Monday, September 11, 2006

Future of the Research Library in the 21st Century Symposium

I attended the opening sessions of UT Austin's Future of the Research Library in the 21st Century Symposium today. It was really good. Lots of really wonderful attendees from all over the country. Lots of research libraries represented, of course, but publishers such as Elsevier and AAUP and several university presses were there too.

Clifford Lynch's comments were very insightful, as usual. He made a connection between the failure of scholarly presses to get out in front of the need for more versatile methods of scholarly communication and the emergence of the library as the partner of choice for faculty who need more innovative publishing services. He noted that if libraries move into this arena, it's a pivotal decision, one that will change their path for the next 10 to 20 years. But what are they to do other than to move in to fill the void created by the absence of meaningful contributions to the new genres of scholarly communication?

He also made the point that the demands on the university to meet the needs in both sciences and humanties for data management would be a pivotal decision. If we move into that, it fundamentally affects the role of the research library.

So, he was envisioning different paths for different libraries, depending on what challenges they took up and what challenges they declined to take up. But in the end, he framed the question much more broadly: what roles does the research *university* see itself playing with respect to the creation, organization, access to and preservation of the scholarly record, for it's not just a library question, it's got to be dealt with across the entire community.

I would add, across the entire nonprofit and for profit field of participants in the enterprise of scholarly practice.

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