Academic Libraries and Librarians in the Disruptive Era

  • Toong Tjiek Liauw Petra Christian University


The past few decades have introduced us to the Digital Natives, a generation born in the 1980s, who have been familiar with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the myriads of ICT products since the day they were born. The last decade has also made us familiar with numerous disruptive innovations and technologies that have now been so pervasive in our daily lives and have ‘threatened’ many established practices on how we conduct our lives and businesses, such as ride-sharing (Uber, Grab, etc.), accommodation-sharing (AirBnb), and the blockchain technology that has been applied in more and more aspects of life, with Bitcoin as one of its applications in the crypto currency sector.


Those changes and disruptions have not spared the higher education (HE) sector. Nowadays HE institutions need to take into account the characteristics of the Digital Natives, and various disruptive innovations and technologies if they want to remain relevant and stay ahead of the competition in the sector. All aspects of HE – including academic libraries, are not immune to these changes and disruptions. In the past, academic libraries have tended to play their roles as the storehouse of information and the provider of space for individual learning. The advent of the Digital Natives and disruptive technologies have led some in the HE sector to argue that academic libraries would soon lose their relevance since nowadays information can be accessed digitally from anywhere and at any time. People who believe this line of thinking have given some examples. One of them is the demise of Blockbuster (movie rental) stores in the United States (US) with the emergence of online video/movie streaming services. However, many forget that libraries, including academic libraries, also have their social functions besides their traditional roles as an information storehouse and individual learning space. Due to their social functions, libraries have even been viewed as one of the most democratic spaces that societies have. This is especially true in the case of public libraries, but also – to some extent – true for academic libraries, where they also perform their functions as community hubs.