Book Review: University Libraries and Digital Learning Environments
Reviewed by Bhuva Narayan, Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Title: University Libraries and Digital Learning Environments
Author: Penny Dale, Jill Beard, and Matt Holland
Place of publication: Farnham, Surrey
Publication year: 2011
At a time when both university libraries and digital learning environments are fast evolving, this book offers an expert overview of the various factors, components, and processes involved within these technology-assisted learning and teaching environments.
The book comprises 16 chapters on various subjects including library spaces, library instruction, information literacy, virtual reference, virtual research, institutional repositories, copyright management, federated searching, integration and use of social media, library school pathways, digital library evaluation, the economics of scholarly communication, and impact measurement. Written mainly by practitioners from within the UK academic libraries, the chapters are expertly orchestrated by the experienced editors who have managed to make these seemingly disparate subjects flow and transition into each other very well. Although the writers and editors are writing from within a UK context, they provide parallel examples from the USA and Australia where appropriate that makes the book relevant and worthwhile for most academic librarians and library educators worldwide. It also has the makings of a very good textbook for library and information management students. Whether or not it is used as a textbook, both potential and practising librarians, and not just university librarians, will learn something new and useful from this book.
One of the main ideas running throughout this book is of the librarians' role within not just the library but within the university as a whole. There seems to be a very thin line separating the librarian as an information professional and the librarian as an educator and this puts an extra burden on most university librarians. When university students' access to information is mainly through digital technologies, the delineation between digital literacy and information literacy becomes indistinct. Both of these are related to educational outcomes, and university librarians are already proactive in helping students from within their own learning environments, but there is a need for lecturers and educators to work more closely with librarians right at the inception and design of their courses and units. This book brings out this tension in a subtle manner through the various discussions on teaching and learning, language support for international students, and research training for higher degree research students.
There is quite a deal of discussion in this book on integrating social media into learning environments, with services like chat services, virtual reference through SMS, webinars, social bookmarking etc. but not enough on how these services can provide just-in-time help that is integrated with the existing learning objects within the course, and once again, this requires a collaborative effort from both the educators and the librarians.
Some of the topics that are not discussed in detail in this book but could have benefited from being included are: how can university libraries help with managing bibliographies and citations through a system that integrates well with the way their users employ both the Internet and the digital databases; how to help users keep found things found; and how university libraries can help administrators, grant writers, and researchers track research impact. The excellent chapter on institutional repositories deals with this to some extent but does not deal with the bibliographic or semantic publishing tools that can be employed in conjunction with the repositories and the digital databases to help track the research impact of the university's researchers.
Overall, this is a great book for anyone interested in the valuable services that university libraries already offer to help student learning outcomes and research output along with the great potential for the future use of these services in our ever-changing digital environment.