libraries of the future – what I shall say

I am blogging what I hope to cover in my 15 minutes.and I am speaking from the view of practising STM researchers in publicly funded institutions. Please feel free to follow the links during the presentation. There are also ca 30 visitors from Second Life.

Power Corrupts; Powerpoint corrupts abslutely (Tufte); This is a semantic, distributable, accessible presentation

Polemic warning: HIGH; Speed: FAST; ComfortFactor: NEGATIVE; Known Copyright Violations = 0

Thanks and Greetings


I researched by

  • talking to scientific colleagues..
    The main conclusion was that the formal “library” was largely unseen/irrelevant and at best a service department
  • raising the subject on my blog and following Twitter and FriendFeed. Feedback was slow until I tweaked the outrage knob slightly and was then mainly from tech-aware librarians. The main thrust was that they were doing a good diverse job which wasn’t appreciated by me or scientists in general.
  • I have been described by Brian Kelly as a Critical Friend” to libraries (and I accept the compliment).
  • Conclusion: the librarian of the future will not come from the librarian of the present. They will be real revolutionaries.

What scientists do and want in their information environment

  • Quality peer-review
  • Immediate seamless access and search to all published information. Not photocopies
  • Electronically, not on paper. Little bits of lots of papers.
  • Interdisciplinary. No subject libraries. No arbitrary discipline boundaries
  • Access to experimental data and its re-use
  • Write papers and grants as efficiently as possible.
  • Build a personal collection of relevant papers. iPDF
  • Experimental data – Collect, version, annotate and preserve (medium term).
    Maybe through society/publisher
  • Recognition for their work, papers, data, software, services, methods…

Where the world/web is going anyway

  • All information will be free and online
  • Everyone will be pervasively connected
  • Evolution, not planning
  • Rapid entry of major players – (GYM) Google, Yahoo, Microsoft
  • Personal information collections online
  • Clouds and Communities
  • The semantic web (TimBL)
  • Micropayments??

A few resources we use or have created

Software and informatics are the new instruments of communication. The code is mightier than the report…

  • Pubchem library of molecules. About 20 million contributions from researchers, suppliers, agencies, etc. A vigorous campaign by American Chemical Society to close it down as government-sponsored “socialised science”. The campaign failed
  • Sourceforge. A true repository where I store all my code, versioned, preserved, sharable.
  • C3DeR crystallographic repository. This captures all experiments in the department, and publishes them under embargo.
  • Crystaleye nightly robotic aggregation of the worlds published crystallography
  • The Blue Obelisk A group of chemists dedicated to Open Data, Open Source, Open Standards, who have developed many widely used libre resources.
  • Chem4Word. An Open tool for authoring chemistry in Word2007, thus returning power to the authors who can declare their data as Open.
  • The Open Knowledge Foundation provides a wide range of protocols, visions, tools. We have developed a Is It Open?
    service for requesting information from publishers as to whether their information is Open.
  • Wikipedia. We see WP as an important reference work for teaching, learning and research and are helping to add semantic chemistry.

Battle for the ownership of scholarship

The web is hosting a battle between universal access to information and control by ,major commercial interests. The balance between “good” and “evil” shifts monthly – free sites become closed and data appropriated; hitherto monopolists (e.g. Microsoft) promote open information…

The Universities had a golden chance 10 years ago to regain control of scholarlyt publishing (e.g. through University Presses). They completely lost the plot.

The Universities have ceded ownership of scholarship to the publisher giants – Elsevier, Thomson ISI, Wiley, and most regrettably learned societies which have lost their mission (American Chemical Society). The power of the web still allows us to reclaim this but we must be quick.

Hundreds of billions of research dollars pass from Funders to Universities but this is in large part “controlled” by commercial and pseudo-commercial publishers who decide what is meritorious by mindless algorithms suited to their profitability – as meaningful as “top of the pops” sales .to musical quality.

The (quasi) commercial publishers are vigorously lobbying governments to restrict access to scholarly information epitomised by the PRISM association for denigration of Open Access (believed to be Elsevier, ACS and a few others).

Newcomers look to the web, not libraries. for their information and publishers (in the most general sense) will exploit this to create direct links between authors, publishers and consumers. GYM, Elsevier, Facebook , Twitter…Universities should welcome this and seek to control their interests.

Open Access, Open Data are not about business models, but the soul of scholarship. HEADS OF SCHOLARLY INSTITUTIONS MUST SPEAK OUT AND ACT, OR THEY WILL LOSE CONTROL. They must collaborate, not compete on this. There is not much time left

What can you do? JUST DO IT

TimBL says “just do it”. Pubchem has “just liberated molecules”. Greg Crane (Perseus) has “just liberated classical scholarship”. Wikipedia has “just liberated encyclopedias. has “just liberated geospatial data”. The OKFN “just built” the IsItOpen system. Undergraduates in our group “just built” the OSCAR system, the C3DeR chemistry repository. Harvard (and others) “just declared” autonomy of their scholarship.

And tell the world about it. Every day.

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2 Responses to libraries of the future – what I shall say

  1. Pingback: Upcoming Gig: Science Foo Camp (scifoo) 2009 « O’Really?

  2. Pingback: ulcc da blog (ulcc digital archives blog) » Blog Archive » What is the Library of the Future?

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