The Shift from Print to Digital

An unprecedented societal shift is taking place that is transforming the very nature of how libraries provide information services. As increasingly sophisticated technologies drive the move from print to digital information, changing user expectations affect library collections, space utilization, resource acquisition and the library’s role in the academic endeavor. To some extent, this parallels the fundamental changes that are taking place in higher education, with a shift from face-to-face instruction to a more virtual approach that is not bound by time or place.

Print collections are rapidly being replaced by digital access. The old model of locally owned discrete print collections has given way to a new model – one where libraries operate in shared environments that range from local print and digital collections to regional and national print and digital archives. It is imperative that the ZSR Library embrace these shifts and take steps to lead the evolution of user information needs as the larger academic environment itself changes. These significant changes will revolutionize the way faculty and students access the existing corpus of scholarly literature. The impact to libraries includes changing acquisitions models from ownership to access, and from buying books “just in case” to letting patrons drive the purchases as materials are needed for their research.

Librarians across the U.S., including those at ZSR Library, collaborate on major initiatives to coordinate storage of archival print copies (e.g. through the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries shared print repository) and participate in preserving digital archives in perpetuity (through projects like Portico and CLOCKSS). Increasing numbers of publications are being born digital and ensuring continued access to scholarship is an enduring library mission that is increasing in complexity. The shift in emphasis to the digital format for scholarship is spreading from the now common e-journal to the monograph, influenced by the rise of e-reader devices and consumer-oriented e-books, as well as the Google Books and HathiTrust initiatives. Use of streaming media (video and music) in classroom instruction and research (e.g. JOVE) continues to increase. The current state in the marketplace for monographs and media is one of turbulence, with barriers to use due to various platforms and standards, proprietary software, digital rights management, and copyright concerns. In an even less-developed area of digital content, researchers and publishers are grappling with provision of original data sets alongside the published research article. Not only in the sciences, but also in the humanities, researchers are utilizing commercially purchased data sets to carry out their work. Content is no longer simply text-based and we must prepare ourselves to be agile in collecting, handling and disseminating new forms of scholarship, from streaming videos to research data sets.

Action Items & Timeframes

  • Create a new Digital Scholarship Unit comprised of the Scholarly Communication Librarian and a new Digital Initiatives Librarian position to cover the wide range of digital needs that span the academic and administrative domains of the University (Fall 2012) Completed:
    • Design and implement a digital curation program to assist WFU academic departments in managing research data (2013-14) Targeted for completion Fall 2014
    • Create a digital preservation plan to address the long-term stability of our digital assets (2013-14) Planned for Spring 2015
  • Establish a scalable data storage system that will handle the growing need of the WFU community to house digital media to support programs including online education and the documentary film program (2012-13) Completed
  • Leverage national initiatives for access to massive digital collections by joining HathiTrust (Fall 2012) Completed
  • Increase our transition to patron-driven e-book acquisitions (2012-14) Completed
  • In collaboration with WFU Digital Publishing, investigate longer term opportunities for publishing collaborations, including born-digital Wake Forest scholarship as well as hosting open access journals for faculty or students (2012-14) Ongoing