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A local habitation and a name: libraries, places, and networks. Presentation to Cornell University Library Academic Assembly, 3 April 2003 Lorcan Dempsey, VP Research, OCLC http://www.oclc.org/research/. Overview. Some pictures and text – Virginia Woolf and the library in the space of places

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a local habitation and a name libraries places and networks

A local habitation and a name:libraries, places, and networks

Presentation to Cornell University Library Academic Assembly, 3 April 2003

Lorcan Dempsey, VP Research, OCLChttp://www.oclc.org/research/

  • Some pictures and text – Virginia Woolf and the library in the space of places
  • Some issues in the space of flows



When, early in this century, Virginia Woolf needed to find out the truth about women,

she headed to the Round Reading Room of the British Museum, for

''if truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where,'' she asked, ''is truth?''

Truth, it pains me to report, decamped last month to a new library near St. Pancras Station, loosed from its moorings in the British Museum after an intermittently happy marriage of nearly two and a half centuries. …

Among divorces, it was perhaps one of the more easily predictable, but nonetheless painful to those of us whose inner landscape has been irreversibly redrawn.

Angeline Goreau. New York Times, Nov 9 1997


I have only to reach my hand up to the bookshelves above my desk and pick out a book, and open it, and plunge my nose between its pages, to retrieve that smell. The book is The Captain’s Death Bed and other essays, by Virginia Woolf, published in 1950, which I bought a couple of years ago at the Belfast Public Libraries’ annual sale. When I inhale, I am transported back to the 1950s and the Falls Road Library, where I get the allied aroma of polished linoleum and varnished shelving. I detect a gleam of brass here, too, coming from the handles of the big doors, but also from the little pulls of the filing-cabinet drawers, and I wonder are they implicated in the overall smell.

Ciaran Carson. This is what libraries are for’. The Dublin Review, Autumn 2001


… the growing explosion of information … creates a reactionary tendency on the part of readers to stress the familiarity and relative immutability of static texts, such as paper books. This impulse is particularly strong with respect to literature which, as an important repository of a society's identity, is a domain to which overwhelmed members of the society will turn for security, and which is consequently seen as most threatened by the information explosion. In our fin-de-siècle world, typified by informational and societal variety and indeterminacy, people's needs for dependable institutions are reinforced….

Centripetal Textuality. C. Aaron Potter. Victorian Studies Volume 41, Number 4

libraries in the space of places have
Libraries in the space of places have …
  • …been vertically organised around the management of places
    • multiple redundant repositories.
  • … facilitated particular economies of presence and patterns of experience
    • ‘inner landscape’/‘a house I grew up in’
  • … manifested the institutional role of libraries
    • authoritative, well-understood and persistent agency.
    • Card catalog, book, “people’s need for dependable institutions”

lab books


campus portal

learning management systems


course materialtext book

new scholarly resources


Virtual reference

Institutional repository


Digital collections

Licensed collections




Library serviceenvironment

user environments

resource environment

collections grid
Collections grid




Gov. docs




Freely-accessible web resources

Open source software

Newsgroup archives

  • Research and learning materials
  • ePrints/tech reports
  • Learning objects
  • Courseware
  • E-portfolios
  • Research data

Special collections

Rare books

Local/Historical newspapers

Local history materials

Archives & Manuscripts, Theses & dissertations








Manage commodity materials and services - cost.

Streamline discovery to delivery for print (bought) and digital (licensed) materials

Portalization and resource sharing

Management intelligence – collection management and analysis (print collections)

Incentive to preserve?

Institutional digital content management

Immature (diverse metadata creation practice -- hierarchical description, multiple standards and practices, diverse content management approaches)

Disclose metadata for harvest?

Extend knowledge organization approaches?

Incentive to preserve

within and across institutions
Within and across institutions

Services built across institutions

How will we support this (NSDL)


Links, …

Emerging interest in harvesting

Services?Access and content

Z39.50, OpenURL,custom

Catalog revisited,

Appropriate copy

below the line
Below the line

There is growing appreciation among libraries that unique or rare materials

are valuable research and learning resources

have been underutilized.

There is a growing interest in digitizing cultural heritage materials

as it offers opportunities for releasing their value in new ways

as a way of disclosing the memory and identity of communities.

Research and learning behavior is increasingly entering the network space

Library resources need to be available at the appropriate stage within the learning or research environment

New forms of engagement and support.

Research and learning outputs will present major management and curatorial issues

Institutions and faculty are interested in ‘disclosing’ research and learning materials as part of the scholarly enterprise (OAI)


The Archival Research Center is a direct outgrowth of the belief that primary resource materials should be a major focal point of instruction and research. …. However, traditional access to these materials is cumbersome and labor-intensive and most institutions do not allow copying. …Digitizing these materials keeps them alive and relevent for modern users … (ARL report)

knowledge bank osu in planning
Knowledge bank – OSU – in planning

April 26 2002. A proposal for the development of an OSU knowledge bank

centralization and decentralization
Centralization and decentralization
  • Cataloging/metadata
  • Archiving
  • Harvesting
  • Virtual reference
  • Consort at what level?
  • Incentives?

We will, I believe, plot our actions and allocate ourresources within the framework of a new economyof presence. In conducting our daily transactionswe will find ourselves constantly consulting the benefits of the different grades of presence thatare now available to us, and weighing these againstthe costs.

William J Mitchell. E-topia. 2000.


All networks produced privileged places at theirjunctions and access points.

William J Mitchell. e-topia. 2000.

… the web pages to which we prefer to link are not ordinary nodes. They are hubs. The better known they are, the more links point to them. … We prefer hubs.

Alberto-Laszlo Barabasi. Linked. 2002.


lab books


campus portal

learning management systems


course materialtext book

new scholarly resources


  • Create hub?
  • Project services into other hubs
  • Reconfigureservices –fine-grained

The dialecticof place and network

Analysis, linking, comparing, manipulation, ..






The monumental, spectacular and special

Third place – social fabric

Social exchange and learning

Commons - commonwealth

Trust – the ties that bind


Fine grained

Engage with research and learning



Distributed collection requiring different forms of attention

supporting scholarly behavior in humanities
Supporting scholarly behavior in humanities

…contextual mass. (not the canon and top scholarly journals)

Iterative reading?

personal, full-text collections

Wide reading and chaining?

federated collections anchored by bibliographies


collection communities

Searching and browsing?

“rich” finding aids that cross institutionsand fields of study

Tracking of reading, searching, and writing

Carole Palmer, various



Persistant patterns of social organization with understood goals.

roles in flux
Roles in flux

Learning management


Digital scholarship




Portal envy


Promise of ICT greater than fragmented organization can deliver

u w digital scholarship imho
U W digital scholarship (IMHO)
  • Library touches all staff
  • Library is already funded
  • Library is integral to research and scholarship and needs to extend that role
  • Institutional repository services vital
  • Role as technology and research partner as well as support
  • Digital concierge
brand in a network age
Brand in a network age
  • Library as a partner in the scholarly endeavour
  • Understanding and supporting research and learning behaviors
  • Responsible to the scholarly record
  • Creator of social places.
Sometimes we will use networks to avoid going places. But sometimes, still, we will go places to network. W.J.Mitchell