Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Transformational Times, the University and the Dissemination of Research, and A National Digital Library

The good people associated with ARL have been rather busy recently. In addition to a report on digital repositories, there are a few other new reports worth noting here.

First, there is “Transformational Times: An Environmental Scan Prepared for the ARL Strategic Plan Review Task Force”: Here are a few of the trends identified in the introduction (5f.):

  • Libraries need to change their practices for managing traditional content and develop new capabilities for dealing with digital materials of all types, but especially new forms of scholarship, teaching and learning resources, special collections (particularly hidden collections), and research data.
  • Content industries inevitably seek to extend control over the copyright regime and over content, in general, while libraries, authors, and research institutions endeavor to provide more access to and active management of the intellectual assets produced by the academy.
  • Collaborative approaches are being applied to new activities both with regard to traditional operations as well as emerging functions.
  • Radical reconfiguration of research library organizations and services is needed coupled with an increasingly diverse and talented staff to provide needed leadership and technical skills to respond to the rapidly changing environment.
  • New relationships must be formed with library users to support rapid shifts in research and teaching practices.

Second, there is “The University’s Role in the Dissemination of Research and Scholarship—A Call to Action”: The report, which consists of a number of recommendations, opens with “A Vision Statement”:

The creation of new knowledge lies at the heart of the research university and results from tremendous investments of resources by universities, federal and state governments, industry, foundations, and others. The products of that enterprise are created to benefit society. In the process, those products also advance further research and scholarship, along with the teaching and service missions of the university. Reflecting its investments, the academy has a responsibility to ensure the broadest possible access to the fruits of its work both in the short and long term by publics both local and global.

Faculty research and scholarship represent invaluable intellectual capital, but the value of that capital lies in its effective dissemination to present and future audiences. Dissemination strategies that restrict access are fundamentally at odds with the dissemination imperative inherent in the university mission.

Finally, there is a call to “Establish a Universal, Open Library or Digital Data Commons”: Conclusion:

A large-scale initiative to digitize public domain collections meets just about any test of an effective response to the mounting problems that challenge the United States. Beyond retraining workers with new, valuable skill sets and putting them to work, this initiative will bring high-quality public domain resources into every home, school, community college, university and workplace. It will give businesses, state and local governments, and jobseekers needed resource and will enrich education at all levels by bringing the world’s collective knowledge to parents, teachers, and students. Finally, these scientific, cultural and historical assets will provide much needed content to the extended deployment of broadband throughout the country. Above all, these online, high value intellectual resources will remain available permanently to the Nation as research libraries will provide long-term preservation and access to the digitized content.