Best practices are shifting as universities “make space” for important
interdisciplinary research and learning. And our libraries are key in all of this.
The universities that flourish will look much less like a loose collection of
separate disciplines, each with its own floor or building, and much more like
an integrated collection of creative “hubs”—workshops where students and
professors and librarians are engaged in cross-cutting techniques, where
scholarly teams of people from diverse disciplinary backgrounds cross paths,
organically forming teams that work to understand and solve the next
challenge.
The final characteristic of successful research universities is balance. By this
I imagine universities that consciously strive to harmonize their multiple roles
in an increasingly fast-paced, results-driven world. Both entrepreneurship and
connectedness are outward-focused. Both can increase the positive, external
impact of universities. But, universities must also be places of contemplation
and reflection. This always has been, and will continue to be, a central role of
the library. Our species creates and accumulates knowledge, and our university
librarians are curators of knowledge, preserving the record of human scholar-
ship and discovery, across time, making this record available to new
knowledge seekers.
I certainly do not have any simple recommendations regarding how
universities can best balance the push and pull of being connected and
entrepreneurial while protecting room for contemplation and curiosity, nor do
I have any special vision regarding the particular role of librarians and libraries
in that regard. That is for you to determine. And I must admit that some recent
events—like the United Kingdom’s decision last year to slash humanities
funding for universities while preserving funds for science and engineering—
trouble me greatly.13
It will always be harder to demonstrate the immediate monetary value
of humanities, and social sciences, and basic rather than applied research.
But those endeavors are crucial. There is no human progress without
understanding humanity. There is no social progress without understanding
what happens when we come together. And I assure you, every marketable
technological innovation has its roots in a discovery that arose from “pure”
research, and, every application, in the understanding of human development
and endeavor.
Too many questions are set up as dichotomies that should not be. Should
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SEPTEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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