When, early in this century, Virginia Woolf needed to find out the truth about women, she headed to the Round Reading Room of the British Museum, for ''if truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where,'' she asked, ''is truth?'' Truth, it pains me to report, decamped last month to a new library near St. Pancras Station, loosed from its moorings in the British Museum after an intermittently happy marriage of nearly two and a half centuries. The great Round Reading Room where, Woolf said, one stood ''as if one were a thought in the huge bald forehead,'' is to be parted from its readers. Among divorces, it was perhaps one of the more easily predictable, but nonetheless painful to those of us whose inner landscape has been irreversibly redrawn. Angeline Goreau. New York Times, Nov 9 1997
I have only to reach my hand up to the bookshelves above my desk and pick out a book, and open it, and plunge my nose between its pages, to retrieve that smell. The book is The Captains Death Bed and other essays, by Virginia Woolf, published in 1950, which I bought a couple of years ago at the Belfast Public Libraries annual sale. When I inhale, I am transported back to the 1950s and the Falls Road Library, where I get the allied aroma of polished linoleum and varnished shelving. I detect a gleam of brass here, too, coming from the handles of the big doors, but also from the little pulls of the filing-cabinet drawers, and I wonder are they implicated in the overall smell. They would be polished, yes, but the brass itself ….. I remember a reference somewhere to a Roman connoisseur who could distinguish among five kinds of patina on a bronze by the smell …. Ciaran Carson. This is what libaries are for. The Dublin Review, Autumn 2001
The book … the growing explosion of information … creates a reactionary tendency on the part of readers to stress the familiarity and relative immutability of static texts, such as paper books. This impulse is particularly strong with respect to literature which, as an important repository of a society's identity, is a domain to which overwhelmed members of the society will turn for security, and which is consequently seen as most threatened by the information explosion. In our fin-de- siècle world, typified by informational and societal variety and indeterminacy, people's needs for dependable institutions are reinforced…. Centripetal Textuality. C. Aaron Potter. Victorian Studies Volume 41, Number 4
Libraries in the space of places have facilitated particular economies of attention and patterns of experience –inner landscape/a house I grew up in manifested the institutional role of libraries –authoritative, well-understood and persistent agency. been vertically organised around the management of atoms –multiple redundant repositories. Organisation Experience Institution
Space of flows Article discovery and delivery – 90s
Space of flows Collaborative reference, Archiving, Digitisation, Scholarly communication – 00s
Libraries in the space of flows Progressive entry into space of flows as resources and services become digital Being digital suggests reorganisation to best leverage individual and collective strengths Remove redundancy –DIY digitisation and preservation
Overview Some pictures – Library in the space of places Some graphics – Library in the space of flows Working in a shared network space Some conclusions
Working in a shared space Libraries co-evolve with the organisations they serve, themselves variably responding to change A foundational reshaping of research, learning, communication, and cultural engagement Institutional uncertainty creates polarity between dreary digital apocalypse and conservative resistance
A shared space: active reshaping in a new medium Scholarly communication: –Moving from author-publisher-distributor-library chain to –… web in which all are potentially in contact with each other. –Co-evolution of new institutional forms with the material support of space of flows –Organisation –Experience –Institutions flux
A shared space – on campus The Digital Library, providing access for staff and students, wherever they are located, to networked information resources, which may in turn be disclosed to the outside world. e-Learning systems, providing the University with the capacity to enable learning and teaching in a flexible, place-independent, online environment, and enhancing the existing campus learning experience. The public Web site, providing a means of marketing the University and of communicating with students, potential students, alumni and others. The Corporate Intranet, providing staff with access to information and communication resources, and to means of conducting their business in a secure, online environment. A Student Intranet, providing students with access to student-centred information, learning resources, course management and communication facilities, as well as the ability to conduct financial and administrative functions online. And lots of other stuff. Hull
A shared space: on the web Previously distinct activities enter a shared space. No resource is the single focus of a users attention. Complementary demands –Demand-side economies of scale –Selective depth of access –Surface in users own space
A shared space: the creative user Digital scholarship Digital learning Cultural heritage Growing importance of unique materials (u) –Supporting creators –Managing intellectual informational assets –Preserving and disclosing –Collectible?
Economy of attention and experience How to enrich learning and scholarship through engaging experience? How should the library engage with resource readers, creators, analysers, assemblers, …? Transition: the portal problem How to engage with learners effectively? How to surface resources where users are?
Institutions Uncertainty of transition – research, learning and communication Sterility of constant reinvention –Unique materials Need for dependable institutions –E.g. preservation Libraries values make them such institutions – organise to deliver
Horizontal organisation around the space of flows Being digital – progressive entry to space of flows Hybrid organisation Digital collections –Access and preservation