Do libraries matter in distance education?

Academics discuss the changing roles of campus libraries and librarians in the online education era.


[Editor’s note: Edits have been made to reflect changes in lead author citation, as well as professional title.]

With the explosion of distance education, librarianship is changing from managing books to connecting people and quality resources while at the same time delivering resources effectively and providing the best customer service possible.

That’s the consensus, say Amanda Corbett, a graduate student at East Carolina University (ECU) and a professional librarian, and Abbie Brown, professor at ECU, of current research on the changing role of libraries and librarians, as well as best practices from major colleges and universities across the country.

In answer to the question, “Do libraries and librarians play a part in advancing distance education?” Corbett and Brown say in their new report that “the trend is to shift the emphasis from what librarians do to how they do it to meet the continuing needs of distance education users. The academic librarian provides added value to the teaching and learning process; as long as there is a need for learning resources, there will be a need for a guide to navigate those resources.”

Also, because distance students often live in locations that don’t have a local library, online library services (i.e. locating resources for coursework) are critical.

And while Corbett and Brown note in their new report that there are many benefits to including library services within a distance education program or course, there are also many challenges for librarians today in keeping pace with new demands in student learning.

(Next page: Skills, competencies and benefits provided by libraries)

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