The Process of Reinventing
Several speakers put forth ideas about what the science librarian of the near
future may look like in terms of skills, capacities, and institutional positioning.
Three points of general consensus emerged: first, because scientific research is
itself being transformed, science librarians (and their libraries) need to become
more adaptable to changing conditions; second, in order to understand changing
conditions and respond to evolving user needs, science librarians need to focus
more on strategies for library service assessment,
evaluation, and improvement; and finally, the
fundamental role of the science librarian needs to
expand to incorporate skills related to organizing
and manipulating data and data sets.
At the outset of the forum, Richard (Rick) Luce
emphasized that, in an era of e-science, research
libraries need to become nimbler, allowing for more
fluid and dynamic allocation of staff resources.
Emerging forms of scientific practice will require
different kinds of library support at different times.
He envisioned future science libraries that have the
capacity to create multi-skilled information-
management teams on the fly, embedding librarians
within research teams or departments. Science
libraries must develop more flexible staffing structures
in order to be more responsive to the needs of this kind of research. This will, in
turn, require highly adaptable science librarians, in terms of both skill set and
Further, as Sayeed Choudhury, Fran Berman, and others suggested, successful
adaptability requires a clear sense of direction, and successful direction requires
effective application of library service assessment and evaluation procedures.
Institutional requirements are diverse, and ever changing. Becky Lyon quipped,
“When you’ve seen one research library, you’ve seen one research library.” In
other words, in order to know how best to serve one’s own institution, one must
understand the particular needs and features of that institution. What works at
one research library will not necessarily port directly to another. Still, as Neil
Rambo suggested later in the forum, librarians should not let their institutional
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FEBRUARY 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Reinventing Science Librarianship: Themes from the ARL-CNI Forum
C O N T I N U E D
Listen to Rick Luce on the need for more
flexible staffing in science libraries (2:00 MP3)