Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Future Themes and Forecasts for Research Libraries and Emerging Technologies Scout Calvert, Data Librarian, Michigan State University Edited by Mary Lee Kennedy, Clifford Lynch, and John O’Brien. ARL/CNI/Educause. August 21, 2020


Given the proliferation of powerful emerging technologies available to research organizations, how should research libraries plan to adopt and engage with these technologies in pursuit of their missions in the near term of the next one to three years? How has the critical role of research libraries in the use and adoption of emerging technologies been amplified, refined, or changed as research organizations pivoted to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic? In two workshops, held a month apart in the first weeks of the US pandemic response, leaders and experts in learning and research were guided through a series of exercises to identify likely futures for partnerships with libraries for emerging technologies in learning and research, respectively. As experts identified current drivers of change and signals that indicate that change is happening, they envisioned future trajectories for research libraries to engage with emerging technologies for learning and research in the near time frame of one to three years, and pandemic-caused disruptions loomed large in those trajectories. These potential futures are grounded in the experience and expertise of 27 workshop participants from the higher education learning, information, and research sectors. Considering crucial, current drivers of change, we find the following trends and opportunities for research libraries: • Collaborative, collective approaches to emerging technology challenges or endeavors that transcend a single unit, institution, region, or research library will be increasingly needed, valued, and expected.

• In the face of uncertainties about higher education, participants anticipate research libraries are poised to engage in shaping the future of their institutions in higher education from a position of strength.

• The pandemic drew attention to collaborative and cloud tools to support the focus on online teaching and research continuity, testing barriers to open data and scholarship. Experiments and improvisations can be expected to continue, with new constraints.

• Data generated and used in research, learning, and as a byproduct of digital life will continue to drive a variety of projects in every part of the higher education project, and data-intensive research will continue to gain momentum.