Re: Librarians and the Ginsparg model

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_PHOENIX.PRINCETON.EDU>
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2000 12:54:45 -0400

The distinctive characteristic of librarians at one time was our ability
to organize paper documents (both physically and intellectually). We
pretty well understand how to do this, though it is true that we have
never found a way of making it particularly easy for the inexperienced
user. This role will continue to a limited extent; for one thing,
it will be many years before all documents are issued in electronic
format, and all older documents converted. For another, I suggest
that it will remain advisable to maintain microfilm and paper copies of
documents in limited numbers as an ultimate backup. Many of those in the
e-pub area do not recognize the need for this, but I think it will be both
prudent and inexpensive.

But now the distinctive ability of librarians is their ability to help
users find documents. This is even more true in an electronic
environment, and I think the users know this. My experience in working
with a reasonably sophisticated and intelligent community of patrons is
that an expert can find things both more comprehensively and faster than
the average web-savvy user.

 Part of it is experience, of course--we get so many more chances to
practice. But part is mind-set and feel for strategy--we are more aware of
the total universe of stuff out there, not just what the user thinks he's
looking for. And that leads to what I think is the key: we know the
system well enough to formulate a question that the system
will be able to answer.

The more complicated things become, the more our role will be.
I hope we will succeed in not just being able to help, but it finding out
how to do the help beforehand so it appears transparent to the user.

Goodman, Princeton University
Biology Library 609-258-3235

On Tue, 5 Sep 2000, Paul M. Gherman wrote:

> > 2. In the general evolution of electronic communication, there will
> > be considerable pain for publishers and librarians.
> Why for librarians? Can they not do something better with their money
> than what is now being spent in the "serials crisis"?
> I think with increased electronic information whether free
> or commercial, the eventual costly infrastructure of
> libraries as we know them today will decrease as will the
> current number of staff working in libraries. And the library
> as institution as we know it today will change. We may
> become more like a publisher, note HighWire Press or
> Project Muse, we may become more like AskJeeves, or
> an interactive web presence there to support scholarship
> with a far better rate of correct answers than the current
> web answering services. ( There is a great deal of interest
> and action on the part of libraries to create a mega
> scholarly website.) But Andrew is correct that there will
> be pain for those librarians who cling to old ways of
> delivering information, just as there has been pain for
> other organizations and those who work in them that
> cannot change rapidly in a changing environment.
> Actually I think the track record for change in libraries is
> quite good. A bit quicker than publishers have been
> willing to change.
> The initial OpenArchive meeting was funded in part by
> library organizations, and there we more than a few
> librarians in attendance. Some of us will be hurt by the
> migration to a fully electronic publishing world, and others
> of us will be delighted by the change and excitement.
> And Andrew and I can retire to our tents and get back to our research,
> reaping the benefits of the give-away corpus, free at last!
> Amen!
> ************************************************************************
> Andrew Odlyzko
> AT&T Labs - Research voice: 973-360-8410
> fax: 973-360-8178
> ************************************************************************
> Paul M. Gherman
> University Librarian
> 611B General Library
> 419 21st Avenue South
> Vanderbilt University
> Nashville, TN 37240
> Office: (615) 322-7120
> Fax: (615) 343-8279
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:45:50 GMT