Saturday, June 26, 2010


Also, see Oliver Sacks’s piece in The New Yorker, “A Man of Letters.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The ABCs of Academic Library Trends

From ACRL, the 2010 Top Ten Trends in Academic Libraries (in alphabetical order):
  1. Academic library collection growth is driven by patron demand and will include new resource types. … Increasingly, libraries are acquiring local collections and unique materials … These materials may include special collections, university archives, and/or the scholarly output of faculty and students. Libraries also recognize the need to collect, preserve, and provide access to digital datasets. … These materials may include special collections, university archives, and/or the scholarly output of faculty and students. Libraries also recognize the need to collect, preserve, and provide access to digital datasets. …
  2. Budget challenges will continue and libraries will evolve as a result. …
  3. Changes in higher education will require that librarians possess diverse skill sets. …
  4. Demands for accountability and assessment will increase. …
  5. Digitization of unique library collections will increase and require a larger share of resources. Digitization projects make hidden and underused special collections available to researchers worldwide. As Clifford Lynch (Coalition for Networked Information) has said, “special collections are a nexus where technology and content are meeting to advance scholarship in extraordinary new ways.” …
  6. Explosive growth of mobile devices and applications will drive new services. …
  7. Increased collaboration will expand the role of the library within the institution and beyond. Collaboration efforts will continue to diversify: collaborating with faculty to integrate library resources into the curriculum and to seek out information literacy instruction, and as an embedded librarian; working with scholars to provide access to their data sets, project notes, papers, etc. in virtual research environments and digital repositories; collaborating with information technology experts to develop online tutorials and user-friendly interfaces to local digital collections; collaborating with student support services to provide integrated services to students; and collaborating with librarians at other institutions to improve open source software, share resources, purchase materials, and preserve collections. …
  8. Libraries will continue to lead efforts to develop scholarly communication and intellectual property services. … Recruiting content for IRs provides a natural entrĂ©e for conversations about scholarly communication issues. …
  9. Technology will continue to change services and required skills. …
  10. The definition of the library will change as physical space is repurposed and virtual space expands. …
All of the above—and not just the last trend—will change the definition of a library.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Repositories, Renaissance, and Regionalism

At the age of 92, Robert Katz is enjoying an unexpected scholarly renaissance. The emeritus professor of physics retired from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln 22 years ago. Lately, thanks to the university's institutional repository, called the UNL Digital Commons after the software that runs it, people all over the world have been finding and downloading papers Mr. Katz wrote years or decades ago.
This article also points out the local value of institutional repositories:
Expect to see more IR's that serve multiple campuses or institutions and that focus on long-term preservation and the management of big data sets even as they play up local and regional holdings.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Digital Preservation Is Not an Oxymoron

I’m at Rare Book School this week (somewhere beyond the foliage, as viewed from my hotel room yesterday), taking a class on preserving born-digital materials. Today we heard about Matt Kirschenbaum’s work on Agrippa; yesterday, we heard about Naomi Nelson’s work on Rushdie’s digital papers.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Than a Glorified Study Hall

An Inside Higher Ed article, “Embedded Librarians,” highlights a “distributed” approach to librarianship at Johns Hopkins University:
Two years from now, the [Welch] medical library at Johns Hopkins, a world leader in medical research, will have realized a “distributed” library model — one that nearly everyone else in higher education considers either a far-off goal or a theoretical guidepost. A library located everywhere, and nowhere.
The plan includes: online access to “the library’s website and its vaults of electronic journal articles and e-books”; “'recycling' much of [the library’s] print collection, and storing other books offsite” (“faculty and students will be able to send away for the hard copies via snail mail — like Netflix”); embedding library personnel (“no longer called librarians; they are 'informationists'”) in various departments; and being out of the building by 2012.

Interestingly, the article has a section titled “Limited Implications.” But what is missing here, although it is suggested in the comments, is a deeper appreciation of the library as a place—it’s not just another study space. For some insights into this, see Library as Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space (CLIR, 2005): “each [essay] underscores the central, growing importance of the library as place—or base—for teaching, learning, and research in the digital age” (vii). (The Welch Library is featured in one of these essays as a base for new services rather than as a place; but supplementation has now become supplantation.)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Idea of a New Order

The Council on Library and Information Resources has released a report, The Idea of Order: Transforming Research Collections for 21st Century Scholarship, consisting of three essays: the first asks if a research library can be all digital (not yet); the second asks what it costs to keep a printed book (it's more than an electronic one); the third looks at the utility of large-scale text digitization projects for humanities scholarship (quality is an issue).

From the introduction:
All three [essays] show that our collective relocation from an analog to a digital environment for knowledge access, preservation, and reconstitution is under way and inexorable: the future of libraries and universities is digital. … None of these essays, however, can be considered celebratory. A new research library cannot presume to be completely reliant on digital resources. A hybrid model of electronic and print materials will need to be juggled and budgeted for the foreseeable future.
From the conclusion:
Our future, it appears, depends upon our ability to reconceptualize the traditional model of competing, stand-alone institutions into a coherent system that not only preserves the identity and independence of universities and colleges but also brings together many of the functions and support services that undergird scholarship and teaching in ways that are more effective, efficient, and elegant. As the essays in this volume have articulated, planning for and building this new digital commons is both an extraordinary opportunity and a complex challenge.
Related to the topic of the third essay, see “Crunching Words in Great Number” (The Chronicle):
In the June 4 issue, The Chronicle published an article on what Google Books could mean for researchers. We asked some leading scholars to comment on how "big data" will change the humanities. Here are [a couple of] their responses:

Siva Vaidhyanathan: “Since 2004 a collection of universities, including my own, began donating many of millions of dollars of their rare collections of riches to one of the wealthiest companies in the world. This certainly stands as one of the most absurd cases of corporate welfare that universities have ever been involved in. If we can manage to turn the research corpus into some outstanding scholarly work, then we can all give each other high-fives. But if that happens, it will be because of the work and imagination of a brilliant collection of scholars. And we can only imagine what such a group could do with a collection that was actually designed by librarians for scholars.”

Paul Courant: “[S]uccessful computation in the humanities will require that the corpus of texts and other objects of study be developed by scholars and institutions that serve scholars. It will be Stanford, the HathiTrust, and other library-based entities, not Google, that will do the painstaking work of assuring the integrity of the data.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Preserving Bits

Via the Long Now Blog:
In order to demonstrate digital impermanence, scientists from the European Planets Project deposited a time capsule containing five of today’s most common types of digital objects into the Swiss Fort Knox data center.
In other digital preservation news (via the Library of Congress), the California Digital Library is developing a new digital preservation repository called Merritt, which is based on a set of “curation micro-services.”

There is a great data curation webinar series available online courtesy of the Greater Western Library Alliance.

Also newly available online: a Digital Curation and Preservation Bibliography.

Image: Figure 1, “Alignment of scholarly and information lifecycles,” from Merritt: An Emergent Micro-services Approach to Digital Curation Infrastructure (CDL, 2010).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010