Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Publishers and Librarians in Dialogue, Part I: Notes from a European Advisory Board

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Publishers and Librarians in Dialogue, Part I: Notes from a European Advisory Board

Article excerpt

[LIBRARIANSHIP AND PUBLISHING] HAVE EACH INTEGRATED A SPIRIT OF CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT AND RISK TAKING, AND THEY ARE MAKING BIG BETS ON THE COURSE OF THE DIGITAL FUTURE--A Future THAT COULD BE MARKED BY COLLABORATION, COMPETITION, OR A HEALTHY MIX OF BOTH.

During the summer of 2012, I received an offer that I could not refuse: to serve on the North American advisory board of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. The board's first meeting is still to come as of this writing, and I'm looking forward to sharing my insights afterward. Meanwhile, Wiley's European customer advisory board met in July 2012, and the meeting notes were circulated to our newly formed North American board. I found the European meeting write-up to be so intriguing that I asked Emily Gillingham, director of library relations at Wiley, if I could comment on the notes in my column in CIL. She was delighted and urged me to do so.

This column is first in a two-part series. In Part 1, I am reporting on the comments and takeaways that Wiley summarized after its European advisory board met; next time, I will report on the North American meeting.

Collection Access Beyond the OPAC

The 2012-2014 European advisory board includes a healthy cross section of academic, government, and corporate librarians; if their meeting notes are any guide, they are a forward-looking group. One of the challenging, yet promising, ideas that they vetted was the integration of various search tools, to improve access to the open web. The goal is a seamless user experience, blending the OPAC with open web search. The marketplace is moving in this direction already, but it is still necessary to conduct research sequentially, going back and forth between library information utilities and the open web. Could this overall experience become smoother? This is an important question for both publishers and librarians; both groups have complimentary strategic knowledge about the search experience. Publishers could work to improve discoverability in every digital arena, and librarians might continue the process of reframing the scope of the collection beyond in-house management, throwing a net around more content with metasearch and metadata. This dialogue suggests a wide terrain where publishers and librarians can collaborate for mutual advantage.

Spaces and Services

The meeting notes gave an interesting profile on how the European librarians view the space they manage and the physical artifacts that populate it. The majority of the European librarians were enthusiastic about moving to an all-digital model. Users who are slow to adapt could be helped in the transition to an all-digital service model, but the emphasis should be on fast action. Corporate librarians said they had already given away their print collections of backfiles.

This gung-ho sentiment has a familiar feel, grounded as it is in the will to embrace new technology and put it to work. For my part, I believe that we still live in a hybrid world, where print has a place. But the space our print collections occupies is precious, and the need for study, instruction, and interaction is greater than ever. Indeed, the academic advisory board members reported on a boom in student use: Library space on European campuses is in high demand, just as it is in corporate firms.

Does this strong preference for an all-digital library spell a new trend or a defining moment in professional practice? Perhaps. But we cannot forget our slow adopters. Likewise, do new and innovative uses of existing space strengthen the library's role? Here my answer is yes: Online instruction, virtual teaching roles, and the need for social space will put library space to work in ways people want to use it right now, and this will advance our status as a side benefit.

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