No mean task, finding a voice for a group such as is gathered in Woodinville, Washington for strategizing about the role of global research libraries in the early 21st century (GRL-2020). As a group, we listened to 'framing discussions' the first day, and on this second day found considerable (but helpful) distraction in the prospect of the NSF's DataNet call described in my previous post.
Break-out groups addressed issues that emerged from discussions and from risk-impediment-opportunity cards we filled out the day before. A variety of action items emerged from these groups. My extemporaneous summaries fail to do full justice, but it ain't called blogging fer nuttin'. Here goes:
GRL 2020: A call to action
Several of the breakout groups identified a need for advocacy that might start with a white paper (manifesto?) articulating the need and changing roles for the global research library in the support of global information problems.
The phrase I liked the most in these discussions is advocacy for the digital civilization of the future (Peter Young). Many global problems require support for the research enterprise that transcends political boundaries, and demands new infrastructure and cooperative frameworks. These aren't palliative abstractions, but rather important elements for addressing the clear and present dangers of global climate change, world-wide health threats, and daunting economic problems.
Are there principles common to a trans-national research library community? Some candidates:
- Innovation and knowledge creation rely on sustained availability of information (information drives discovery)
- The creation of public value is central to the mission of GRLs
- Selection, sharing, and sustainability are longstanding components of library missions, and remain so, even as they grow more difficult to achieve world-wide.
- Long-term custody of content is critical: persistence of identification and access.
Overlapping infrastructures are necessary to support the global research community, and they have a common core, which will benefit from collaboration. To the extent that common, interoperable components of such infrastructure can be agreed upon and shared, costs of various dimensions of the enterprise can be reduced.
Infrastructure is used here to include people with appropriate skill sets, systems, standards and protocol suites, and even policy frameworks. They need to be intentional and inclusive. That is, the choices we make play out differently in disparate economic and cultural environments, and while no set of choices will suit all circumstances, the long term goals of the global community will benefit from better understanding of the complexities of the trade offs.
Harness the wisdom of the crowds: Break down barriers -- cultural, national, economic, institutional, and language -- through systems that support the emergence of a broad spectrum of expertise and perspective about our common problems. Work with, not just for constituents.
New interdisciplinary perspectives for the information profession(s): There is wide recognition in the group that reformation of professional training is a key to renovating global librarianship in the future. The new librarianship will:
- draw on skills from archives, library science, information technology, and computer science
- encourage a new mentality and approach in the allied information professions
- recognize that grassroots local/regional/national advocacy are necessary precursors to raising awareness and bringing concerted action to bear on the international level.
Actions to support such changes might include:
- forums to support best practices
- opportunities for international fellowships and exchange
- encouraging new, interdisciplinary professional activities
- Promotion of cross-sector collaboration
Leadership development: look for opportunities to support the development of leadership in the global research library community. Sharpen existing leadership. Nurture future leaders.
Identify Proof of Concept projects that use existing suites of standards and middleware to provide the basis for improved global interoperability. Look
for public-interest informational problems and address them in light of GRL perspectives.
Funding challenges: Problems are global, funding is local. Persuade national politicians of the necessity for global action, and establish international funding
IPR issues lurk behind every library shelf and on every machine-room disc drive. Recognize aspirations for open access as well as the exigencies of a commercial publishing world. We'll live in a mix of fee and free scholarly communication and data management for the foreseeable future.
Reform tenure and scholarly reward systems: The metrics for reward and recognition can reinforce or distort the mission. Harry Bruce volunteered to fix this (good luck, Harry!)
Honest Brokers: Promote adoption of GRL principles and actions by stakeholders who have transparent interests in the domain of the GRL-- organizations, institutions, funding agencies, protocol and standards activities, and research communities.
I trust my fellow conferees will forgive the distortions and omissions of this summary. Future issue from this estimable collection of thoughtful people will provide a more coherent picture.
What's next? Perhaps the best indicator of success in our two days of effort was the eagerness of many among us to contemplate a follow-on meeting. Arun made the point that our too-safe, too-comfortable deliberations just can't be taken very seriously in the third world. Next time? A riskier venue, with riskier ideas.
Many thanks are due Tony Hey's group at Microsoft and Betsy Wilson and her staff at UW libraries for bringing us together, and making us comfortable and welcome. Lee Dirks, Linda Ambre, and Ann Ferguson are due particular homage. It was a pleasure and honor to participate!
The group photo. I swore no more wedding pictures, but here it is. There is at least one eyeball and half-a-head for each participant (apologies to Barbara, Bob, Mackenzie, Arun, and Peter for not doing better).