EBM and Clinical Support Librarians@UCHC

A blog for medical students, faculty and librarians about their use of evidence based medicine, clinical literature, Web 2.0, sources and search strategies

Scholarly Publishing, Research, Academic Libraries, Content Management: Seismic Changes, the We and the It (Part 1)

Read this (and then perhaps LOL):

Y2K in the Wider World… Come January 1, 2000 will we have power? Will we be able to get money out of our bank accounts? Are cities preparing for chaos and civil commotion, or are they assuming all will be well? We talk with representatives of the power, banking, and air travel industries, as well as San Francisco city government to find out how concerned they are and what preparations they are making for the roll-over to the next millennium. “

Found on the Internet Archive – Excerpt take from a feature on Y2K including a 29-minute video, shot in March 1999, in which City of San Francisco administrators and officials from commerce discuss their preparations for Y2K.

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As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, one can only marvel at how fast these ten years have gone by.

For those who were working in 1999, do you remember it in this way: as a brief and unique historical period when many otherwise rational and deliberate people working in professions governed by highly-computerized, networked environments (which includes anyone working in an academic library) were bugging out over Y2K ?

Here is an extreme example of what some feared would happen on the first day of the New Millenium: link to a classic Nike Y2K commercial (filmed in San Francisco) that is still great to watch:

Video Credit: http://www.youtube.com – All rights reserved – Copyright 2009
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Happily, the actual Y2K disruptions proved to be minor. And the power didn’t go out on January 1 2000!

As year 2010 approaches, a potential action-list for academic libraries in the near-term is described in a recent report from folks at OCLC with input from members of the RLG Partnership Research Information Management Roadmap Working Group.

Following is an excerpt from this November 2009 report:

Researchers are drowning in a deluge of raw data and published information, and face a bewildering array of options for disseminating and sharing their work. The choices these researchers make have implications on intellectual ownership, potential audience, ways of measuring impact, potential re-use, and long-term preservation. ”

Source Credit:  “Support for the Research Process: An Academic Library Manifesto“, posted November 2009 online by OCLC – All rights reserved – Copyright 2009

This position paper is available full-text (at no cost) from this link.  Here is a Wordle cloud created today, using key words or phrases plucked from the report:

Image Credit: http://www.wordle.net/ – All rights reserved – Copyright 2009

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As 2009 winds down, I offer no predictions as to new directions or demands which the academic  library and library staff will meet.  Only that each year, the physical impact of the “real” library will shift to accommodate ever more virtual resources.  The monies and staff time spent in providing links to the “digital” library presence will increase.

But I’m an optimist.  Having been a librarian since 1991, I truly believe that our professions’ highest skill and value lies in our unique abilities to serve our faculty, clinical staff and students in the “librarians-as-educational-midwives” mode.

Consider the “we” and the “it“. By this,  I mean “it” as a Reference Transaction conducted between a librarian and an individual (or a group) with the purpose of addressing a unique question or research requirement… it makes little difference whether the persons are standing together in the library, or talking on a phone or using email (or Meebo).

Any reference librarian can tell you that the “it” query is a conversation unique to those two individuals.  One of the fun parts of being a reference librarian is that the questions are always different, and often you learn as much as the library user when doing the research with them!

Who is the “We“?  A group of people with diverse functions and roles, all of which are necessary to make an academic library operate efficiently… humans who buy materials, teach users, circulate and shelf books physically or digitally, maintain the electronic infrastructure, put paper in the copy machines.

We (the librarians) consider what in the world is available to collect, of what value these resources will be to our users.

We buy appropriate, comprehensive and current materials to be added to the library collection (real or virtual).

We sign contracts with information providers based on our needs as an institutional library, and in accordance with strict fiscal rules and conditions.  There is never enough money available for all that we need to collect, but we do the very best with what monies are available, and we evaluate the collections annually.

We provide the intellectual organization as well as maintain the physical environment as well as the systems architecture or framework by which to search for these materials.

We get that information out onto the virtual (or real/actual) shelf to be found by the user.  We index, evaluate, weed.  We keep the real machines (and lights) running and also the website or information portals.

We get the call at 2:00am when the machines wink out.  We get to contact the publisher(s) to report – and resolve – problems with digital access or missing subscriptions.

In the library of 2010, “we” represent the experienced staff who instruct, demonstrate and train those who ask about what (of many) resources to search, how to search these to retrieve relevant information.

We ask our users to consider the relevancy of their retrievals, and if needed, to begin the process again using other literature sources (that “we” suggest).

Once information that is deemed “good” by the user has been found (because we don’t decide that… the user does!), we select and provide software and instruction to effectively manage the accumulating output of these searches.

The “it” and the “we” are not services that will ever be provided by a quick search on Google (or Google Scholar).

The “We” can teach practically anyone to search effectively and competently on PubMed in under an hour and that is a point of pride among our profession, whether the particular we is a health science librarian in Seattle, Cleveland, Munich or Mexico City.

We provide the person-to-person answer for those questions.  While machines are essential to the work of the academic-research libraries, for now only humans can complete the educational role.

In spite of free search engines, open access journals, tons of virtual points of access to content or social-networking opportunities, the services and collections provided by a formal academic health science library (and staff) remain integral to the pursuit of scientific research.

This discussion is Part 1… other threads in the mix will be followed up in Part 2 (TBA later this week).

Please let me know what you think.

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As to non-library predictions for the coming year, this article from the Dec 29 2009 Wall Street Journal (digital edition) examines a few controversial ideas from a Russian professor, Igor Panarin, about the future of the United States.  The content is available (at no cost) at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123051100709638419.html

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* As a former Californian and resident of San Francisco, where The Big Quake hit on April 18-23, 1906, I’ll verify that it is unsettling to live in earthquake country.  Here is a link to an eyewitness account of that disaster written by Dr. George Blumer, among many other descriptions of events written by those who lived through it, posted on The Virtual Museum of  the City of San Francisco site. Bay Area public health officials continually prepare their rescue personnel (and citizens) for future earthquakes by practicing a staged mock-disaster each year.  Also see public service/public health promotion and emergency preparedness tips at: http://72hours.org/.

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3 responses to “Scholarly Publishing, Research, Academic Libraries, Content Management: Seismic Changes, the We and the It (Part 1)

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  3. Pingback: A Research Community, in Context: More on the We and the It (Part 2) « EBM and Clinical Support Librarians@UCHC

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