Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Why selection is important to Librarians ...

A blog post by Carl Grant, President of Ex Libris US

It brings to mind an opinion stated in a recording I once heard (and remembered well because I found it so alarming.) It was a recording done by the Chronicle of Higher Education and was called “Libraries vs. IT Departments.” In that recording, an IT person basically said that academic libraries offer access to content which they never own and to which they offer little added valued. If all the library does is license content, why not fold it (the library) into the institution’s purchasing department? It’s a scary statement. It becomes even more disconcerting when one realizes that some of the comments in these blog posts will further exacerbate that type of thinking by ceding the control of selection of content to outside parties. True, those outside parties may offer large and impressive lists of content, but the fact remains, the library will have ceded control of selection, i.e. the “authority” and “appropriateness” aspects of their differentiation. Once libraries have done this, they have paved the path for the content providers to bypass the libraries entirely and to offer their products/services direct to end-users.
Not personally sure I agree with all of this, and the conclusion he reaches is that we do need a federated search tool to amalgamate resources into one place. (We do have a Federated Search tool, just not his.) He also ignores the value that Librarians add through user education, not to mention the sheer workload of managing and tracking electronic and print collections.

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