Must-read articles – is it too early for best of 2006?

I finally had the opportunity to catch up and read some articles that had been pointed out to me by others and with which many of you are already likely to be familiar. I think that these articles are must-reads and even though it’s only February might be “Best of 2006” candidates.

In alphabetical order they are:
Jerry Campbell’s article in Educause Review
1. Changing a Cultural Icon: The Academic Library as a Virtual Destination

I particularly appreciated that Jerry highlighted collecting and digitizing archival materials as one of the services which may “prove to hold the key to the future of the academic library.” Here at RLG we’ve thought that for some time. The motivation and technology and resources may now be coming together to make that activity real.

Lorcan Dempsey’s piece in Ariadne
2. The (Digital) Library Environment: Ten Years After

This is Lorcan digesting himself in the clearest and most useful possible way. For regular readers of his blog these thoughts won’t surprise but the way in which they hold together and provide both rationale and specific direction for the future will impress. His comments about the power of aggregated demand and supply and the need for libraries to harness them as part of reinventing library services on the network ring particularly true to my ear as does his admonition that “project-based funding is not the way to go to introduce much of the systemic change that is now again required.” His comments about the Long Tail and libraries here have been expanded on in recent posts to his blog and I’ll have something to say about that in another entry.

Clifford Lynch in the same Ariadne issue
3. Research Libraries Engage the Digital World: A US-UK Comparative Examination of Recent History and Future Prospects

There’s a lot of well-done homework here but the good parts are Cliff’s observations and conclusions from the compare and contrast exercise. He identifies one issue that he predicts will “move to center stage soon for the higher education community and its libraries: As the historical scholarly and cultural records shift to digital form, the way scholars, commercial companies, and many other groups will make use of them will also change.” I think this is key to identifying how cultural repositories should modularize their services so that these rapidly changing, and likely niche, uses can be easily accommodated.

Chris Rusbridge’s article from the SAME ISSUE ! of Ariadne
4. Excuse Me… Some Digital Preservation Fallacies?

Chris gets the award for best title out of this bunch. He should also get himself some Kevlar business wear if he attends any preservation (with a capital P) conferences in 2006. His points are clear and cogent, however, and I think will change the nature of discussions surrounding long-term retention of digital materials. And bravo for saying unequivocally that “Assumptions that make digital preservation more expensive reduce the likelihood of it happening at all.”

and from a somewhat different operational sphere but equally powerful for its prescriptiveness

5. Rethinking How We Provide Bibliographic Services for the University of California

which is the Final report of the Bibliographic Services Task Force within the Systemwide Operations and Planning Advisory Group. You’ll find the links to the Final Report on their page.

It’s hard to imagine that a report on this topic could be as interesting and level-headed as it is unless you know the people involved (and the experts they consulted). I’m a fool for the kind of design direction distilled to fortune cookie brevity in the Executive Summary: “Offer alternative actions for failed or suspect searches.” “Rearchitect cataloging workflow.” “Automate metadata creation.” Indeed.

Full disclosure: Jerry Campbell used to be on the RLG Board (miss you) and Chris Rusbridge is a current member of the RLG Board (glad to have you).