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Shaping the future of academic libraries: authentic learning for the next generation

The Next Generation Library is changing in the wake of a tertiary education sector trying to adjust for a future skilled workforce that is expected to have a much broader and more flexible set of skills than graduates of just half a generation ago. In this paper, we present a case study which illustrates the onset of a paradigm shift in academic librarianship, disciplinary coursework and integrated learning and teaching. The upcoming challenges are a golden opportunity for evolving the role of academic librarianship, helping universities to shape the degree courses of the future.

The future of academic librarianship has been the subject of some debate within the library and information sciences (LIS) sector. Terms such as ‘blended’ and ‘embedded’ librarian have been coined to describe new roles for librarians, characterised by greater levels of involvement in the teaching, learning and research enterprise of their universities. Simultaneously, new pedagogical approaches are being developed within tertiary teaching and learning towards more authentic and engaging learning experiences.

At the University of Technology Sydney, we are developing a unique partnership between library staff and academic staff within the Faculty of Science. This partnership demonstrates how these new approaches to librarianship and pedagogy can lead to benefits for students and deliver authentic experiences which build both discipline-specific knowledge, and workplace-based graduate capabilities.

This paper presents a case study of the second-year physics course Energy Science and Technology, in which students undertake independent research and publish and present their work in a number of professional outlets, including an open access journal, PAM Review: New Ideas in Energy and Power Generation, published by UTS Library. Through this process, students develop research skills, information and digital literacy skills, and scholarly communication skills as part of authentic experiences which simulate professional environments and scenarios. Library staff are involved as active partners throughout the planning and delivery of the course, driving curriculum development.

We believe our experiences may provide exemplars of ‘new’ librarian roles including co-teacher, publisher and communications expert, while also demonstrating the effective integration of professional graduate attributes into the academic curriculum, processes which may be readily transferrable to other courses and disciplines.