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
- 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
for Library and Information Services (LIS)
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:
- What are the public and private sector models for dissemination of government information?
- What are the benefits of collaborative, co-operative and multi-sectoral approaches to specialist information access? How can they best be managed?
- What are the constraints on access to information? What are the particular constraints for the disabled and those with special needs? How can these constraints be overcome?
- How can the private sector contribute to the development of the technological infrastructure?
- What are the access requirements of different user groups?
- What information and image retrieval methods provide the most appropriate access, particularly for users of the Internet?
- How can regional perspectives and co-operative structures best be managed?
- How can access to information be improved through local networks?
- What descriptive tools and control mechanisms are needed to support efficient access to the content of traditional and digitised materials?
- What improvements to information access need to be made through software such as search engines, subject trees and gateways?
- What are the issues involved in providing access to information by electronic services compared with print-based services?
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:
- What gaps does the mapping of the distributed national resource reveal?
- What are the best ways of adding value to the content of materials, for a diverse community?
- How can the mixture of digital and non-digital resources, necessary to serve the needs of users, be acquired and managed successfully?
- How can the United Kingdom exploit its digital resources on a global scale?
- What is the market for digital collections and services? What are the models for public and private sector involvement?
- What are the implications of digitisation for preservation of materials?
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
- What is the relationship between requirements, use and impact of information amongst different user groups?
- What models are there for evaluating the effectiveness of information-gathering skills of users and knowledge facilitators?
- What are the future personnel requirements of library and information services to respond to the needs of the information society?
- What new models are there for delivery of training for information and knowledge workers and how can the skills of library and information workers be regularly refreshed throughout their professional lives?
- What are the management styles and structures needed by library and information services to support a diverse community? How can change in culture, ethos and structure in library and information service organisations be managed ?
- What lessons in human resource development are there to be learned from successful innovation in other sectors?
- "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.
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:
- How can the information society be defined and modelled?
- What are the models for information provision for the support of democracy, citizenship and community principles?
- What are the social and economic impacts of public libraries and other information services on the community?
- What is the role of libraries in support of formal education and lifelong learning?
- What is the role of libraries in support of disadvantaged groups?
- What are the best ways of promoting the position of the United Kingdom in the information market?
- Which models of information provision in other countries, particularly those with a high priority for library and information services, have a particular relevance for the United Kingdom?
- What is the position of key commercial players in the information market?
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:
- What is the economic impact of legislative changes on information services?
- What will be the impact on libraries of publisher strategies for information access?
- What are the best methods of managing base funding as well as income generation and alternative funding to achieve maximum efficiency in library and information services?
- What are the economic models and the markets for different methods of information provision and procurement, including the Internet, document supply and book purchase?
- What models of charging for services are practical and desirable?
- What are the copyright and other business implications of digital information?
- What are the economic effects of mergers, downsizing and outsourcing of library and Information services?
- What mechanisms are best suited to quantify the economic and social worth of library and information services?