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ER&L From a “Cross-Pollinator’s” Perspective

By Cindy Boeke

The Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) Conference, held March 17-20, 2013, in Austin, covered a wide range of topics pertinent to electronic resources librarianship, including information usage habits of faculty and students, e-book adoption and technology, open access issues and potential, digital repository adoption, search overlay software for library catalogs, and more.

As a recipient of the DLF/CLIR + ER&L Cross-Pollinator Travel Award, I learned a great deal about trends in electronic resources librarianship. I found the focus on communities and collaboration invigorating and have brought home many of these concepts to apply to our work at the Norwick Center for Digital Services at Southern Methodist University’s Central University Libraries, where we are digitizing tens of thousands of cultural heritage objects and making them freely available on the Internet on the CUL Digital Collections website.

At my lightning round, I discussed the many digital collections being developed at academic libraries and how they are, in fact, an electronic resource. However, they are not typically listed in libraries’ A-Z list of databases. To list all digital collections on every library’s A-Z list would be untenable. What is needed is a portal or electronic union list of all digital collections, which could then be included in the A-Z list. Since digital collections contain libraries’ cultural heritage items presented as primary resources freely on the Internet, we as a group should promote their use. Right now, the most robust effort in this area is the Digital Public Library of America.

Here are some key pieces of information and concepts that I took back from the conference:

According to Michael Eisenberg, founding dean of the Information School at the University of Washington, who conducted a range of information use studies among students, information needs have changed from an era of scarcity to a world of abundance to one of overload. As a result, information seekers do not want librarians to give them more information choices, but they do need better help in research strategies. His studies also document that students continue to place a high value on the library as a place to study and escape from distractions; however, they do not necessarily go there to use library resources. He recommended considering the Apple Store, which provides a variety of innovative, customer-driven services, as a model for libraries.

Dan Tonkery, president and CEO of Content Strategies, who has a background in both libraries and publishing, gave tips for both sectors. Librarians should understand that everything is negotiable. They need to take emotion out of the acquisitions process and understand that publishing is a business. They should take back their purchasing power and not give it away to consortia, which often do not get the best deals. They should not be afraid to modify contracts. They should not pay full price if products are missing. If they are blocked by a sales rep, they should learn to go to the next level and not to take no for an answer. Libraries should put up contact lists on their web sites that describe who is responsible for each product, so publishers know whom to contact.

In the closing address, Rachel Frick, director of the Digital Library Federation Program at CLIR, called on each one of us to contribute to the future of our profession, adding that it is an exciting time to be a librarian. As we move from a group-based society to one of networked individualism, we have the opportunity to participate in many different communities and have a broader range of influence. Local collections bring the unique contributions of libraries to the information network. Our mission of librarianship is greater than our jobs, and we need deep engagement with our communities as we enter the “golden age of new librarianship.”

Cindy Boeke is digital collections developer at Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University.

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