Reflections on IATUL 2017

Writing this commentary several weeks after this year’s annual IATUL conference, my thoughts keep returning to Rick Anderson’s 2015 UKSG Insights opinion piece, “A quiet culture war in research libraries,” in which he describes the inherent tensions between strictly institutional (“soldier”) and strictly global (“revolutionary”) professional orientations. Such orientations are themselves not necessarily binary in nature, of course, and they often exhibit themselves differently according to particular local contexts situated within broader environmental (online networked) environments.

However, what struck me about this year’s IATUL meeting was a real openness of participants to global/revolutionary perspectives. To me this was refreshing and inspiring, and I was able to discuss complex, pressing issues (e.g., what do we do about P2P sharing in relation to interlibrary loan requests?) openly and without institutional blinders. Perhaps this had something to do with the conference theme (Embedding Libraries – Services Development in Context), but perhaps we are beginning to see a real shift in perspectives as the necessity of change hits home, particularly for those of us working in libraries very closely with professors and students and who are conducting our own research activities.

While final papers have not yet been published, I wanted to share here just a few highlights about notable presentations.

  • Researchers Paolo Lugli (Rector, Free University of Bolzano) and Edwin Georg Keiner (Faculty of Education, Free University of Bolzano) both discussed the library in terms of a (in Keiner’s words) “critical, informed knowledge space” with active contribution to learning, research, and institutional reputation – and even the “structural transformation of the public sphere” through “shared worldwide conversations” (Keiner). Lugli mentioned going beyond traditional collection emphasis to assistance with complex student/research support tasks (e.g., electronic labs books, supporting the machinery for language exams in a trilingual environment).
  • Elisha Rufaro Chiware (Director, Cape Peninsula University of Technology Library, South Africa) provided an update of how the cross-institutional e-Research Infrastructure and Communication platform (eRIC, hosted by the Technical University of Munich) has been used to integrate research data management services into local institutional workflows.
  • Göran Hamrin (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden) described a case study in evaluating the efficacy of information literacy initiatives in improving master degree projects using comparative (i.e., pre- and post-information literacy intervention) interpretive content anaysis.
  • Lee Yen Han (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudia Arabia) described preparations for a campus-wide roll out of a mandatory online plagiarism tutorial.
  • Roy Tennant (OCLC Research) continued elaborating his long-term vision of a post-MARC discovery world.

You get the idea. I’ll post the link to full papers, once they become available.

As not to make this initial blog post too lengthy, I conclude for today by calling your attention to the article listed below, called to my attention by two Canadian colleagues at IATUL, in which Beall notes:

I think predatory publishers pose the biggest threat to science since the Inquisition. They threaten research by failing to demarcate authentic science from methodologically unsound science, by allowing for counterfeit science, such as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to parade as if it were authentic science, and by enabling the publication of activist science.

With our new science communications research group, we hope to examine related and broader issues from interdisciplinary perspectives. How do scientists communicate with one another (really)? How do non-scientists interpret scientific information? What problems are impeding interpretations of “authentic” science?

This blog will serve as a platform for non-formal contemplation of such issues.

Additional Reading

Anderson, R. (2015). A quiet culture war in research libraries – and what it means for librarians, researchers and publishers. Insights. 28(2), 21–27.

Anderson, R. (2017). Fake news and alternative facts: five challenges for academic libraries. Insights. 30(2), 4–9.

Beall, J. (2017). What I learned from predatory publishers. Biochemia Medica. 27(2), 273-278.


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