Friday, March 16, 2012

Overwhelmed ...

This is the 4th week of the visit to North American Research Libraries, and the end of the first week at the University of Waterloo Library in Canada.   And the first opportunity that I have had to reflect on the rather hectic and jam-packed first three weeks.       I will put up some retrospective blog postings in due course, but thought it might be useful to post the report (with some additional commentary)  that I sent through last week.  (I know that another report is due this week,  and that will be my task a little later on today.)

Below covers the first couple of weeks of the programme with the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs:- 

I’m not going to go into any great detail about the specifics of what was covered in the sessions, but  rather to give my general impressions and takeaways.    Certainly I have come away with a good understanding of how librarians interact with researchers and what it takes to provide real research support -   in some cases, we, in South Africa, are doing what these librarians are doing, and some of the issues and challenges are the same.       But at the same time, I’ve been left with some -aha moments as well as questions about  South African academic libraries.

What stands out for me are issues around:-
  •  the repurposing of space for research/scholarship support whether this is bringing together of smaller branch libraries (as in the newly formed International Area Studies Library at the University of Illinois in U-C)  to promote interdisciplinary research or removal of lesser used material to storage freeing up floor space for people.  
  •  Support for scholarly work including the space (physical and virtual) and programmes including digital  scholarship, providing advanced research services and the marketing of these services
  • Data  -  especially the curation and management of data and assisting with setting up of data management plans  (especially with the National Science Foundation funding requiring a data management plan in the grant proposal).      (I'm going to blog a bit more about this in a separate posting.)
I was very excited about the library we visited at Upshot Marketing Agency’s special library service,  The Source.    This is not your typical  or traditional library, nor , I think, the usual corporate library.   The library’s mission is to empower Upshot with consumer and marketplace intelligence designed to spark new ideas for strategic and creative development.    The line of business they are in, is very volatile and it was a case of becoming indispensible in the face of this volatility -   something that I think can be applied to research support that academic libraries support.    Key words here are market intelligence,  research for concept support,  competitive intelligence,  innovation.   The library is also involved in fostering a learning organization, to share what needs to be done to stay ahead of the game  - to give their teams the edge over other marketing agencies.   

We saw several examples of remote storage models -  Oak Street (at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign) and University of Chicago with the automated remote storage retrieval.     This allowed for repurposing of space.    But not only this,  the speed of fulfilling these requests was amazing....   5 - 15 minutes at the University of Chicago. 

The other topic that came up in the various sessions in the different libraries was some form of  patron driven acquisitions where some of the book budget has been set aside for this.  

 We also visited Center for Research  Libraries which started out as consortial off-campus storage for 10 large mid-west academic libraries and now has 265 member institutions.  Perhaps at some stage, we need to reconvene the old  conversation about a consortial off-campus storage.   (This is probably going to be raised a group concern or recommendation.)     Something that perhaps can be considered or raised with SANLic is the possibility of South African academic libraries subscribing to the digital collections of CRL -   as with other libraries in Australia and Hong Kong.