#22: What does the UB of the future look like?

What do you have in mind when you think of a library? Lots of old books and long corridors? But what will a library of the future look like? Will there be no more books in libraries at some point and will we only read everything with e-readers? One thing is clear: Our university library is on the verge of a major transformation, and there will be some structural changes as early as this summer. In the podcast, the deputy director of the UB, Dr. Christine Lücke, talks about the upcoming changes, what digitization looks like in a library, and much more.

Today’s Guest:

Dr. Christine Lücke has been the deputy director of the university library since August 2022. She began her studies in economics in Magdeburg in 2007 and has remained loyal to the city and the university ever since. Her main task is the public relations of the UB and the management of the subject librarians, who determine the selection of media for the respective subject areas. However, she also handles building issues, as is fitting this year. She finds it exciting to actively shape the transformation of librarianship toward digitization.

*the audio file is only available in German


The Podcast to read

Intro voice: Listening in on the university. The podcast about the working world at OVGU.

Lisa Baaske: Your favorite place at the university?

Dr. Christine Lücke: My favorite place at the university is the Primo coffee bar in building 22, they have good cappuccino.

Lisa Baaske: Your work in three words.

Dr. Christine Lücke: Change, flexibility and communication.

Lisa Baaske: Cafeteria or snack?

Dr. Christine Lücke: Definitely Mensa. Especially when there is sausage stew.

Lisa Baaske: Oh, not the cheese cutlet?

Dr. Christine Lücke: No, the sausage stew actually!

Intro voice: Listening in on the University. The podcast on the world of work, at the OVGU.

Lisa Baaske: When I imagine a library, I think of lots of old books, long hallways, silence, and also students scattered everywhere, eagerly studying, writing term papers, or secretly munching on their illegally smuggled snacks. And if it does get too loud, then you hear "Shhh!" from somewhere.

But what will a library of the future look like? Will there be no more books in libraries at some point and will we only read everything with e-readers?

One thing is clear: Our university library is about to undergo a major transformation, and there will also be some structural changes this summer.

My name is Lisa Baaske. I work at the university's press office, and today I'm talking to the deputy director of the UB, Dr. Christine Lücke, about the upcoming changes, what digitization looks like in a library, and much more.

A warm welcome!

Dr. Christine Lücke: Hello, thank you.

Lisa Baaske: I had already announced it. Changes are on the horizon, and at an appropriate time because the UB is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. What exactly is planned for this year?

Dr. Christine Lücke: We actually have a very big thing planned. We have a construction project coming up. The roof is being renovated and the interior is also being expanded. This is really a very, very big project for us. It also affects all the colleagues in the building and many areas of the university, so that's something we're really, really looking forward to. But that also means that the festivities will have to be postponed a bit.

Lisa Baaske: What other areas of the university does this affect?

Dr. Christine Lücke: In any case construction, of course. And all those who would like to exhibit with us, for example. We also have partial teaching that takes place in our building.

That is then in any case also associated with restrictions, unfortunately.

Lisa Baaske: Is then a library as we know it, with many books, narrow aisles and a few seats, as I described at the beginning, still appropriate today?

Dr. Christine Lücke: I do believe that there are users who are looking for that. But I also believe that there are many users who have different requirements of a library.

It used to be the case that a library had a bit of a monopoly on knowledge. If you wanted to borrow a book or read something, you had to go to the book - to the library. Nowadays, users no longer have to do that, and that's okay. In some cases, that's why they don't even come to the library anymore.

But that also means that those who come to us come for other reasons. They are looking for a place to study, and you really need a few seats for that. So I would say that a library is always associated with shelves and books. But a library that offers only that is probably no longer up to date.

Lisa Baaske: To what extent does digitization play a role in the transformation of the UB? So how does the library function in the age of digitization?

Dr. Christine Lücke: Digitization definitely plays a very big role in how we function. Various media are available digitally. Even retrospectively, a great deal is being digitized. That then has a very strong impact on how we function. And I believe that a library in the age of digitization is definitely more broadly positioned than it used to be.

On the other hand, it must also be said that presumably some libraries are still strongly oriented towards the classic printer acquisition in their business processes.

In our day-to-day business, however, it is definitely the case that electronic media now play a much, much greater role. We acquire eBook packages, eBooks, electronic journals, databases and, last but not least, transformative contracts play a very big role. We now spend about 90 % of our budget on this. That then also has an effect on usage, of course. We've been seeing for quite some time, actually for more than ten years now, that print numbers or the borrowing of print titles is declining. Of course, the opposite is true for electronic media. They are being used more and more.

But that also means that the requests are different than they used to be. We help students find a book on the shelf less and less often. Instead, other questions come in, such as: How do I find the eBook? How does it work with the database? How does it work with Citavi?

These are questions that are definitely much, much more important to us now than they used to be.

Internally, too, some things are actually changing in our processes in the background. What used to be inventory management at the shelf now happens behind a monitor. This is perhaps even more important now. In any case, it has also become more time-consuming, it has to be said quite clearly.

What's also changing is how we support researchers. Of course, it's always important to provide content. That will always be an important issue for us. But there is also much more to come. For example, supporting the publication process. So there's really a lot of change in the foreground and also in the background.

Lisa Baaske:To put it bluntly, as I mentioned at the beginning: Will a library then simply no longer contain any books at some point, but only PDF files?

Dr. Christine Lücke: I actually don't think so. I do believe that eBooks and printed books are substitutes to a certain extent, but only to a certain extent. There will always be bibliophiles who want to hold a printed book in their hands, and who want to have this haptic experience. So books are undoubtedly part of a library. But it certainly also depends on the type of media: Textbooks or books that are classically read through from beginning to end, novels, will always be needed in the library, as a print book perhaps then just not only as a print book but additionally as a print book.

Lisa Baaske: Are there actually numbers? So are more PDF files being used or more books being borrowed? Can you tell?

Dr. Christine Lücke: That's a little difficult to put into numbers.

We had just over 30,000 book loans last year. Our uses of electronic resources are then more in the upper six figures.

But it's always a little hard to compare because one really refers to all electronic media, including periodicals, and the other refers to on-site loans.

But what you can really see is that the gap is widening a bit.

So electronic use is increasing more and more, while the use of printed books is decreasing more and more.

Lisa Baaske: In addition to digitization, sustainability is of course also a major topic these days. How sustainable can a library be?

Dr. Christine Lücke: Difficult indeed. Although we really have a lot to do with electronic media, we still have quite a lot to do with paper in the traditional way. What we can do, however, is change our internal processes.

There is a lot that is paper-based that can then move more toward digital workflows. This is actually something that we are actively doing.

Recently, for example, we have been able to establish a digital inventory maintenance log. This was previously bound on paper and it really does work nicely paperless now. But there's certainly still room for improvement, I have to admit.

On the other hand, the construction measures now give us an opportunity to do more. The roof renovation will add PV, or photovoltaic modules, to the roof so that electricity can be generated from renewable resources, which is a great thing.

In addition, we naturally see or make every effort to ensure that materials are reused that are already present in the library and that new elements that are added should also be as sustainable as possible. One example is the acoustic panels, acoustic elements that are being added to improve noise prevention a bit, to make the building a bit quieter. They are made of sustainable materials and we are very happy about that.

Lisa Baaske: That definitely sounds really fantastic. There are plans for UB to become more of a place for New York. What exactly can I imagine by that?

Dr. Christine Lücke: New York means a lot of different things.

It means dynamic work, it means collaboration, it means flexibility.

These are things that you wouldn't immediately associate with a library. But they are things that are very, very much in demand here. As I said, we are seeing a decline in the number of printed books being borrowed. What is not declining at all is the number of users in the building.

So our library is practically always full even during the exam period. That's definitely not getting any less. I don't know whether the university library should be so much a place for New York or whether it hasn't already been for a long time. We are actually very agnostic in this regard.

We observe the needs and requirements and then adapt accordingly. What we are already seeing is that students are looking for different places to study. They sit on the floor in front of the radiator, look for places that we wouldn't have expected, to sit together in smaller groups.

We have our day cubicles, which are actually intended for individuals. We often see two or three people in them, because they simply need it, because the need is there.

In general, our day cubicles are booked up very quickly during the exam period, sometimes within a few minutes of opening, they are completely sold out, so to speak, if you want.

This means that there really is an incredibly high need, a high demand. And we want to meet this demand more effectively in the course of the construction measures.

Lisa Baaske: And how should that look then?

Dr. Christine Lücke: In the end, I think it's a matter of being able to offer users different settings for the various needs they have, which can actually change from day to day, even within a single day. From the classic office workplace as we know it: desk and chair. To a standing workstation, to a leaning or lying workstation, to computer workstations. That there is simply a wider range of possibilities.

What is also planned are meeting rooms of different sizes that are freely accessible, so to speak, where people can meet informally between lectures and exchange ideas. And by offering more and more of these opportunities, we will also differentiate quiet areas where you can work alone, where you can work more quietly, so that the various needs are hopefully taken into account.

Lisa Baaske: In any case, that sounds very exciting and somehow very nice, and you're looking forward to it right away when the time comes.

You have already mentioned various remodeling measures. Perhaps you could now briefly summarize what the major remodeling measures are and perhaps also what the time frame is for them.

Dr. Christine Lücke: I'd love to. So it actually starts very soon, in the next few weeks actually. And then extending throughout 2023. We have two major issues or two major complexes that are being addressed in that. One is the roof renovation, let's start with that. Anyone who walks through our building with their eyes open knows that there are trash cans in the most diverse and curious places. The reason for this is that when it rains, the water seeps into the roof and collects in various places, and then escapes again with a slight time delay. To put it a bit bluntly: it rains in.

That's what the trash cans are for. So we are very, very happy that this roof renovation is now happening and that it is integrated with solar panels.

The second big point is interior design.

Exactly. We are redesigning various areas in the UB. And you can actually already see the first changes. As part of the preparations for this construction project, we have, for example, placed all our magazines and newspapers centrally, quickly and easily accessible on the first floor. Exactly the same as the semester machines, which were previously spread out a bit. In the course of the construction work, there are then various new solutions that are inserted. Room-in-room solutions, larger and smaller meeting rooms. A parent-child room is coming, I'm really looking forward to that, various reading islands. There is a new area for our collection - for our treasures, big and small, that we have, so to speak. And for our colleagues in the house, there is a new team office.

Lisa Baaske: There you can look forward to in any case.

Dr. Christine Lücke: Yes. Absolutely.

Lisa Baaske: Appropriately enough, we are recording this podcast on March 16, and yesterday mails started to arrive in the mailboxes of students and staff, namely that there will be renovations in May and that the UB will be closed.

What exactly is being done? The roof will be renovated, I think. And are there any plans to close the UB for a longer period afterwards?

Dr. Christine Lücke: Exactly. Unfortunately, we have to close the UB for scaffolding. This means that scaffolders will be coming from May 15 to 26. The UB will be completely closed for user traffic. They will erect the scaffolding and then the roof will be renovated. As soon as the scaffolding is up, however, we will actually be open again. It will certainly be noisier in the building, and I think we have to be honest about that.

While the roof is being renovated and the interior work is also taking place, we will be accessible, we will be open. But there will certainly be restrictions, just in terms of volume. We are actually trying to keep the closing time as low as we can. We couldn't do otherwise with the scaffolding. In fact, we deliberately chose a period that experience has shown to be one in which we are less busy. It's not at the beginning of the semester, nor is it at exam time, but in the middle of May. There is also Ascension Day in between, so hopefully, we have chosen a very good period. During the time we are closed, you can of course still use our extensive electronic services. And well, thanks to Corona we are a bit experienced in how a library can function even when it is closed.

This means that we will always find a solution for the demand for print media. And here, as I said, we can draw on Corona's experience. Presumably, or very, very, very likely, there will also be a second closure phase, namely when the scaffolding is dismantled again. When that is, we don't know exactly yet. Then we will inform the public again.

Lisa Baaske: Which structural changes are you most looking forward to then? I had also seen that the terrace, for example, was to be changed. I thought that was very nice, too.

Dr. Christine Lücke: In fact, well taken, the terrace. I sometimes give tours as part of the technical department, and I always save the terrace for the very end. For one thing, because it's right at the top. That's a good way to end the tour. For another, it's a little highlight. It's always a little wow effect. I think a lot of people don't even know that a) we have a terrace and b) that you can actually go out on it. And I think that after the construction work, it's not a small wow effect, but a big wow effect. And I'm definitely looking forward to that.

Lisa Baaske: What exactly is to be changed? Maybe you can already spoil a little bit.

Dr. Christine Lücke: So it's supposed to be greener for one thing, there's supposed to be more shaded areas, more seating, so more options there, and probably a little bit bigger, actually.

Lisa Baaske: I'm looking forward to visiting the terrace. So obviously, there are some very big changes coming this year. How will it work to take everyone along with you, including staff and students, for example?

Dr. Christine Lücke: Is actually a challenge. I think for students, at the end of the day, this renovation provides more opportunities. You have more opportunities to work together. It's more of a space for meeting, for exchange. On the other hand, quiet areas differentiate themselves again. Our classic flagship services, such as the cubicles, will still be there. And the users who still have the classic needs, so to speak, who want a classic library, I believe they will also get their money's worth with full shelves. Of course, that will continue to be the case. For our employees, the upcoming changes, on the one hand in terms of construction and on the other due to digitization, certainly represent a challenge. And it's up to us to accompany the whole thing with a great deal of transparency, a great deal of communication, and to actually demonstrate the benefits.

For our employees, there is also more flexibility. We are currently equipping many colleagues with laptops, and the new team office will definitely open up new possibilities. At the same time, we are also reviewing processes so that our workflows can become even leaner. What is certainly still a challenge, and I don't think we've found the final solution yet, is that digitization means that we don't necessarily experience all the positive things that users do, as we used to. In the past, we simply had users come to our premises to borrow a book. We talked to them more when in doubt and experienced the sense of achievement of getting what they were looking for.

That's certainly more difficult now with e-media. There are still these positive experiences, there are more than enough of them, but they no longer happen in the library, so to speak. So a classic example would be: A student wakes up at two in the morning on the day of the exam and thinks "Oh God, what was that again with this and that assignment?". He can't get to the library, of course. But can open the eBook, opens the laptop, flips it open, and then can access it again at his leisure, from wherever he wants, whenever he wants, or she wants. Of course, this is a great service that we offer. The whole thing is also useful for researchers who are perhaps on a research sabbatical or have a research stay abroad, who can then open electronic journals and databases practically as if they were in the office. I think that's a really, really great service that we offer, and it's also well-received.

But it's difficult to make our colleagues understand that we have a really great service that is also being used and is being well received. That is difficult. And as I said, I don't think we've found the final solution yet.

Lisa Baaske: In any case, I also remember talking to colleagues when they said that changes were coming to the UB and books were being thrown out. Why? Books belong in a university library. How can that be? And then we had a conversation and then a lot of things became clear to me. But first, you're like this: How can they throw books out? Oh my God!

Dr. Christine Lücke: That's actually a bit frightening at first. I can understand that in a completely human way. It also has to be said that this is a process that has not only started rolling because of the construction measures. We simply have completely different possibilities due to various new options in terms of personnel, but also due to the new workflows that we have, so that this has picked up speed in a completely different way, in fact, which is then added to again.

Lisa Baaske: How has the feedback been so far on the planned ideas, but also on the measures?

Dr. Christine Lücke: In general, first of all, it's positive. Most people are looking forward to it. Of course, to be quite honest, there is also skepticism in one place or another, that has to be said. But all in all, they are definitely positive. It's also a really exciting time right now. We are really close to the start of something really big. And that's also hanging in the air a bit. You can really tell in various places that there is a bit of respect or awe. But it's also a feeling of anticipation. And now it's starting, something is happening. So you can definitely feel that.

Lisa Baaske: I think you can see and hear that in their faces. Somehow, you feel happy right away. And then the last question to finish off. Paint a picture with words: What will the UB of the future look like?

Dr. Christine Lücke: Ideally, the UB of the future will be a central point of attraction on campus, will be inviting, will be a space for diversity, and will definitely offer a lot of quality of stay. It is intended as a place to meet, to exchange ideas, but also to work quietly.

In any case, the goal is to offer different places to stay for different requirements. As part of the construction, a computer pool will also move into the building, managed by the computer center, which will definitely make it more than just a library. It will be a space where people enjoy working.

Lisa Baaske: Obviously. And there will be a great terrace.

Dr. Christine Lücke: That's right!

Lisa Baaske: With that, we have already reached the end. Many, many thanks for being here. And, of course, we wish you every success for everything that lies ahead this year. It will be very, very exciting. And also many thanks to you out there for listening!

If you have any suggestions, topics, requests, praise or criticism, please feel free to send them to And feel free to listen in again next month, when we'll be back with a new episode of our science podcast. Until then, stay healthy.

Outro voice: Listening in on the university. The podcast about the working world at OVGU. 

Last Modification: 11.04.2023 - Contact Person: Webmaster