as Basic Engineering One under the Army Specialized Training Program and was assigned 250 men who were known as the 3322nd Service Unit. Eventually, 438 men passed through the training program during 1943-44 when only 83 regular students were enrolled at the College.
After the military programs ended, 1944-45 was a lean year for the College with fewer than 100 full-time students, and a jump to only 200 the following year as the war ended left the College struggling. By the fall of 1946, the G.I. Bill brought many new students and helped the College rebound with an enrollment of over 550, 439 of whom were veterans.
[Adapted from a presentation given at a Faculty/Staff Luncheon at Randolph-Macon College on November 7, 2017.]
The academic library is a challenge to discuss in mixed company. To those in the know, the academic library is a dynamic place of innovation, the location of epic battles for information literacy, freedom of information, preservation, open access, and educational technology. To others, the academic library is an obsolete warehouse, facing inevitable decline.
Members of the Randolph-Macon College community have likely noticed emails stating that the library is discarding microfilm and microfiche in favor of new digital resources such as The New York Times Archive Online, and The Economist Archive. Many have also realized that there aren’t as many books on the shelves as there used to be, as we’re weeding our book collection and discarding resources that haven’t been used in many years. These are indicative of broader trends in academic libraries, and it seems worthwhile to explain what we’re thinking when we do that.
Primary Goals of the Library
It may be most helpful to begin by thinking about the role that the library has traditionally played on college and university campuses as the intellectual center, or the heart, of the campus. The library has always had three primary goals:
Keeping things for a long time
Providing the information that the current community needs
Helping members of the community find and use the information that was made available 1
Let’s look briefly at each of these goals.
The library preserves the heritage and traditions of an institution, keeping both qualitative and quantitative data that can tell the story not only of college life in the mid-1800s, but also the necessarily record of changes to policies or curriculum.
Information needs change regularly, and the library has always tried to be responsive, even anticipatory, to what students, faculty, and staff need, whether it’s books, journals, or data. When word processing first took off and before everyone had a personal computer, computers were available in the library. That was what was needed. As the needs of the community change, the information provided by the library changes.
The size and quality of the local collection have historically been very, very important, because it used to be more difficult to find books not held in the collection. Before Amazon, the options were scouring local new and/or used bookstores or using interlibrary loan to request the book from another academic library, an option that could take weeks or even months.
Access & Use
Making sure the community could use the information years ago really meant serving as de facto gatekeepers. Users of information almost always needed to go through the library to access the information, so there was a fair amount of control over what and how information was used. It was also possible to simply wait for students to come to the library—eventually, they had to—and then they could be helped if needed.
We now find ourselves in a period of transition. For hundreds of years, the academic library has existed in print. Papyrus, scrolls, vellum, wood pulp. These things were physical items that could be stored, retrieved, opened, read, preserved. They took up physical space, could only be in one location at a time, and would typically only be used by one person at a time (reading aloud does happen, but it is unusual for two people to independently read the same item at the same time).
Now, in the space of forty (or so) years, we find ourselves in a very different environment.
Few libraries have transitioned to a fully digital library model as of this date (Nov. 2017). Some resources fit the digital format well: encyclopedias, dictionaries, and almanacs have been quickly replaced by digital options in which it is quick and easy to look up a discrete fact. Journals have transitioned well because they are made up of many individual articles. Edited volumes are transitioning fairly well, but monographs less so. There are also distinct differences among disciplines. The sciences have shifted quickly: they rely heavily on journal articles, and many books in the sciences are edited volumes. It’s not unusual to hear of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) libraries that are entirely paperless (e.g., UT-San Antonio, Florida Polytechnic). It’s important to note that these institutions still build libraries for their campuses, even though those libraries no longer house print books. The humanities are transitioning much less quickly, in part because of their dependence on the monograph. The transition in the social sciences falls between the two on the continuum.
There are other challenges facing the transition to a fully digital library: money to digitize and make electronically accessible material that is less in-demand, and the simple fact that some people like using and reading digital texts, while others do not. Even acknowledging that we are not fully digital, the implications of this shift have been huge.
Both the amount of available information and the amount that a given library can provide have increased significantly.
Despite what one would consider cost-saving digital publishing options, costs of one-time and subscription resources have continued to increase, often rising 6% per year or more.
Smaller libraries often need to choose between owning resources and leasing them. With many budgets continuing to shrink or plateau, it can be a difficult decision to choose between owning 50 resources versus leasing 160,000.
Scholarly communication is changing almost as quickly as the technology is. Scholarly communication is:
“The system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use. The system includes both formal means of communication, such as publication in peer-reviewed journals, and informal channels, such as electronic listservs.”3
The line between formal and informal communication is blurring more and more. Disciplines are becoming more and more specialized. The role of peer‐review continues to be valuable, but is questioned frequently. How can a student learn to differentiate between a blog published by a notable scholar and a peer‐reviewed article by that same scholar? What should be collected and preserved by the library?
Within academic libraries, the topic of scholarly communication is usually discussed simultaneously with open access (OA). And this association with open access comes from the belief that scholarship is a public good that should be publicly available. As the price of formal scholarship continues to increase, putting scholarship behind paywalls that soon only elite institutions will be able to afford, academic libraries, particularly large, well-funded institutions, have been trying to break what essentially amounts to a monopoly on scholarship, by encouraging faculty to publish with OA publishers, and by devoting more resources to supporting OA publications, in some cases starting their own publishing endeavors. At institutions where the impact factor of a journal can decide whether or not a faculty member gets tenure, you can imagine that progress is slow!
Libraries are facing competition they haven’t faced before: Google, Google Scholar, Google Books, Amazon, and Wikipedia are all readily available, free, and for many students indistinguishable from resources available through their library.
Students, while in many ways the same as they have always been, are frequently:
Overconfident in their ability to search (and find)
Impatient, needing to have content available instantly
Hesitant to ask for help
Have misperceptions about libraries and librarians, and how both can help them succeed.
In part because of the changes that libraries have been undergoing in the past few decades, and because online resources both lack the dramatic appeal of physical resources and continue to become more expensive, academic libraries are being regularly asked to justify their existence. Library are more than just the books and journals they provide, of course, and they always have been. But in today’s assessment-conscious environment, research is being done to look at how libraries contribute to student success and retention.
A recent 3‐year project at over 200 post-secondary institutions looked at multiple library factors and their potential impacts on students’ academic outcomes.
Students benefit from library instruction in their initial coursework.
Library use increases student success.
Collaborative academic programs and services involving the library enhance student learning.
Information literacy instruction strengthens general education outcomes.
Library research consultations boost student learning. 4
In light of all of these changes, how have the three primary goals of the library changed?
In the digital library world, preservation of the College’s history remains an important part of the library’s mission, even as it has gotten more complex. What do we do with slides or VHS tapes as the technologies become obsolete? How do we preserve the website or the social media of the college in such a way that it can be used in a telling of the College’s history 50 years from now? For the first time, we need to make decisions about what is
worth preserving, rather than preserving everything, as has been the habit.
As more and more information is available and easily accessed, library collections, especially among similar types and sizes of institutions, will look more and more similar. The library collection at Randolph‐Macon College will not differ significantly from the collection at Hamden‐Sydney or Lynchburg. It will be the unique special collections that will really set the libraries of these institutions apart. They will provide unique research opportunities for students, and can attract faculty in a number of disciplines.
The types and nature of information needed to support research have changed. We’re still purchasing print books in addition to online archives and databases, and this isn’t a function of our size and budget. Every library director I’ve talked to recently is still doing the same. But a technological solution invented next year could change that. So as we look to the future, we need to do so in a way that can continue to accommodate change. Because change is coming.
Access & Use
Finding information is no longer a problem. Now it is a question of finding the right information. We have moved from an environment of information scarcity to an environment of information overload. Students still need to learn how to tell a book citation from an article citation from an essay citation, and they still need to understand how to evaluate the information they’re finding to be able to tell the difference between a peer‐reviewed resource and “fake news.” But now they also need to know how to navigate constantly changing interfaces, while learning how to cite a tweet in their paper.
What we may think of as the “traditional” library, full of print journals, silent book stacks, students working alone on individual paper assignments, is likely gone for good. In its place is an academic library still preserving institutional history, providing information resources for its community, and teaching students how to access and use those resources. Academic libraries are striving to navigate a complicated environment, and to succeed, they need to be discussed in a much more nuanced way among librarians, faculty, students, campus leaders, and donors.
My next post will look at some of the specific pivots libraries are making to adjust to this new environment, and how a learning commons model in the McGraw-Page Library can support those changes.
If you need a picture for a class or conference presentation and usually go to Google images or Wikimedia Commons, try the Artstor Digital Library next time! The Artstor Digital Library is a database containing over 2 million high-quality images for education and research from a wide variety of contributors around the world. As you would expect, Artstor includes images of paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, and other objects from major museum and library collections, but this database includes much more! There are medical and botanical drawings; images of clothing as well as drawings for fashion design; architectural and landscape images; photojournalism collections; maps; manuscript page images – just about anything that can be scanned or photographed, including this image of R-MC’s own Washington and Franklin Hall from ArtStor’s Historic Campus Architecture Collection. Complete information about the image or the object represented by the image is also included. Find Artstor on the Databases A-Z list available on the McGraw-Page Library website.
In honor of election day, our three on the third will focus on America and the current political climate.
Polarized: Making Sense of a Divided America by James E. Campbell
Many continue to believe that the United States is a nation of political moderates. In fact, it is a nation divided. It has been so for some time and has grown more so. This book provides a new and historically grounded perspective on the polarization of America, systematically documenting how and why it happened. Polarized presents commonsense benchmarks to measure polarization, draws data from a wide range of historical sources, and carefully assesses the quality of the evidence. Through an innovative and insightful use of circumstantial evidence, it provides a much-needed reality check to claims about polarization. This rigorous yet engaging and accessible book examines how polarization displaced pluralism and how this affected American democracy and civil society. Polarized challenges the widely held belief that polarization is the product of party and media elites, revealing instead how the American public in the 1960s set in motion the increase of polarization. American politics became highly polarized from the bottom up, not the top down, and this began much earlier than often thought. The Democrats and the Republicans are now ideologically distant from each other and about equally distant from the political center. Polarized also explains why the parties are polarized at all, despite their battle for the decisive median voter. No subject is more central to understanding American politics than political polarization, and no other book offers a more in-depth and comprehensive analysis of the subject than this one.
JK 1726 .C359 2016 Catalog Link – Polarized
Web 2.0 and the Political Mobilization of College Students by Kenneth W. Moffett Web 2.0 and the Political Mobilization of College Students investigates how college students’ online activities, when politically oriented, can affect their political participatory patterns offline. Kenneth W. Moffett and Laurie L. Rice find that online forms of political participation–like friending or following candidates and groups as well as blogging or tweeting about politics–draw in a broader swathe of young adults than might ordinarily participate. Political scientists have traditionally determined that participatory patterns among the general public hold less sway in shaping civic activity among college students. This book, however, recognizes that young adults’ political participation requires looking at their online activities and the ways in which these help mobilize young adults to participate via other forms. Moffett and Rice discover that engaging in one online participatory form usually begets other forms of civic activity, either online or offline.
LB 3610 .M64 2016 Catalog Link – Web 2.0
Covering American Politics in the 21st Century: An Encyclopedia of news media titans, trends and controversies by Lee Banville
Over the last 20 years, political campaigns and the media that cover them have been fundamentally altered by a mix of technology and money. This timely work surveys the legal, financial, and technological changes that have swept through the political process, putting those changes in context to help readers appreciate how they affect what the public learns, and doesn’t learn, about the candidates and lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels. The encyclopedia offers a critical examination of a broad range of topics organized in a narrative, A-to-Z format. Written by journalists and political experts, the two volumes cover the major issues, organizations, and trends affecting both politics and the coverage of political campaigns. Some 200 entries treat everything from news organizations, think tanks, and significant individuals to questions concerning money, advertising, and campaign tactics. Objective, unbiased, and comprehensive, the encyclopedia is an unequaled resource for anyone seeking to understand American political journalism and news coverage in the 21st century
PN 4888 .P6 B36 2017 V1 & V2 Catalog Link – Covering American Politics in the 21st Century