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Discussion and Recommendations to CLIR

The foregoing presentations stimulated discussion that ranged from how colleges are incorporating technology most effectively to related issues of what is needed to develop new modes of scholarly communication, to protect intellectual property, and to assess the value of the residential college experience. Developments in information technology are already pushing institutions to think creatively about these issues. In that context, participants made the following observations about the role of the library:

  • The scholarly communication structure itself must change before many other changes can take place. Faculty and the scholarly societies must be instrumental in changing that structure. Librarians are making modest efforts to change the relationship between libraries and publishers, but much more needs to be done to engage faculty and their professional associations in consideration of necessary changes in scholarly communication.
  • Technology gives librarians the means to become partners in the educational process, and this is a powerful new role for college libraries. One librarian described the ability to use videoconferencing to bring an author into the classroom to discuss his or her work. Making this discussion happen involves the faculty member giving the course and the librarian who knows how to use the technology.
  • Not every problem is solved by technology. As librarians begin to collaborate more effectively with the teaching faculty, they will quickly realize that each of the disciplines has different information needs. Librarians and information technologists need to have systems in place that serve these diverse needs. They must not insist that “one size fits all.”
  • The special role of the residential college must be examined. One participant reminded the group that transformation does not necessarily mean converting all information resources to electronic form. Residential colleges frequently advertise themselves as a community of learners. But in the Web environment, there is a world community. So it becomes necessary for the college to think carefully about its institutional mission and then decide how technology can help it fulfill that mission. Perhaps it is the strength of the residential college experience that is transformative. New ways must be found to assess learning in the context of the college. There are ways of learning without coming to a special place. This raises the question, why will someone want to come to a campus? Perhaps one reason is that knowledge is more difficult to gain than information. Knowledge involves developing a framework of meaning-perhaps done best in a physical learning community. Technology has brought this issue to the fore, but technology is not a solution. It only forces us to ask the right questions.

Recommendations to CLIR

Participants were asked to consider what steps CLIR should take to support the library and its staff in planning and carrying out effective change.

  • CLIR should work to clarify the image of what a library is and what librarians are: managers of information and intellectual inquiry. The profession is changing more than the awareness of the profession is changing. It is in danger of no longer attracting bibliophiles. At the same time, many of the younger recruits to the profession come with extensive technical background, but little understanding of how future-oriented the profession is. There is a need to define the profession’s role for the future. Mature professionals might be selected to link up with library schools to nurture next-generation librarians. CLIR might help develop a practical guide for universities on how to recruit a university librarian.
  • CLIR should convene a group of presidents, provosts, and librarians to discuss technology and change as it has been discussed in this meeting, possibly in collaboration with the American Council on Education.
  • CLIR should convene groups of faculty members by discipline on a regional basis to discuss how they are using technology in the classroom. That would begin to build a base of knowledge across regions and break down some of the isolation.
  • CLIR should devise strategies for faculty to collaborate with librarians and information technology professionals. It might be most useful to work with consortia or selected groups of colleges.
  • CLIR could develop standards for assessment of college library services and programs. It could help identify what could best be done nationally and what locally, sorting out the proper domain for different issues.
  • CLIR should issue publications with messages aimed specifically at provosts and presidents. Many CLIR publications are good for librarians, but are not read by top administrators.
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