Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


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Mapping the Current Landscape of Research Library Engagement with Emerging Technologies in Research and Learning Final Report By Sarah Lippincott Edited by Mary Lee Kennedy, Clifford Lynch, and Scout Calvert With significant research for the glossary contributed by Jocelyn Cozzo. Association of Research Libraries. 2021


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The generation, dissemination, and analysis of digital information is a significant driver, and consequence, of technological change. As data and information stewards in physical and virtual space, research libraries are thoroughly entangled in the challenges presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution:1 a societal shift powered not by steam or electricity, but by data, and characterized by a fusion of the physical and digital worlds.2 Organizing, structuring, preserving, and providing access to growing volumes of the digital data generated and required by research and industry will become a critically important function. As partners with the community of researchers and scholars, research libraries are also recognizing and adapting to the consequences of technological change in the practices of scholarship and scholarly communication. Technologies that have emerged or become ubiquitous within the last decade have accelerated information production and have catalyzed profound changes in the ways scholars, students, and the general public create and engage with information. The production of an unprecedented volume and diversity of digital artifacts, the proliferation of machine learning (ML) technologies,3 and the emergence of data as the “world’s most valuable resource,”4 among other trends, present compelling opportunities for research libraries to contribute in new and significant ways to the research and learning enterprise. Librarians are all too familiar with predictions of the research library’s demise in an era when researchers have so much information at their fingertips. A growing body of evidence provides a resounding counterpoint: that the skills, experience, and values of librarians, and the persistence of libraries as an institution, will become more important than ever as researchers contend with the data deluge and the ephemerality and fragility of much digital content. This report identifies strategic opportunities for research libraries to adopt and engage with emerging technologies,5 with a roughly fiveyear time horizon. It considers the ways in which research library values and professional expertise inform and shape this engagement, the ways library and library worker roles will be reconceptualized, and the implication of a range of technologies on how the library fulfills its mission. The report builds on a literature review covering the last five years of published scholarship, primarily North American information science literature, and interviews with a dozen library field experts, completed in fall 2019. It begins with a discussion of four cross-cutting opportunities that permeate many or all aspects of research library services. Next, specific opportunities are identified in each of five core research library service areas: facilitating information discovery, stewarding the scholarly and cultural record, advancing digital scholarship, furthering student learning and success, and creating learning and collaboration spaces. Each section identifies key technologies shaping user behaviors and library services, and highlights exemplary initiatives. Underlying much of the discussion in this report is the idea that “digital transformation is increasingly about change management”6 —that adoption of or engagement with emerging technologies must be part of a broader strategy for organizational change, for “moving emerging work from the periphery to the core,”7 and a broader shift in conceptualizing the research library and its services. Above all, libraries are benefitting from the ways in which emerging technologies offer opportunities to center users and move from a centralized and often siloed service model to embedded, collaborative engagement with the research and learning enterprise.