De Lange Conference on Emerging Libraries: Notes, Part 1

This week, I (as well as other LITA members — it was like a reunion!) attended the De Lange Conference on Emerging Libraries at Rice University in Houston. It took place on March 5 – 7, but I only attended it through midday on Tuesday the 6th. The stated point of the conference was:

Rice University’s 2007 De Lange Conference Aims to Describe How Knowledge Will Be Accessed, Discovered, and Disseminated in the Age of Digital Information.

Monday, March 5, 2007

9:00 a.m. “Open Access Education – Building Communities and Sharing Knowledge”
Richard Baraniuk is the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering at Rice University and the founder of Connexions (cnx.org).

Presentation on how open access movement is affecting education, especially libraries. Got frustrated with “curricular stovepiping” – lack of integration between disciplines and levels. Found difficulty in engaging students in interactive exploration. Difficult to build communities, collaboration between faculty and students.

Led to interest in open access – democratization: knowledge should be free and open to use and re-use. Mentioned music as an area where people are free to do what they want; why not textbooks? (I wonder about this as an analogy – there is a notable industry that doesn’t think music should be open access. [He acknowledged this later. Kind of like, “what were we thinking to not call him on that?”]) Knowledge should be part of a global repository, available to everyone for use and contribution.

Connexions is built with this in mind. One example from it is group of people who work together to create repository on fourier theory in complex spaces, then draw a textbook from it. Another example is K-12 teacher whose material is about music theory and who gets tremendous usage online, would not usually be considered by most people. Lots of translation stuff going on.

Another example is Teachers without Borders – access, but localization, is important to them, so interconnected learning materials are important. Also talked about “burning” – for knowledge, this would be taking what you want and creating it in book form. This kind of project holds promise for dealing with the crisis of university presses. For example, Rice University closed its university press, but is now finding that it can “re-open” as part of the Connexions project. This can still meet publication requirements for scholars, but at very low cost, allowing model to be viable.

He had mentioned MIT open courseware project – Connexions is different in that anyone can contribute. Raises quality control problem. Gave example of something that was plagiarized and commercially connected. Their way of dealing with this is to offer tools that allow for distributed peer review. So organizations could point to certain materials they’ve done peer review on.

Open access can support things like community colleges where textbooks cost almost as much as tuition, and public schools where textbooks can’t be afforded for students.

Questions that are raised by open access: who owns your content? There will be unbundling of authoring, etc. He foresees disintermediation of publication. What will the government role be? Government will become increasingly conscious how much it is paying for materials, want changes.

10:30 a.m. “Emerging Cybraries”
Michael A. Keller, Stanford’s University Librarian, Director of Academic Information Resources, Founder and Publisher of HighWire Press, and Publisher of the University Press

Made the point of the necessity of de-siloing scholarly information – therefore importance of open access. Being able to deeply search the scholarly information in new ways.

Accuracy and precision count.
Metadata counts.
Citation relationships can be graphed to make relationships among ideas clear.
Information objects can interoperate based on taxonomic terms, allowing for greater relevance.
The large amount of information given by things like Amazon allow for more discovery.
Subject portals can be helpful if current and deep.
Talked about new types of alerting services.
We need an effective federated search engine that covers everything or we need a fully realized semantic Web, populated with richly documented digital objects.
What do we do, regardless of format? We select and acquire, provide intellectual access, we guide and teach, assist with analysis and presentation. We evolve as the Web of actionable information expands.
Building bookless engineering library at Stanford. Starting with 20,000 books, and taking them away as they become digital. See paper on the “information collaboratory.” Community efforts necessary, individual ones not sustainable.