libraries of the future – more comments

Landed a few hours ago and trying to get my ideas together for tomorrow.  There’s apparentyly over 170 participants (or at least respondees) who have returned queries for the panel. There needs to be some filtering or grouping as we can’t get through that number one-by-one.

I am going to demo some software as I think that software is now the new pen. I am always over-ambitious.

Some commenters have left substantial posts which deserve to be highlighted so I’m copylinking them without comment and in no order (WordPress is hard enough)…

Martin Lewis March 31, 2009 at 8:44 pm (on Research STM libraries)…

Not sure if I can claim to be the first research library director to find my way to your excellent blog, but I wanted to comment if only to demonstrate to John MacColl that we’re not completely absent from the blogosphere!

Mark Leggott says: April 1, 2009 at 1:24 am (on COinS)

COinS is a great piece of technology. We recently embedded support for COinS in our institutional repository, which is largely metadata at this stage while we work with faculty to add open access content. You can give it a try at The system uses Drupal and Fedora. …

Lorcan Dempsey says: March 30, 2009 at 9:36 pm

You are probably aware of the catalog of Electronic Theses and Dissertations provided by NDLTD.

Catalog is available in a variety of ways, listed here:

(PMR: Yes, and we are presenting at this year’s ETD at Pittsburgh)

Emilce Rees says: March 30, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Back to the Future ?

Why not focus on the “libraries of the past”, where subject librarians actually knew their collections, patrons were not bullied into using machines to issue their own books despite there being an issue desk (can you imagine if your supermarket did that), and we could hope that the people at the enquiry desk actually knew something or someone, instead of directing users somewhere else, and, if lucky, spoke English and were not there simply for decoration purposes ?…

Owen Stephens says: March 30, 2009 at 1:32 pm

I’m glad that more comment and feedback has been coming in, and I hope that on the day you will get a good response to your ‘provocation’ :)

I’m sorry not to have commented earlier in the process – there is a lot to take in from what you’ve said, and only limited time (on my part) to respond. What follows is a ragbag of comments I’m afraid that responds to parts of what you have written.

Where to start? In terms of considering the historical perspective of libraries and what they are, I’m not sure you go back far enough (!) – it would be interesting to consider the origins of libraries (some general background at and …

Tom Roper March 30, 2009 at 12:16 pm

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?

John MacColl March 27, 2009 at 5:02 pm

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…

Dorothea Salo March 27, 2009 at 1:48 pm


Yes, library schools often do operate in a comfort zone. This is one danger of having a professional program taught and controlled by academics — I had a number of library-school professors who had never been librarians or archivists. Mileage varies, and several in the never-been-librarian crowd were marvelous teachers and thinkers — but they can only approach “the library of the future” secondhand, and that only if they keep in touch with practitioners. Which some, honestly, don’t.

I have taught an intro-to-library-tech course for two years, and as a practitioner, I do my level best to bring my students up to speed about current and emerging information issues. I teach copyright. I teach open access. I introduce data curation (not quite possible to “teach” that in an intro course!). I introduce social software and its discontents. I tell them about the infrastructure of the Web. I certainly tell them that they’re delusional if they think they’re going to waft gently into a nice cozy cradle of books for their entire careers.

It’s a start. I hope.

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