Transforming Knowledge Services for the Digital Age : Redefining the Research Library

Peter R. Young, Director of the national Agriccultural Library in the USA is the keynote speaker during our opening congress of the Wageningen UR Library.

He starts out to describe the current role of the National Agricultural Library, which services 110,000 employees of the USDA and also plays an important role in servicing the American Public. Most interesting is the way he sketches the developments in Agricultural research in the USA. Actually research in general. Research becoming more interdisciplinary, more team based, data intensive and multi-source channels. As a research library they need integrated services, and cyberinfrastructure and digital archival, preservation & curatorial services.

The challenges for agricultural research that need to be addressed are global climate change research, access to clean water and sanitation, Animal and human infectious diseases and at last Human nutrition of course. Subsequently he goes into detail in the the challenge of feed, fiber, feed and fuel where he presents some scary statistics with respect to predicted meat production in 2050.

Via the modelling approaches for researchers and their data intensive practices he arrives on the subject of resource discovery. It is an interesting way in which he presents some of the differences between the print and digital possibilities in saerch and discovery tools, content resources, knowledge services and lists the transformational opportunities in a very long list of adjectives of what a library should represent, such as visible, innovative, integrated, evolutionary, diverse, authorative, cooperative, etc.

Towards the end he borrows heavily on Lorcan Dempsey‘s personal learning landscape, and goes into the developments of Web 2.0. He highlight LibraryThing and Twine which ties all together. The latter is still in closed testing.

He posses some challenges of Web 2.0 for libraries:

  • Why do libraries need to catalog and create metadata records?
    • Why not use social networking tools to provide tags?
  • Why worry about access and demand when Google Scholar and Books are so popular?
    • Why should we be concerned about preservation and stewardship of archival digital content?
  • Will research libraries be marginalized, or is a new paradigm emerging?

His main lesson from Web 2.0 is that we need to ocus on the library in the user environment rather than the ser in the library environment.

Eric Lease Morgan’s digital information landscape

During the Ticer’07 summerschool ‘Digital Libraries à la Carte’ I First met Eric Lease Morgan. He was an excellent instructor, making the techie stuff more palatable.

With much interest I noted one of his recent lectures cited in Current Cites. His lecture “Today’s digital information landscape” has some thoughtful points on future libraries, librarianship and above all catalogs. Here are some interesting quotes selected from the various parts of his lecture

On MARC and XML “MARC is a Gordian Knot that needs to be cut, and XML put into it’s place.”

On databases and indexes “They are two sides of the same information retrieval coin.”

On exploiting the network “A rising tide floats all boats. The tide of network computing is certainly upon us. Let’s make sure our boats are in the water.”

On institutional repositories and open access “Acquisitions departments are not necessarily about buying content… An acquisitions department is responsible for bringing collections into the library.”

On the next generation catalogs “More importantly, a “next generation” library catalog will provide services against the things discovered. These services can be enumerated and described with action statements including but not limited to: get it, add it to my personal collection, tag & classify it, review it, buy it, delete it, edit it, share it, link it, compare & contrast it, search it, summarize it, extract all the images from it, cite it, trace it, delete it. Each of these tasks supplement the learning, teaching, and research process.” And “Collections without services are useless. Services without collections are empty. Library catalogs lie at the intersection of collections and services.”

Morgan concludes with “The principles of collection, organization, preservation, and dissemination are extraordinarily relevant in today’s digital landscape. The advent of the globally networked computers, Internet indexes, and mass digitization projects have not changed this fact.”

Worth reading as a whole.

Morgan, E. L. (2007). Today’s digital information landscape. Infomusings.

Do publishers take electronic books seriously?

A while ago John Dupuis did a great post on Ebook business models. In the comments a few additional suggestions were made to improve on his really well thought list of bullet points. Today I ran into yet another addition for his list.

Elsevier send their fourth installment of the Books Connect newsletter. As a Life Science institution we are certainly interested in their new Encyclopedia of Ecology. When you follow the link to the website for this reference work you end up on a site that only refers to the paper edition of this encyclopedia. No mention of an electronic version. This explains the title in the post, does this publisher take ebooks seriously?

When we want to grow the acceptance of ebooks, the reference works are the ideal place to start. Quick reference, fact finding, ideal in the electronic format. Exactly what our users scattered all over Wageningen and far beyond want.

Okay, backtrack for a moment. Look again at the BooksConnect newsletter. There is this banner add on the newsletter that says “available 2008 on ScienceDirect“. have a look at that and you’ll be disappointed again. The encyclopedia is not to be found on the page for reference works nor on the page of forthcoming reference works. Simply it is not there. Which is a pity.

So another bullet on the list for John would be:

  • e-books should be published on time. They should become at least available when the print edition is published. Preferably an electronic edition should be available before the paper edition comes out.