library of the future – update

Two quick updates:

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3 Responses to library of the future – update

  1. John MacColl says:

    I will be at the Oxford meeting next week, and look forward to your contribution on the panel. The fact that you have used a blog in advance to garner ideas, while no one else on the panel has done the same, does tend to bear out Peter Morgan’s comment about communication habits. Librarians who are in leadership positions, and so able to make the sort of changes which are undoubtedly necessary, feature very little in the blogosphere. Those librarians and information professionals who are active there are usually not able to make the changes, but increasingly have influence upon the leaders, so there is hope! Of course, there may also be a professional cultural reason for this. Academic libraries manage knowledge in the round. They are essentially interdisciplinary. The librarians who manage them instinctively wait for ideas from all quarters before taking action – again, for reasons Peter mentions. I’m not sure they can continue to behave in this way, but I think it is a professional instinct.
    I am a former Ulibrarian now working in the Research Division of OCLC, a large, global non-profit company headquartered in the US (though I am based in Scotland), dedicated to cooperative solutions for libraries, archives and museums via the delivery of products and services, and via research efforts on behalf of the information community. We have many opinions within our group about the future of libraries. Lorcan Dempsey, who leads the Research Division, talks about them a lot on his blog –, as do my colleagues and I who work with our ‘RLG Partnership’ – an international grouping of research libraries, museums and archivists – in Some recent library future-gazing has been prompted by the visit to OCLC in Dublin Ohio last week by Richard Ovenden, Associate Librarian at the University of Oxford, whose Distinguished Seminar presentation was commented on in our blog by Merrilee Proffit, at Merrilee mentions the recent Taiga Provocative Statements document, and our own ‘Information Contexts’ document of almost two years ago – .
    I am increasingly aware that ‘the library’ in a university means very different things to its different constituencies of users. For the humanities scholars considered by Richard Ovenden in much of his presentation, the library is still a place, but one with an imaginatively created digital alter-ego which supports rich scholarship for users both on- and off-campus around the world. For you and your colleagues, and many researchers in the natural sciences, the library is really about information engineering. Those two views of library have some features in common, I think. There is unity around the concepts of authority and archive, for example, even if some users have little awareness of them. What library leaders need to be able to do is to assert and explain the functions which are common to different views of library on campus, and at the same time be prepared to present the library in different guises to different communities without pretending that a single model can be relevant. In order to do this, they need also to accept that the task is not achievable on an institutional basis. There are new scale challenges at work – because of digital networks and Web 2.0 – which mean that they must look to collaborations and global-level solutions in order to deliver the various presentation of library successfully to their institutions (see for example Lorcan’s comments on shared systems and ‘scalar emphasis’ at ). The library leaders who can achieve all of this will be valued by their senior academic colleagues in the way library directors once were, but seem to be more rarely these days.

  2. Tom Roper says:

    Roy T’s distinction between types of tech librarian is interesting. But I’m not sure what the beast is. If I may use the phrase beloved of clergymen in Private Eye, are we not all, in a very real sense, tech librarians?
    Would anyone applying for a post in a library in any sector of this great profession of ours stand a cat’s chance in hell of appointment if they could not demonstrate much more than a superficial acquaintance with social software, with the open access movement and repository management, with making resources available through electronic learning environments and so on?

  3. pm286 says:

    @Tom – thanks

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