I’m grateful to all those who have commented on my posts – from experience I know that most posts get few comments. There is also a considerable ground swell in Twitter and FriendFeed – I gather it’s not good practice to quote from those, but if you have logins then “library of the future” should get some useful threads.
My initial postings were intended to gather information for what I might use in my presentation. This type of exploration is very common in the scientific blogosphere and, indeed, many specialist sites have sprung up to help answer questions and provide links. So I thought it would be a reasonable thing to do in a field where I had but little learning. I got very little response indeed and this, in itself, is important – and potentially worrying. Not many scientists naturally approach librarians – or at least not a high percentage – and so the online approach is an important one – it’s a good antenna and concentrator – which indeed it has done.
Some people are upset by this process – along the lines of “what right has this guy to …”. That’s a natural response, perhaps, but the key challenge is to bridge gaps.
Among the feedback – thank you – is a long comment from
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. […]
and from Christina Pikas who gives a long and useful summary of what science ULibrarians do:
So where to start? Libraries connect people to information. Librarians touch every bit of this by:
- selecting information sources (books, journals, protocols, spectra/data collections) based on balancing
- subject (and relationship of subj to organization’s research mission, vision, etc)
- customer requests, discussions with customers, interlibrary loan requests
- cost considerations
- measures or indicators of quality
- usage (global, local)
- packages, special deals, consortial agreements, existing contracts that can’t be reduced
- global statements from management on what you’re doing with electronic vs print or trying to build capacity or whatever
- our professional expertise
- government documents are just a class of their own
- deselecting things (if only to send to off site storage)
- selecting finding tools like research databases – which ones, and then also which platform (for example, you can get Inspec on maybe 10 different platforms like Web of Knowledge, EbscoHost, FirstSearch, Ovid, EngineeringVillage2), once again balancing
- consortial agreements
- how far back it goes
- if it’s standards compliant
- if it can be searched using z39.50, if it’s open URL compliant, if it can be proxied — if it will talk to machines
- negotiating access, negotiating licenses – here librarians are between corporate lawyers from the vendors and university lawyers, and also incorporating what they know about how the end users/customers actually need to use the stuff (like in course web sites or whatever), and ideological statements, and pressure from the selection folks to just get it done
- picking the companies that distribute and help us manage journal subscriptions (did you know we don’t go directly to most journal publishers, but use a third party? we also use big distributors for books most of the time)
- paying the bills and accounting for things, managing the acquisitions process
- organizing information so that it can be found
- cataloging books, journals – this is very complicated, also standards-based, and takes a lot to make sure that things can be found by people who need them
- entering things into several content management systems – one that runs an open url referer (links you from a citation through to the full text), one that runs the web site, one that helps you track the licenses (some people manage to combine these things)
- changing all of the urls all of the time when the #$%^ vendor updates their system or the @#$% publisher moves to a different vendor
- see Catalogablog for some insight into being a cataloger at a research organization (small and not a university)
- building tools to connect people to information
- the online catalog, you know how it comes out of the box, right, needs lots of work
- the open url referer SFX thing? oh, yeah, that needs to be customized
- the web site? yep
- the federated search? yep
- who maintains the servers? do we pay the IT department, or do we have librarians with masters degrees swapping out broken drives – you’d be surprised!
- usability testing
- reviewing usage statistics, etc.
- refer to Bibliographic Wilderness for some more on some of this category
- teaching people how to help themselves
- quick 30 minute classes on databases
- teaching 1-3 credit “intro to” or “cheminformatics” or other classes
- teaching a session of every section of every engineering 101 class in the university
- consulting with individual students, faculty, staff, researchers on how to get what they need, keep what they find, and use it
- creating screencast tutorials, handouts, self-paced online instruction
- creating finding guides/pathfinders
- managing the circulation of materials – including putting stuff on reserve for classes
- collecting and preserving rare, special, or historical materials – everything from rebinding to specifying climate controls and security, to actually picking and using DRM, to licensing out materials
- collecting, organizing, and providing access to the organizations knowledge – doing knowledge management and archiving
- institutional repositories, well, see Caveat Lector
- sitting at the reference desk and answering questions and generally dealing with the public – unjamming the copier, refilling the printer, fixing the public access computers, keeping track of the stapler, getting the roof leak fixed….
- working as a consultant to departments and labs and groups and individual faculty on new projects, classes they might offer, assignments they might give
- working with vendors to improve their offerings, and to learn about their new stuff
- getting grants and working their own research projects to study how people use information, presenting to other librarians
- management, hr, strategic planning, development
- committees, lots of committees!
So whatever the rough edges this is helping to start public discussion. Since at Oxford the panel is expected to answer questions I’m ready for some to be thrown.#