The fact that libraries have evolved into dynamic mosaics of print and electronic resources is no secret to anyone at Ohio University.
Scott Seaman, dean of University Libraries since 2008, has long been keenly observant of emerging technologies, changing preferences, and opportunities to better meet the needs of patrons. As such, the OHIO community has enjoyed swift adaptations in the delivery of information.
Librarians across the world have taken notice: upon invitation, Seaman delivered a keynote address at the Second International Conference on Leadership and Innovation Management in Academic Libraries in the Age of New Technology, which took place from June 3rd to the 6th at Tongji University in Shanghai, China.
Jointly organized by the prestigious Tongji University and the International Relations Office of the American Library Association, the conference gathered well over 100 scholars and librarians from China and the United States to explore relationships between emergent technology, different use patterns, and new expectations of university libraries.
Seaman’s latest contribution to the dialogue on electronic information trends fortified a longstanding friendship between OHIO and Chinese libraries that was first established by Dr. Hwa-Wei Lee, dean emeritus of Ohio University Libraries.
Lee hosted dozens of Asian colleagues at Alden Library and organized several international conferences over the course of his tenure, from 1978 to 1999.
Lee also oversaw the creation of the Libraries’ Dr. Shao You-Bao Overseas Chinese Documentation and Research Center in 1993, which has since “become one of the leading institutions dedicated to the study of overseas Chinese,” said Seaman. The center actively seeks to identify, acquire, and preserve books, journals, manuscripts, archives and other unique resources that document the activities of Chinese people living outside of China. It also promotes the international exchange and cooperation for overseas Chinese studies.
“The Libraries have a long-standing focus on Asia,” he said.
That history of international collaboration is a foundation Seaman is happy to build upon — especially in this fast-moving age of new technology.
While Seaman has overseen many technological changes since the start of his tenure, his keynote at Tongji University addressed one trend in particular: the rising popularity and consequent proliferation of e-books at Ohio University.
“The long-anticipated e-book revolution isn’t just a few years away,” he said. “In fact, I think that revolution has already happened.”
In his remarks, “E-book Trends in an ARL (Association of Research Libraries) Library: The Future was Three Years Ago,” Seaman pointed to the numbers. From a mere 2,600 downloads of e-books in 2005, Ohio University Libraries patrons downloaded over 138,000 e-books in 2013.
Considering the Libraries’ addition of nearly one million e-books in the past 36 months, that number will continue to grow. Seaman’s research suggests users will access more e-books than print by late 2014 or early 2015.
“Prior to doing this analysis, I would never have thought users were adopting e-books so quickly,” Seaman said. “And I certainly would have never believed that we have already come to this tipping point.”
While OHIO may be at the forefront of the e-book revolution, the conference confirmed that the “tipping point” is certainly not unique to Ohio University. Kelly Broughton, assistant dean for research and education services, attended the conference to deliver a paper and noted that the trends transpiring in American and Chinese libraries were remarkably similar.
“The dissemination of information via the Internet is something that we all have in common,” Broughton said. “We’re both managing the issues that surround this dual world of traditional text and electronic sources.”
Featured image: The conference ended with a panel of library deans and directors answering questions from the audience. (From left to right) Jinhua Shen, Tongji University Library director; Constantia Constantinou, dean of Stony Brook University Libraries; Gary E. Strong, dean emeritus of University of California, Los Angeles Libraries; Scott Seaman, dean of Ohio University Libraries; Haipeng Li, Hong Kong Baptist University librarian; Shali Zhang, dean of University of Montana Libraries. Not pictured: moderator, Xuemao Wang, dean of University of Cincinnati Libraries. (Photo by Kelly Broughton/Ohio University Libraries)