Research support roles for the library

A long and thoughtful post from Richard Akerman on how the library should support research.

revisiting potential research-support roles for the library

Three years ago, I wrote this list of potential research-support roles for a library in the digital environment:

  1. institutional repository for pre-prints and post-prints of the research organization’s publications
  2. data repository for the research conducted at the organization
  3. providing advanced (data/publication/information/discovery/etc.) tools that integrate into the researcher’s workflow

These are numbered for convenience, not importance.
What do I think, three years on.

Institutional Repositories

1. While institutional repositories are valuable, they currently benefit primarily organisations, not researchers. 

If providing an institutional repository is your primary or core value to the organisation, you are putting yourself at tremendous risk, because a savvy administrator may notice that you can purchase hosted repository services from BePress and BMC Open Repository.  Any time a primary function (however valuable) has become commodity, you are at risk.


2. Data is a strange thing.  Unlike the publisher resistance to article repositories, there is pretty much universal agreement amongst all parties that data should be openly shared.  …  The most practical things we can do right now is share what data we have, think about what open data will mean, and try to get more and more data openly shared.

Advanced Discovery and e-Science

3. This is an important area that I think offers enormous potential for libraries. 

Where I think things are possible is on the smaller scale, building and integrating advanced discovery and integration with researcher workflows piece-by-piece. 

Many pieces of this environment are being built.  The library has a key role in integrating them and educating researchers about them.  As indicated above, this is everything from

An important point must be made here: if you don’t have some point of connection with your researchers – some discovery tools on your site and in their browser that the library provides, then you have no point of contact or credibility upon which to base all the advanced capabilities you may want to bring to bear. [PMR’s emphasis]

Some of the topics about data and e-science that I have discussed above will be covered in the ICSTI 2009 conference in Ottawa this June (about which more in the following posting).

PMR: I urge you to read it in full. If librarians are not in touch and helping their researchers directly then they will be sidelined. That’s the way to modern world is going. I store my code on sourceforge, mail on Google, slides somewhere else, etc. We are looking to virtualize our software… and so it goes.

So libraries should do what they do well – work with academics to advance knowledge, capture knowedge, enhance the scholarly process. Not build bit buckets for the bureaucrats.

For science it’s clear. The library must be in the lab, or it’s nowhere. Our chemistry department (and we are part of that) is now planning its own approach in capturing and preserving research data. That’s means giving the the scientists what they want. Chemical information systems. Using their own theses to inform and enhance decisions on a daily basis. Protecting their intellectual property. Embargoing until appropriate release date. Searching for chemical structures. Comparing spectra. … etc. And I could write similar words for bioscience, materials

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *