libraries of the future – Ithaka report

In preparing for LOTf09 I asked the organizers for some guidance and got a helpfiul reply:

Hi Peter
I would like your to talk to include the research/scientific needs as this is an important perspective, in terms of questions – we will be driven by the questions although on the day anyone can post to the blog and the twitter feeds which are going to be monitored live and you will be able to see all of this – you will also have an opportunity to review all the questions posed by the audience and at the pre meeting indicate which ones you feel you would like to answer.
Your blog is very interesting – you may have seen this already but this report?  -it explores the relationship between faculty and the library in the states –
I have just posted a short review on the Libraries of the future blog – By the way the tag for the event is #LOTF09, –
Dicky Maidment-Otlet
Communications Manager
JISC Executive

PMR: I hadn’t seen it – I read nothing (the information universe is infinite – I am finite – so I read 0% of all information – thanks to H2G2). It confirms my rough impressions:

The (In)visibility of the library
An important lesson is that the library is in many ways falling off the radar screens of faculty. Although
scholars report general respect for libraries and librarians, the library is increasingly disintermediated
from their actual research process. Many researchers circumvent the library in doing their research,
preferring to access resources directly. Researchers no longer use the library as a gateway to information,
and no longer feel a significant dependence on the library in their research process. Although the library
does play essential roles in this process, activities like paying for the resources used are largely invisible
to faculty. In short, although librarians may still be providing significant value to their constituency, the
value of their brand is decreasing.

This is an area of concern for all those concerned with the information strategy of the modern campus, but
is of particular importance to the library itself; if attention and support fades from the library, its ability to
contribute to the intellectual work of the campus diminishes, and its continuing institutional well-being
may be threatened. Libraries should be aware of this decreasing visibility and take steps to improve the
value of their brand by offering more value-added services to raise their profile on campus. It is essential
to their long-term viability that libraries maintain the active support of faculty on their campuses, a factor
which will be most effectively obtained by playing a prominent, valued, and essential role in the research
process. By understanding the needs and research habits of scholars in different disciplines, libraries can
identify products and services which would be appreciated by and of use to these scholars. Such efforts to
be involved in the research process offer benefits to scholars, by providing them with services to improve
their efficiency and effectiveness, as well as to libraries, recapturing the attention of scholars and
contributing to a general awareness of and respect for the library’s contributions.


…And of Science in Particular
The information age has most significantly impacted the sciences, which are experimenting with a wide
range of new models of scholarship and communication, and demanding an increasing level of campus
support. Serving the information needs of cutting-edge scientists for tools and infrastructure requires a
coherent strategic approach, aligning the expertise of academic administrators, technologists, librarians,
and others on campus. As our findings make clear, however, despite this growing significance of
information to scientists, the role of the library is diminishing in importance fastest amongst this group.
Libraries are providing these high-growth fields value in the acquisition of resources – for example in
licensing costly journal collections – but otherwise have been relatively absent from the workflow of
these high-growth fields, with an associated decline in perceived value. Some efforts have been made by
research libraries to engage more deeply in the broader workflow of scientific research, but at the system
level these efforts have been marginal, while commercial providers are making a major push to interject
themselves throughout the scientific research value stream. Deep consideration of how the library
community can best serve scientists and preserve scholarly values in the face of a rapidly changing and
increasingly commercial ecosystem is needed, both on the local and the system level.

That was 2.5 years ago. It’s worse now. I hate to say it, but the scientific library of the future is PRISM.

Unless we stop them.

Which we can, but only if we become revolutionaries.

I haven’t heard anything in the last few days from ULibrarians (apart from Dorothea who has blogged the issue, so they can’t plead ignorance)…. Please say something.

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2 Responses to libraries of the future – Ithaka report

  1. Peter, I think you have an inflated sense of my blog’s readership. 🙂

  2. Revolutions need planning and leadership. Unless this is driven from the top, the drift toward the obsolescence of the library as a research services hub will continue. To expect the ‘special projects’ librarian (repository managers, e-librarians etc) to be the revolutionary catalyst is not going to happen. How many of our projects get mainstreamed? Not many. Who among us have managerial clout to deliver real change inside the institutional library? Too few. I believe that the insistence that librarians take the lead on this will come from faculty and institutional management. Those of us informing up the chain know this and will continue to try to keep our senior managers in the loop.

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