As technology increasingly drives the way education is delivered, the library of the future will need to rise to the challenge of collecting and archiving a wider range of digital formats – music, news media, gaming software, research data etc. We may need to adapt our library and IT infrastructure to better reflect an educational trend towards students as co-creators of knowledge, not just passive consumers of it. The responsibility for preserving ‘born digital’ and ‘transition to digital’ content will, however, need to start with the creators – ie the students. This could be achieved by embedding essential digital and information management skills into the curriculum from the outset so that the early works of writers, artists and musicians of the future are not lost.
We will also need to build local and national infrastructure which provides new standards of access to born digital primary source materials for students and researchers to work on (eg literary manuscripts, collections of email ‘letters’). This is a far greater challenge than the digitisation of existing print material and our success with this will significantly affect teaching and research for decades to come. As more content becomes ubiquitously available online, it is this unique and distinctive digital content (as well as our heritage print/archival collections) which will become a significant part of Birmingham’s teaching specialism and distinctiveness.