Library services

ou.pngI am attending events in libraries in the UK this week. I have already been in Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and head to the Open University tomorrow.

The former two have collections of world significance. The third is figuring out how to better serve a widely dispersed population over the network.

I tend to think of four facets of the library: place, collections, expertise and service. In a pre-network age these are vertically integrated around the collections. Place exists to hold the collections. Expertise is devoted to organizing and interpreting the collection for local needs. And services tend to be around acquisition and delivery of the collections.

In a network age, these come apart, and take on new directions. Library space is being reinvented to serve learning and social behaviors. Library collections are diversifying, including not only purchase and licensing of published materials but also the outputs of institutional research and learning, selectively harvested web pages, and other materials. Library expertise is being applied to all aspects the creation, transmission and use of knowledge to support user productivity. And there is a major new focus on developing network services that reach out into the research and learning behaviors of library users.

In this context, I was interested to see the services listed on the new Open University library web pages. They include metadata services:

The Open University has been identifying its metadata needs, to help increase interoperability, retrieval and reuse of its assets. These needs have been considered from the view point of its systems and the requirements of external partners. The University is developing an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system. This will allow it to identify and manage its assets and allow easy delivery of resources to the Open University Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). [Library: Metadata services]

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