Sunday, November 8, 2009

One size won’t fit all in information policy and provision

The British Library and the Research Information Network have published a report Patterns of Information Use and Exchange: case studies of researchers in the life sciences.

The key conclusion of the report, “that the policies and strategies of research funders and information service providers must be informed by an understanding of the exigencies and practices of different research communities” is no surprise, but it is worth going to the report to read some of what led to that conclusion.

For example, even within what might be categorised a discipline, there can be marked differences in the patterns of information use and exchange, as evidenced by the seven case studies in the report. An Information Flow map is produced for each of the case studies, each map made up of activities or concepts joined by links. Librarians will be interested in the vast array of information or data sources listed. In the Botanical curation study, for example, scientific papers and monographs are just two of the eighty-two named activities or concepts.

Academic libraries have long worked to understand the needs of their different communities, as is evidenced by the faculty librarian or subject support model in place in most libraries, increasingly complemented today by the role of research support librarian. It is interesting to see in this report, however, the recommendation that researchers should ‘reconnect’ with information professionals. The model that has worked for so long needs to be updated and made stronger.

Academic libraries need to provide more than strong disciplinary support in the provision of and access to information. There is a need for concerted efforts to be made to understand how information is produced within individual disciplines, in order to support and develop new relationships and functions, particularly regarding data curation and information sharing.

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