Monday, March 7, 2011

A bit of required reading for academic librarians

On Lorcan Dempsey's blog: The Collections shift

Read his blog, watch the embedded media, and read the reports and other writing's he cites.

This is the starting place for today's required reading. Dempsey notes a few things he's read or heard of recently about "several central trends: the move to electronic, the managing down of print collections, and the curation of institutionally-generated learning and research resources." These are the big three transformative trends for academic libraries and how librarians and libraries and the universities they serve deal with these three trends will determine the survivial of academic libraries.

The "move to electronic" is more precisely the move from paper-based media to digital media and the resulting transformation in the economics of the distribution and manufacturing of written materials--artistic, scientific, business-oriented, scholarly, personal etc. The sub-strata of materials has changed and that change has transformed the economics of production, distribution, and use of written work [and photography and music and etc.] Relatively expensive, durable and scarce materials such as books, reports, and journals that had to be distributed by ship, plane, train, truck or cart are now produced, distributed and used digitally. That transformation is not yet complete, but the completion date is approaching at an accelerating pace and will soon be here.

One consequence for libraries is the diminishment of the importance of existing print collections. Libraries must manage the shift from the centrality of the print collection to its successful fulfillment of its mission for the university it serves to a peripheral role in the _library's_ enterprise. Surviving that transition will not be easy. Thriving through that transition is almost unthinkable for anyone who equates libraries with books or thinks anything like "libraries are all about the humanities." Many academic libraries will flounder in this transition.

Curation of "institutionally-generated learning and research resources" is an opportunity for universities and not necessarily an opportunity for their libraries. A unveristiy press, university research labs, university museums or archives, offices of public affairs, IT units, and such newly formed entities as Yale's Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure may take on much of a unversities curatorial role for their "institutionally-generated learning and research resources." Additionally, curation may not be best done in a networked, digital environment on an institution by institution basis. Curation of "institutionally-generated learning and research resources" is likely to require the scale of the network itself to be successful. Universities will need to coalesce around discipline-based networks to curate their "institutionally-generated learning and research resources."