Director's Column: A New Vision for the Libraries

Libraries Director, Bonnie Clemens

Few academic institutions have changed and continue to change as dramatically in the last three decades as libraries. The Libraries of The Claremont Colleges are no exception. Recognizing this ongoing transformation, a “Libraries Vision Task Force,” appointed by the Council of Presidents, will work during the next several months to determine the future direction of library services and resources for The Colleges. Libraries staff and I welcome this opportunity to think anew about how the mission of the Libraries interfaces with that of each of the colleges and more specifically, how our work enhances student learning, your teaching and research, and the development of academic community at The Colleges.

The work of the Task Force is only one of several activities aimed at creating a new strategic plan for the Libraries. Last Fall, many of you participated in sessions with consultants discussing utilization of library spaces as well as how collaboration between librarians and faculty can be encouraged. Based on these sessions and on Libraries staff analysis of how our work contributes to the academic missions of the colleges, we have chosen to focus our energies in the immediate future on six important initiatives.

Redesigning student learning spaces

Expectations of students for the spaces and amenities offered by libraries have changed significantly from that of a generation ago. While there is a continued need for private, quiet study carrels, many students also desire spaces that encourage collaborative and group study. Adequate space for laptops along with library materials is essential as are convenient network and electrical connections. No doubt, you have noticed the popularity of the couches and casual seating scattered around Honnold/Mudd. We will continue to convert furnishings and spaces to be more congruent with current needs.

Building the Claremont Colleges Digital Library (CCDL)

Progress on the CCDL has accelerated, and we are excited at the prospects for providing digital access to the wealth of collections belonging to faculty and to the colleges as well as those of the Libraries.

Collections destined for the CCDL will complement the array of licensed and purchased materials in digital form that the Libraries currently provide.

Planning a Repository for library materials

Overcrowding in our book stacks is evident to anyone walking through our buildings. Planning has begun for the eventual move of some of our important, but infrequently-consulted books, journals, and documents to a building from which we can provide on-demand delivery. This initiative will free space for users of our collections and for those services that promote interaction between library staff, students, and faculty.

Co-locating academic services in the library buildings

Many academic libraries now house complementary academic and student services including those offered by information technology and instructional support staff. As part of the Libraries Vision Task Force, the colleges are considering what services might successfully be re-located to one of the libraries. Many ideas are being discussed and among the promising possibilities is a teaching and learning center.

Collaborating for delivery of services

For any of our initiatives to be successful, it is essential for there to be a true collaboration between library staff and faculty. We cannot develop responsive resources and services in isolation from working closely with you to develop an understanding of faculty needs and those of your students. You can expect us to experiment with new services as well as new ways of delivering services. We are expanding our capacity for providing services related to datasets; and this Spring, we are experimenting with offering training and support for GIS (Geographic Information Systems).

Re-thinking the library portal

Entering one of our four library buildings has long provided our community with access to a vast array of information resources and services. Now, increasingly, that entry is not one leading to a physical building but to a virtual space filled with digital resources. Whether physical or virtual, the gateway and the welcoming environment that surrounds that gateway are important to the delivery of services. During the coming months, we plan to invite a small group from across The Colleges community to join us in developing a portal that will provide a new experience upon entering the exciting place that is your library. As work proceeds on each of these six initiatives, I hope you will follow our progress and be willing to provide advice and guidance along the way.

Bonnie Clemens
Libraries Director