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Director's Column
The Claremont Library of the Future-Virtual Place or Physical Space?

[image]I often ask myself, "What will academic libraries look like in the next half-century?" No one seems to know for certain, but passionate arguments can be found for preserving the traditional library with its paper collections and user spaces as well as for moving as quickly as possible to providing all resources and services electronically. Cognizant of the validity of both views, we in the Libraries proceed with the cautious optimism that any decisions we make will result in a library that meets the needs of our users now and in the future.

This positive approach can be seen in the planning documents that have guided our work over the past several years. Among the earliest and most important of these was "Establishing a Library for the Year 2000." Viewed as extremely ambitious when developed by members of Library Council and Libraries Staff in 1995, this plan was substantially completed ahead of schedule because of the commitment by the Colleges to a Capital Campaign for the Libraries. Looking back, one can see that great strides were made in all areas with particular emphasis on providing the structural framework and resources for what was referred to as "the electronic library"--a virtual place--and on resolving issues with our buildings and facilities--our physical space.

Even so, we have much more to accomplish. Building on the successes of "Establishing a Library for the Year 2000" is an ongoing priority; and this is reflected in the current Libraries Strategic Plan, 2002/03-2004/05, and the Annual Operating Plan for 2002/03. These documents lay out our goals for moving toward a Claremont Digital Library as well as solving the problem of having library buildings that will be at capacity within four years. Consistent with our Plans, developing this digital library and examining how we use the space in our buildings are also focal points for the Fall 2003 External Review of the Libraries.

The latter focus, space, will occupy much of my time this semester while we determine how to deal with an immediate issue, i.e., how to manage with less space. A decision to return one floor of Sprague Library to Harvey Mudd College for their use means a reduction in space for library collections and users. Consequently, we must reevaluate locations for our science collections, and any decisions will inevitably affect our other collections and spaces as well. To begin this process, we are consulting science faculties from across The Colleges. At the same time, we are keeping in mind the information we gathered last spring from focus groups comprised of users across all disciplines.

While our users are enthusiastic about our moving deliberately toward delivering more resources and services electronically, they are also emphatic that our buildings must be more than repositories for books, journals, and archives. Our library buildings must also be spaces that are inviting and comfortable and that provide for a variety of study preferences both for individuals and groups.

As I reflect on what I hear from our users, it seems evident that for the immediate future the academic library will be both a virtual place and a physical space. We will not be able to choose one or the other. Rather, our challenge will be to maintain a balance between the two by making thoughtful decisions based on the needs and desires of our users. We will need your assistance to do that.

Bonnie Clemens
Director of Libraries


Connections is published by The Libraries of The Claremont Colleges and distributed during Fall & Spring semesters.
Edited by
Gale Burrow. Last updated March 21, 2003 by Julie Shen.