librarians of the future – part IV

This is the final set of ideas as to what libraries (or librarians) of the future should look like for LOTF09 in Oxford. (BTW there is no current use of the tag on Technorati other than me – in contrast to some meetings where the blogosphere buzzes before the event). I’ve had very little reaction – of course I cannot command the blogosphere but it’s essentially Dorothea and 1 other usual suspect – and than mainly through FriendFeed/Twitter. So I have had to ask IRL and talked with 4 scientists whom I know well. I’ll summarize later. Here’s the last of my heroes – remember that these are the people who affect my. Altogether 1 is a ULibrarian, 1 is a ULibrary organization, and 1 is a University. All the others come from outside the University Library sector and funding.

  • Peter Suber. Peter epitomizes the Open Access movement. There are many others who deserve credit, but I have chosen Peter because he has provided a huge amount of intellectual infrastructure, both in terms of diigital resources and also thrpugh crystal-clear discourse in arguments which otherwise would become muddled and argumentative. Anyone wishing ammunition for their OA (or Open Data) quests can find it through Peter’s many daily reports, online metadata and enormous personal knowledge of the subject.
  • Robert Terry. If we are to build effective digital libraries for the future, funders will be a major part of the equation. The Wellcome Trust has pioneered the simple idea that if research is funded then the results must be disseminated. They have been aggressive in this – if you want funding, then publish. Some publishers have bleated that this isn’t fair to them, but it’s simple. No-one has to apply for Wellcome funding. Wellcome is the gold standard for funder-led dissemination and its actions have influence many other charities and governmental research funders. Robert (no longer with Wellcome) an important evangelist and produced much of the material on which I have based my own advocacy.
  • Virtual Observatory. “The International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) was formed in June 2002 with a mission to facilitate the international coordination and collaboration necessary for the development and deployment of the tools, systems and organizational structures necessary to enable the international utilization of astronomical archives as an integrated and interoperating virtual observatory. The IVOA now comprises 16 VO projects … The work of the IVOA focuses on the development of standards.” The VO is an epitome of rht scientific digital library of the future – if scientists wish to collaborate – as astronomers must – they need standards and resources. This model is mirrored in other domains – the European Geoscience Union publishes an Open Access journal where data is as important – or more important – than fulltext
  • Jimmy Wales Wikipedia needs no explanation, but its development and use is a clear touchstone for whether you understand the digital library of the future. Many scientists – and many ULibrarians – denounce WP as full of errors. This is a short-term, narrow-minded view. Instead WP should be treated as a central information resource for scientific education and research. [I made this point to a senior bioscientist – I showed him an entry for a common protein. “That’s wrong” he said to something which was possibly imprecise. Having asked what it should be, I clarified it in 20 seconds. So WP has yet another unit of improvement. I have an idea for WP which I’ll suggest in a later post.
  • John Wilbanks has pioneered Science Commons – “Science Commons (SC) is a Creative Commons project for designing strategies and tools for faster, more efficient web-enabled scientific research. The organization identifies unnecessary barriers to research, crafts policy guidelines and legal agreements to lower those barriers, and develops technology to make research data and materials easier to find and use. Its goal is to speed the translation of data into discovery and thereby the value of research. Science Commons is located at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. SC is a vital part of what we need in the digital age. Data must be Open. It has been great to see Science Commons and the Open Knowledge Foundation working together to define a livence approach to scientific data.
  • Elias Zerhouni was the 15th director of the National Institutes of Health, and among many accomplishments represented the struggle for Open publication of scientific research (e.g. through PubMedCentral). In the cours eof this he had to defend the NIH’s policy on PubChem, the digital library of chemical compounds which is free to the whole world. “The American Chemical Society tried to get the U.S. Congress to restrict the operation of PubChem, because they claim it competes with their Chemical Abstracts Service.[1].” (WP) and this epitomizes much of the wider antagonism to PubMedCentral from many publishers. Pubchem is for chemists like me (though not yet most of my colleagues) the epitome of a digital library.

That’s it. I’d be grateful for comments and reactions. I am not a ULibrary-basher, but unless ULibraries realise how much library activity now takes place without their involvement or funding they will be left detached from the mainstream of science information. Some of my colleagues ould say that this cause has already been lost.

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