At the 2012 European Library Automation Group conference in Palma, Mallorca (ELAG 2012), Rick Luce (Dean of the University of Oklahoma Libraries) showed a road ahead for re-scoping the library after evaluating 5 paradigm shifts that we see happening today.
5 paradigm shifts present new challenges
Globalization and the IT revolution have accelerated progress in a number of ways and libraries must keep pace. Social and economic drivers call for reform and accountability. Overall, library administrations start to realize there is no returning to the trajectory of ever-increasing costs merely for growing collections. New technology-enabled social tools are disrupting the old model of scholarly communication. The current rise of cloud services highlights the further abstraction and commoditization of both technology and services. As a last paradigm shift, Luce was spot-on to translate the rise of eResearch, eScience, digital humanities and big data:
Instead of spending 6 months doing an experiment you can understand in an afternoon once you're finished, now you do an experiment in an afternoon and it takes you 6 months to understand all of the data. A shift indeed, from hypothesis-driven research to data-driven research.
Recasting the Model for Research Libraries
When Luce talked about recasting the model for research libraries he essentially called out libraries to become embedded into the research flow. We can not be successful if we're going to stand outside of these processes and wait for patrons to enter the library walls. It is not enough to slowly move into the space of bringing books/eBooks, pre-prints and eJournals into the piles of content we try to manage. Libraries are missing a feeder into the research process from the research communities they are serving.
To illustrate a tangible need to justify such a shift, he gave the example of a postdoc arriving in a new lab. The postdoc should be able to tap into the lab's resources and make the necessary connections early on. All too often, postdocs only get up to speed after 10 or 11 months, when some of them are already preparing to leave.
In research itself, many processes are connected to the timeline of grants. Projects start from scratch in the beginning and throw almost all tools away at the end of the grant, when the search for the next grant starts.
The exact area in which libraries can evolve their services is illustrated by the following diagram.
A workflow layer of services needs to be established to deal with the disconnect between our current repository systems and the processes that go on in the actual scientific domains. To conclude, Luce looked ahead and said that we must do much more than aggregate and provide access to digital scientific information.
"Our job is to wire people's brains together so that sharing, reasoning and collaboration become part of everyday work." - Rick Luce