Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Declining Role of Libraries in Faculty Research

Here are snippets from an article in today’s Inside Higher Education; the article is at

If libraries do not seriously rethink their role in the lives of researchers, they could come to be seen as resource purchasers more than than research collaborators, according to a report released today by the nonprofit group Ithaka S+R.

That certain scholars no longer see libraries as “gateways” for finding information is no secret, write the Ithaka researchers, who have conducted the survey every three years since 2000; past data have shown that scientists tend not to turn to library-specific resources — such as library catalogs or librarians — to kick-start research projects.

What previous studies have not shown is that researchers in the humanities and social scientists are following suit, says Roger C. Schonfeld, the group’s manager of research.

Humanists still see the library as indispensable; 75 percent said librarians still play an important role in supporting teaching, and 82 percent said the library provides crucial archiving services.

But as far as research goes, the percentage of humanities faculty who use the library building as a starting point for research has gone down in each iteration of the survey, from 18 percent in 2003 to 6 percent in 2009. Ditto the library's online catalog, which 24 percent of faculty used as a starting point last year, compared to 39 percent in 2003.

One of the other themes the Ithaka survey explored was what motivates scholars when they are deciding where they want to get published.

Their highest priority? That the publication be widely read by their peers within the discipline. Their lowest? That the publication be openly accessible.

Outside of making scholars put their studies into open repositories, which are seldom used anyway, university leaders might seek to nudge their faculties toward open access by “realign[ing] incentives.” Schonfeld says this could mean one of two things: tying promotion and tenure policies to publication in open-access journals, which probably won't happen; or playing to scholars’ desire that their work be visible by emphasizing that anybody, not just subscribers, can find and view openly accessible articles.

1 comment:

Ellen Detlefsen said...

Jeez, Richard, you get up too early in the morning! I was about to publish the same item out to the blog, but you beat me to it. Sigh. It *is* an interesting view of the changing role of academic librarians! I know the group at Johns Hopkins who are mentioned in the article and I frequently cite them as an example of the "embedded" librarian (although I do not care for the militarist flavor of the label!)...