Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rethinking Collections: Libraries and Librarians in an Open Age

PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference
12 July 2007
9:40-10:40 SFUHC Sauder Industries Policy Room

Heather Morrison, BC Electronic Library Network, Simon Fraser University Library.

British Columbia, Canada
Personal blog


Powerpoint Presentation via E-LIS

The key theme for Morrison's presentation was the transition and evolution of libraries in response to the Open Access (OA) movement. The current and future trends towards scholarly communication in an electronic format presents a challenge for libraries. With scholars like Peter Suber and Morrison herself using blogs to make their research public, members of the academic and library communities are no longer reliant on peer-reviewed print published journals -- in fact, waiting for publication of these journals slows down the effective circulation of information to a wide audience that is possible with web-based communication.

Moving towards full open access (corresponding to the Budapest Open Access Initiative), the ability to freely read, make copies, store, and print research means that the peer-review article of the near future can exist in multiple places at once: institutional repository, the author's own site, and the on-line journal allowing for, what Morrison termed "a series of overlapping collections, with links".

Libraries are then challenged by how they will collect and preserve these electronic texts. Will one copy, hosted by one institutional server be enough? Can there be a safe repository for all of the world's electronic knowledge?

Presenting in the same session as the University of Alberta's Pam Ryan and Denise Koufogiannkis, Morrison suggested that the U of A could provide a model for using OA resources. Staff transitions to further OA in the library setting means finding local solutions for new technologies. As there will be less need for hard copies of research material with OA systems, personnel responsible for interlibrary loans and reference liaison can move to support the field of scholarly communication that relies on web-based resources.

Morrison predicted the question asked of librarians will no longer be "where can I find information?" but "how do I know I am not missing something essential?". In turn the questions she urges librarians to ask of their academic institutions is not "why are we focusing on OA when we must pay for so many journal subscribtions?" by "why are we not putting OA at the forefront when it is the future of scholarly publishing?".


For established members of the academic and scholarly community the options available for disseminating ideas through wikis, blogs, e-portfolios, preprints, and the author’s own homepage mean that the peer-reviewed journal is not the first, last, or only word on the scholarly subject in question.

However, keeping track of all of these options presenting one’s work means that librarians are pressed to imagine what the future might be like and take steps to ensure that current priorities reflect where scholarly communication is headed (OA, on-line journals and other web-based resources) and not rely entirely on where it has come from (peer reviewed print publications).

Morrison’s comments on transition are valid, but if we are to consider scholarly communication the transfer of information and the circulation of knowledge between individuals the transition required by web-based resources is not then a total revolution. The ability to transmit ideas through media so that they might reach a wider audience has been a key aspect of journal publication since the seventeenth-century and the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

The immediacy of web-based resources means that the audience and the author are brought closer together in real-time – commenting on a blog is far faster than waiting for the next quarterly edition. Enhancing, supporting, and facilitating this closer relationship will be important tasks for librarians to consider.

Links to:
BC Electronic Library Network Page

Morrison's publications in the SFU Institutional Repository

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