Sunday, May 02, 2010

Education 101: Where is it written that the old way is the right way?

Just saw the new Kaplan University (since when has Kaplan been a university????). Stunningly provocative ad. A powerful statement about the future of post-secondary education in the U.S. Being someone who graduated from a private college in the 1980s, I missed the glut of "new" majors that exploded in the later eighties and nineties. It's interesting how universities (both public and private) have moved towards the more "open type" of majors just as the large post-secondary institutions (the University of Phoenix, Strayer Collage, and now it seems Kaplan University) expanded beyond basic vocational studies to start to fill a true need in the educational experience.

And what does this all mean for libraries? As large swaths of the post-secondary education market moves towards a convergence between the Kaplans and the "traditional" public/private colleges and universities, what types of library service will these students need/want?

In the Kaplan commercial, the education experience moves beyond the desks locked down in traditional classrooms; out of classrooms and into new spaces, subway stations, the beach, etc. Will libraries follow students to where they are? Or will libraries insist that their functions and services are "destination" spots.

I just read a future library scenario posted to the LITA-L discussion group. It described an event in 2015 when a student walks into the library, consults with a librarian looking for a book by "Wells" about the "future" who then SMS's the student a link from the library catalog to an e-book for the student to download (and gets some penumbra of other library resources around it).

2015? I don't think so. After reading the post, I just typed "wells future" into my e-book reader on my Droid phone, The Time Machine popped up as the first hit; I hit download and had the book in just under 30 seconds. Never got up from the couch. Where's the library there? How can we stay relevant in that transaction?

In the words of the Kaplan University commercial, "Where is it written that the old way is the right way?" If our users head off to the Kaplans (and the more "traditional" post-secondary follow behind the Kaplans), will libraries still be sure that their "old ways" are the "right ways"?

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