Academic libraries are grappling with how to respond to the the continuing introduction of increasingly more business-like approaches to the academy, such as through the popularity of “responsibility center” approaches to management, and “customer” or “client”-focused approaches to service. For example, while some embrace the concept of “entrepreneurial librarianship” others are taking an anti-capitalist stance through the lens of “critical librarianship.” Undergirding these rhetorical moves are the material challenges that academic libraries, and their institutions, are facing as they seek to fulfill their missions in an era of declining public support.

At Ithaka S+R we are carefully tracking how these material challenges are shaping academic library service design and the issue brief published today provides one such example. As Kate Dohe, Ben Wallberg, and Babak Hamidzadeh share in their issue brief, Doing More, With More: Academic Libraries, Digital Services, and Revenue Generation, the University of Maryland Libraries has been engaged since 2015 in developing a revenue generating program known as Digital Data Services (DDS). Their brief provides a uniquely detailed and thoughtful account of one approach to designing a revenue generating service in an academic library context and the motivations for doing so.

In sharing Maryland’s account we hope to encourage dialogue on how funding pressures are affecting the direction of library service design, particularly in the development of new service areas for evolving digital information practices and needs. Kate, Ben and Babak recognize that “it is undeniable that the DDS program quite literally embraces capitalist practices… However, the program also definitively makes it possible for UMD Libraries staff to deliver on new, free service demands, instead of apologetically telling researchers a request can’t be fulfilled.” We look forward to hearing from others about how these trade-offs are currently being navigated at their libraries, and what these choices mean for their libraries’ overall strategic directions.