“As we move from an information environment of scarcity to one of abundance the phrase ’pervasive information’ could be an appropriate description of the user’s new demands in relation to IT systems. There will increasingly be a need for libraries to present information to the user’s own information environment and for the library’s information resources to be integrated into the user’s work processes.”
The above quotation is taken from the report on the international review of activities in DEFF that was conducted in August. The summary was written in connection with head of development at the State and University Library, Birthe Christensen-Dalsgaard’s study of development tendencies within the field of libraries and IT. The quotation illustrates part of the reason for DEFF carrying out a review. A study of activities with external resources can in fact give an indication of international developments and whether DEFF is on the right path.
An important purpose of the review was to provide contributions to the revision of DEFF’s strategy. Apart from the concrete action lines there is therefore also quite extensive focus on organisational issues. The review was carried out in the course of two days in August together with partners from the Netherlands (SURF), Great Britain (JISC), Finland (FinELib) and Norway (BIBSYS) who then submitted recommendations as to the future work of DEFF.
In relation to DEFF’s overall activities and the role of the Steering Committee the reviewers paid particular attention to the fact that there is no management as such as regards library and IT development. They pointed to this as a considerable challenge, i.a. because the building up of a coherent infrastructure demands a great degree of coordination and agreement on objectives.
The reviewers suggested DEFF’s strategy to be formulated in a broader context that would relate explicitly to universities and other central players, but also to more general social objectives. The need was stressed for a very definite focus on choice of activities and projects as well as a clear message as to how DEFF should create value for its interested parties. In this connection it was recommended that the Steering Committee should conduct an analysis of these parties. It was also suggested that it was desirable to work towards a better dissemination of results and to include more libraries in this work.
Excerpts from conclusions from Review
Excerpts from conclusions from Review
In relation to DEFF’s overall activities it was recommended that the Steering Committee take the initiative to current benchmarking with other countries within certain selected areas. Licenses were considered an obvious such area. The reviewers also found that the Steering Committee ought to take the initiative to the formulation of a number of general policies and guidelines, i.a.:
The review examined the activities within the three programme areas: System architecture, E-learning and E-publishing. Generally the reviewers agreed that DEFF’s activities and plans within the three programme areas were sensible and sound. The emphasis was on development of access management based on Shibboleth, and plans for a serviceorientated architecture were the right initiatives. However, access management and general architecture presuppose close collaboration with research and education institutions, out of consideration for the users but also because the systems in the architecture must exploit each other’s functionality. That was why the need for close collaboration with the libraries’ mother institutions was emphasized.
The reviewers pointed out the need for common standards and interoperability in order to ensure a coherent infrastructure. They also drew attention to the tendency for elearning and epublishing to be regarded as part of a larger common information infrastructure at for example universities. It was mentioned that the library is getting a more active role in supporting knowledge processes at the mother institution (see e.g. eframework.org). The need for new digital learning materials was underlined and finally the reviewers emphasized information literacy as a major focus area in a new strategy for DEFF.
General development tendencies
The presentations of the more general development tendencies also pointed to a more active and extrovert role for the libraries. Several of the tendencies within research and education will bring a direct influence to bear on libraries.
Research and education
In relation to research it was stressed that much important scientific progress happens across traditional research areas. That is to say that scholars are inspired by methods and results from other areas of research, or that they establish interdisciplinary cooperations. This socalled ’mode 2-knowledge production’ involves a great need for IT systems and dissemination that will support research across subject areas. It was suggested that libraries could play a role here.
A similar tendency towards more interdisciplinary cooperation can be observed in relation to sectors where educational institutions, authorities and businesses to a greater degree act as producers of knowledge in various contexts. This phenomenon, triple helix, also provides new challenges to an information infrastructure and to libraries.
Finally – in connection with the discussion on lifelong learning – the need for IT support of the interaction in different shared practices was stressed as well as the need for a broader focus than in traditional elearning.
It was emphasized that all educational levels to an everincreasing degree focus on learning that is projectorientated and problembased. Professor Hans Siggaard from Learning Lab Denmark did not think that the need is directed towards more content – at any rate not as far as higher education was concerned. He felt that the need is greater for supporting new ways in which the user can organise, exploit and deal with the content. Learning Lab Denmark’s work with educational XML was mentioned, and it was suggested that libraries could focus more on what the user actually does with the material than just make content available – a suggestion in keeping with the introductory quotation.
Birthe Christensen-Dalsgaard maintained that the application of new technology often passes through three phases. In the first phase the technology is applied in existing processes, which are made better and cheaper. In the second phase the technology is integrated into the processes, which are partly adapted to the technology. And in the third phase the processes begin to change character, and completely new applications and processes emerge. The application of IT in the public sector with selfservice systems as the preliminary highlight can probably be said to be an example of such a development.
Birthe Christensen-Dalsgaard illustrated how IT is changing the libraries’ activities and which of the three phases the development has arrived at within a number of areas. The areas presented and discussed were: