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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: June 2018

15 - The researcher's view: context is critical




Our ideas about future models of the library focus on the needs of researchers. Our thinking is informed by our own experiences as both users and directors of library and information services in research institutions, and by debates on future roles for library and information professionals in the network world – a world where automation, digitization and socialization of data, information and knowledge, and disintermediation, are transforming the scholarly landscape. We begin with three reasons why library support for research is a critical issue, and then reflect on the current situation and environmental forces shaping provision for researchers, before setting out our thoughts about future services and spaces for research.

The library and research

First, higher education institutions across the globe continue to identify teaching and research as two distinct missions (Scott, 2006), and most academic libraries similarly define their roles in education and research as related, but separate, elements of their mission (Aldrich, 2007). Second, surveys in several countries show that researchers’ experiences and perceptions of libraries are not altogether positive (Daniels, Darch and de Jager, 2010; Schonfeld and Housewright, 2010; MacColl and Jubb, 2011) and their views about future priorities often differ from librarians’ views (RIN, 2007). Third, while changes in teaching and learning have largely driven spatial transformations of academic libraries over the past 20 years, we expect changes in research and scholarship to have a more central role over the next two decades in transforming and re-engineering libraries to meet the needs of both researchers and learners (Lyon, 2012).

Current provision and usage

For most people, the idea of a library is inseparable from a collection of books and periodicals, a perception that has continued into the network world, despite the arrival of digital technologies, new media and online services. Library requests for research assistance have given way to self-help and mutual support; few people use ask-a-librarian services and information seekers rarely start their search on library websites (OCLC, 2010). Academic researchers mainly use electronic resources, which they access remotely, with only arts and humanities researchers visiting libraries regularly, but less often than before (RIN, 2007). Faculty members rarely consult a librarian or use the library catalogue to begin their research, preferring network-level services, including general-purpose search engines, as well as services targeted at academics (Schonfeld and Housewright, 2010).