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The Library after print

In response to the University’s Digital Learning Strategy, the University of South Australia Library has actively pursued the transformation of its collections from physical to electronic since 2011. Two approaches have been taken to achieve this: an epreferred purchasing policy that has seen our acquisition of ebooks rise to over 95% of total acquisitions, and a programme of deselecting low use material from our collections that has reduced our physical collections by 70%. This paper addresses the exciting opportunities presented to the Library through this transformation from print place to central learning space.

Abstract
At UniSA we have 4 technology rich metropolitan libraries containing a variety of student learning spaces, state of the art collaborative teaching rooms, shared work rooms with Library, IT, Student Services and Teaching Innovation Unit staff….and some books.

In response to the University’s Digital Learning Strategy the University of South Australia Library has actively pursued the transformation of its collections from physical to electronic since 2011. Two approaches have been taken to achieve this: an epreferred purchasing policy that has seen our acquisition of ebooks rise to over 95% of total acquisitions, and a programme of deselecting low use material from our collections that has reduced our physical collections by 70%.

This massive reduction in the collection footprint has opened up a world of opportunities in service redesign and repurposing of spaces not possible for libraries still dominated by physical collections. Of course you can’t just get rid of the books, you need something in their place and you need to radically change your mind set to allow for a complete reimagining of what an academic library can be.

A key element that has allowed us to reactivate our library spaces as teaching and learning hubs has been a Library Master Planning process that we have done in collaboration with the Facilities Management unit and the help of a consultant. A University wide Teaching Infrastructure Master Plan was also commissioned providing further opportunity for the Library to advance its presence. For this process to succeed Library staff had to let go of territorial ideas about Library space and embrace shared service delivery.

The reduction in physical collections has also allowed us to transform our services. In 2016 we removed library service desks from our branches and moved to a fully virtual reference and enquiry service. Students can phone from wherever they are working or from the service points established in each library or use live, proactive chat to interact with Library staff ; meaning our staff are no longer tied to a desk waiting for questions. Another upside to the reduction in collections means drastically reduced security concerns about the remaining psychical collections; letting go of outdated and unfounded notions of security has meant that we have been able to increase our unstaffed opening hours while continuing to offer a high quality virtual reference service.

The change in Library space has been dramatic over the past two years and we are ready to do some serious evaluation of the impact these changes have had on our user’s experiences. In February 2017 we are engaging the services of UX expert Andy Priestner to help us gather data on how our students have responded to the transformation of our spaces.

Yes there is definitely life for your Library after the print books have gone and it is busy, vibrant and exciting!