Meg Bellinger — “Library collections and technical services in the digital age: perspectives and predictions for the profession at the half-century mark”

Meg Bellinger
Associate University Librarian, Yale University
“Library Collections and Technical Services in the Digital Age: Perspectives and Predictions for the Profession at the Half-Century Mark”
For ALCTS 2007 Midwinter Symposium: “Definitely digital: an exploration of the future of knowledge on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of ALCTS”
Jan. 19, 2007

ALCTS’ 50th anniversary, recognition of our definitely digital future, our digital present
Images of technologies of 1957: launching of sputnik, cold war space race; phone booth, no cell phone; microfilm; giant mainframe computer

Some technologies persist beyond a mere half century b/c they make sense
A book remains a perfect piece of technological innovation
But no longer the primary work of libraries
LIS students polled: why librarianship? A: Love of books.
In for some disappointments.

Have moved beyond turn-of-the-century apocalyptic predictions about death of libraries, withering away. Outdated view of library: a place to store books

Utopian information future: libraries embrace technology. Serve needs of knowledge seekers. Continue to hold central values of the profession

Times have changed. Significant ways libraries have changed with them. But if you transported librarian from 1957 to now, they recognize most processes.
Under unchanged exteriors, huge amount of chaos
Users who define services have really different expectations (or worse no expectations at all) about what libraries provide
Fiscal constraints. Libraries continue to meet past functions while adding new services. Goal: hybridity. Result: duality, schizophrenia. Trying to retain existing forms while reacting to new demands

What does the future hold?
Question has become part of our professional discourse.

DigiBlog — — Provocative statements. or more realistic than provocative?

Steel ourselves. Look a little less flinchingly at hard issues.

Janus Conference on Research Library Collections: Managing the Shifting Ground Between Writers and Readers. Cornell, 2005.
Janus — two-faced god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings in Roman mythology
Conference prospectus:
Legacy: Are there principles that collection development enunciated that will continue to guide practice, or is it time to relegate it to the dustbin of history?
Epistemology: The field once known as collection development is now undergoing a metamorphosis. Does it need a name change?
Technology: the The Internet is, without a doubt, the single most important reason for Janus to look forward.

Technology is no longer the elephant in the room, it *is* the room.

Six key provocative challenges:
Recon. Converting the scholarly record
Procon. Ensuring future publications are in digital form.
Core Collection. develop a core collection program whereby participating research libraries would acquire the same core materials in selected subject areas.
Publisher Relations. Negotiate collectively with publishers on the best possible access to e-content.
Archiving. assurance of persistent and predictable access to information resources over time.
Alternative Channels of Scholary Communication. develop a repository that ensures access and
preservation to existing resources and jump starts new models of

Taiga Forum:
“In order to manage the complexities of our changing environments, we need to develop broad new solutions, evolve to meet changing user expectations, and prepare library leaders for the future. To do so effectively, AULS and assistant directors in technical services, public services, collection development, and information technology must develop cross-functional vision that provides them with the tools and means to make internal organizational structures more flexible, agile, and effective. They must move beyond the borders and transcend the traditional library organization.”

In response to demand, need, frustrations with slow progress.
How information technology drives significant change
Promote and market services to more effect. Partnership between faculty and librarians. Pressures, provision of new services — in spite of this, infrastructure remains the same. Model is increasingly less viable.

15 provocative statements about the future:
traditional library organizational structures will no longer be functional. Reference and catalog librarians as we know them today will no longer exist…
all information discovery will begin at Google, including discovery of library resources….
There will no longer be reference desks or reference offices in the library. Instead, public services staff offices will be located outside the physical library…
libraries will have reduced the physical footprint of the physical collection within the library proper by at least 50 percent…
a large number of libraries will no longer have local OPACs. Instead, we will have entered a new age of data consolidation…

Open discourse on nature of challenges. 80 participating by invitation.
Open space technology
Unconstrained by past thinking, freedom to explore new ways of thinking
Came away with sense that we don’t have the answers but we all share same problems
Must spend time move beyond issues in place now towards solutions

Skills we need as librarians as we move into future roles.
Drivers of change:

Changes in user expectations – multiple studies by OCLC, Yale, DLF, etc, same evidence of changing user expectation. Students & faculty have shifted from the library’s physical collection to the library’s web resources. Extremely rapid adoption of electronic journals not only in hard sciences but also humanities and social sciences. OCLC white paper — Students use lib web site but find difficulty navigating a barrier for use. Use google instead. Most common requested change: make it easier to use electronic resources the libraries were providing

Technology has allowed people to function independently. Far less patient with mediation and need for mediation.
Shift from just in case to just in time to just for you.
21st century updating of concepts of Ranganathan

Technology has changed users notion of finding and getting, making our libraries quaint like horseless carriages.
Users expect faceted search, recommendations, reviews
We’re not providing these, or not very much

Boundaries are blurring. Many orgs are amalgamating under same overall mgmt
Horizontal integration w other areas where functionality and overlap
Content creation and content processing
Some university librarians have responsibilities for university press. Local publishing to the web. Academic computing.

Administrative merging
New or revised principles of customer services
Revision of work flow
Discarding of outdated management ideas

Convergence among libraries, archives, museums
Overcome arbitrary boundaries and barriers
Strong incentive for interoperability

Yale. Mellon funding. Collections Collaborative
“to enhance access to and use of library and museum collections across the university. Generally termed “special collections” in libraries, these collections comprise an extraordinary wealth of resources for teaching, learning, and research, but are often inadequately visible and accessible because of the need for specialized resources and skills to acquire, preserve, organize, and provide access to them. They serve as both a microcosm of the need for greater integration across Yale collections as well as a universe of underutilized collection materials in their own right.”

Scholarly communication; change in scholarly publication models, open access
Pressure – continuum of support from ingest to access topreservation
Cyber infrastructure of the role of libraries in organizing and maintaining scholarly output
Greater pressure on libraries to organize, describe and integrate content whether we’re managing our own or supporting users in discipline based subject areas

Digital curation, overhead, preservation, will drive greater cross-functionality
Preservation will become integral partners with creators and organizers and managers

Digital press – scholarly cmu problem will only be solved w cooperative campus orgs that support all of us

Fiscal constraints. Tension between maintaining traditional services and supporting new ones

“Purposeful abandonment” of outdated services, operations
Current needs vs. legacy needs. Hard for libraries to stop doing something desired by even one user
However changes are inevitable. Shifts in budgets to support e-resources while not getting new staff to help support new services

More collection sharing. Sharing of book processing. Staff or these positions are already being reallocated

Finally demographic shifts
Significantly profound impact on the future of the profession
Age. Adapt print-centered info expertise to the new electronic environment

Between 1990 and 2010 percentage of retirement and rate of LIS grads won’t be enough to keep up
“Functional specialists”: Overtaking positions in ref and tech svcs. Filled by younger males earning higher wages than their libn counterparts. Have become primary point of entry for newbies in the profession

Retirement: opportunity and threat
Replace w new workers w tech skills
But experience gap
Catalyst for reorganizations
HR to recruit. Reorg development succession planning – compete for scarce resources. Will require larger HR depts

Increases in hiring of functional specialists — male non-librarians earning more. Will create pressure on pay and promotion opportunities. Lack MLS qualifications. Will dominate jobs.
Greater opportunities for paraprofessionals, for advancement. Barriers in past.
Single most significant impact of demo shift towards function spec, away from hiring libns: impact on cultural norms of librarians, on coherence to the profession of librarianship, core values.Key part of who we are. Protection of information rights, advocacy. Consortial licensing. Neutral, trusted. Advocates for cultural heritage in the face of increasing commercialization of info.

Drivers of change have already changed everything. Also revitalizing what had become a moribund profession
Fifty years ago: archive for books, etc. Org structure did not change much with automation of tech svcs; was still based on print paradigm. Continued rigid divisions betw what is professional work what isn’t

Less functional separation at the top of our orgs
Increased specialization within orgs
Library structures will continue to undergo chaotic change. Bureaucratic w hierarchical structure. No template for success. Ambiguity is inevitable

Libraries should be restructuring to reflect use. Rather than a lib structure organized around processing of books. No more “back room”
Libraries will be highly automated. Admin as well as services. Overarching info architecture and framework that all staff will understand.

Yale experiment — Visual Resources Collection.
Rethink and recast services of collection and librarians. Faculty wants convergence betw instructional/reference staff and library technologists who support them. Want one-stop.

Libraries and human resources will focus much more attn on organizational development and continued learning. Means of maintaining the services that users expect more and more. Maintaining services in a constantly changing environment. Retirements – funding will go to this

How do we prepare?
“Future-proofing” for the collaborative, flattened library of the future

Many professions now have information-intensive roles
No longer the exclusive preserve of librarianship
Extended communities
Everyone engaged in processing of information mgmt, including paraprofessionals

Greater blending of skills
Increase in tech orientation
In response to changed service model w user at center.
Greater competition for these jobs. Greater pay

Library work in future. Establishing information strategies, policies, standards, and good practice
Creating information architecture
Managing the info flows within core bus process

Knowledge management
Quantiative research methodologies
Teaching and consultation and outreach
Project mgmt

Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to serve both students and faculty. Collaboration across cultural heritage sectors, across professional hierarchies; skilled group facilitation; leadership that can follow; ability to innovate and problem-solve. Social engagement. Ability to thrive in constantly shifting environment. Live with ambiguity.

“the past cannot be relied upon, the future is unknown and the present offers us no logical assurances”

Don’t worry about what anybody else is going to do — the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

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