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A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - April 2020

By Mary Jane Chew

Libraries considers access vs ownership model

Last month, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies announced an extensive review of their subscription resources. Since that time, Libraries has posted the list of potential cancellations on their website. They invite faculty, staff, and students to submit feedback on the list through Friday, May 21st. The final list of cancellations will be posted in June. Campus input and support remain integral as Libraries takes this necessary step to remain good stewards of University funds and build a successful model for the future.

“Challenging times so often lead creative and inquisitive people to question the status quo and work towards better models,” said Beth McNeil, dean of Libraries and School of Information Studies and Esther Ellis Norton Professor of Library Science, “and in this case, we have the opportunity to use this moment as a chance to embrace new ideas for the betterment of Purdue University and all those who use our libraries.”

The Libraries are working to shift the model of an effective academic research library from one of ownership to one of access.

“For centuries, the purpose of the library was to collect and house as much information as possible in the event that patrons might need it someday,” McNeil said. “This model worked for generations, but with the majority of our resources now in electronic form, we serve our patrons best when we provide information, not collect it. Our users are not concerned with where the information they need originates, only that they have timely access to it.”

The access over ownership model McNeil describes requires strong partnerships with peer libraries. By sharing resources with other institutions, Purdue users have the opportunity to engage with millions of titles not housed within Libraries’ own collections. Resource sharing is particularly critical when libraries own special items that cannot be found elsewhere. The Big Ten Academic Alliance recently committed to sharing more materials, opening up new avenues of research for scholars that had previously been closed or geographically difficult to access.

“The convenience of locally housed resources is not something that will ever go away,” McNeil said. “But by shifting our focus from our collections to the needs of the people using them, we create a more dynamic vision of what a library can be — not just a collection of knowledge, but a thriving hub where that knowledge radiates outward to everyone who seeks it.”

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