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

Academic Libraries, News, Current Reports: Storehouses, Tool Sheds and Peripheral Brains

Returning from a blogging-break, I found several links in my email account to a variety of newly-published library-related reports or scholarly articles. Two that I enjoyed reading are referenced below.

We do not yet understand the scholarly significance of large swaths of the digital universe.”

So wrote Dan Hazen, associate librarian of collection management at Harvard College, in his 2010 article, “Rethinking Research Library Collections: A Policy Framework for Straitened Times and Beyond“, available through open access to anyone, and published in 2010 in Library Resources & Technical Services (citation link below).

I especially liked his caption “Libraries as Storehouses, Libraries as Tool Sheds”.  As a mid-career librarian, the life work of my generation have been the planners, implementers and fixers for this migration of library collections from the Real (hold it in your hand, be in the library to read it) to the Virtual (it’s online 24×7 from anywhere you are). Another central issue for research libraries also focuses on historical archiving and reliable preservation of generations of printed, and digital, collections.  The excerpt below from Dr. Hazen’s article summarizes such concerns much more eloquently than I can:

” The mass of information resources now available on the Web, many of them free, is fundamentally changing the library community’s thinking about collections….  Links to freely available digital content, meta-search capabilities that cut across products and platforms, and local aggregations of electronic resources, will all play a growing role in libraries’ collections and content strategies. This in turn will also reduce the physicality of library holdings and alter the functionalities of their spaces.  But we need to go further.  Three aspects of Web-based content require close attention. First, the search engines that today allow users to find materials on the Web are neither transparent nor fully revealing of useful content in predictable ways. Google Scholar, for example, relies upon opaque search algorithms and relevance rankings that appear not to fully exploit the wealth of standards-based metadata that libraries routinely provide. But most libraries do little better, investing their cataloged resources with robust metadata that our discovery tools rarely handle well. Second, sources on the Web—whether websites themselves or the  data, images, objects, and documents embedded within them—are notoriously unstable. Content is added, changed, and removed; links shift around and disappear. Scholarship relies on enduring access to constant content, a goal which remains elusive in the digital domain. Capture, curation, and digital preservation are all implicated in this conundrum.  Third, dispersed and disparate Web content requires tools that can work across amalgamated sets of sources in predictable and repeatable ways. Some of the uses are well-understood, while others reflect a new realm of inquiry that includes text mining, pattern recognition, visualization, and simulation. The needs are perhaps most pressing around massive accumulations of raw data. Libraries, working together and also with academics and information technologists, have an evolving role in creating and supporting the tools that will enable students and scholars to take full advantage of the digital world. It is not yet clear whether lead roles can or should be pre-ordained: arrangements that embody flexibility and contingency seem most likely to succeed. “

Source: Library Resources & Technical Services – Vol.  54(2), pages 115-121. (2010)

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Staff at OCLC collaborated on a report published in 2010, entitled Perceptions of Libraries 2010: Context and Community .  The 59-page report is an update of a 2005 edition, and is available free online from this link. Below is an excerpt from the Conclusion:

Love for librarians remains. Like the library brand, it grew stronger. It seems that self-sufficient information consumers still appreciate expertise and a passion for learning—but they like it best on their time, with their tools. It’s cool to ask an expert—online. It was not cool to ask a librarian for help in 1950 (Public Library Inquiry, 1950); it’s still not cool. Many more perceptions and attitudes have remained the same for the information consumer in the last five years. She still wants to self-serve and self-navigate the info sphere. She discovered the benefits of surfing the Internet by 2003 and, by 2010, was using more powerful tools. She is creating her own apps. She still knows good information when she sees it. She takes her information habits, and perceptions, with her as she ages. While she may be a bit less impressed with online information resources as they have become commonplace, nothing has yet replaced the value and speed of a search engine. And, her personal device connects her to a network where she can share the knowledge gained. She shares her info sphere with older information consumers but does not welcome information gates or gatekeepers. Her advice for libraries: more hours, more content, more computers and of course—more books.


And any librarian in 2011 would not be surprised by this chart (also from the OCLC report):

Source: Both excerpts from OCLChttp://www.oclc.org/reports/2010perceptions/2010perceptions_all.pdf – All rights reserved – Copyright 2011

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* I prefer to believe that our users still have a need for reference librarians who are seasoned … a term much preferable to “old” (!).  However canny, shrewd and wise will also win a smile from those behind that desk.

Just like Dr. Rose, librarians have large peripheral brains too!

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