UKSG 2012: Car chases, librarians, and the promise of the future

The data-driven library, removing barriers for library users, and new roles for information professionals emerged as major themes at this year's UKSG conference in Glasgow.

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The power of data

Issues around data and the library emerged as a major theme. Although there are only a handful of data librarians in the UK at present, there are, noted the Digital Curation Centre's Kevin Ashley, important roles for librarians around managing data within institutions. "Without good research data management, bad stuff happens", he said, "but do it right, and good stuff happens." And the benefits to the institution itself are significant: data is expensive to create, and its reuse enables more research, teaching and learning, and planning. And, with or without publication, it has impact.

At the same time, you can't treat data sets like publications, noted Ashley. The boundaries are fuzzy, and they are non linear. "Data is not just an adjunct to publication", commented Ashley. "It is often living and needs to be treated as such."

JISC's Ben Showers continued the exploration of the power of data, in his discussion of data-driven library infrastructure. Reusable data, reusable vocabularies, and joined up data unleash all sorts of exciting potential, argues Showers (quoting Karen Coyle): "this is kind of like asking what electricity looks like; it doesn't so much look like anything as it makes certain things possible". Being open with data allows for a redistribution and reduction of effort, "we need to focus on the core rather than on the chore", he commented, noting that data-driven analytics such as the JUSP and Raptor analytics projects allow librarians to spend time acting on data rather than on analysing them.  

"As librarians, we are good at understanding that we need to protect the past from the future -- but not so good at protecting the future from the past", noted Showers. Openness and linkedness enable many different use cases to bubble up over time.  Despite the undoubted economic challenges faced by many, the importance of innovation, and of being open to the possibilities of the future, emerged as one of the major takeaways from the conference for many delegates.

Image courtesy of IndyDina with Mr Wonderful.

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