CLIR Issues

Number 43 • January/February 2005


The Value of Library as Place by Kathlin Smith Scholars’ Panel Explores Digital Scholarship Needs by David Seaman Applications for Postdoctoral Fellowship in Scholarly Information Resources Due February 8 ANNOUNCEMENTS
  • CLIR Receives $750,000 Mellon Grant
  • Save the Date: April 18 Sponsors’ Symposium
  • CLIR and DLF Launch New Web Sites
CLIR Named to U.S. Commission to UNESCO

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 out. 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 further work. 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, and medicine. 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 related metadata
  • searching images
  • visualizing patterns and trends and search results
  • annotating text, image, and multimedia files
  • writing the new scholarship—authoring tools for the digital scholar
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 features.

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]

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 Applications must be postmarked by February 8, 2005.   postdoc fellows photo 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 and, 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