19 February 2009

The Agricultural Library of the Future: Points from the Rome discussion

During the recent ShareFair held at FAO in Rome (January 20-22); there was a session dedicated to 'The Agricultural Library of the Future.'

Johannes Keizer (FAO), Margaret Zito (FAO Library), Hugo Besemer (Wageningen UR), and Andreas Psoroulas (WFP) started the discussion by outlining what they thought the future roles/responsibilities of an agricultural library could be.

Johannes outlined five main roles that information managers should be working towards:
  • Open access – Information managers have a vital role in assisting their organisation in disseminating the global public goods they produce. Information managers need to ensure that their organisation’s research outputs are available and accessible by all, particularly those in developing countries. 
  • Catalyze and facilitate knowledge exchange – Traditionally information managers have been in the best position in knowing “who does what” within an organisation (be it their own or their partners), due to the very nature of our jobs. Now that organisations use various tools to exchange knowledge, the time is ripe for information managers to step in and help different communities link to each other where appropriate, and to assist them to move forward with their research or development agendas. 
  • Help to create integrated information and knowledge management platforms. - More often than not, only the IT specialists are consulted when deciding on a software or platform to be adopted; however we have learnt over the years that technology more often than not is not the issue at hand. Information managers are in the best position to ensure that “whole picture” is taken into consideration and that a full integration of organizational information needs and workflows are catered for.
  • Deliver targeted expert services – with limited budgets and staffing it is necessary that information managers develop and deliver highly specialized services for their users. 
  • Change your skill sets – information managers need to update and expand their skill base so that they can bring a complementary mix of skills to their job. 
Margaret Zito outlined her ideas of the future role of an agricultural library. Libraries can be seen as the following key elements:
  • Place - The library is just not a process; the library is a place to explore, and follow through on information needs. The library is a place of neutrality/ security, of trusted and quality resources.
  • Process – whereby a latent piece of information is made available for resource discovery through the skills of the information manager. Technology now provides the information manager the possibility of using many different tools and methods to describe and push the information out to users (both within their organisation and to the external world)
  • Products – new technologies provide us with opportunities for customizing, developing and delivering information and knowledge in many different ways. Information managers are the best people to do this.
  • People – Information managers have very specialised expertise, they are part of an information chain/pathway and they provide the added value to research projects, research outputs and information management within an organization.
The discussion was then opened to the other participants. Here are some of the main points that came up from the discussion:
  • Are libraries providing the new expected services or just “old classics”?
  • New generation is expecting instant answers to their queries – library services must target this
  • Library users are now becoming library collaborators
  • Library of the future should work more with people rather than for people
  • As there is a risk that libraries may disappear, libraries must become more aggressive in marketing themselves and the services they offer
  • Physical libraries are elitist – accessible only to those physically present. Digital content is essential in current world
  • Role for library is in the service of filtering, synthesizing and packaging the information? Quality and trusted information provided.
  • Information managers/Librarians need to take their skills outside the four walls of the library and make management aware of the added value that they provide to the organisation. They need to be more part of the core business of the organization. 
  • Information managers need to build a successful business case for their libraries.
  • Information managers need to provide services in new ways, through new technologies. 
  • Perspective of developing countries – how to provide information and knowledge there? Different types of skills and approach needed? Role required in developing countries more like extensionist?
Report by Maria Garrucio, Bioversity International

See other stories and comments at: http://iaald.blogspot.com/search/label/sharefair09

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Anonymous Gill said...

Really very innovative methods to implement the future agricultural dictionary. Making the library to be accessable in the internet is a superb innovation and will be useful for millions of farmers around the world.

February 23, 2009  
Anonymous P. Pushpangadan said...

It is indeed an encourging effort that you are seeking from the reader/researchers of agriculutral library information system.

All the technical task related to agricultural library, if perfomed with logic and user approach, will serve a helpful guides to the user in retrieving his information/documents expiditiously.

In the present age of powerful computers/internets , the interactive library software are easily available.

P. Pushpangadan

March 08, 2009  

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