Kevin Smith, Dean of Libraries at University of Kansas, spoke on the myriad of changes and challenges facing today’s academic students and librarians. Smith is well qualified to address the topic as his academic credentials are extensive. He did his undergraduate work at Hamilton College in New York, earned an MA Degree in Religion at Yale, a Masters in Library Science at Kent State, and a law degree from Capital University. Before arriving at KU, Smith served as Director of Copyright and Scholarly Communications at Duke University. In addition to his duties as Dean of Libraries, Smith is Director of Universities Press and teaches copyright for the KU Law School.
The focus of Smith’s talk was on changes and challenges for academic libraries and academic students in the digital age. The digital age has actually increased the importance of librarians as the challenge today is not so much finding information but navigating and evaluating the overwhelming amount of what is available. Accordingly, librarians still have an important teaching role, including information literacy with an emphasis on authentication of sources and material.
Present copyright laws were not created to deal with digital information on the Internet. Information is mostly proprietary, and users must engage complex user agreements, licensing, and an array of new services. These challenges come at a time when we have lost our traditional “canons of authority” for creating and conveying information. Authentic information exists on the Internet along side false and purposefully slanted information.
Smith also addressed new models of publication, including publishing on-demand and open source text books. University students face great challenges in the digital age, but professional librarians are prepared to provide guidance and assistance.