UoL Library Blog

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No brief candle

Posted by knockels on 29 August, 2008

This is the title of a report from the Washington DC based Council on Library and Information Resources, a nonprofit body whose mission is to expand access to information.   The subtitle is “reconceiving research libraries for the 21st century” (the title is a quotation from Shaw – “Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations.“) and it is a set of papers and things from a conference.

There are interesting looking chapters on scholarly publishing and on changing faculty perceptions of librarians, but browsing through the list of contributors and chapters my eye was caught by a chapter by Stephen Nicholls, a professor of French at Johns Hopkins, and therefore Not a Librarian.   He talks about co-teaching with the library, and what a difference it can make being able to bring digitised copies of manuscripts into the classroom instead of scholarly editions – the world of French medieval literature, his field, is transformed by this, as students can enter more into that world.   He talks also about involving students and scholars in digital library ventures, as well as acknowledging the library’s role in academic ventures.  He ends:

“Since the library is often a separate division in the organization of the typical research university, faculty do not think to credit the library’s role in their enterprise.

But time and resources are on the side of the library. More than ever, research libraries generate projects once seen as the province of scholars working alone. Individual faculty now perceive that research libraries have become the venue for large-scale digital enterprises. If they wish to advance their projects, faculty will have to work with their library colleagues—not only a gain for the undertaking itself but also a sure winner when they go to teach it. At least that’s what I have found.”

The report is at [accessed 29th August 2008].

6 Responses to “No brief candle”

  1. gazjjohnson said

    Nice to have positive words from an academic! Just reading the latest copy of Update, and it’s filled with the usual doom & gloom about the profession and how we’re all going to hell in a handbasket because we’re not visible enough. Whilst there’s some truth in that (we’re not good as a profession at shouting out about our successes beyond our own professional realms), I’d hope reports like this, as well as activities like the LRA will help us to overcome this; at least locally.

  2. knockels said

    I agree entirely – the report does look positive, and looks like someone thinks we have a future.

  3. sarahw9 said

    We probably all like:

    – “The profession should find creative ways to design new staff positions that serve as full-time liaisons linking the library and course development, especially in the area of digital resource use” and also
    – “Librarians should work with departments and teaching centers to nurture the idea that the library is a part of all teaching initiatives on campus.”

    Daphnée Rentfrow has some interesting things to say too, as she has been both academic and librarian.

  4. gazjjohnson said

    Creative new ways? Do you mean like embedding us within the departments themselves rather than stuck within the library? That works for me – I know of more than one subject librarian who actually has an office elsewhere on campus within a dept (not here sadly) and spends 1or 2 days a week there rather than here.

    It’d increase our accessibility by staff and students that’s for sure. Wouldn’t even need an office if we had a laptop each, we could just take over some space in one of the foyers…

  5. knockels said

    Two CSL information librarians spend some of their time in departments – Mary is based in Health Sciences for half her time, and Sue visits the MRC Toxicology Unit every morning. Regulsr “surgery” times sitting in a cafeteria or staff room might work, if there is no office space? Interesting…

  6. gazjjohnson said

    Ah, that’s really positive – should we all be following in their footsteps? Or is personal presence in the age of the internets a retrograde step?

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