May 18, 2022

Article: “Turning a Page: the Changing Role of the University Library”

From The Ubyssey (Student Newspaper at the U. of British Columbia):

[David] Farrar, [UBC vice-president academic and provost,] knows the libraries are still very popular, but they’re now used very differently. “Wander around this place and you’ll see students everywhere,” he said, noting renovations to Koerner Library that included a new study lounge. “You won’t see very many people in the stacks. And that’s the reality of the libraries we’re in now.”

Given that 60 per cent of UBC’s library collection hasn’t been picked up off the shelf in eight years, taking away book stacks and adding study spaces will be one of the few clear trends. “The rest is … more or less negotiable. That’s what makes it interesting and challenging,” said Mark Vessey, chair of the Senate library committee. “Given that nobody quite knows what the ideal form for a university library would be in 2020, what do we move first? What are our priorities?”


In the 2002-2003 school year, the library only spent 21 per cent of its purchasing budget on electronic material. This year, that figure is 72 per cent.


The B.C. Integrated Research Library is a proposed $10 million storage facility in South Campus that is currently winding through approval from the UBC Board of Governors. If the project is approved, construction is planned to end in 2014. Rarely used books could be stored in the building and digitized on request. The facility would operate jointly with other schools in the region, preserving “last copies” of books and documents without requiring all universities to store individual copies.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.