Pooling uncertainty

Posts have been light recently as I have been on the road. I have just come back from The Netherlands where I was at a meeting of the management groups of OCLC and OCLC|PICA. At that meeting I had been asked to do a short presentation comparing the 'library landscapes' in North America and Europe. In my (admittedly brief ;-) preparations for the presentation I was struck by the shortage of available comparative perspectives, between current developments in countries in the first instance, but, as I looked at it more closely, between libraries and between groups of libraries also. I was not so much looking for quantitative data (number of libraries, budgets, etc), for which we do have some useful data; rather I was thinking of analysis and evaluation of programs, plans, organizational arrangements, and so on. Things that come to mind:

  • Evaluative reviews of programmatic funding initiatives (such as those put in place by many national agancies)
  • Content analysis of library strategy and planning documents (it would be interesting to analyse/compare strategy documents from particular groups of libraries)
  • A review of emerging organizational structures (for example, how widespread is the coming together of academic computing, libraries and other academic support agencies in a single organizational structure. Does this vary between countries. Are there any trends, lessons, ...?)
  • Is 'deep resource sharing' becoming more common in a network environment? What has been the impact of consortial or national programs in this area?
  • Changing staffing patterns in a digital environment.
The list could continue for a long time. As libraries move through foundational changes, it would be useful to have more 'intelligence' about those changes.

In many of the discussions I go to, I sense a great desire among participants to 'pool uncertainty', to corroborate their experiences and their preferred directions, to understand that understanding is difficult.

More work which pulls together recent experiences and the lessons learned from it would be useful. If I worked in a school of library and information science I would see this as a great opportunity to do useful work with high impact. If I were at a funding agency, I would be arguing that funding such work would be of great utility.

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