Anja Smit, University Librarian at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, opened her address by noting that although an ancient Roman citizen would not recognize libraries of today, some things have not changed. The mission of libraries has been to ensure perpetual access to knowledge, and the internet is the perfect vehicle for this. Some of the new elements of the internet replace library services, and it is important for library administrators to critically review their services and see how they are meeting their users’ needs.
The road to access goes through Google and Google Scholar. Here are the results of a recent study of tools that scholars use to find information; Google Scholar heads the list by a wide margin.
The strategy at Utrecht is to focus less on discovery and more on providing access to resources. Users still need libraries to get access. What if open access (OA) becomes the publication model of the future? What if Google does digitize all the world’s books? We need to organize materials; otherwise users will do it themselves. License negotiations now include the demand for OA. Content should be preserved for future access and use; older material is still being used. Here are some of the issues we are facing today:
French repositories include access. What scale do we need to be able to organize like that? We need a few redundant hubs; how do we get them? Developing local initiatives must be built using standards. The initiative must come from us. OA has shown us that we are able to put things on the agendas of other stakeholders; it is now on the agenda of governments, politicians, etc. We should focus on our own agenda and what adds value to society and where we can provide the added value:
Collaboration is key; we cannot do this by ourselves. We have an important consultancy role to play; one possibility is helping researchers organize their data. Just pointing people to a local catalog does not help; an advising role provides a gateway to knowledge.
Don Hawkins blogs about conferences for Information Today and Against The Grain. He also maintains the Conference Calendar on the Information Today website and is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, published by Information Today in 2013, and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits, published by Information Today in 2016. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked in the information industry for over 45 years.