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In response to the community’s increasing online-only research needs, Penn Libraries administrators claim that libraries will not become obsolete.

Still, they are making efforts to advance technologically.

According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education in late October, the Association of Research Libraries came up with possible scenarios on what research libraries will look like in 2030.

Van Pelt-Dietrich Library’s Director of Public Services Marjorie Hassen said Penn currently has a three-year plan for its libraries since it is difficult to plan much further into the future.

“We’re spending more time in the education technology field,” Hassen said, including enhancing course sites and creating new workshops on how to use the latest technologies.

Penn Libraries’ Director for Planning and Communication Joe Zucca explained that Penn’s libraries have come a long way since 1990 when there were no e-journals and no videos. At this point, the libraries possess over 80,000 online journals, over 90,000 online research publications and 26,000 videos.

Though Penn still circulates over 300,000 books, students and faculty have been conducting more research online, according to Zucca. For example, 7 million items were downloaded by Penn’s community last year.

When asked what new technological changes mean for the traditional research library, Zucca said they “aren’t so worried about relevance as we are worried about keeping up with the changes in forms of research and pedagogy.”

Hassen said that although the library’s role hasn’t changed, the tools that individuals use to access information have.

According to Zucca, the future of libraries is in programs like Penn’s BorrowDirect, in which Ivy League schools are able to share books, to create a “much larger-scale information base.”

Eventually, Zucca foresees that libraries will become more efficient, maybe even “divvying up responsibility” in acquiring materials in order to tightly focus use of dollars. Zucca called this a “synergy” between institutions in which schools with traditions of cooperation and historical affinities can come together to create a larger information database.

Assistant School of Design professor Amy Hillier said that during her graduate work at Penn, she spent a lot of time at the library looking for research materials which she can now find online. However, she said this “doesn’t mean I never go to the library; I just go for different reasons.”

Hillier said libraries will need to “expand [their] capacity to provide flexible study and collaboration space for students and faculty.”

Systems Administrator Stephanie Alarcon remembered that in doing her graduate work at Penn, other online research sources such as Google Scholar didn’t “even compare to the digital holdings of a real research library.”

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