May 27, 2007
What Really Matters in Mass Digitization
One of the topics addressed at the recent ARL Membership Meeting was mass digitization. That comes as no surprise, as more and more research libraries (including Illinois) begin to contribute digital content to projects like the Open Content Alliance. But, while the topic of discussion was the negotiation of mass digitization agreements, what caught my attention was a detour into the question of how research libraries will continue to maintain their distinctive character in an environment where we all have access to millions of volumes of digital content. The answer, to my delight, was service.
To paraphrase one of the speakers, in an environment in which we share access to digital content, "competitive advantage" among research libraries will no longer come from the breadth of individual collections, but from the "unique services that add value to those collections."
The content delivered through mass digitization projects, in short, becomes the focal point for expert library services designed to make certain that this content has the greatest impact on research, teaching, and learning on our individual campuses. The research library of the 21st century will be defined not only by what it "has", but how effectively it aids its patrons in making use of that content.
I wasn't looking for a strong statement in support of the key role of library services in the future of the research library in a discussion session where I expected content and metadata to be king, but I was happy to get it! Looking at the infrastructure that we've created at UIUC for targeting content of greatest interest to our users and our State to be the foundation for our mass digitization projects, I know that we're setting the stage for the UIUC Library to remain as "distinctive" by this new measure as it has always been by every other.
Posted by swalter at May 27, 2007 3:50 PM
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