Monday, October 29, 2007

Rethinking Collections - Libraries and Librarians in an Open Age: A Theoretical View

Heather Morrison has published a thought-provoking article in the latest issue of First Monday.

Open access, one of the most important of the potentials unleashed by the combination of the electronic medium and the World Wide Web, is already much more substantial in extent that most of us realize. More than 10 percent of the world’s scholarly peer–reviewed journals are fully open access; this does not take into account the many journals offering hybrid open choice, free back access, or allowing authors to self–archive their works. Scientific Commons includes more than 16 million publications, nearly twice as much content as Science Direct. Meanwhile, even as we continue to focus on the scholarly peer–reviewed journal article, other potentials of the new technology are beginning to appear, such as open data and scholarly blogging. This paper examines the library collection of the near and medium future, suggests that libraries and librarians are in a key position to lead in the transition to an open age, and provides specific suggestions to aid in the transition.

Morrison's Conclusions:
The time is ripe to rethink collections. The universe of information has already changed significantly in the Internet age, with open access journals and archives already playing a key role in scholarly communication. More change is to be expected as we continue to explore the full potential of new media. The library collection of the future may include whole collections of digital documents, files, data, and links, with less emphasis on individual items.

Libraries can play a key role into the future. Change can begin with something as simple as revising the library’s vision statement. Libraries should support transition towards open access, employing suitable cautions, such as ensuring that market forces will be in play to moderate the average per–article costs, to ensure a cost–effective scholarly communications system, and ensuring that true open access is supported, not just free access. Libraries can play a vital role in supporting the publishing efforts of their faculty, for example by hosting and providing basic technical support for journals. It is not too soon to begin reorganizing for change. Current library staff have skills that will be needed in institutional repositories and the new world of collections; the best approach is to engage staff as soon as possible, to help them envision themselves in an open access future, so that they can help us all to figure out how to get there.

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