Friday, August 28, 2009


In a 2006 edition of OCLC's Next Space Newsletter, Where will the next generation Web take libraries? Rick Anderson, Director of Resource Acquisition for the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries described "icebergs" that libraries need to avoid if we're to remain relevant and, in fact, survive. I agree whole-heartedly with all of his points. First, it doesn't make sense to acquire and hang on to what he calls "just in case" collections, or those materials that have limited, specialized appeal because someone might need them someday. Second, instead of relying on teaching students and customers how to use our systems, we need more intuitive systems. Third, we can't depend on customers to "come to us". We have to meet their information needs where they need them to be met.

Public libraries have been moving in this direction for some time, so it's intersting to see a leader in a large academic library advocating this philosophy and service model. One thing that's missing from the conversation, though, is the discussion of the role of vendors including database vendors, library managament systems, etc. We in libraryland see the proliferation of all manner of creative ways to use, distribute and contribute content through tools like Facebook, Twitter, etc., yet our database vendors and library management system providers maintain clunky products that aren't intuitive and are often difficult to use. Our product, the information that we provide, comes to us and our customers through our agreements and subscriptions with our vendors, and unless they start thinking the same way that libraries and customers do about getting information easily and seamlessly when and where they want it, our pace of innovation is going to be limited.

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