For the meeting of the ACRL Public Services Directors of Large Research Libraries Discussion Group at ALA Annual this year, I volunteered to kick off a discussion on how we define “public services”. The topic got listed on our agenda as “Defining Public Service in Large ARL Libraries”, which makes it that much more interesting for someone from Stanford to lead the discussion ;-).
Here are my notes so far (meeting starts in 3 hours):
How should we define Public Services for ARL institutions?
While I’m not one to avoid controversy, as the only non-ARL institution in the group, it would take far more hubris than even I can conjure up for me to suggest how public services ought to be defined for the rest of you. So what I will do instead is talk about what I want out of this group, in the hopes that enough of us have similar aspirations for this group that we can reach some consensus on our boundaries and our value to one another.
There are literally hundreds of conversations, meetings, presentations, discussion groups at every ALA convention related to public services, so the big question for me is what is the unique value of gathering as Heads of Public Services at Large Research libraries? Or what could be our unique value?
For me, the unique value is in talking to peers – peers in terms of kinds of institutions (research libraries — very, very large research libraries), and peers in terms of scope of responsibilities.
With that in mind, I think for large research libraries public services are research services; and as AULs, or directors, or whatever our titles are, we should be talking at the strategic levelWhat does that mean? One thing it means, is I don’t want to spend an hour talking about laptop lending policies – which is what happened at my 1st one of these, and I wanted to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon. I don’t want to talk about course reserves, or how to staff the reference desk, or text-a-librarian services. And, yes, I’ll say it — I don’t particularly want to talk about undergraduates — not in this group. Again, there are hundreds of other groups and places where we can talk about library services for undergraduates. But this is the only group with a focus on publics services for research.
Some things I do want to talk about:
- Digital humanities support—what are you doing, where in the organization does it happen, how are you coordinating it and sustaining it?
- What skills, education, knowledge do you expect from your subject librarians and how is that reflected in hiring, professional development, etc.?
- Data support – not just data management plans, but actual data acquisition, management, analysis, publishing/sharing, and preservation. Big data. Confidential data. Proprietary data.
- What is the changing (or not) relationship between collection development and research support at your institution?
- GIS support, visualization tools, the creation of online exhibits and archives, online collaborative research environments
- Support for creating digital data – how do you support faculty who want to do text-mining on set of print materials not yet digitized? What is the service model? What is your funding model?
- What is your experience in negotiating with vendors to give researchers specialized access to data?
- What are you doing about providing information and options/platforms for alternative publishing models for scholars?
- What are some successful models for providing reference and instruction for graduate students? How many of you have subject librarians teaching or co-teaching in methods classes (in humanities and social sciences especially)?
Bottom line is I want this group to focus its discussions and sharing on our unique challenges as AULs at research-intensive universities – which as far as I can tell is RESEARCH SUPPORT. There are hundreds of other groups and sessions and sets of people I can talk to about teaching, about information commons, and reference, and course reserves, and all manner of support for undergraduates. And god forbid I even need to talk to someone about laptop lending policies, it doesn’t have to be someone at a research library. But, this is the only group that shares my focus on supporting scholarly research. For me personally, I need that kind of group – I need a place I can go where we can wrestle together with the changing nature of research and the role libraries and librarians can play.