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 RLI 276 8 Ahead of the Storm: Research Libraries and the Future of the Research University ( C O N T I N U E D ) SEPTEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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