Global Research Library 2020

I’m attending GRL2020, where a high-powered group of folks who care about the future of libraries, and in particular, research libraries, have come together to discuss opportunities, risks, and impediments.

The opportunities are abundantly clear to me, but what about risks? The only risk I can think of is maintaining status quo. For example, the other day I published a screencast and blog writeup about a new IronPython-based spreadsheet called Resolver. It got Slashdotted and attracted more than the usual amount of commentary. Several folks noted, very helpfully, that the notion of a spreadsheet that’s intimately connected to an object-oriented programming environment is not new, and they pointed to various antecedents.

One commenter, John Lopez, wrote:

I see this about once a month: an announcement of something so new that it couldn’t possibly have been done before, yet when I ask if they have done a literature search they look at me like I am speaking in an alien language. Organizations like the ACM and IEEE have a vast troves of information and knowledge, yet membership continues to decline in the traditional professional societies in favor of vendor specific groups (that lack an *interest* in developing institutional knowledge because that doesn’t sell new products).

Much effort is lost duplicating the past.

It’s a fair point, but when I followed his links I landed here:

Full-Text is a controlled feature.

To access this feature:

* Please login with your ACM Web Account.
* Please review the requirements below.

Now this isn’t just a question of open access. Setting aside the question of whether or to what extent peer-reviewed literature is made freely available, there’s a vast new literature that never existed. We create that literature as we narrate the work that we do, and we create it in an environment that makes it naturally discoverable, linkable, and capable of influencing minds across space and time.

Switching from computer science to biology, here’s a nice example of that sort of narration that I found the other day:

Michael Barton is a PhD student in Bioinformatics at the University of Manchester.

This is blog about my research on gene expression in yeast, and an experiment in open notebook science.

The only real risk I can see is that we’ll fail to establish the equivalent of open notebook science in every professional domain. If we succeed in establishing that norm, though, the future for libraries — and librarians — will be very bright indeed.


  1. > * Please login with your ACM Web Account.
    > * Please review the requirements below.
    Now this is somewhere MS $s could be spent to open-up and make searchable.

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