Number 43 • January/February 2005
The Value of Library as Place by
Scholars’ Panel Explores Digital Scholarship
Needs by David Seaman
- CLIR Receives $750,000 Mellon Grant
- Save the Date: April 18 Sponsors’ Symposium
- CLIR and DLF Launch New Web Sites
The Value of Library as Place
by Kathlin Smith
GOOGLE’S RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT that it will collaborate with
several major research libraries to digitize portions of their
collections has brought the promise of desktop access to large
research collections closer to reality. At the same time, it
rekindled discussion of a question that emerged as soon as
the potential of the Web became apparent: Do people still need
the physical library? Most people agree that we will continue
to require physical repositories of books and scholarly materials.
Yet the wealth of high-quality information that can be accessed
now, and the promise of more to come, challenges the library’s
traditional reason for being: to serve as a repository of information
and to make that information available to users.
What is the role of a library when users can obtain information
from any location? And what does this role change mean for
the creation and design of library space?
In 2003 and 2004, CLIR commissioned six experts to explore
these questions in a series of essays. An architect, four librarians,
and a professor of art history and classics contributed to
the volume, which CLIR will publish in early spring. The authors
challenge us to think about new potential for the place we
call the library. Changes in approaches to teaching and learning,
combined with the possibilities offered by technology, present
rich new opportunities for libraries to serve their users and
to support the missions of their parent institutions. The essays,
far from portraying a diminished role for the physical library,
underscore the growing importance of the library as place for
teaching, learning, and research in the digital age. But if
the library is to be able to seize these opportunities, thoughtful
design is essential, as the authors of this book clearly point
Architect Geoffrey Freeman opens the volume by considering
how our view of libraries is changing and how these changes
affect spatial design. Freeman is a principal at Boston-based
Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott. “Ten or fifteen years
ago, we were taking all the teaching facilities out of libraries,”
he writes. “Today, these spaces are back . . . and in a more
dynamic way than ever.” These spaces respond to new information
and learning technologies, to new pedagogies, and to the demands
of interdisciplinary work. Increasingly, the library is seen
as an extension of the classroom, offering the tools and space
needed to support collaborative learning.
Space planning itself has changed. Once driven by formulas
that were based on number of volumes housed or of technical
functions supported, such planning today relies far more on
anticipated user patterns and, ideally, considers how the space
contributes to the educational mission of the institution.
The goal is to enable the library to “function foremost as
an integral and interdependent part of the institution’s total
educational experience,” Freeman writes. To achieve this goal,
planning must involve administrators, trustees, students, and
faculty, as well as library directors and staff.
But planning for the future in a rapidly changing information
environment is not easy. The right balance must be struck between
present demands and unidentified future needs. Freeman underscores
the need for designing flexible spaces that can be reconfigured
and provides examples of how, as an architect, he has responded
to this need in libraries with very different missions.
Institutional mission is a dominant theme of an essay by Scott
Bennett, Yale University librarian emeritus. He poses a fundamental
question: What do we know about how students learn, and how
can we bring this knowledge to bear on library design? Bennett
contends that academic library planning is typically guided
by operational needs, rather than by a systematic knowledge
of how students learn. This approach must be significantly
modified, he argues, if libraries are to support the learning
missions of the colleges and universities that sponsor them.
Designing space that supports learning begins with asking
the right questions. Bennett draws on a recent example of library
space planning at Sewanee: The University of the South to illustrate
what he considers to be the right questions and to describe
how the answers to these questions can inform design.
Geoffrey Freeman writes of the library as a “laboratory for
the humanist and social scientist.” In the third essay of the
volume, Sam Demas and Bernard Frischer provide examples of
how two institutions are exploring this role—Demas from the
perspective of librarian at Carleton College, and Frischer
from the perspective of a professor of history and director
of the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology
in the Humanities. Both authors emphasize the importance of
space that supports social interaction and collaboration and
of an environment that stimulates cross-disciplinary inquiry.
Demas uses the ancient Library of Alexandria as a frame of
reference for the modern library. Decrying the specialized
focus of many academic libraries, he turns to the ideal of
the Mouseion—a “temple of the muses”—that was, “in name and
in fact, a research center, a museum, and a venue for celebrating
the arts, inquiry, and scholarship.” Libraries such as this
provide not only information resources but special collections,
art exhibits, and performances; they also support scholarship
and encourage engagement with it. Demas describes the range
of activities that have taken root in Carleton’s Gould Library
as it continues its experiment with place making. He explores
several library roles—both traditional and nontraditional—that
Gould has accommodated in its space design and makes a case
for museum and library cooperation.
Frischer writes from his current perspective at the University
of Virginia and his previous experience at the University of
California at Los Angeles, where he developed groundbreaking
three-dimensional models for the study of classical Rome. He
paints a fascinating picture of how technology can enable scholarship
that was not previously possible—for the humanities as well
as for the natural and social sciences. He argues for placing
such technology in the intellectual center of the library.
With the growth of interdisciplinary approaches to education,
no place is better suited to provide the needed support for
research, teaching, and study, in his opinion. Convinced that
the library needs to be made the place for the production of
knowledge, not simply for its distribution and consumption,
Frischer expands his wish list to include many suggestions
about what would make research libraries more valuable to scholars.
Kate Oliver of the Welch Memorial Medical Library at Johns
Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Christina Peterson
of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose, California,
write about two institutions that exist at the nexus of academic,
research, and public library functions and that place a strong
focus on teaching. Both libraries offer interesting examples
of how traditional library boundaries are blurred: The Welch
transcends physical space to serve both researchers and the
public, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Library blurs the formerly
distinct spaces of public and academic libraries.
While serving serious research and teaching purposes, both
libraries provide important services to the public. Oliver,
associate library director at Welch, describes how the library
developed Web-based audio and visual materials on disease prevention
and treatment for use in a women’s clinic where many of the
patients are illiterate. Welch librarians have also partnered
with primary caregivers to provide information tailored to
specific patient needs. Academic Services Department Librarian
Peterson describes how the Martin Luther King Library draws
on the traditions of public library service to offer a broad
range of information and reference services, as well as information
literacy training, to students and the public at large. The
library sees itself as a resource for lifelong learning—a role
of increasing importance to academic libraries as they are
called on to provide service to the broader community.
Peterson’s and Oliver’s essays highlight vastly different,
and intriguing, approaches to library design that support their
institutions’ missions. Peterson writes about the needs, common
and distinct, that run across communities of public and academic
library users, and about how these needs are reflected in spaces
that suit all users. Oliver notes that at Welch, the idea of
“the library as base,” extends our notion of the “library as
place” and illustrates how librarians are serving vital new
roles. Examples include “touchdown suites”—spaces close to
users that encourage interaction with librarians—and liaison
services, in which librarians serve as information resources
on clinical, research, and teaching teams, bringing the library’s
resources directly to the users. Welch will take its liaison
services a step further later this year, when it begins training
a new type of information professional—the “informationist”—who
will have specific content knowledge and will serve on the
aforementioned liaison teams.
The volume of essays is written for librarians and others
involved in library planning as well as for provosts, presidents,
and business officers who invest in libraries. It does not
aim to be a catalog of all the innovation we are seeing in
libraries nationwide; rather, it provides an array of perspectives
on the evolving and potential roles of the library and how
these visions are being manifested in spatial design.
Scholars’ Panel Explores Digital Scholarship Needs
by David Seaman
COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY librarians have a long tradition of
listening to faculty and students and of adjusting their services
and collections according to their needs. Nowhere is listening
more important than during discussions of digital library endeavors.
To better understand emerging needs in digital scholarship,
the Digital Library Federation (DLF) last summer convened a
panel of humanists and social scientists who are building digital
archives, online editions, and electronic scholarship to further
their academic and teaching interests and who are working with
their library colleagues and digital collections in innovative
ways. Over two days, the scholars identified their concerns
and discussed how libraries could partner with them to serve
their digital-scholarship needs.
Barriers to Digital Scholarship
A basic problem for scholars who use digital resources is
the lack of persistent identifiers—permanent and trusted Internet
addresses—for online objects. How can you invest in rich, hyperlinked
scholarly writing or scholar-driven archives if the material
keeps moving to a new Web address, or disappearing altogether?
It is time-consuming to monitor and fix broken links. If the
process is too labor-intensive, it becomes a disincentive to
Scholars are looking to libraries and publishers to solve
this problem, and to solve it quickly. Crossref and the Crossref/Google
article search service are good examples of persistent identification
in the scholarly journals industry. These tools have grown
up around the digital object identifier, a persistent identifier
that is commonly used for journals in science, technology,
Another barrier to digital scholarship is the failure of faculty
promotion and rewards structures to accommodate the shift from
a print-based to a digital world of scholarly publishing and
communications. “It is no accident that most humanists and
social scientists working with digital media are post-tenure,”
one participant observed, “and I suspect that even then, they
are not all immune from the career-depressing effects of being
seen to be ‘too digital’ or ‘only digital.'”
Need for Tools
Urgently needed are tools that have been customized for the
following scholarly activities:
- gathering information from multiple sources, along with
- searching images
- visualizing patterns and trends and search results
- annotating text, image, and multimedia files
- writing the new scholarship—authoring tools for the digital
Many scholars find it difficult to articulate precisely what
they require from such tools. They also find it hard to define
what level of software-creation skills or consultancy they
would like to have available to them, and where. It is easier
to critique an existing tool than to create a new one. At last
summer’s meeting, a variety of software packages that allow
scholars to gather, search, annotate, and repackage digital
objects from library collections was demonstrated. The packages
included New Zealand’s impressive Greenstone (referred to in
this context as a personal library organizer), the suite of
tools from University of California at Berkeley’s Scholar’s
Box initiative, and Michigan State University’s MediaMatrix
annotation software that is aimed at various streaming media.
A first-order need for this group was simply to know how to
discover that such products exist and to learn about their
Services: Repositories and Harvestable Metadata
Many universities are seeking to build systems to safeguard
and reuse the full range of scholarly and pedagogical output.
While scholars at the DLF meeting favored the idea of having
a long-term safe haven for their digital content (especially
if it was curated by the library), they voiced concern about
ownership rights to their work, how permissions would be managed,
and what it would take to prepare material for a repository.
They reemphasized that there was no link between the reuse
of a scholarly asset and current faculty rewards systems.
The scholars’ reaction to sharable and harvestable metadata
was far more positive. The creation of simple metadata records
that can be harvested, such as those promoted by the Open Archives
Initiative, is a first step toward building services that include
records from many sites and arrange them in one service or
portal. The scholars were interested in this mechanism as a
way to help make their own work more visible and to gather
references to related material.
Digital Library Collections
Scholars want to be able to capture and reuse collections
of digital objects in their own local contexts. It is not always
enough to link to a resource in someone else’s system, even
if the link is persistent; in many instances, a local copy
is needed. For example, one may wish to use a desktop tool
such as a data visualizer, or to search a body of material
all at once—a task that is impossible when the books are in
different systems with different search tools. It is difficult
to get permission from data holders to satisfy this common
need. The institutions that digitize and host material rarely
have developed policies, or rights expressions, to allow such
content to have a secondary life in an online project at another
institution. Without a mechanism to explicitly accommodate
the desire to bring digital objects into a local scholar’s
archive, scholars who wish to engage deeply and actively with
the material in digital library collections must resort to
a frustrating and time-consuming series of conversations, favors,
and personal pleas.
The use of a scholars’ panel to inform, qualify, challenge,
and validate the work of the DLF proved worthwhile and will
be repeated in the future. Libraries continue to uncover and
exploit the scholarly and pedagogical benefits of the digital
medium and to seek to better understand the technical, social,
and emotional factors that prevent their widespread adoption.
As we build the library services of tomorrow, intensive discussion
and demonstration sessions with scholars who are engaged with
the exploration and reuse of digital library content will be
an important tool.
[To access the full report and see a list of attendees, please
go to https://old.diglib.org/use/scholars0406/]
Applications for Postdoctoral Fellowship in Scholarly Information
Resources Due February 8
CLIR IS ACCEPTING applications for its Postdoctoral Fellowship
in Scholarly Information Resources Program. The purpose of
the fellowships is to develop a new kind of scholarly information
professional who can link the rapidly changing world of scholarship
with the similarly changing library. The program, which began
in 2004, is offered in conjunction with several academic research
institutions. Four fellowships will be awarded in 2005.
Eligible for participation in the fellowship program are individuals
who have recently completed, or will have completed by the
summer of 2005, a humanities Ph.D. and who believe that there
are opportunities to develop productive linkages among disciplinary
scholarship, libraries and archives, and evolving digital tools.
The fellowships will provide hands-on experience relating to
the challenges facing scholarship at research libraries. Fellows
will carry out their work at research libraries of the institutions
that are participating in the program. The fellowships will
pay a salary plus benefits.
In August, at the beginning of their fellowship year, participants
will convene at Bryn Mawr College for an introductory seminar.
The seminar will challenge fellows to think broadly about the
changes under way in research methodologies, the demands these
changes place on academic institutions such as libraries and
archives, the creation of new scholarly resources, and the
role that scholars pursuing innovative career paths in libraries
can play in shaping the future of scholarly resources management.
Details on the fellowship program, including information on
the collaborating institutions and the application process,
are available at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/postdoc/.
Applications must be postmarked by February 8, 2005.
Postdoctoral Fellows in Scholarly Information Resources
began their fellowship with a two-week seminar at Bryn
Mawr College last August. The first year’s cohort includes,
in front row, left to right: Megan Norcia, Daphnee Rentfrow,
and Rachel Shuttlesworth. Standing, left to right, are:
Ben Huang, Patricia Hswe, Amanda Watson, Christa Williford,
Dawn Schmitz, CLIR President Nancy Davenport, Amanda French,
and seminar leader Elliott Shore. Not pictured are Sigrid
Anderson Cordell and Allyson Polsky.
CLIR Receives $750,000 Mellon Grant
CLIR has received a $750,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation. The grant will be used in 2005 to support general
operations, program planning, and selected publications.
Save the Date: April 18 Sponsors’ Symposium
CLIR will hold its annual sponsors’ symposium April 18 in Washington,
D.C. Sponsors will soon receive information by e-mail on
the topic and agenda.
CLIR and DLF Launch New Web Sites
In December, CLIR and the DLF launched new Web sites, at www.clir.org
and www.diglib.org, respectively. We invite your comments
on the new design and navigation.
CLIR Named to U.S. Commission to UNESCO
IN NOVEMBER 2004, CLIR was named to the U.S. National Commission
for the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO). Fifty nongovernmental members and 38
federal, state and local, and at-large members currently make
up the commission, whose purpose is to advise the Department
of State on issues related to education, science, communications,
and culture and on the formulation and implementation of U.S.
policy toward UNESCO.
The U.S National Commission was reestablished in October 2004,
after having been disbanded in 1984, when the United States—a
founding member of UNESCO in 1946—withdrew from the organization.
Membership in the commission gives CLIR an opportunity to
represent, at both national and international levels, the perspective
of the library community on such issues as the UNESCO Convention
on Cultural Diversity. The convention is being developed pursuant
to the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which was
adopted by UNESCO’s member states in 2001. More on the convention,
its relevance to libraries, and its implications for the library
world will appear in a future edition of CLIR Issues.
More information on UNESCO and a list of U.S. National Commission
members can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/io/unesco/.