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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Libraries of the Future

"What is happening in the world is bypassing university libraries. I talk to colleagues and the feeling is that libraries for STM (science, technical, medical) are not useful. That’s not my polemic view – that’s reporting on having spoken to people. When I got feedback from technologically-aware librarians, they informed me that they are doing a good job that is not being appreciated, and I should stop criticising. I wasn’t criticising – I’m trying to tell it as it is. The librarian of the future will not come from the librarian of the present. The librarian of the future will be a revolutionary.
What do scientists want? They want quality peer-review. They want immediate access to published information, and to access it electronically, and possibly in chunks, rather than the entirety of a paper. They want help in writing papers and grant applications. They want a personal collection of papers. They want recognition for their work.
In the future, all information will be free and online, and everyone will be pervasively connected. Things change on the web through evolution, not through planning. Neglect the major players at your peril (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft).
Putting information and research (including code and demonstrations) online in open-access repositories is vital. If your repositories don’t look like SourceForge, you’re not doing it right.
Publishing giants govern the direction of scholarly publication. We had the chance to control scholarly publication through the university presses, and we didn’t. Vice chancellors need to feel that they are losing the plot, because they are. Google may Do No Evil today, but what will happen in the future?
Tim Berners-Lee’s phrase is “Just do it”. Why are universities not helping Wikipedia become a teaching and learning organisation? The bit of Wikipedia I wrote is in my view correct. Wikipedia is all versioned. Stamp it at a point in time and say that a page is fit for purpose. I don’t know how librarians of the future will do it, but they need to get out there, and just do it."