Connecting users with content and the problem of 'diluted' library identities

Added by Sarah on 03 March 2010 16:45

I attended a Association for Information Management (ASLIB) Engineering and Technology Group and British Library (BL) event on 2 March, highlighting some of the future developments and electronic access to the BL’s resources in these subject areas.

A big agenda for the BL at the moment is connecting users with their content - a tough challenge in this digital age, when science researchers are unlikely to be enticed into a library (and especially to a national library) and prefer online access as the mode of choice. Elizabeth Newbold, the BL’s Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) content and collections leader highlighted the drivers for change both externally (transitions in scholarly publishing, researcher needs and expectations and the untapped potential of datasets) and internally (the issue of their STM content being in ‘silos’, and perhaps difficult for users to understand/access and being able to entice only a small percentage of this research community onsite). They are currently undertaking market research to understand their audiences? needs better and considering new models and options for content access, including the issue of holding resources versus linking to them, and the short- versus the long-term issues of content provision.

The BL’s subscription manager, David Hughes raised the issue of ‘diluted’ library identities ? the challenge of providing services online, and the issue of users not realising why they need to go through onerous library authentication systems in order to get there. He gave a demo (and a bit of a plug!) for the BL?s new and improved Direct Plus service a customisable discovery database, with an interface that libraries can purchase, allowing their users to search the BL?s ETOC database, Pubmed and Google Scholar, as well as being able to integrate your own library catalogue into it, to provide a more seamless, ?one-stop-shop? for your users.

EThOS was also given an airing, Pavan Ramrakra, its Business Development Manager, talked about the challenges faced by the implementation of this relatively new online service that digitises and provide open access to UK institutions PhD theses. EThOS ran into some difficulties last year, when the demand for digitising theses was much larger than anticipated and long waits caused frustration for the institutions hoping to get their theses online. Pavan said they have dealt with the backlog and are now meeting the 30 day promise to digitise. They have a useful toolkit that explains the nuts and bolts of the system, including harvesting and meta-data issues.

I asked a question about the issue of researchers’ copyright and intellectual property rights concerns ? if a thesis is deposited in EThOS, then is it possible that a publishers could consider this work to now be ?published?, and may not be willing to accept the submission of work stemming from the thesis as a journal article or monograph? Pavan said their model was more of an opt-in rather that opt-out clause for institutions, but there is an embargo period option and an option for authors of work to request their thesis to be taken off the system. It seems the onus is on institutions to explain the ramifications of depositing in this way. I hope institutions will clarify this issue to their researchers to ensure there is a fully-informed choice about the depositing of theses.

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