Archive for the 'Risk management' Category

User studies and risks for research libraries?

Monday, July 8th, 2013 by Jennifer

This is the first in a series of posts that synthesize conclusions of published user studies about desires and needs for research support. I’ve collected quite a stack of them. For the past three years I’ve been reading up on what academics themselves say about all this. Along the way, I’ve also gathered studies that include administrators and librarians. When the latest Ithaka US and UK faculty surveys came out this spring[1], I integrated their findings into my growing pile of evidence.

The cumulative effect is rather foreboding. Academic libraries appear to be somewhat out of touch with the needs of researchers. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The typical library often does not provide the support that researchers need to do their research. As a result, researchers report not being as well-served as they should be, and in their eyes academic libraries are losing relevance.

Today’s synthesis introduces user studies about risks for research libraries, especially the risk of doing nothing. In separate future posts I’ll focus on what researchers themselves say. If I get ambitious, I may delve into to user studies with university administrators and – last but not least – librarians.

Why user studies?

Many leaders of research libraries are concerned that their institutions have become less relevant to faculty members and academics, whether due to advances in technology, success in licensing journals, or over-investment in teaching services for undergraduates at the expense of research. In the current context of disintermediation of libraries – combined with constraints on funding – administrators at research-intensive universities perceive that libraries are presently at risk. Internationally, significant attention has been given to demonstrating the value and ‘business’ of libraries to universities and funding agencies. Managing research information – whether research data, articles, or administrative information about researchers and their work – has recently become a strategy for libraries to weave themselves into the fabric of the research lifecycle, in order to demonstrate their value and mitigate risk of losing relevance and funding.

To re-establish the research libraries’ alignment with research needs, the community has called for investment in developing new services that support research workflows and university administrations. Considerable thought has been given to the nature and function of such new services. National and institutional initiatives have enabled a handful of research libraries to spend significant resources planning and developing up-to-date research services.

For years, librarians have called for studies that articulate what researchers desire by way of support for their research.[2] These blog posts are my meta-analysis of the results of some 30+ years of studies – including recent reports from RIN, Ithaka, OCLC Research, and the DCC – in order to gather together evidence of system-wide needs for research services, both within and outside libraries. Of course, methodologies used to generate the numerous studies vary, such as interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Also, the objectives of the various projects are different, so exact or parallel comparisons are difficult and the conclusions are not necessarily overlapping or consistent.

Nevertheless, clear trends and distinct patterns emerge from the body of work as a whole. Recent research on scholarly behavior converges on conclusions about all manner of information-related services in universities and across academic disciplines. Qualitative and quantitative studies of scholars and academic administrators provide a mountain of evidence about the nature of services and infrastructure required to span the entire lifecycle of the fruits of research. While we have witnessed simultaneous evolution of discipline-based and institution-based services, diverse international reports have identified gaps in digital infrastructure and provision of services to manage research information, both by libraries and by university administrations.

Risks: disintermediation, funding, value

Martin Feijen, in a literature review from the Dutch SURFfoundation titled What researchers want, gleans the crux of the matter: “There is one very concise statement about risk: ‘The biggest risk is to do nothing.’”[3]

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Raising Expectations

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 by Roy

There are precious few library speakers upon whose every word I hang. Call me difficult to please. But one person who has achieved that status is Prof. David Lankes from the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. The dude rocks. And although he is a frequent speaker, including at the upcoming ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas, you don’t have to wait a single minute to hear him talk about some of his most important issues.

Last week I caught up with him virtually via Skype, and recorded him for our ongoing podcast series “What keeps you awake at night?” What resulted was a rollicking 25-minute romp through some fairly important issues for us all. Central to his theme was “raising expectations” — for ourselves, for our institutions, for the clienteles we serve. He also talked about making innovation a core part of what we do. To do this, he asserts, we need to create environments where taking risks and failing is OK, and he cites Seth Godin’s definitions for “mistake” vs. “failure”:

A failure is a project that doesn’t work, an initiative that teaches you something at the same time the outcome doesn’t move you directly closer to your goal.

A mistake is either a failure repeated, doing something for the second time when you should have known better, or a misguided attempt (because of carelessness, selfishness or hubris) that hindsight reminds you is worth avoiding.

Prof. Lankes covers a lot more ground than this, including a segment on “dead wood” in the organization, and much better than I can attempt to parrot back to you. What I’m trying to do, if it hasn’t become obvious by now, is to intrigue you enough that you will listen to the whole thing. It’s only 20 minutes since I sped up the recording by 20%. Yes, we know your time is valuable. After all, you have some expectation raising to do. 

Copyright and risk: upping the ante?

Friday, November 4th, 2011 by Merrilee

The US Copyright office has recently issued a paper, Priorities and Special Projects of the United States Copyright Office. The paper outlines some areas that the office will be working in over the next two years. One of these projects has already resulted in a “white paper” on the mass digitization of copyrighted books. Although this piece of work is receiving a lot of attention, I’m more curious about another strand of planned work, a study on a “small claims solutions for copyright owners.” From the paper:

Copyright law affords a bundle of exclusive rights to authors, including the rights to
reproduce, distribute, publicly display, and publicly perform their creative works, or
license others to do so. However, these rights are meaningless if they cannot be enforced.
As the ease of infringement has risen, so too has the cost of federal litigation. At the request
of Congress, the Copyright Office is conducting a study regarding alternative means of
resolving copyright infringement claims when such claims are likely to involve limited
amounts of monetary relief.

[More information here]

I worry that creating a means to more easily sue for infringement will have a negative impact on institutions who are considering digitizing materials held in special collections, using a risk management approach (as described in the Well-Intentioned Practice document). Since the study won’t be completed until 2013, it’s too early to worry. However, it’s not too early to formulate a response! Those are due January 26, 2012, which is right around the corner.

OCLC Research 2010: Well-Intentioned Practices

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 by Merrilee

As 2010 winds down, we are reflecting on what we’ve worked on or created in a mini blog series. You can see a run down of highlights here.

Is copyright making you blue
And you don’t know what to do
Take advantage of others’ tactics
And put in place Well-Intentioned Practice!

I want to give a shout out to the National Library of Australia for what has become an annual display of talent and imagination. Each year the staff performs for their holiday party, and they share with the rest of us on YouTube. The results are funny and toe-tapping. This year’s theme was Putting on the Writs,” an homage to the trials and tribulations of adhering to copyright law.

National Library of Australia. We feel your pain. And we’ve been moved to do something about it. In the US. For unpublished materials.

Following on the heels of Shifting Gears, we began to realize what a barrier copyright law presents to those working with unpublished materials. We convened an advisory group. We held an event. Out of this came a document called Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online (we call it WIP). WIP encourages institutions to take a risk management approach (rather than apply item by item assessment).

WIP has been a success, and has been endorsed by numerous organizations and individuals. And we’ve just learned that we’ll have a session focusing on Well intentioned practices at the Society of American Archivists meeting in 2011. While WIP is based on US copyright law, as a risk management approach it may work in other situations.

We’ve written about WIP in the past. Here are two previous posts on this topic.

And if you haven’t seen it, here’s Puttin’ on the Writs in its full glory.

If you want to see even more of our accomplishments look at this summary of our accomplishments over the last five years. Only three pages!

“Creative destruction”

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 by Jennifer

The classical research library is, in some senses, a central part of the identity of the university as a university. Around here at OCLC Research, we’ve been thinking about challenges that research libraries face to develop new services that continue to function as infrastructure and centers for co-creation of research within universities. A new report from RIN – companion to our report on A Slice of Research Life by Susan Kroll and Rick Forsman – comments that sometimes Research Support Services in UK Universities (like in US universities) can seem somewhat marginal to university researchers. Ouch.

Both reports are short (under 20 pages) and both have one-page summaries. One conclusion shared by both reports is the crying need for expertise in data structure, management, and preservation. For example, in her recent presentation on the Slice report at DLF, Susan offered the example of researchers who report that they will repeat a prior experiment rather than try to retrieve older data. The DLF-goers just winced, knowing what Susan would say next: that the VP of Research was apoplectic when she heard that. All that research funding to duplicate research, for lack of data management? Ouch.

Both studies report on our greatest success central to the university as a university – delivering electronic journals. In the eyes of our researchers, we have significantly transformed their work for the better. Also, both reports point to the possibility that universities and libraries may not have to spend as much time and money to develop some services that we thought we ought to. Phew.

Our own John MacColl and RIN’s Michael Jubb are collaborating on an essay that will synthesize the results from these parallel interviews with top-notch researchers and their staff in the US and the UK. I’m looking forward to seeing what John and Michael think about similarities and differences in the views of exemplary researchers in exemplary universities on both sides of The Pond. I think there’s a lot to learn on all sides about the demand-side of information-related research support services, so watch this space.

Steve Fuller, a British sociologist of science, distinguishes the creation of knowledge and innovation in universities from the creation of education and making knowledge available. The latter, in which the library has played a significant role (with, say, e-journals), Fuller calls “the creative destruction of social capital.” If I understand Fuller (and Joseph Schumpeter) at all,  “creative destruction” is an advantage to society. “Creative destruction” is what research and teaching do – create new knowledge and make it freely available. Is it possible that universities and research libraries can continue to play a role in “creative destruction” by creating useful research support services? What do our researchers use now, and what do they need?

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