Knowledge Unlatched Usage

In its successful pilot phase, Knowledge Unlatched worked to secure pledges from at least 200 libraries in order to unlatch (that is, make freely and openly available) a collection of 28 front-list titles from recognized scholarly publishers. 297 libraries from 24 countries pledged, including the Boston College University Libraries.
Usage stats are now available for this collection and the breadth of use and numbers  of downloads (80,000!) make the Boston College investment seem very worthwhile. We have also contributed to unlatch the next round of publications. This is an interesting alternative publishing model to watch.

Pew Report: “Libraries at the Crossroads”

The Pew Research Center very recently published Libraries at the Crossroads. This publication reports the findings “from a nationally representative telephone survey of 2,004 Americans ages 16 and older, conducted from March 17-April 12, 2015.” The results reveal complex developments in the library world. Complementing traditional forms of library usage are new services, resources and programs. At the same time, there are signs that the number of Americans visiting libraries have edged downwards over the past three years. Some findings from the report:

Many Americans say they want public libraries to:

–support local education;
–serve special constituents such as veterans, active-duty military personnel and immigrants;
–help local businesses, job seekers and those upgrading their work skills;
–embrace new technologies such as 3-D printers and provide services to help patrons learn about high-tech gadgetry.

Additionally, two-thirds of Americans (65%) ages 16 and older say that closing their local public library would have a major impact on their community. Low-income Americans, Hispanics and African Americans are more likely than others to say that a library closing would impact their lives and communities.

Collaborative Research Relationships in the Digital Humanities

On 1 September, 2015 in a preview issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly Alix Keener published “The Arrival Fallacy: Collaborative Research Relationships in the Digital Humanities”. The article, based on the results of semi-structured interviews with 11 personnel — faculty, researchers and librarians — within the Center for Institutional Cooperation, explores the collaborative relationship between faculty and academic librarians in the conduct of digital humanities research. The findings are discussed in five sections: I), the best model for engaging DH scholars, II), what domain expertise is needed, III), the areas in which faculty and librarians agree, IV), the areas in which they disagree (tensions), and finally, V), where the two groups have a perceptual disconnect. Below is the article’s abstract:

As discussion and debates on the digital humanities continue among scholars, so too does discussion about how academic libraries can and should support this scholarship. Through interviews with digital humanities scholars and academic librarians within the Center for Institutional Cooperation, this study aims to explore some points of common perspective and underlying tensions in research relationships. Qualitative interviews revealed that, while both groups are enthusiastic about the future of faculty-librarian collaboration on digital scholarship, there remain certain tensions about the role of the library and the librarian. Scholars appreciate the specialized expertise of librarians, especially in metadata and special collections, but they can take a more active stance in utilizing current library resources or vocalizing their needs for other resources. This expertise and these services can be leveraged to make the library an active and equal partner in research. Additionally, libraries should address internal issues, such as training and re-skilling librarians as necessary; better-coordinated outreach to academic departments is also needed.

“Reading Europe: European Culture through the Book”.

Anatomie de la tête, en tableaux imprimés, qui représentent au naturel le cerveau sous différentes coupes… d'après les pièces disséquées et préparées par M. Duverney, 1748.

Anatomie de la tête, en tableaux imprimés, qui représentent au naturel le cerveau sous différentes coupes… d’après les pièces disséquées et préparées par M. Duverney, 1748.

The European Library and the European national libraries have created a fascinating online exhibition: “Reading Europe: European culture through the book”. This “offers a rare opportunity to view some of the hidden literary gems from the national libraries of Europe. Twenty-three countries have selected nearly a thousand works for the public to peruse. Visitors can discover everything from 18th century English bestsellers to the lost interiors of Russian palaces, all presented in an innovative and multilingual form.” Twenty-six countries and thirty-one languages are represented. The exhibition includes curatorial information about each participating national library, in English and their official languages.

The future of libraries

My subscription to the Berkman Buzz alerted me to the New York Times Room for Debate Series on the future of libraries.
John Palfrey comments on the series, and here are some observations I particularly like:

Why is this even a “debate”?
It’s a debate because too many people think that we don’t need libraries when we have the Internet. That logic couldn’t be more faulty. We actually need libraries more (as Luis Herrera points out) now that we have the Internet, not less. But we have to craft a clear and affirmative argument to make that case to those who don’t work in libraries or focus deeply on their operations. Librarians have to make a political and public case, which is too rarely being made effectively today.


The future of libraries is in peril. Librarians and those of us who love libraries need to make an affirmative argument for investments in the services, materials, and physical spaces that libraries comprise. This argument must be grounded in the needs of library users, today and in the future. The argument needs to move past nostalgia and toward a bright and compelling future for libraries as institutions, for librarians as professionals, and for the role that libraries play in vibrant democracies.

Palfrey outlines ten steps libraries should take to remain vibrant. My favorite is number 8:

Library spaces should function more like labs, where people interact with information and make new knowledge.

He concludes:

The argument that libraries are obsolete in a digital era is faulty. But those of us who love libraries need to make the case for why that’s so. This case has everything to do with libraries finding compelling ways to support education, helping people to learn, thrive, and be the best civic actors we can be. We have to recreate the sense of wonder and importance of libraries, as public spaces, as research labs, as maker-spaces, and as core democratic institutions for the digital age.