Sunday, 16 October 2016

We are all librarians now, filtering our swim through electronic information

Librarians have been the gatekeepers of information for their patrons for many centuries. They would make decisions on books for purchase, know where additional books could be accessed, know where journal articles were stored, know which bibliographic information would benefit a particular researcher.

Now each researcher, each scholar, has a world, a planet, seemingly a universe of information at their 'electronic fingertips'. Most people do not hesitate in impulsively saying, 'I know how to answer that' and launch on a search, and on reflection realise they need the assistance of a librarian to direct them towards relevant resources.

How many librarians regret the manner in which library patrons do not seek their advice. So the patrons go on long winded searchers? Could their research have been  speeded up, or at least focused? Probably.

Then a question arises about the value of information when it is electronic.

How do we inform library patrons that content, data, information, databases are paid for and not just available like an Internet search?
- Some companies will not license their books for electronic editions. They fear that electronic means automatic piracy.
- Some companies will not license data for academic research. They fear it will be copied and made available to university colleagues at other institutions.
- Some distributors of electronic databases worry deeply that the 'data' will be 'out there' and the value of the database will fall.
- Focus is on contemporary data.
- How quickly does information go into the public domain, when copyright holders would prefer to keep it copyright during the duration of their ownership of the information?

The whole concept of Public Domain is changing. An art museum can no longer stop tourists making photos of each painting on its walls. Will licensed academic information become 'Public Domain' in the same way? Simply because it is so easy to do? Simply because students do not perceive licensed information as any different to the free internet?

Already mighty upheavals are underway.

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