Distance Education and the Role
of Academic Libraries
Deakin University, Australia
The role of the academic library in support of distance education has been long-standing and pivotal in assisting students to succeed in their learning endeavours. Over the past 100 years, however, the role has changed radically and the future will see even more significant change as increased emphasis is placed on providing online learning and teaching environments.
This chapter does not seek to provide a history of library services for distance education students. Historical and comparative information on the development of library services for distance education students may be found in Slade and Kascus (1996), Small (1997), and Brophy and Craven (1998). Rather it focuses on the library's direct link with learning and teaching at a distance and how this link is becoming more and more explicit. The research focuses, primarily, on the changing and expanding role of the academic library in Australian higher education and especially at Deakin University, which has been involved in distance education since its inception in 1974. However, references are drawn from experiences and trends elsewhere.
The basic philosophy behind library services for distance education students is that offcampus students have the right to expect the same level of service and access to resources as on-campus students to help them succeed in their university endeavours. Libraries are in existence, not just to be the custodians of bibliographic material but to “help people teach and learn, ” which is the purpose statement of the Deakin University Library (see http://www.deakin.edu.au/library/). This philosophy has seen the development of library services, from the rudimentary provision of books to distance education students attending lectures in regional and rural venues away from the home university campus, to the full partnership between librarian and academic to ensure that students can gain information literacy skills and access information resources pertinent to their discipline in the course of their learning.
Few institutions of higher education would argue against the notion that the library plays a key role in the academic mission of the university. It is part of the fabric of higher education and maintains a high profile on the university campus. However, when discussing the role of