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Vol. XVII, no. 2 TCU Library Newsletter, Web Edition March 2005


As the head of an academic library, I am frequently asked what I think the future of libraries will be. This question is often posed in the context of our digital world with a growing number of online publications, the World Wide Web, and portable electronic devices. Surveys indicate that college students more frequently turn to Web search engines than they do to libraries to find information. Fortunately, many do know the value of the wonderful electronic resources we offer and they take good advantage of them. Yet Web use for information seeking cannot be denied, even for faculty.

Google’s recent announcement of plans to digitize millions of books from Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, and Oxford, raises additional questions about the future of libraries. When this project is completed in a few years, there will be thousands of non-copyrighted titles online, available to anyone with Web access. OCLC, our national library network, is working with both Google and Yahoo to direct users of those search engines back to libraries by including two million plus catalog records in the Google and Yahoo databases. A person looking for The Da Vinci Code, for example, will get a search result which tells them if the book is available in their local library.

Despite heavy web search engine use, academic libraries are not empty (except during spring break). The TCU library has never been busier: in 2003-04, nearly half a million persons entered the building, a record attendance figure. While university libraries in general have seen a decline in reference questions and circulation, they’ve had dramatic increases in on-site use and in the use of electronic materials, especially full-text e-journals and e-books.

Libraries are adapting to the changing needs of their users by responding to student requests for more laptops, group study space, and longer hours. The traditional model of the quiet college library is long gone, replaced by a new model that has an Information Commons at its center. Today’s academic library is a hybrid of old and new, but with increasing emphasis on the new. Coffee and donuts, wireless networks, one-stop information shopping, computer labs with the latest software and onsite help, computer and web-savvy reference librarians, 24-hour service, collaborative learning areas, electronic reference sources, these are the future.

Someone recently predicted that within ten years, 95 percent of all new content acquired by libraries will be digital. You traditionalists out there, don’t panic. We still buy 20,000 print books each year and our periodicals room still has 5,000 print journals on the shelves. We still value our special collections and good customer service will always be our number one priority. But as Bob Dylan wrote, "The times, they are a changin’."

Robert Seal's signature

Robert Seal
Dean of the Library

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