By: James Shedlock, Director
Recently, we reported that the Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University was closing its physical space beginning January, 2012 to focus on the provision of resources and services in electronic format as well as the continuation of its successful embedded librarian program. Since then, it has been announced that the decision to close will be reviewed and the Welch Medical Library will remain open during that review.
The official notice on the library’s website states the need “for a careful review of the future of this treasure on our campus.” Another line states that a committee approach with broad representation of the Hopkins user community will take a “look at our opportunities.”
The Hopkins decision suggests that powerful emotions are at work in their community. Libraries evoke strong ties to reading, learning, intellectual pursuits, history, scholarship, the value and purpose of academic life and many more powerful images that we hold dear. Libraries are increasingly being seen as the go-to place for equipment rental, media creation and collaboration, and myriad other services that don't have a home elsewhere on campus. Some users will always prefer to browse a print collection, and students and others will still gravitate to the library as neutral and study space.
Adapting to bold change requires time. In any case, the library brand is very valuable and should be treated carefully. Even with the stacks gone, users still want a library. Libraries can and should be a connection between the values inherent in the old stacks and the technological realities of the present. How to do this is the real challenge facing Hopkins, Northwestern and many other institutions of higher learning.
We will keep you posted on any new developments.