Little nuggets of information are swirling around in my head. I'm just back from two meetings, in two different cities, and each one had some interesting ideas about the future of library services, collections, and technology.
Meeting #1 was the 2010 SPARC Digital Repositories Meeting in Baltimore. The last time this meeting was held, 2008, the landscape for institutional repositories (and digital repositories) was focussed on how libraries could create and/or host them and convince others of their value. I would say that with a few exceptions, not much has changed.
Just like everyone wants to get married in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, everyone in libraryland seems convinced if the right marketing approach/language is used, the perfect match will be made with respect to people contributing and using IR/DR content. Unfortunately the current IR/DR infrastructure isn't conducive to this. You need to establish relationships before (or while) you build the network, and there're few easy tie-ins to the existing infrastructure. The keynote speaker, Michael Nielsen, made this point with respect to use and adoption of science online networks and the same is true for libraries. The current reward system isn't set up so scientists can show the value of contributing to social networks outside of the peer review process. I would agree this is true for IRs/SRs/DRS also, although of the three subject repositories have been the most successful.
As you can tell from the program, there was emphasis on collecting and curating open data, which I think showed there is a desire for libraries to find a better match. While this may create a niche for libraries, it's going to take some work between the "data nerds" and the collectors, as this friendfeed discussion shows.
While several presenters mentioned the need for preservation, there was suprisingly little talk about the importance of having policies, infrastructure, technology in place to do this. In fact these two communities are almost completely disconnected. There's also been very little attention to assessment issues such as identifying if the money and staff time devoted to projects is worthwhile given the continuing recession and shrinking library collections budgets. I see both of these ideas impacting work on IRs/DRs/SRs, although since neither topic is "sexy" it may take some before we see much attention devoted to these issues.
The plan is to have this conference again in two years, and if this happens I predict we will see further shifts in focus or perhaps this program co-sponsored or linked with another organization.
Meeting #2 was a joint ARL/SSP workshop, Partnering to Publish: Innovative Roles for Societies, Institutions, Presses, and Libraries. This should have been a session or part of the schedule for Meeting #1, because it became clear as the meeting progressed that working in the publishing infrastructure is a natural way for libraries to make their repositories and/or preservation efforts tie into the existing promotion and tenure environment. In most cases the speakers at the event were able to show this in easily quanitfiable ways, like sales figures, enhanced content and features in books and journals, as well as stronger relationships with administrative units and campus faculty.
I also attended yet another conference in the last month: the 2010 Library Assessment Conference. Not much of this conference addresses issues in BOT but I will say this - there were twice as many attendees at this meeting than the SPARC meeting with many more presentations and ideas generated. This is currently a hot topic in librarianship and I predict we will see more programming devoted to all areas of this topic in the future.