John Hopkins Medical Library Closing Doors – Moving to Digital Model

November 10, 2011 — 1 Comment

When you have only 100 people per day entering your physical library and checking out an average total of only 40 books per day but have have 35,000 daily digital downloads of articles it only makes sense to close your physical doors — even if you are the world renowned William H. Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University.

By January 1, 2012, the John Hopkins Medical library will close its doors. The library already commits 95% of it’s acquisitions budget to electronic journals and databases so the closure was inevitable. If you really think about this, wouldn’t you rather have your Doctor, a scientist or a Medical researcher spending their time searching the data on their iPad than walking the stacks.

When the best of the best are going completely digital can the rest of the library world be that far behind?

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Dwayne Harapnuik

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One response to John Hopkins Medical Library Closing Doors – Moving to Digital Model

  1. For anyone reading this post, I would like to share some key distinctions between the situation described at Johns Hopkins and our Concordia context.

    o The library being closed is part of a system of libraries with a combined physical collection of 3.6 million items and many other locations that are maintaining their physical collections and spaces. I’d imagine most of the 400,000 items will be redeposited across the wider system. That’s quite a safety net and should change your optics on this story significantly. NEOS may be Concordia’s safety net, but to be a NEOS member CUCA needs to maintain a healthy collection to share and a well-staffed service location.

    o The library being closed had an average of 40 visitors per day. The CUCA Library, from Wednesday, September 7, 2011 to Tuesday, November 22, 2011 had an average of 770 visitors per day. The CUCA library is a busy hub of campus learning and activity.

    o The library being closed circulated an average of 40 items per day (bear in mind that Johns Hopkins serves an undergrad student population much larger than that of CUCA). The CUCA Library circulated, for the above time period, an average of 85 items per day.

    o The library being closed was 45,000 square feet and contained 400,000 items! To compare, the CUCA library is less than half the size, 20,000 square feet, with less than one fifth the collection (75,000 physical items). A good portion of the library’s available space is already dedicated to student learning space – group space, quiet space, lab space, reading space, study space.

    o The library being closed was seeing an average of 35,000 articles downloaded per day. In a system of ten libraries serving a widely distributed student population of 4,000-5,000 undergrads and 14,000 post-docs, this metric is deceiving and overstated. Without further context of who downloaded these items, its really just an ambiguous number. For comparison, the CUCA library records an average of approximately 300 article views per day. This is an educated approximation, but based on sampling from major online article source usage data.

    I hope readers of this blog can see the picture that is emerging. The library being closed was a large, underused library facility among a network of other similar physical facilities that was serving a technologically advanced and increasingly mobile user population and program. In the words of the library’s director “virtual libraries make sense in medicine because the field changes so fast that printed material quickly becomes obsolete. Most medical journals went electronic in the 1990s and have digitized back issues”.

    On the other hand, the CUCA library is a lean and focused operation with a dedicated service team, a small and relevant physical collection, a collection of online resources putting us on a level playing field with some of the largest universities in the country, and a physical environment which is under constant improvement in keeping with the expressed wishes of students and faculty. We are not irrelevant, nor are we in danger of being closed. What we need is the continuing financial and administrative support which allows us to develop spaces, collections and services which will adapt to the diversity of student learning styles and preferences evident within our hopefully growing campus community.

    Sincerely, Dan Mirau, Library Director, CUCA Library

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