Online libraries – might this be part of your future? -2

The Library building serving the information needs of faculty, staff and students at the the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions is about to close its doors (December 2011) *

A recent review of services to make sure they were cost effective had found that there were very large increases in the use of online materials and embedded librarians working outside the library with teams and faculty in their workplaces. The tipping point came when it was found that 35,000 articles were being downloaded but only 104 people visited the library on an average day (40 checked out books).

The savings (a number of branches have been closed) are to be redirected to collections and better services. Books are requested and checked out online and dropped off for students at collection points – faculty and staff have them delivered to their door. So the library comes to you rather than the other way round; and study places are available in other parts of the Institution. So far the space gained in the Library building itself has not been allocated to any particular purpose.

It has taken 10 years to plan and implement this shift to a type of virtual library.

Suzanne Bakker** points out that the library collections are still in the library as are the  librarians needed for professional purposes and the library staff to deliver materials. She emphasizes the importance of human interactions in the complexities of information transfer.

Maybe others, like me, will see in the above a change to the old-fashioned “closed libraries” where the users were rigorously excluded and their requests carried out by library assistants running to and from the shelves to give people the documents and books they wanted.

  • Nancy Roderer et al. The closing of the Welch Library building … Journal of the European Association for Health Information  and Libraries, 2011 v.7 no.4 p.7-10.
  • *  Virtual libraries, virtual librarians – what is next. Same Journal same issue p.11-14.

About jgreigshaw

I work with Partnerships in Health Information which promotes partnership between libraries in Africa and the UK with an emphasis in African leadership. I have visited Kenya, Mali, Uganda and Zambia though Phi has contacts in many more African countries.
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