What is the academic library's role in a world of open educational resources, online learning, MOOCs and other examples of informal learning? More important than ever in my opinion. As libraries move from place to service; from being buildings with books towards providing trustworthy services in information retrieval, source criticism, study guidance, research, business intelligence and knowledge management. The physical space is already being transformed into a meeting place and a learning space. The virtual space is however more interesting and offers many alternative opportunities. Libraries can offer global services on the net and this will result in new niches. There is already a major opportunity for libraries to provide services to all students involved in informal online learning. In the first place libraries can offer study guidance to make more people aware of the new types of online learning such as MOOCs, Peer 2 Peer University, Udacity, MITx and many others. Secondly libraries can provide online support for these learners by linking up in some way with the course providers.
These themes are developed in.an article in Education Futures, The future of academic libraries: An interview with Steven J Bell which includes the interview embedded below with Steven J. Bell (Associate University Librarian for Research and Instruction at Temple University, and current Vice President and President Elect of the Association of College and Research Libraries). Bell believes that traditional universities will continue but that an increasing number of students will choose part-time studies in combination with work due to the increasing costs of full-time campus education. There will be a wide range of education providers, both formal and informal and students will choose courses from different providers depending on needs. Libraries need to be able to follow these learners as well as the traditional student market and this offers new opportunities for those willing to innovate. Some will refuse to change and become entrenched in a traditional role whereas others will test new avenues:
“Another scenario might involve unbundled academic libraries that would offer different types of resources and services. A student might connect with one library for help with a question on ancient Rome, but contact another depending on the subject matter or the service needed. This might involve some extended version of resource sharing where academic libraries would serve more than their own local community. We do that now, but think of it on a much larger scale and for much more than just content sharing. Who pays for it? Perhaps the students, who might pay a fee to access the services and content on a per-use basis, or they might get “library credits” from the institution providing their unbundled course that could be used to obtain service at a participating library. An unbundled system of higher education might require academic librarians to think more entrepreneurially about how they operate.”