USTLG Winter Meeting 1
Posted by selinalock on 30 November, 2010
On 25th November 2010 I attended the University Science & Technology Librarians’ Group Meeting at Keble College, University of Oxford. The theme for the day was “The role of libraries in the research process.” I nearly walked straight past the little wooden entrance to Keble College, but was greeted with a magnificent vista on entering…
An academic perspective on libraries supporting research. Professor Darton, Dept Engineering, Oxford University.
Professor Darton expressed his love of books, talked about his ancestors being publishers of children’s books and having founded the Darton Juvenile Library. He also talked about how he had fought to keep the Engineering Library at Oxford under the control of the Department as he felt it played an important part in their culture.
He had brought in a couple of classic engineering texts and said it was difficult these days for academics to find time to write “classic” types of textbooks and they were hvaing to find other ways of conveying information to students.
In his time as an engineer he thought that libraries/librarians had moved from being a status symbol (the bigger the library the more knowledge) that was protected and guarded by the librarians for their specific patrons, on to being providers of information which encouraged access for all and finally, these days, being more of an online gateway with librarians as web managers.
He then went on to argue that for science and engineering researchers the library is no longer needed – they rarely use physical texts, there is a huge amount of good quality information accessible via Google (as long as you have the skills to judge quality) and more movement towards open access materials online (e.g. in his are of sustainability). He argued that he would be happy, as a researcher, for there to be a subscription team who oversaw journal subsciptions on behalf of the University, a storage/retrieval service for older print items and for the sciences to stop funding the expensive physical libraries needed by the arts. Or even move to a model where all researchers are given a portion of the library funding to “buy individual article on demand” instead of having a central library service! As you can imagine this was a controversial point of view…
The audience asked if he thought the same applied to undergraduates and he thought up until their 3rd year projects that might have different needs, but by project time they might still need a budget to buy relevant articles.
When asked if he saw any role for librarians he thought there was still an important role in training people to be critical of information, and recommends library training to his students. Also that journal subscriptions would be more cost effective than buying individual articles so perhaps librarians should become/be seen as skilled negotiaters. Librarians need to show how they can help researchers.
Professor Darton was also critical of the current peer-review system, and as an editor of a journal it was becoming very hard to find good reviewers. He suggested that publishing the names of the reviewers might improve the quality of the reviwing. He was also suprised to find younger researchers don’t have a concept of what a journal is as they have never held a print copy in their hands.
Update on REF, Kimberley Hacket (REF Team)
Main points of interest:
Research Metrics, Anne Costigan, University of Bradford.
Anne talked about looking at metrics with researchers and the issues around metrics: