Library and Information Commission Prospects: a strategy for action

Library and Information Research, Development and Innovation in the United Kingdom - Proposals for consultation

Library and Information Commission Research Committee, November 1997

[4] The Research Programme

The Library and Information Commission's 2020 Vision of the future information society in which library and information services play a key role, provided the framework for the identification of a wide range of research needs. These were validated by means of mapping and consultation exercises, involving not just the library and information profession, but also a wide and varied constituency, made up of potential sponsors, contributors and consumers of research.
Our proposed Research Programme has five major themes. Three core themes, Connectivity, Content and Competences, relate directly to the contribution which library and information services are expected to make to the global information eco nomy. Two supporting themes are fundamental to each of the core themes, and relate to the Library and Information Commission's role in articulating the impact and value of library and information services, and positioning them in the overall economy of t he information society.
We anticipate that these themes will provide a medium to long term framework for a library and information services research agenda. We propose that this framework is used to conduct a three year rolling programme of strategic research pr ojects. It is anticipated that about ten projects per year will be selected from the three core themes, by means of open calls for proposals. These may include demonstrator projects which follow up previous research. Proposals will be evaluated by proc esses to be decided by the Research Committee.
In the rest of this section we give examples of specific questions which have been synthesised from topics identified as priorities in our mapping and consultation exercises. Individual facets will become more or less important over time, as the information society evolves, and as policy and practice adjusts - to a whole range of market forces, to innovative developments and to constraining influences.
These draft proposals provide a further opportunity to establish whether these priorities address the relevant issues and national needs and comments are welcomed. Even when endorsed by a wide constituency both within and beyond the libra ry and information services community, these themes will need to be renewed and refreshed, to ensure that they remain valid over time. Our proposals for development of the library and information research infrastructure in Section 5 of this document addr ess the continuing process of gathering and prioritising research ideas, and implementing the results.

A Framework of Priorities for Information Research

Core themes for the Information Society Connectivity Access; Content resources; Competences Skills; Impact and Value of LIS; 
Economics of LIS
Fundamental themes for Library and Information Services (LIS)

Core theme:
* Connectivity: Access to the information society

As the global information economy evolves, the need to ensure the best possible access to information, for the widest possible community, becomes ever more pressing. We need to improve our understanding of the needs of different i nformation users, to establish new models, and develop the infrastructure for information access.
Technology will provide many of the solutions, but what problems will it also create? There is increasing concern that access will be limited, even denied, to some people. We wish to ensure that library and information services f ully exploit their potential to promote social inclusion.
Examples of the questions, to which we need to find answers, include:

Core theme:
* Content: Resources for the information society

Creating a digital library of the United Kingdom's intellectual heritage of culture and innovation gives rise to many research questions which extend beyond technological solutions and far beyond the interests of library and inform ation services. Ensuring that the knowledge contained in our national collections of literature, art and culture becomes increasingly accessible presents enormous challenges. Mapping and filling the gaps in the national digital resource is a cross-secto ral concern, not only of libraries, but also museums, galleries and others.
At the same time it is recognised that digitisation does not resolve the issues of collection, storage and conservation of original sources.
In the academic world, progress is being made with technological and economic issues relating to digitisation. Studies are under way into "hybrid libraries" and public library resources have begun to be addressed, but there are m any issues as yet unresolved.
Further research is needed to complement existing programmes such as the United Kingdom higher education sector's eLib programme, and the British Library's internal and external research and development programmes on the Digital L ibrary. Further collaborative research with agencies such as the National Council for Educational Technology will be required in order to build on existing work relating to resources for children and schools.

These are examples of the questions to which we need to find answers:

Core theme:
* Competences: Skills for the information society

Equipping individuals and organisations to play their full role in a learning and information society provides a rich agenda for development which combines technological innovation with social sciences research.
New skills and learning strategies are urgently required for both information users and library and information workers. Different user groups, while requiring common core competences, may also need specialist skills in information-handl ing in order to support innovation and change.
The same is true of library and information workers, and a new breed of knowledge workers is needed. An overall examination is required of the quality of information professionals, the skills they require in different information sectors and those which are cross-sectoral in the information society.
Greater understanding of strategic and organisational management skills is required within the library and information community itself, in order to operate effectively within the information society.

Examples of the questions to which we need to find answers are:

Fundamental themes

"The impact and value" and "The economics" of library and information services are fundamental to each of the three core thematic areas, Connectivity, Content and Competences. We believe that the se issues justify distinct themes because of their critical importance to national policies, to decision makers in the information industry as a whole and to information users at the point of service delivery.

Fundamental theme:
* The impact and value of library and information services in the information society

One of the principal objectives of the Library and Information Commission is to represent the essential value of library and information services at a macro-level in social, educational and economic policy-making environments.
In the international context, we need to promote the United Kingdom as a key source of information as a commodity.
With the development of new devolved frameworks for social, educational and economic provision, the impact and value of library and information services to inform decision-making at these levels require modelling and evaluation to exploit their full potential.

Examples of questions to which we need to find answers are:

Fundamental theme:
* The economics of library and information services in the information society

Research is needed to quantify investment in library and information services across all sectors, and to establish what multiplier effects such input may have on the economy. Public and private sector funding for library and inf ormation services needs to be investigated, in terms of its economic impact in all aspects of national productivity as well as the less quantifiable aspects of the public good.
More specific aspects of the economy, including legislative and regulatory policies, require urgent attention. Copyright, intellectual property and charging for services affect the information industry as a whole. National proce dures for audit of input and output performance of publicly funded libraries have already come under scrutiny, but disparate efforts need co-ordination at a national and cross-sectoral level.
Strategic level research is needed to investigate models of national and regional co-ordination such as centres of excellence, regional and subject Library and Information Plans, and collaborative services, not only within the lib rary and information services community but beyond, with other sectors and with players at other levels in the chain of supply and demand.

These are examples of the questions to which we need to find answers:

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