News Release

Lean library’s “librarian futures” report reveals opportunities for new era of patron-centered library services

Report follows launch of new company division, ‘Technology from SAGE’

Reports and Proceedings


Lean Library, a ‘Technology from SAGE’ company, today releases “Librarian Futures,” a white paper based on a large-scale survey of 4,000 librarians and patrons that examines librarian-patron workflows and relationships. The report finds that while patrons are unaware of the full extent of librarian support (with 77% beginning research discovery outside of the library), more than 80% greatly appreciate librarians and would want the library more deeply embedded in their natural workflows.

Lean Library, a company that delivers library services into the patron’s workflow, is part of the newly launched Technology from SAGE portfolio of digital services alongside Quartex from Adam Matthew and Talis. Each of the services was created to improve the patron’s workflow using technology based on years of librarian feedback and research on patron needs.

“Librarian Futures” synthesizes survey results with unique data from Lean Library usage alongside data from a range of librarian and library stakeholder interviews, and valuable contributions from partners scite, Springshare, OpenAthens and OCLC. It builds on previous research into the future of the library, positioning the librarian at the center of the analysis. Examining current trends in librarian-patron interactions and understanding, the report poses “innovation provocations,” or potential solutions to embed the library in the patron’s workflow, and recommendations for librarians to evaluate and debate.

Commenting on the report, Matthew Hayes, Managing Director of Lean Library said:

“As a company founded by librarians, keeping the librarian at the heart of what we do is incredibly important to us. This report has been part of a broader listening exercise to understand how to embed librarians in the modern patron workflow. The findings are fundamentally optimistic, showing high levels of patron enthusiasm for their librarians and an appetite for closer interactions in their modern workflows – fertile ground for librarians to make the innovations needed for the next generation of the library.”

Andrew Barker, Director of Library Services & Learning Development at Lancaster University said:

“’Librarian Futures’ resonates with our new vision here at Lancaster, ‘The Library Towards 2025,’ which is about ensuring we not only remain relevant but also become more central to teaching, research and engagement. As this report shows, libraries do so much more than often our stakeholders realize. We need to increase awareness of our value, and ensure we are not seen as simply a repository of silent students and print books, but actually at the forefront of our users’ university experience, both digital and physical. As librarians I would argue that we need to craft and articulate a new vision for our libraries and how we contribute to student and researcher outcomes. This will mean being smart about our resources and budgets, such as better use of demand driven content, but also taking a user-first strategy in what we do and how we do it. Ensuring our users have the right content at the right time will remain pivotal to what we do, but so will expanding our focus into new areas of service provision such as content creation, digital tools and teaching.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • A knowledge gap exists between patrons and the full extent of librarian support available to them, and between librarians and the emerging needs of their patrons. The paper examines how this knowledge gap may be contributing to perceptions of the diminishing importance of the librarian to the patron experience.
  • 79% of faculty and 74% of students now begin their discovery process outside the library, on websites such as Google Scholar, but appreciation and use of library services remain high, suggesting further appetite for librarians to meet patrons in their workflow.
  • Librarians are highly appreciated by their patrons, significantly more so than librarians anticipated. 84% of faculty patrons appreciate librarians’ ‘a lot’ or ‘a great deal’.
  • 82% of librarians and 88% of patrons would want librarian and library services embedded throughout their workflow, available to call on when needed. Patrons may have preferred routes outside the library in recent years, but this does not diminish their demand for librarian support. It underscores the need for librarians to come to them.

Download the full “Librarian Futures” report free and share online using #LibrarianFutures. In honor of the Technology from SAGE launch, the company will donate $1 for each download of the whitepaper to Computer Aid, a charitable organization that improves access to technology worldwide. The donation will provide a university in the developing world with equipment and training to improve digital skills.

Martha Sedgwick, SAGE's VP of Product Innovation commented on the launch of Technology from SAGE:

"For many years, SAGE's mission of 'building bridges to knowledge' focused on delivering high-quality teaching and research content – journals, textbooks, videos, statistical databases, case studies, and more. But in our world today, most content does not exist without the technology around it, and we believe our digital publishing experience has given us insights into the biggest pain points for students and researchers discovering, accessing, and engaging with content. With Technology from SAGE, we’ve handpicked publisher-agnostic businesses doing incredibly innovative things to solve student and faculty workflow problems and ultimately, make the process of learning and research easier.”

Technology from SAGE services include workflow services and resource access solutions from Lean Library; resource list management services and collaborative annotation services from Talis; and archival discovery solutions from Quartex. 

Sedgwick continued, “Our approach with Technology from SAGE is to put the librarian at the center of the solution as critical enablers of learning and research on campus. We are delighted to support this important research into librarian futures and respond to the feedback of our library customers with technology services that will meet their needs and support them as they amplify learning outcomes and research impact.”


About the Librarian Futures Report

The report comes after a global consultation launched in April this year, designed to answer the big questions about the role and value of the modern librarian in a digital age. To do this, Lean Library combined a survey of the global librarian and patron community with in-depth interviews with librarians and library stakeholders. The survey comprises over 4,000 librarians and patrons globally. Partners scite, Springshare, OpenAthens and OCLC also provided access to anonymized data insights.

About Lean Library
Lean Library, a Technology from SAGE company, provides software solutions to the library community, bringing the power of the library into the patron’s workflow, wherever they may be. Its mission is to help redefine, enable and amplify the power of the academic library in order to advance student learning and researcher impact. Lean Library’s core solution is a browser extension which streamlines access to academic resources and content at the point of need. Over 100 libraries use this solution from universities all over the world including Harvard, NTU and Cambridge.

About SAGE Publishing 

SAGE is a global academic publisher of books, journals, and a growing suite of library products and services.  

Driven by the belief that social and behavioral science has the power to improve society, we focus on publishing impactful research and enabling robust research methodology. We produce high quality educational resources that support instructors to prepare the citizens, policymakers, educators, and researchers of the future. We publish more than 1,000 journals and 900 new books globally each year, as well as library products and services that include archives, data, case studies, and video. SAGE is majority owned by our founder, Sara Miller McCune, and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company’s continued independence.

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