Whither Science Libraries?
What are contemporary library uses and needs
of the scientific community? Are subscriptions to
e-journals sufficient? The emergence of escience
raises important questions about the
services and infrastructure within ARL libraries
in support of science.
Libraries may, in fact, be creating obstacles to
emerging interdisciplinary models of science.
Branch libraries based on separate collections in
related areas of the sciences are cited as a
hindrance to multidisciplinary research at a time
when online access transcends discipline-based
collections. Other recent behavioral
assessments suggest that libraries are often not
perceived as part of the evolving research
infrastructure in support of interdisciplinary,
There is a perception that science librarians,
more than ever before, need to be actively
engaged with their user communities. They need
to understand not only the concepts of the
domain, but also the methodologies and norms
of scholarly exchange. This level of
understanding and engagement goes well
beyond knowledge of the literature. It requires
being a trusted member of the community with
recognized authority in information related
matters. This new paradigm suggests a shift in
focus from managing specialized collections (the
“branch library” model) to one that emphasizes
outreach and engagement.
Many science librarians, of course, are already
doing this. There are examples of science and
health science librarians working with faculty in
teaching courses, participating in research
projects, and publishing. Are these models
extensible? Can we re-conceive the science
library for e-science?
A way forward - Model Principles. I must admit, when I was blogging for the OECD, I had a hard time grasping the shape of the conversations that were going on. This set of model principles (based on a draft from Chuck Humphrey), from Appendix B of the ARL E-Science Final Report, provides a clear set of topics that research libraries should consider (I have trimmed some entries - see the document for full versions):
1. Open Access: Research libraries will support open access policies and practices regarding scientific knowledge and e-science.
2. Open Data: Access to open data is a movement supported by research libraries, taking into consideration the ethical treatment of human-subject data.
3. Collaboration: Research libraries will collaborate with multi-institutional, interdisciplinary
research projects by developing and supporting digital repositories for their research outputs,
data, and metadata.
4. Digital Stewardship & Preservation: Research libraries will have institutional repositories that meet international preservation and interoperability standards and practices.
5. Equitable Service and Support: Research libraries will work collectively to ensure that gaps do not develop in the levels of support provided across e-sciences.
6. Professional Development & Investment: Research libraries will develop the human capital to provide the range of knowledge management skills at the appropriate level needed by esciences.
7. Metadata Standards & Metadata Creation: Research libraries will spearhead initiatives to develop metadata standards supportive of scientific data.
8. There is no number 8.
9. Virtual Communities: Research libraries will contribute to the establishment of and
participate in virtual laboratories or organizations developed across e-sciences.
10. Sustainable Models: Research libraries will participate in the development of and contribute to sustainable business models for the resources and services essential to e-sciences.
11. Communication: Research libraries will participate in initiatives to increase wider
professional and public understanding of e-science contributions to knowledge and its
* The June 2008 OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy will be
considering a set of digital information principles, indicating a broad international interest in
developing principles for cyberinformation. (See
This gives me a great opportunity to connect to more information from the 2007 OECD Participative Web meeting in Ottawa. You can read my blog postings about the e-science presentations, and I have been remiss in not pointing out the video (Windows Media) of the presentations (the session starts at 05:30 into the stream). The presentations are in English (the introduction is in French).
PS For a more direct (and memorable) link to the OECD Future of the Internet Economy work, use https://www.oecd.org/FutureInternet
Info about the ARL final report via Bev Brown, from asis-l and CNI Announce.