The role of the 'group' level in library matters is an interesting one, and one which - it seems to me - is becoming more important in the network environment. The cost and complexity of providing some services locally is pushing attention to the network level, where there may be benefits of scale and network effects. Think of discovery to delivery, shared print and digital repositories, virtual reference.

In the US, libraries are often members of several consortia and there has been more attention of late to shared activities at consortial or state level. We have a strong example here in Ohio in the form of Ohiolink. In many other countries there is a national infrastructure which provides shared services. This may or may not be associated with a national library.

This is by way of introduction to a very interesting report from DEFF, Denmark's 'electronic research library'. DEFF provides services to Denmark's academic libraries.

The report has the misleadingly unexciting title Discussion about library development in Denmark [pdf].

I found it a fascinating read as it explores what it is best to do at the group or network level to serve the shared interests of a group of academic libraries. Where is the appropriate division of labor between institutional efforts and collective action by an organization such as DEFF? Now, clearly this is a big question for an organization like OCLC also, as it looks at where it can best create value at the network level. However, as I suggest above it is also a growing question across many organizations as the network rewrites behaviors and services.

The report discusses how DEFF will organize itself around the tiers of its architectural model: joint Information Supply, Middleware and system architecture, and 'The meeting with the user'. Here are some points that struck me as I read it. This is not a summary.

  • Libraries are reducing investment in routine activities to focus on where they can most create value for the user. This leads to a focus on both ends of the value chain: use of resources, and creation of resources.
  • Cost and complexity need to be driven out of library activity. This drives an interest in standardization and consolidation. One example here is the move to create a consolidated 'integrated search' at the group level, where metadata and full text are indexed in a national service for general access. Document delivery and collecting data on user behavior to drive other services are other examples given.
  • There is some discussion of the union catalog as a switch between Google Scholar and individual library collections. Disclosing library resources to Google through the union catalog and other resources is a pattern we are becoming familiar with as we want to avoid the many-to-many problem that arises if libraries expose metadata individually.
  • There is some discussion of library support for research and learning workflows, areas which become more important.
The report is well worth a read. One major focus is how selective collaborative- and out- sourcing can create systemwide efficiences and increase impact. Another is that this is a necessary direction if resources are to be freed up to more fully engage with local learninng and research behaviors.

Report spotted via Science Library Pad.

Update: edited for style and link to Science Library Pad which is back up after brief TypePad blip.

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