Archive for June, 2011

Back to the FutureCast: globalization and higher education

Thursday, June 30th, 2011 by Merrilee

This is the third in a series summarizing our recent meeting FutureCast: Shaping Research Libraries in a Networked Age. You can refer to previous postings for more information.

Our third plenary speaker was Ben Wildavsky from the Kauffman Foundation, speaking on the future of higher education. Ben is the author of the recently published book The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World. If you are interested in this topic, the book has many more details than will be covered here!

Ben’s talk focused on three emergent trends: increased academic mobility, the emergence of global rankings, and increased competition to create great “world class” universities. Some markers for unprecedented academic mobility include such factoids as 3.3 million students are studying abroad, and that half of all physicists work outside their home country. By some measures the best faculty are the most mobile. We can see that mobility is not just limited to students and faculty; campuses are going global too, and we see an increase in the number of satellite campuses across the world. College rankings, which used to be done nationally, are increasingly global. College rankings have always had their detractors, but “just because you can’t measure everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t measure anything.”
Academic mobility generates fear, and some react through “academic protectionism,” taking measures to keep people in their home countries. Ben feels that anxiety about brain drain (or reverse brain drain) is unfounded, and that we should reframe our thinking as “brain circulation” or “brain exchange.” Knowledge isn’t a finite resource – unlike silver or gold, it can be grown. Global education and research are a public good. The key to innovation and economic growth is the freest possible movement of scholars, students, and knowledge.

We invited a panel from the library world to reflect on the impact of increasingly global higher education.

Ray Choate, University Librarian, University of Adelaide, outlined the Australian higher education system, putting it into cultural and political context. Because Australian universities are government funded, the government has a firm hand in higher education. Although there are a lot of students who come to study from outside Australia, most Australian students do not study abroad, and in fact most stay in the state where they grew up.

Deborah Jakubs, University Librarian, Duke University Libraries said that for those institutions who have a global presence, there is an impact on the “home” library. At Duke, the goal is to provide access that’s equal to the North Carolina campus experience. Increased globalization presents both ironies (that Title 6 is under threat at the time when we most need global materials to support study and research) and challenges (developing and leveraging partnerships with libraries in other countries). Our “core” materials will be fine, but we should start looking at our area studies collections as special collections. [My colleague Jennifer wrote a post about Deborah’s meaty remarks which you can read for more details.]

John MacColl, University Librarian and Director of Library Services, University of St Andrews noted that the Scottish situation is a bit like a nesting doll. Scotland is in the UK (at least for now), also in European Union, so there are multiple models to tend to. John also quipped that “You don’t have to be great to be global;” St Andrews’ is global by attracting an international clientele.

Suzanne Thorin, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, Syracuse University Library underscored the importance of aligning the library with the goals of the larger institution. For example, Syracuse values collaboration and contribution to community. How should the library engage?

Following the presentation and the panel, the discussion touched on issues such as: in a global setting, should metadata be translated? How do libraries provide comparable services to overseas campuses? How do you deal with different timezones when providing support in a distributed environment?

We’ll wrap up our FutureCast series with a posting from Jim next week.

Back to the FutureCast: publishing and content abundance

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 by Merrilee

This is the third in a series summarizing our recent meeting FutureCast: Shaping Research Libraries in a Networked Age. You may also wish to refer to previous postings.

Brian O’Leary from Magellan Media Partners was our second keynote speaker, addressing the FutureS of publishing. (Brian has thoughtfully posted his own series of blog posts on ideas presented in this talk.)

Brian couched his remarks as more about possibility than fate, and said that we’re not talking about “a wide bottomed boat” but a flotilla of vessels, all traveling at different speeds towards their various destinations. The chief failure of traditional publishers is that they are focused on the information container (think codex), and are missing opportunities around content distribution. In order to succeed in a new information economy, digital publishing needs to focus on context and should make containers a secondary consideration.

The challenge is not just being digital, but being demonstratively relevant to customers. Disruptors, who focus on access and tools that help support discovery without the distraction of the container, will be more successful. In an era where discovery and remix are paramount, Brian put forth the challenge, “Open your API, or someone else will.” He further warned, “Piracy is the consequence of a bad API”– those who expect and need access will make their own way if necessary. (As a side note, an example this sort of need-based API for the Trove Australian Newspapers Database was contributed to the discussion via Twitter.)

But it’s more than just about creating tools for discovery, it’s doing more with the content, which needs to be deeply and consistently tagged — otherwise it can’t be found and used. We also need to be thinking about tools that allow using to use context to manage abundant content.

An excellent response panel followed up with some thoughts on the impact on the research library.

Steve Bosch, from University of Arizona said that library processes and workflows are container based and will need to change: “We’ve been in denial about that.” Flat, title-level metadata will not cut it for network level discovery and reuse. The good news is that libraries are highly trusted by our customers to provide context.

Barbara Dewey, Dean, University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, at Pennsylvania State University represented the viewpoint of an institution that has “three ships in the flotilla:” a library serving 23 campuses; the PSU Press; and a new office of scholarly publishing. At PSU, they are asking the question, “Are we partners in content creation, or just consumers?”

Patricia Steel, Dean of Libraries at University of Maryland asked, how can libraries deliver “delight” and “user happiness”? At Maryland, the institutional repository is shifting from a more “traditional” model to one that collects and contains more grey literature and additional contextual sources. Is there a potential role for libraries in supplying and creating open textbooks?

In a spirited exchange, collection development was first deemed “doomed” then downgraded to “dead,” and there was a call for a shift from traditional collection development to resource management. In an era of constrained resources, a risk to libraries is that the “best” content will be replaced by “good enough” content.

If you have the time to watch the recorded video for this session, I highly recommend it. Although Brian’s remarks were framed as recommendations for the publishing industry, there’s a good deal in that’s applicable to libraries as well. Brian’s presentation (which you can see in the video) is highly engaging both in terms of content and graphical elements, and more nuanced than I can present here. The ensuing discussion is both interesting and provocative. Our thanks to all.

Back to the FutureCast: changing patterns of data production and consumption

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 by Merrilee

This is the second in a series summarizing our recent meeting FutureCast: Shaping Research Libraries in a Networked Age. You can read the first posting here.

Our first keynote speaker was George Oates, the project lead for Open Library, a program of the Internet Archive. George started her talk on data consumption patterns by playing a Stravinsky arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner (otherwise known as the American national anthem), explaining that this “remixed” version of the tune, transformed by the use of minor chords was considered shocking at the time, but now seems like a mild modification. We live in a world that is accustomed to change. On the data side, the consumption and production cycle for information has rapidly accelerated. Information is consumed not just by people, but also by computers, which impacts the way we (should) operate. George then gave several examples of network-driven consumer expectations in the consumption and production of information.

The web is a place where things happen very quickly. George’s example of immediate action is the “Me Right Now” project on Flickr, where members take a photo of themselves and post it – right now.

Me Right Now

Brad Dielman's "Me Right Now" (working from a coffee shop)

Bicycle Built for Two Thousand is an example of knowledge organization as a creative act. Here the web is a collection, production and dissemination vehicle all rolled into one. In this project 2,088 voice recordings were collected using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Participants heard a short sound clip, then recorded what they heard via a web tool. Each person received six cents (US) for participating.

Similarly, internet dating site OkCupid has made use of aggregated data collected in questionnaires to make some interesting and surprising correlations (and depending on your situation some of these may NSFW – you have been warned!).

Kevin Kelly’s Internet Mapping Project is a good reminder of how users see and approach the web, and what they view as “home.” If you flip through the 118 very personal visions of the web, it’s useful to see what role the internet plays in peoples’ lives in helping them get real things done. (Can you find the library “on the map”?)

internetmap067 by Kevin Kelly, on Flickr

internetmap067 by Kevin Kelly, on Flickr

The internet is not all about enabling creative expression — George also gave a shout out to “old fashioned curation.” With so many choices, sometimes it’s nice to sit back and have someone do the work for you. The Tate Museum has some nice examples of exhibits that have been professionally curated, or you can create Your Collection.

“Individual sense-making in the inconsequential mess of the internet” is difficult, and so is seeing the potential role for the research library, so we invited a panel to help address the issues.

Michael Edson, Director of Web and New Media Strategy for the Smithsonian Institution stated that “the present is far weirder than we had imagined,” and suggested three key questions for organizations drawn from a recent article in the New York Times, “Serious in Singapore:” What does the future look like?; what is my institution’s role in that future?; what do I need to be doing now to get there? Michael has also been influenced by Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive surplus: creativity and generosity in a connected age” which lays out case for amazing collaboration potential fueled by the internet. How can the Smithsonian play in that future? Libraries can’t be so in love with what we have been that we miss what’s now, what’s next.

David Seaman, Associate Librarian for Information Management, Dartmouth College Library observed that “big data” is not only in the sciences, but also the humanities. Libraries have a great opportunity to work with humanists. Google Books can be seen a “queryable dataset for the humanities.” While we can see what the data is, we are not yet “there” with the tools – we are missing the middle layer for scholars to aggregate and make use of data. There is a lot on the web, not all of it worthy. “How to we take in tide of digital sludge encrusted with gems?” and “Sometimes sludge is just sludge” — not everything must be collected or curated.” Finally, monolithic strategic planning is doomed; need to have more scenario planning in organizations(or across organizations, I would venture).

Titia Van de Werf, Director of Collections, International Institute of Social History, noted a blurring of the distinction between web and research resources. Collections are built not only by libraries, but also by researchers. “Why are we not collecting the web collaboratively?” she asked. “We are constrained but it’s not impossible.”

Many thanks to George and our panelists for helping to provide fodder for a conversation about the changes in both the patterns and pace of research, and dissemination, and where libraries can should intervene or create services.

Back to the FutureCast: introduction

Monday, June 27th, 2011 by Merrilee

For three days earlier this month, (June 8-10) close to 100 thought leaders from research libraries, archives and museums gathered at the Georgetown Conference Center to attend FutureCast: Shaping Research Libraries in a Networked Age. The meeting was well “amplified” (to steal a term from my colleague Lorcan Dempsey). In real time, we had a very active Twitter stream,* and a video feed. Immediately following the meeting, electronic versions of the talks and other collateral were posted to the event webpage. This short series of blog postings will serve as further amplification, summarizing the meeting itself. We invite you to continue the conversation by sharing your comments.

Jim Michalko kicked off the meeting with a look “down the wrong end of the telescope,” reflecting back to his time as a student at Georgetown when the Lauinger Library was under construction.

Lauinger Library, Georgetown University

Lauinger Library, Georgetown University by rodeomilano, on Flickr

Although the Georgetown library was built in the Brutalist style and is a far cry from Gothic revival exemplars such as Sterling Library at Yale, the Lauinger Library is firmly ensconced physically at the “heart” of the campus.

Sterling Library, Yale

Detail from Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University. Photo by Günter Waibel.

Referencing our own Information Context document (which looked radical when first published in 2007), Jim underscored that information consumption patterns have shifted, as have institutional collecting patterns. Consequently, research libraries need to consider a new way of framing operations. Information Context predicted that libraries would: move to more actively disclose collections, consolidated print holdings, shift to on demand purchasing, rethink staffing, create of shared processes, and recognize the importance of digital surrogates. Put another way, research libraries should be shifting from bringing the ‘outside in’ (acquiring local inventory) to pushing ‘inside out’ (surfacing distinctive collections).(Lorcan has had more to say on this topic.)

Long story short: “the network changes everything.” What’s the place of the library today? As intellectual life happens increasingly online, how do libraries maintain their place as the “heart” of research? The challenge, then, for the OCLC Research Library Partnership will be to create plan of work to help move institutions to a new way of operating.

FutureCast was an opportunity to reflect on the future of the research library enterprise from the point of view of the evolving spheres of data consumption patterns, publishing, and higher education. We invited three keynote speakers to help look at how each of these areas are evolving, and then invited responders to help at the impact will be on the research library enterprise. How can we look up, to prepare for the future? We’ll start with the next blog post, on the evolution of data consumption patterns.

*This meeting benefited from a higher than previous amplification quotient — 1/3 to 1/2 reported by raised hands they have a Twitter account. Although not everyone was Tweeting, the meeting was well documented by those who did. A special thanks to those who shared in this way, as it was a great help in producing a summary. It was also observed, looking at a room full of people with eyes cast downward, that people interact by looking away.

Supporting research, and how we aren’t

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 by Ricky

OCLC Research and the UK’s Research Information Network conducted complementary studies of research support services in universities in the US and UK. Hot off the press today is a report, Supporting Research: Environments, Administration and Libraries, by John MacColl and Michael Jubb that highlights the findings. While the reports attempted library-agnosticism, this synthesis takes a stand as to what it means for academic libraries. It ain’t pretty, but it’s important to face as we think about ways academic libraries can better support their universities’ research missions.

The Empires Fight Back – Globalization and Area Studies

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 by Jennifer

Last week at our FutureCast meeting, Deborah Jakubs, University Librarian at Duke, gave us a thoughtful analysis of internationalizing education and research collections. She was commenting on Ben Wildavsky’s talk about an increasingly mobile academy, the emergence of global universities, and the role of global rankings. Deborah  put Wildavsky’s thesis about globalization and higher education in a research library context. I asked Deborah for her notes, and she has allowed me to post them. I have made my own personal selections here.


  • Higher education has gone global
  • Language learning/fluency very important
  • Increased collaboration with research partners, co-authors,  beyond the US
  • Access for non-US researchers to scholarship produced in the US and internationally


  • Title VI funding for area studies is threatened precisely when language/cultural expertise is needed
  • Research libraries see continued decline in “foreign acquisitions”
  • Trend in libraries to justify expenditures on use, ROI
  • Limited and/or uneven production of and access to digital scholarly resources worldwide
  • Contradiction between globalized universities and diminishing focus on global acquisitions
  • How will needs of scholars for access to non-English, often obscure, materials be met?
  • Erosion of the mission of research libraries to focus on the most-used or most-requested, turning away from more specialized
  • Implications of just in time vs. just in case for foreign materials?


  • Focus more on less available materials;  “core” is easily found (see Hathi Trust, etc.)
  • Treat foreign materials as special collections
  • What’s the information landscape beyond the US, in developing countries?
  • Can we develop centers of strength?
  • Given the partnerships between US and non-US researchers/institutions, we should develop parallel partnership with libraries in other countries

It will come as no surprise to many that Deborah is on the task force on International Engagement of ARL Libraries.

The video recordings of the FutureCast plenary sessions and response panels will be posted shortly.

Enjoying New Orleans

Saturday, June 4th, 2011 by Ricky

I’m not going to ALA in New Orleans this summer, but I know many hangingtogether readers will be there. I spent nine days in New Orleans in February and wanted to share some recommendations for food, music, and other diversions.

Dining: Yes, have your beignets at Café du Monde, but don’t let that dampen your appetite for lunch. You can get good Po’ Boys anywhere, but the best muffaletta was at Frank’s (933 Decatur) – and they’ll make you a fine vegetarian muffaletta, too. There are more great places to eat than you’ll have time for, so don’t let an OK meal take the place of a great one! Antoine’s was a fine place for oysters Rockefeller and Sazaracs, but a bit stodgy for my taste. Bayona (430 Dauphine St.) is Susan Spicer’s restaurant (the chef on HBO’s Treme is loosely based on Spicer). Everything at Bayona was fantastic. Feelings (2600 Chartres St.) features Creole dishes and has wonderful ambiance.
Going beyond the French Quarter, Dante’s Kitchen was my favorite of all the restaurants we sampled. It’s at the corner of Dante and River Road, not far from the end of St. Charles Street, so take the streetcar. Jacques-Imo’s (8324 Oak St) is a fabulous restaurant and doesn’t take reservations, so you may want to get there early if you plan to go to the Maple Leaf (see music venues below) after dinner. Atchafalaya (901 Louisiana Ave. – take a taxi) was also a real treat.

Music: Make sure you don’t limit yourselves to the French Quarter (though I enjoyed One-Eyed Jack’s and would have liked to have had the Preservation Hall experience, but we didn’t get there early enough and the line was longer than our patience). Locals eschew Bourbon Street and head to Frenchmen Street instead. It’s not far away, and it has nicer clubs, better music, and is reasonably priced. On Frenchman, the Spotted Cat is an easy place to dip in for music and a beer at any time of the day. Other Frenchmen St. clubs are the Blue Nile, Snug Harbor, and d.b.a – and they are all within a couple blocks of each other.
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