Home 9 Full Text Articles 9 The Digital Toolbox — Extracurricular Content in Academic Libraries: Trends, Challenges & Collaboration

The Digital Toolbox — Extracurricular Content in Academic Libraries: Trends, Challenges & Collaboration

by | Jan 31, 2022 | 0 comments


By Jason Tyrrell  (General Manager, Kanopy, San Francisco, CA  94109) 

Column Editor:  Steve Rosato  (Director and Business Development Executive, OverDrive Professional, Cleveland, OH  44125) 

Against the Grain V33#6

In fall 2020, Kanopy, the leading provider of high-quality films for academic libraries, conducted an informal survey of more than 800 academic librarians to better understand their streaming video needs and identify trends.  In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many participants expressed concern that their digital resources, namely streaming video, were being used for entertainment purposes, stretching already tapped budgets.  But at the same time, 28 percent said they believe it is their responsibility to provide students with content for entertainment, and another 20 percent were unsure. 

To dive deeper and explore if and how libraries are serving the extracurricular content needs of students and non-faculty staff, Kanopy conducted a follow-up survey in October 2021.  More than 475 librarians participated, primarily in North America.  The informal survey was created in Qualtrics and delivered to Kanopy’s library partners via email.  Pre-register for the forthcoming whitepaper at go.kanopy.com/extracurricular-2021.

Key Findings

1. Support the “whole person.”  According to the 2021 survey, there is a growing need among academic libraries to support the content needs of the “whole person,” not just their class assignments and research.

“Libraries exist to engage and educate the whole person, not just to support the research and instructional mission of the institution, so I do think libraries have a responsibility to support extracurricular reading/listening/viewing to the extent that they can,” explained one participant.

“The demarcation between education and recreation is blurred if not a fallacy.  While a library cannot collect/subscribe to everything, I believe there is a responsibility to support the ‘whole person’ even in academic settings,” wrote another.

2. Meet students’ extracurricular needs.  77 percent of academic librarians feel it is at least somewhat their responsibility to meet the extracurricular content needs of students.  In comparison, 91 percent believe it is at least somewhat their role to support the extracurricular content needs of non-faculty staff.

“We see the library as supporting the informational needs of our students, staff, and faculty.  We do not differentiate between the groups,” one participant explained.

3. Entertainment is a priority.  While entertainment-focused content was noted by participants as the top priority to provide to students, it was not a leading priority for non-faculty staff.

4. Increased demand for DEI content.  Students are transitioning from traditional academic clubs to groups focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topics and issues, sparking demand for new types of supporting content not necessarily tied to the curricula. 

“We have purchased many DEI resources and other types of resources that have an academic fit but aren’t specifically required by curricula (e.g., prize winning fiction, diversity fiction, etc.).”

5. Librarians collaborate with student services departments.  To provide students with extracurricular content and other services, more than half of survey participants said they are collaborating with student services departments on their campus (e.g., student success center, alumni resources, career center, athletics) or plan to in the near future.

“Student service departments have liaison librarians, and we work to support their needs, especially when they align with our mission and policies,” wrote one participant.

“The Student Association advises us on how to spend the student fee money we get.  They also gave us a one-time grant of $80,000 for digital resources,” stated another. 

6. Streaming video meets student needs best.  Streaming video was indicated as the most important content to meet users’ needs for extracurricular content followed by print books and eBooks. 


The pandemic fundamentally changed students’ expectations and demand for streaming video and other electronic resources beyond the classroom, as libraries faced shutdowns and sheltering in place led to a spike in usage for entertainment purposes.  At the same time, students are transitioning from traditional campus clubs to groups centered around DEI issues and topics, creating a demand for content that does not necessarily tie to the curricula. 

According to a 2020 Kanopy survey (https://lib.kanopy.com/white-paper-streaming-video-trends-in-academic-libraries-2021/?utm_source=web) of more than 800 academic librarians, 78 percent said DEI topics are “extremely” to “very” important to their streaming video collection.

While the vast majority of libraries feel it is their responsibility to at least somewhat provide their students and non-faculty staff with extracurricular content, budget remains a major barrier, and there is some debate whether this content should be purchased or licensed by the library or student affairs and related campus services.  Most libraries are currently collaborating with such services to provide students with the extracurricular materials they require or plan to in the near future.  

To help libraries support this growing demand for extracurricular content, vendors like Kanopy need to collaborate with publishing partners and suppliers to ensure such content is available under flexible pricing models that make it affordable and sustainable.  Vendors should also serve as a library’s strategic partner to drive value by curating collections that address their specific goals and help identify areas for collaboration with other groups on campus.  Together, we can enable academic libraries around the globe to serve “the whole person.”

Pre-register for the full report at go.kanopy.com/extracurricular-2021.  Explore Kanopy’s website at www.kanopy.com.  


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