Do We Need Libraries?
CLARITY - Open eGovernment Services
04Jul
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Do We Need Libraries?

by ivonne   |   04 Jul, 2017

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When we are discussing open eGovernment services, we should also consider not only “government” related services but openness of other services, too. We work towards drivers and changes on open eGovernment services with the CLARITY project. Considering our work in this project, I started pondering the following questions: what should governments do when they take decisions for libraries? What will happen to libraries in digital era? Who needs librarians? Who needs libraries? Is it merely “nostalgia” now that when we have almost everything in digital form? Libraries are funded by our tax money, do we really need libraries anymore? Maybe we just digitize and automate everything and save the state the cost of having librarians and convert libraries to restaurants, pubs, office spaces?

These suggestions sound “intimidating” and “radical” but I do not agree with these ideas. Especially after being part of two conferences that were organized by librarians. In the last one, I was in Karlstad to join a panel discussion on Open Science and Open Access. It was organized by Swedish National Library (Its actual Swedish translation is Royal Library) and Karlstad University. I had opportunity to listen APC research and activities of librarians. In addition to Nordic Librarians, we had two international guests:

  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Associate Executive Director & Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association, New York, USA. She is co-founder of the digital scholarly network MediaCommons and presented new ways of publishing
  • Vincent Bonnet, Director vid the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA), Haag, Holland. Vincent presented how libraries and librarians are changing.

In the panel that I took part in, the moderator was Jakob Harnesk, Library Director of Karlstad University, and Nadja Neumann, Fil.dr, Karlstads University and Erika Sandlund, Docent-Karlstads University, were other discussants. (Erika Sandlund sent her notes/answers via email due to a health issue but her photo was projected on the screen during the session). Jakob Harnesk prepared very hard questions to us but I guess we managed to answer and discuss questions raised. I found it very fruitful panel and I focused on challenges that we have as researchers and what may happen in the future and how important role librarians can have.

Let me go back to the initial questions that I posed: What will be future of libraries and librarians?

  • I think, Librarians are becoming change makers in knowledge dissemination but they can and they should be more part of our future knowledge creation process. Libraries will be Open Knowledge Centers (OKC) and Librarians will be Knowledge Agents.
  • Librarians can follow publications and research projects from their own university and then connect dots between researchers to apply funding in collaborative projects.  If I need a partner from another domain, librarians can be first people to get in touch. 
  • They can train and educate students how to conduct research and use new tools, at least the ones used for citations (e.g., Zotero, Mendeley)
  • Librarians could create and run Open Access Journals. Who has better access to university researchers than them? If they need a reviewer, then can ask another librarian at another university to help them to find. If it is to have peer & blind reviewed high-quality articles, why can´t librarians not facilitate it? 
  • They can work like a software development team where they listen, understand researchers and students needs and come up with solutions.

These are some initial thoughts but I think libraries should adopt to new circumstances. Either they adopt or they will be redundant. At least the librarians that I met at these two conferences proved that they are not only changing, they are drivers of change at their universities. Governments should facilitate this change to serve society better.

Open Access Meeting- Researcher Panel via https://twitter.com/infoHedge

 

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