notes on information organizations

July 26, 2010

research life and libraries – not exactly a rosy picture

Filed under: cultural trends, librarianship — Frank Cervone @ 10:45 am

In this latest report from OCLC Research, A Slice of Research Life: Information Support for Research in the United States, Susan Kroll and Rick Forsman paint a rather bleak picture for libraries as part of the research process. In many ways, the authors discuss and reemphasize many of the points that have been made in several recent studies. For example, the authors find that the “relationships between researchers and traditional library and university support for research have shifted radically.” Additionally, the concept of “satisficing” (accepting an adequate answer or solution over an optimal one) now clearly extends into the research process itself. More troubling for libraries is that the authors find significant evidence that researchers use online tools and commercial services that are discipline-specific in lieu of the more generic tools provided by university libraries. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem that current efforts by libraries to devise new services to manage research data have helped researchers much as they still feel overwhelmed by the disorganized and increasing accumulations of “relevant” data in their fields. Most troubling for libraries is that the authors did not encounter a single respondent in the study who had visited a library for help or assistance while performing their research. The authors state that “researchers do not realize what expertise librarians have to offer their users, are uninformed about services offered, and have little idea what the library might do in the future.” Consequently, the study respondents “did not see libraries as having much to offer in any of these areas as researchers require practical evidence of direct value” and libraries have not provided that to the respondents’ satisfaction. Clearly if libraries are going to maintain any relevancy in the academic arena, they will have to do a better job of providing expertise and services that are relevant to researchers.



  1. Sobering, eh?

    Comment by Rebecca Jones — July 26, 2010 @ 11:00 am

  2. […] Services at Purdue University Calumet and well-known advocate for academic libraries, comments that “Clearly if libraries are going to maintain any relevancy in the academic arena, they will have to… And Roy Tennant, another fabulous library advocate, could almost be seen (ok, visualize with me) […]

    Pingback by Dysart & Jones » Going Mobile: more about mindset than handheld — July 28, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  3. I am writing to refine one of your take-aways from this report. The focus of this study was *research* support services, along the lines of institutional repositories and expertise profiling systems. The purpose of the project is to challenge libraries to develop tools and services that researchers desire and will actually find useful. The consultants, Kroll and Forsman, intentionally did not ask leading questions about research use of libraries. All of the people they interviewed spoke enthusiastically about using online journals and online research services like Google Scholar (although we tried like the dickens to steer clear of library content, in order to focus on tools and services). Mostly, the library didn’t come up, however, and not one interviewee mentioned that they visited their library. We don’t know that they don’t, only that they didn’t mention it in our structured interviews. We were surprised, and take this as an opportunity to learn about where the library sits in the priorities of star researchers and their research staff.

    Comment by Jennifer Schaffner — August 3, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

    • In reviewing the report again, I’m not sure that I really see the emphasis on institutional repositories and expertise profiling systems. It seems that the topics addressed are more general and far ranging. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the most important point from the report is that it didn’t even occur to the researchers that libraries would be the organization to fill the perceived gap, whatever that gap may be. That should be a real cause for concern. I look forward to seeing follow up studies that explore this issue in more depth.

      Comment by Frank Cervone — August 3, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

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