Karen Calhoun on librarianship in the 21st century

Resource Shelf recently posted a podcast from Karen Calhoun.

The JISC website summarizes the interview:
“The not-for-profit Online Computer Library Center (OCLC1) is the principal sponsor of JISC’s 2009 annual conference in Edinburgh. In this podcast interview OCLC’s Vice President Karen Calhoun talks to Robert Haymon-Collins, JISC’s Director of Communications and Marketing, to discuss what her organisation does in the field of providing digital content for learning and research, and how improved access to this well-catalogued knowledge can help improve the student experience – a key theme of this year’s JISC conference. Calhoun also clarifies OCLC’s recent proposed policy changes concerning the use of OCLC records, an issue that has generated lively debate within the library and information communities both in the UK and further afield.”

The interview focused on 2 key issues: how libraries can adapt to emerging research and learning styles, and, OCLC’s policy for the use and transfer of records.

The latter issue, OCLC’s proposed policy, caused quite a stir in the world of librarianship. So much so that OCLC has retracted the policy and created a new review board to work on the Principles of Shared Data and Stewardship, in order to look into just how to share data, records, and services.

In regards to the first issue, Karen explained that research and studying is changing. I think this is a phenomenon that we have witnessed in many libraries. More students study in groups. They use the web; Google is now a verb. Students and researchers expect resources at the click of a mouse from anywhere they might find themselves. Patrons just don’t want one type of information resource but a variety in a variety of formats and carriers. In response to these changes, Karen brought up some fundamental ways in which libraries can adapt to the changes:

  • Become more proactive and more engaged with researchers, faculty, and students
  • Promote new forms of scholarly dissemination like more networked institutional repositories
  • Adopt new technologies and interfaces that promote a more interactive research model
  • Vary collection development techniques from one model to include a model that consists of a variety of new information objects

Karen continued to speak about cloud computing. It is not just about sharing more data in a way that is based on networking. It is also about linking that data. The data needs to be shared in such a way as to promote the discovery of information and hence knowledge.

In terms of linked data, Karen mentioned that it is not the data that is important. The value is to be found in the “exchange and linking of data”. This echoes Tim Berners-Lee recent talks on linked data and its role in the next step of the web.

I would like to add that it is not just about linking data in the digital world. We also have to link people to this data. This is where libraries can also excel. Libraries can enhance their role of mediator between data (both analog and digital) and the networks to be found. Karen touched on this in terms of promoting new forms of scholarly output. What needs to be added is the element of customer service and services that help the customer reach those forms in an understandable way.


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