Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Forum on New Modes of Information Delivery Recap

As you might recall, a couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting called Forum On New Modes of Information Delivery that was hosted by ACRL, EDUCAUSE and the National Association of College Stores. There were 48 participants invited to represent various levels, interest and constituencies from libraries, IT and college stores. My best guess as to my participation is that I work at a 2-year or community college and have some knowledge of emerging technology issues. At any rate, I was glad to be invited and the event turned out to be very interesting. And I got to meet and talk with some great people.

The meeting took place in a little over 24 hours, so it was very intensive. At the start there was a group meeting of all participants where we watched a provocative video produced by Richard Katz of EDUCAUSE about the state of higher education in 2020.

(Note: The video isn't being widely distributed due to copyright clearance issues but there is a video of the video being shown at a conference in the Netherlands available online. It is worth watching. It is also a slow loader so maybe pause, let it load and come back to it.)

The group then split off into breakout session groups mostly along the lines of functional areas, with a few people from the other areas thrown in for a different perspective. The task of these sessions was to come up with a "script" of your own movie about the state of higher ed in 2020, putting forward both positive and negative events.

I was in the library group for this part and we discussed a lot of issues related to Open Access and copyright issues, preservation of all forms of digital materials (this kept coming up in other sessions), continuation of the digital/ information/ education divide, the economics of information production and digitization, and the potential impact and uses of emerging technologies. A couple of other items in our timeline included the impact of new conceptions of privacy, and the increasing pervasiveness of commercialism in higher education and digitization. The groups then got back together and presented our timelines and had discussion on some of the issues.

The next day featured a couple more small group discussions with the participants shifted around a little. The first revolved around how to implement some of the issues the functional areas noted the previous day. There was some very interesting discussion in my group, which ended up with three top opportunities including providing easier access to the world of digitized information outside of institutional silos of licensed databases and local collections, repositories and preservation of digital material, and scholarly discussion.

There were a couple of great items that hit my going back over my notes and the raw notes we were given from the meeting in this area. One was the idea of the library as host for real and virtual scholarly interaction outside of the tradition of the library as a place to find information. Providing virtual and physical spaces where scholars and students can meet and discuss ideas. Sort of based on the old faculty clubs in many institutions but in an expanded way. And another is the expansion of the current trend in some institutions of the library as scholarly publisher through hosting institutional repositories and Open Access journals. And creating scholarly materials themselves.

The final exercise involved combining the area groups for more cross pollination of ideas. I was in a combined library/ college stores group during this part and it was fascinating! We had a great discussion on possible collaborations between the areas including new ways to possibly use physical space for learning and gathering, potential commercial partnerships in the sale/ distribution of library produced information, and possibly becoming more cost effective and efficient by merging some functions of ordering and acquisitions between libraries and stores. Interestingly, most of the library and bookstore folks in attendance noted a lack of knowledge about each other's areas and seemed very interested in looking at concrete ways to work with each other in current, real world ways.

This whole issue of collaboration being essential as we move ahead was probably the biggest take away that most people got from the forum. The idea that there is a lot all three areas don't know about each other and there are many opportunities to learn and work together to make our institutions a more truly collaborative environment across functional areas.

And that's my personal run down of the experience. There seemed to be a commitment on the part of all three organizations involved to continue the conversations and work together on a larger scale. So expect to see more information and action. And go talk to the folks in your local college store to see how you can possibly work together for the benefit of your institutions.

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