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U California Rethinks Its Role in the Information Marketplace

.: This is worth the read, short in length and deep in content. U Cal's Bibliographic Services Task Force completed a review of the services provided by the U Cal library system. The executive summary of the report, titled "Rethinking How We Provide Bibliographic Services for the University of California", outlines the issue (excerpt):

Society is in the midst of learning how to “be” in the information age. The advent of computers and the inclusion of the Web in our work and private lives have pushed innovations and embraced information and access in ways we can hardly imagine. We are living in a complex and challenging digital landscape that changes constantly. On the Library front, our bibliographic systems have not kept pace with this changing environment. The continuing proliferation of formats, tools, services, and technologies has upended how we arrange, retrieve, and present our holdings. Our users expect simplicity and immediate reward and Amazon, Google, and iTunes are the standards against which we are judged. Our current systems pale beside them.

The current Library catalog is poorly designed for the tasks of finding, discovering, and selecting the growing set of resources available in our libraries. It is best at locating and obtaining a known item. For librarians and for our users, the catalog is only one option for accessing our collections. We offer a fragmented set of systems to search for published information (catalogs, A&I databases, full text journal sites, institutional repositories, etc) each with very different tools for identifying and obtaining materials. For the user, these distinctions are arbitrary . Within Library workflows and systems too much effort is going into maintaining and integrating a fragmented infrastructure. We need to look seriously at opportunities to centralize and/or better coordinate services and data, while maintaining appropriate local control, as a way of reducing effort and complexity and of redirecting resources to focus on improving the user experience.

Books are not going away. Traditional information formats are, however, being used in combination with a multitude of new and evolving formats. It is our responsibility to assist our users in finding what they need without demanding that they acquire specialized knowledge or select among an array of “silo” systems whose distinctions seem arbitrary.

The famous sage Howard Cosell once said, “What’s popular isn’t always right. What’s right isn’t always popular.” We suspect when it comes to the Internet and how it has simplified searching, what is popular is also right.

It's another wakeup call, reminding us that unless we collectively change with the times, we may fall too far behind to catch up.

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