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The University of Minnesota Libraries has taken a new approach to its planning process this year to help deal with seemingly conflicting realities. On the one hand, everything said publicly by University administration indicates that the U’s financial future is Not Good. On the other, the Libraries has several projects in place that are innovative and many, many more on hold that would also be fabulous. These projects are in addition to the regular day-to-day work of a library. Something has to give somewhere, but the Libraries can’t just metaphorically throw its hands in the air and say “the heck with this, I’m out”.
So, the Libraries is hosting a speaker series with the goal of moving from lemons to lemonade. There have been two speakers so far – Lorcan Dempsey and Paul Courant. See https://wiki.lib.umn.edu/Staff/UniversityLibrariesSpeakerSeries for more information – future speakers will be Jim Neal and Clifford Lynch. While online access is limited during the talks, the future speakers will be recorded and the webcasts posted soon after for all to view. And, at the risk of sounding sycophantic, I believe our University Librarian’s – Wendy P. Lougee – opening remarks are also worth a listen on their own merits.
Lorcan Dempsey – “Discovery and Delivery”
Dempsey began by describing levels of rarity of library collections based on OCLC data with the suggestion that where libraries should focus their expenditures (presumably on preservation, simply having the space to hold, doing really good digitization, etc) is on the rare items. Non-rare items could reasonably be entrusted to network-level services like the Hathi Trust. He then presented a typology of library collection types sorted by rarity and current levels of stewardship. Government publications fell into high stewardship, but low rarity. Dempsey acknowledged that this was a broad characterization and that there might be rare items within a category like government publications or maps. Also, the University of Minnesota is a partner in the Hathi Trust and has sent some of its government publications collection in for digitizing, so the Libraries are already on the path he’s describing here. Caveats aside, I feel that he provides a well-reasoned and evidence-based rationale for shifting stewardship away from non-rare items and towards collections that are getting no real attention at all. This was only a tiny portion of his overall talk and I recommend going through the entire powerpoint or webcast to get the full presentation.
Presentation, Webcast, Related Readings: https://wiki.lib.umn.edu/Staff/UniversityLibrariesSpeakerSeries#dempsey
Paul Courant – “Scholarly Communications and Publishing”
Courant’s talk can be best described as a reflection on just what is it that we’d like to pay for. He framed part of the problem in terms of the Parable of the Anarchist’s Annual Meeting (see http://www.econ.ucsb.edu/~tedb/Journals/anarchists.pdf). In short: with coordination – either between libraries or between libraries and smaller publishers or both – we can take at least some control of the journal publishing arena. We already spend a fortune on a situation we don’t like. Surely the logical thing is to begin to spend some money on creating a situation more to our liking. This includes taking on more of a publishing role and allying ourselves with societies and small publishers (including university presses) who might be more interested in the benefits of open access that the big vendors. However, when I asked if he was advocating canceling contracts with big vendors, he answered (I’m paraphrasing) “Well, probably not. Well, not entirely. Might want to pass on those Big Deals they offer though.”
He also felt the library community should speak up loudly in favor of the recent RFI from the Office of Science and Technology Policy regarding increased access to the products of federally funded research. At the same time he reiterated that open access isn’t exclusively a library issue. In fact, he said it’s a faculty issue. Libraries need to keep pushing on the topic, but pushing faculty to understand that this is an arena they can control if the choose to do so.
Courant isn’t a librarian – he’s an economist by background and I found his application of an economics perspective refreshing. Again, like Dempsey’s talk, there was no magic “the Libraries should do this” moment because we are in a tough spot without easy resolution. But, also like Dempsey’s talk, he has a great way of expressing the issues facing libraries.
Presentation, Webcast, Related Readings: https://wiki.lib.umn.edu/Staff/UniversityLibrariesSpeakerSeries#courant
I don’t know if these speakers really will lead to concrete ideas for coping with our budget problems, but I sure am glad we’re having them – each one has been thought-provoking.
Resource Shelf has a great posting in honor of the 2009 Special Libraries Association Annual Conference coming up June 14-17 in Washington, DC: Resources of the Week: REALLY Special Libraries, By Shirl Kennedy.
These are not government information collections, per se, but some clearly are related and have government information.
Lately, friends and colleagues have been reminding me that many library directors don’t understand the value of having local copies of digital government information when “everything is on the web.” Really. That’s what some library directors say. This attitude has at least two big problems, one of which is highlighted by this feature on special libraries. The first problem is the one we at FGI write about a lot: the problem of relying on someone else to provide long-term access and preservation to something that your users value. This is the problem of giving up control because you no longer actually have a collection, just pointers.
The other problem is the one that this special libraries feature implies. That is the important role libraries can have (yes, even in the digital age!) of selecting, acquiring, and organizing information from disparate sources into a cohesive collection for a (not necessarily geographically-based) community. I recently read something a user wrote complaining about having to rely on “searching” to find everything. Search works when you know what you are looking for, but when you don’t know something exists, or its relationship something you do know exists, you can’t search for it. (To some extent this is the problem of undiscovered public knowledge. See Don R. Swanson, “Undiscovered Public Knowledge,” Library Quarterly 56, April 1986: 103-118.)
Libraries can build collections that are more usable than random searching of “everything” (that’s searchable and still available) by keyword.
One of the things I think documents librarians can do to market their resources is to try and match current events to their collections.
A case in point is the current outbreak of swine influenza. Did you know that there was an outbreak in the 1970s that threatened to explode into a pandemic? Emergency supplementals were made and vaccines were rushed out into the field — possibly too early, according to some reports.
United States. (1976). Emergency supplemental appropriation bill, 1976: Hearing before a subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, Ninety-fourth Congress, second session … swine influenza immunization program. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1976). Emergency supplemental appropriation bill, 1976 Swine influenza immunization program : hearings before a subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, Ninety-fourth Congress, second session, Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1976). National swine flu immunization program of 1976: Report to accompany S. 3735. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1984). Patty Jean Tipton and her husband, Ronald Tipton: Report (to accompany S. 1488). Washington, D.C.?: U.S. G.P.O.
United States. (1976). Preventive health services and employment programs emergency supplemental appropriations Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Swine Influenza Immunization Program, Department of Labor, Community Services Administration, Public Employment and Summer Youth Programs : hearing before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, United States Senate, Ninety-fourth Congress, second session, on H.J. Res. 890. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1976). Proposed national swine flu vaccination program: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, Ninety-fourth Congress, second session … March 31, 1976. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1976). Public Law 94-380: 94th Congress, S. 3735, August 12, 1976 : an act to amend the Public Health Service act to authorize the establishment and implementation of an emergency national swine flu immunization program and to provide an exclusive remedy for personal injury or death arising out of the manufacture, distribution, or administration of the swine flu vaccine under such program. Washington: For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1977). Review and evaluation of the swine flu immunization program Hearing before the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session … September 16, 1977. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1978). Review and evaluation of the swine flu immunization program: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session … September 16, 1977. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1976). Supplemental appropriation for production of swine influenza vaccine: Communication from the President of the United States … March 29, 1976. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1976). Supplemental appropriation for production of swine influenza vaccine: Message from the President of the United States … March 29, 1976. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1977). Suspension of the swine flu immunization program, 1976: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Labor and Public Health Welfare, United States Senate, Ninety-fourth Congress, second session … December 17, 1976. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1977). Suspension of the swine flu immunization program, 1976: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, United States Senate, Ninety-fourth Congress, second session … December 17, 1976. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1976). Swine flu immunization program, 1976 Hearing before the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, United States Senate, Ninety-fourth Congress, second session … April 1 and August 5, 1976. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1976). Swine flu immunization program: Supplemental hearings before the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment…Ninety-fourth Congress, second session…June 28, July 20, 23, and September 13, 1976. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1976). Swine flu immunization program: Supplemental hearings before the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, Ninety-fourth Congress, second session. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
United States. (1977). The swine flu program: An unprecedented venture in preventive medicine, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare : report to the Congress. Washington: U.S. General Accounting Office].
United States. (1976). Swine flu vaccine. FDA consumer memo. Rockville, Md: U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
For a hyperlinked version of this list, please see http://www.worldcat.org/profiles/dcornwall/lists/697063/.
As far as I could tell, none of these items are currently available on the internet. So now we’ve not only highlighted stuff in depositories by creating and posting this list, we’ve made some basic metadata accessible to the web for researchers who may never visit a catalog or worldcat.org.
Finally, I’d like to point out that this list was easily compiled because we have structured databases with controlled vocabulary and the ability to easily limit by date. Try searching “swine flu 1970s hearings” on Google and see if you get authoritative results. Cataloging matters!
The following is a comment posted to the DLC Vision Outline and Discussion Paper blog under the topic, “Library Roles in the Non-Exclusive Environment.” I believe that the focus of the DLC Vision on the so-called “non-exclusive” environment leads to incorrect conclusions because of its false assumptions. The comments below, however, are an attempt to provide positive suggestions for improvement of the draft rather than a critique of the assumptions. Questions and statements by DLC are in boldface text.
“Pivotal to any discussion of government information provision is the ubiquitous internet. No longer do citizens, students, tax payers have to come to the depository library for government information.”
This statement should prompt a series of questions and discussion of them:
– Does the current state of access to government information from government web servers guarantee permanent access?
– Will citizens continue to have access to all government information they need from government web servers?
– Will the government continue to provide free access to fully-functional government information?
– Will government always provide access to government information and protect the privacy of readers?
“Despite the “digital divide,” the government is more and more often providing its information exclusively via the internet. Where does that leave Federal Depository Libraries?”
– It leaves FDLs with the same responsibilities they have always had: to ensure long-term, no-fee access to government information while protecting the privacy of users.
“In what ways, if any, might FDLs be necessary in the non-exclusive environment?”
– see below.
“What is the role of libraries generally and FDLs in particular?”
– Libraries have many roles. These roles include: selecting, acquiring, organizing, and preserving information; providing services for and access to that information; protecting the privacy of readers and users of that information; providing information without fees.
– Society needs organizations that have the complete mix of all of these roles as their primary mission (not a secondary mission or a by-product of publishing or dissemination or making money). In the case of government information in a participatory democracy it is particularly important, even essential, that society have such organizations. Reliance on those who have some, but not all, of these roles will ensure that some of these roles will go unfulfilled. Reliance on organizations that have some or all of these roles as a secondary mission or by-product of another mission will endanger free access to information, preservation and integrity of information, the privacy of readers, and risk the loss of information.
– What would you call an organization that fulfills all the roles listed above but “a library”? Since we already have a network of legislatively authorized libraries, what reason can we have for abrogating the responsibility and ability we already have in hopes that someone else will become the new library of the future? Doing so would either require rebuilding what we already have, or it would guarantee losing what we already have.
“To what extent are all libraries in some way government information access centers?”
– All libraries will have the possibility of providing better access to government information — but not all libraries will have the full responsibility of fulfilling all the roles of a depository library as outline above.
“There is a new diversity among FDLs, ranging from service centers to power collections – how do these mix?”
– The mix can be very similar to what we see in the paper and ink world. Some libraries will have small collections, frequently weeded; others will have large collections that the preserve for a long time. Most libraries will have collections of materials focusing on a particular clientele (k-12, college, university, agriculture, medicine, law, etc.). Some libraries will have advanced digital-library software and collections, others will have small collections of (for example) pdf files on cd-roms and public service PCs. Some FDLs may even wish to provide only service and no collections, but such libraries would not be depositories anymore.
– A “service center” is to information what a travel agent is to travel: it has no control over resources. While travel agents are potentially useful, we have seen that most users do not use travel agents, even if they provide “better” travel arrangements. Similarly, an FDLP that provides only “service centers” will be dooming itself to irrelevance.
“Only libraries? How might we collaborate with potential partners like the Memory Hole or Way Back Machine?”
– FDLs should both collaborate with and facilitate the work of others in the use and re-use of information. FDLs could feed information to such organizations and accept new information from them and guarantee long-term storage and access. FDLs should not, however, mistake the mission of such organizations for their own mission.
“How does the FDLP position itself where users are (Google; point-of-use; regional information; other?)?”
– FDLs should have collections of information and provide that information on the web. (To do this, we’ll need to have information that we control)
– FDLs should also create, and share metadata through OAI and RSS and similar future technologies.
– FDLs should provide new and useful organizations and views of the universe of information so that users can more easily find information. (Relying on a single view such as FDSys or a single functionality of provision would be a tragic under-utilization of digital information’ potential.)