October 30, 2007

The Library Flip

Two or three weeks ago now, I was invited to take part in an OU Library Futures workshop, which was tasked with identifying key areas that need to be addressed in putting together a Library strategy to 2012.

One of the points made early on by Lorcan Dempsey, (who we were fortunate enough to have at the OU as part of his late summer, European tour!) was that academic libraries have traditionally provided a home and access point for high quality information.

This positioning is under threat from users migrating to the search engines - Google in particular, but also Yahoo (and Yahoo Answers): what do you do when your students visit Google rather than one of the many database search engines your library offers (or in these enlightened times, your federated search interface)?

One of the things that occurred to me, and that we briefly explored in roundtable workshop discussion, was that maybe it's time for a library flip in which the library acts so as to raise the profile of information it would traditionally have served, within the search engine listings and at locations where the users actually are.

In an academic setting, this might even take the form of helping to enhance the reputation of the IP produced by the institution and make it discoverable by third parties using public web search engines, which in turn would make it easy for our students to discover OU Library sponsored resources using those very same tools.

Lorcan summed this up with the strapline: "Enhance your reputation with the OU library" (although maybe that should be via the OU Library?).

Over the last few days, I've started thinking about this again, in particular within the context of the preservation of scholastic "works" published through the medium of blogs.

Again, Lorcan is on the ball: "Which brings me to my question. Universities and university libraries are recognizing that they have some responsibility to the curation of the intellectual outputs of their academics and students. So far, this has not generally extended to thinking about blogs. What, if anything, should the [HEIs] be doing to make sure that this valuable discourse is available to future readers as part of the scholarly record?"[P]ersistent academic discourse

Related to this is a conversation I tried to start with the library when we were developing the Beyond Google info skills course was the extent to which the Library should be responsible for the preservation of at least certain "high profile" blog posts (that is, ones that get widely bookmarked or referenced in other blog posts and as such may play an important role in some wider discourse).

One approach I thought might be interesting would be to find some way of archiving particular blog posts within the context of the ORO/open repositories online project. The conversation went nowhere at the time, but I wonder if it is worth revisiting now?

As well as blog posts, link collections (that is, "web resource bibliographies"!;-) and slideshows are becoming for me - and many others - part of our scholastic output. I consider it more or less my academic responsibility now to post copies of my presentations to online, social archiving services like SlideShare, even though the sort of presentation I prefer may not be so "readable" to anyone who comes across just the slides...! (which is why I also tend to support my presentations with link collections that offer a bit more detail about the context of each of the slides).

As far as I know, ORO submissions are primarily about archiving published, peer reviewed papers. That is, ORO is intended to act as a local store for articles that have been published as a matter of formal academic record.

In contrast, blogs and presentations tend to be part of the ongoing academic conversation, although they may, on occasion, produce quotable moments.

To reiterate Lorcan's question - to what extent are these conversations worth preserving? And who should be preserving them?

PS see also The next wave is rising: university digital presses: "Digital presses may well be the next widespread development in universities. Librarians are well placed to do the electronic publishing and curation, in collaboration with academics doing the authoring and editorial. ... Equally the development of OA IRs can be seen as part of the larger wave towards university presses, since OA IR content can effectively be overlaid with editorial control. There is not a huge difference between a well-established overlay journal and an electronic journal."


Posted by ajh59 at October 30, 2007 08:41 AM

er... that was the south east of England tour ;-)

Posted by: lorcan at November 2, 2007 03:03 AM