The edge of the world. Theta 2013: the Higher Education Technology Agenda. Hobart, Tasmania, 7-10 April, 2013.
The network continues to reconfigure personal and organizational relationships. Libraries face three important challenges in this environment.
1. Rightscaling infrastructure.
Libraries were predominantly ‘institution-scale’ – they provided services at the level of the institution for their local users. However, their users now look to the network for information services (e.g. Google Scholar, Wikipedia, …). And libraries now look to the network to collaborate or to externalize services (e.g. HathiTrust, cloud-based discovery or systems, shared systems infrastructure, …). In this environment the need for local infrastructure declines (e.g. extensive print collections, redundantly deployed local systems which provide necessary but not distinctive services). The scale advantage manifests itself in both impact and efficiency.
2. The shift to engagement.
Users used to build their workflows around libraries. Now the library needs to build services around user workflows, as those workflows form around network services. Libraries used to acquire and organize ‘published’ materials. Now they are engaged with the full range of creation, management and disclosure of learning and scholarly resources. Library spaces were configured around print collections; now they are configured around experiences, expertise, and specialist facilities. These are all examples of how libraries are reallocating resource and effort to engage more strongly with the learning and research lives of their users, improving the learning experience and making research more productive and research outputs more visible.
3. Institutional innovation
Innovation is important, especially to support greater engagement. But in many ways the most important form of innovation is institutional. Libraries have to develop new and routine ways of collaborating to achieve their goals. At the same time they have to negotiate internal boundaries and forge new structures within institutions. In each case, they are developing new ‘relationship architectures’. Think for example of the institutional innovation required to move to shared systems and collections in the Orbis Cascade Alliance or 2CUL for example. Or think of the innovative approach which makes new relationships within institutions (with Learning and Teaching Support, with the Office of Research, the University Press, emerging e-research infrastructure, IT, etc, for example, or with various educational or social services in a public setting). Evolving such relationships requires an enterprising approach and ensures continual learning.