EduLib - Education, Libraries, Publishing & Technology

This is a very occasional blog on education, libraries, publishing and the technologies that support these activities.

The rules that I try to follow when writing this blog are:
1. Try not to waste the time of the reader (hence the long Subject headings).
2. Be informative.
3. If not informative, be provocative & controversial.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I Want To Discover Information, Not Search Collections

Many librarians continue to be very focussed on providing readers with the ability to search collections in the most sophisticated ways, but surely many researchers want to be able to discover any potentially interesting materials from all possible sources.

It is true that if I am in my local public library branch, or I am an undergraduate with a deadline, I go into the library and say "What have you got ?" But if I am trying to find, say, research that links stomach ulcers with Helicobacter pylori, I absolutely do not want to be limited to my library's current physical holdings and online subscriptions.

Now some librarians recognise this and try to provide the widest possible capability to search metadata and full-text independent of collections, but there still seems to be a hard-core of 'collection-centric' librarians. Indeed, at a recent conference workshop on electronic resource management software, I was shocked by how the librarians present unanimously demanded the capability to ensure that there was no bibliographic data in the catalogue relating to journals to which the library did not subscribe.

Similarly, at Bielefeld last week, Anurag Acharya from Google made a strong case for the wonders of Google Scholar, and to some extent made the case that many researchers want to discover 'everything' (Google Scholar) before they go on find out what is in their library. Yet he made this case at a technical and product level, and I think missed an opportunity to take a "librarians must serve readers" line, making clear that many librarians, and systems, and services are not meeting the needs of researchers in this way.

At the moment we have a range of inadequate services to 'discover everything' (journal citation services are not bad, and of course Amazon is the premier bibliographic source for monographs), and librarians should be welcoming Google Scholar in principle (whilst continuing to challenge particular facets of the system).

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Mark Carden is a business development executive, consultant and recruiter, who has 30 years of experience in project management, software engineering and technology sales.

In the publishing, education and libraries sector he has held international Vice President positions at Publishing Technology, Ingram Digital, Innovative Interfaces, and Dynix.

Mark's career started in software development, project management and consulting; he has worked for several 'blue-chip' companies including Accenture, NatWest Life and Barclays Bank.

He has a BA in Philosophy & Psychology from Oxford University, and has also attended executive education programmes at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University and the Saïd Business School at Oxford University.

Mark's special interests include: Publishing software, library automation systems, e-books, campus & enterprise portals, hand-held computing, business strategy, how time factors affect company & management behaviours, and the transition of owner-managed businesses into professionally-managed companies.