Warwick workshop prioritises resource discovery

In January 2012, JISC and SCONUL convened a workshop for Library Directors and Senior Managers to review the evolving requirements for institutional Library Management Systems (LMS), referenced as Domain 3 in the 2009 SCONUL report to HEFCE.  Entitled ‘The Squeezed Middle’, the workshop focused on the key service developments impacting the LMS footprint, given evolving approaches in Resource Discovery (Domain 2) and shared service developments in the management of subscription resources (Domain 1).

After considering a business modeling framework presented by Lorcan Dempsey and a number of future scenarios set in the year 2020, the workshop reviewed a catalogue of over 60 potential library service and institutional knowledge management objectives. The group evaluated them in terms of desirability, feasibility and their potential to act as drivers of mission critical change.

It was striking that the Discovery agenda represented a very high proportion of the items ranked as high priority looking to 2020. It was also noted that above campus initiatives (such as shared cataloguing and records improvement) and services (such as resource discovery aggregations) can act as catalysts for reviewing workflows (both user and librarian) and reappraising library team skills.

The highest ranked Discovery related targets were as follows:

  • 31 – Provide 1-stop search across all asset types
  • 32 – Publish open linked catalogue metadata
  • 33 – Expose the collection to other search mechanisms
  • 34 – Emphasise exposure of special collections
  • 35 – Integrate LMS & VLE resources, including reading lists
  • 43 – Curate local learning resources, including OERs
  • 44 – Drive the value of reading lists

Medium priority Discovery related targets were:

  • 36 – Provide recommender and associated ‘social’ services
  • 45 – Curate institutional research data
  • 46 – Expose the institutional repository
  • 47 – Expose the university archives

The headline priorities included

  • Provide 1-stop search across the range of Teaching, Learning and Research asset types that are authored and collected within institutions
  • Integrate reading lists effectively with the discovery of and access to library, VLE and repository resources
  • Establish sustainable curation, workflow management and exposure for all digital scholarly assets – including local learning resources, OERs and research data
  • Not on the original list, delegates added the potential for a persistent personal interface to assets, typically through bookmarking; the metaphor of a personal e-shelf was regarded as attractive.

Other challenges such as re-thinking the user access points for resource discovery or collaboration on adoption of widely used authorities and vocabularies were regarded as less critical, though not unimportant. The abandonment of the traditional LMS OPAC received a low vote on the basis that this will be an outcome of success in these broader ambitions. Whilst enhancing the discoverability of university museum assets received a low average vote, it was highly scored by those institutions with their own museum collection.

So Discovery featured highly for library management both as an end in itself and as a catalyst for changing processes and practice, relationships and responsibilities. However, we must also reflect on whether this professional and user-centred aspiration relates to a destination at which we will one day arrive or perhaps may be better viewed as an essential element in the continuous evolution of the academy.

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