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Earlier this year, the Council on Research Libraries (CLIR) convened a group of librarians, publishers, faculty members, and information technology specialists to consider the future of the research library in a "dynamic, swiftly changing landscape." A summary of that meeting, recommendations, and brief essays written by eight of the participants are included in the final report: No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century.
One of the core topical threads in the discussion involved a fundamental dilemma: libraries are profoundly conservative institutions (as follows from their traditional mission) but it is clear that we must respond to the changes around us or face the very real danger of becoming stuck in a niche that is getting smaller and smaller. So the questions is "How do we balance the conservative risk averse nature with the need to respond to a changing environment?" (p.4).
The report suggests a number of possible solutions that are explored in some depth in the essays. More broadly, the summary recommendations suggest thinking deeply about what it is we want to conserve, identifying those areas where libraries have the competitive advantage (e.g. preservation and standards), and finding new ways to engage and expand our traditional position at the center of campus and at the crossroads of disciplines.
The "New Directions Intitiative" at the UC Berkeley Libraries shows some remarkable similarities to the New Service Model process here at Illinois. The timing and the pace of these change processes are almost identical, and we are touching on many of the same themes. Perhaps we can learn from each other.