Archiv der Kategorie: Emerging challenges

The Librarian of the Future


Who do you think “Librarians of the Future” are? How would they behave and what would they look like? In my imagination they are like a space hero, a Flash Gordon-like figure with almost magical cyber librarian skills nobody ever had heard of. But hold on – many of us practice such skills already. Every time I listen to some of my colleagues from abroad I’m deeply astonished about the diversity of tasks they perform, the services they have invented, and the kind of non genuine library task they manage. (Maybe that’s the reason why every year I’m more content to be a librarian, and I cannot imagine a more powerful and amazing work.) Let me demonstrate some of the tasks and skills that I have come across:

  • Authority for tablet computers, e-book readers, and respective apps (medical as well as productive). Handles mass sync and restore of hundreds devices as well as volume purchases of apps with casualness;
  • Budgetary expert and fund raiser. The library budget is not set in stone; if you want to develop interesting projects, you have to look for money, write proposals, and know how to take money out of the pockets of your boss;
  • Embedded librarian. Show up at the point of care, support doctors and nurses, looking for clinical outreach, being liaisons, and acting at roadshows;
  • Impact firefighter. Performing scientometric analyses on the spot. An expert in every kind and database of measuring impact. Know your h-index in sleep;
  • Lawyer with a profound knowledge in copyright, plagiarism, and detection tools. Negotiates publication rights with publishers;
  • Lecturer for group and personal training to create a positive climate that encourages team building and openness for change;
  • Lobbyist and networker at task forces, Faculty Boards, Deans, committees, advisory boards, both inside and outside the organization;
  • Marketing manager for user needs assessment, performing SWOT analyses, doing surveys, interviews, focus groups, public and customer relation, stakeholder reporting, and exploring the return of each Euro invested in the library for the organization;
  • Master of Medical Education, multimedia, and e-learning. Web sites, magazines and leaflets are an important part of library marketing, so librarians could be journalists, editors, designers. They could be lectures, presenters, and motivators as well. For example, the Cushing Library at Yale has an instructional design librarian employed, who helps faculty with their video lectures (see picture above);
  • Program manager of Open Access, technical manager of Open Access repositories, press person for publishing on demand, expert in megajournals and APCs; (1)
  • Teaching librarian. Deeply embedded into the curriculum, he teachs each and every customer at each and every occasion; he masters lecturing and is the gate keeper for information literacy at his organization;
  • The Visionary develops enthusiastically strategies for the library of the future and experiments like crazy(2).

The demand for such sophisticated tasks is extremely high and often faculty members regard librarians as skillful experts for many of these tasks, as the computer scientist Daniel Lemire noticed:

So I think that librarians should move on to more difficult tasks. For example, we badly need help with what I would call “meta-science”. We need help tracking data sets, their transformation and so on. In effect, I would push librarians into data science. That’s the next frontier. In science, we badly need help from people whose main goal is not to contribute new quanta, but rather keep track of what is happening. Students are awful at managing documents, citing them, finding relevant work, and so on. I think that a lot of librarians already help, but we might need what I would call “teaching librarians”. I have yet to see a librarian on a Ph.D. committee in science, but I think it could be a good idea. (3)

It is my sincere hope that librarians will always be open for such honorable expectations and never fail.


  1. Frank Norman: Megajournals [ accessed] Nov, 11th 2014
  2. T. Scott Plutchak: Breaking the barriers of time and space: the dawning of the great age of librarians. J Med Libr Assoc. Jan 2012; 100(1): 10–19. [] accessed Dec, 11th 2014
  3. Daniel Lemire: Let us be clear. August 29, 2012 [] accessed Nov, 11th 2014
  4. Brandon A.N. Academic status for medical school librarians. Bull Med Lib Assoc. 1970 Jan;58(1):1–6
  5. []

Foto: myfuturedotcom 6052488441 at

This article will be published in JEAHIL, Issue 4, 2014

I recently came across a citation from Alfred Brandon (4) describing (purely coincidentally of course) exactly the same things I had discovered:

Today the typical medical librarian must be an administrator, educator, researcher, collector, public servant, fund raiser, accountant, architect, psychologist and public relations expert. With this enlightened viewpoint in mind, I object to being classified as the stereotyped librarian of twenty-five years ago. I object to following outmoded policies and procedures. I object to the status quo attitude and lack of experimentation and desire on the part of some for improved methodology for librarianship.

Your library: a successful service center for a successful faculty


How to implement research support

Yesterday there was disastrous storm in my hometown. Many cellars and garages were flooded including some ofthe library’s storerooms. But thankfully many people helped out of nowhere. There’s a saying in Germany: manyhands make light work and so the storm passed over quite easily. In a rapid changing environment you need to adaptand develop unexpected strengths and skills. That holds very much true for the library itself. The thunder storm inour book world is that there are no books left. That is good news for disasters but bad news for our profession. Justto change to digital media or gadgets will not work in all cases. Our principal financing comes from the faculty andthe scientists are both specifically demanding and library denying. So we had the idea to develop a strategy forresearch support in order to serve our scientists even better. We came up with the following ideas, measures and stepsto rebuild the library to a successful service center for a successful faculty. To accomplish our tasks we tried to thinkfrom a strict researcher perspective.

Challenges for research

At first we thought about what the real challenges for a researcher were. Of course, they are more interested in theircareers and publishing in Nature than in obtaining articles via interlibrary loan. The visibility of research output –local and international – is of crucial importance for the individualscientist as well as for the Dean. We discovered that at the moment,there was no portal for the scientific publications of the faculty, letalone a repository that highlighted the best papers and researchachievements of the faculty. We also found that the informationlandscape has become increasingly complex. There are sophisticateddatabases, research portals but access to information and researchpapers is complex and time consuming. Information literacy is valuedhighly and together with the usually strong fluctuation this equals forstrong training needs.There is also now a growing commitment by research funders (DFG, ERC and Horizon 2020) to publish in OpenAccess journals but there is a lack of knowledge among researchers for publication and funding opportunities. Thelibrary must support the publication of research results in high-ranking journals as much as possible. In addition thereare the progressive needs of students and teachers through new curricula (Science). Current e-learning styles andsystems (Flipped Classroom/Blended Learning) overwhelm teachers. Support for multimedia, mobile working,learning and teaching methods in the faculty is necessary.

Finally the library must promote the quality of doctoral work and the integrity and freedom from plagiarism of research and doctoral theses as there is a decrease in the number of doctorates awarded recently on account of insecurity and resignation of doctoral students.

Challenges for the Library

  1. The increasing use of library resources over the Internet has led to an alienation between the researcher and library. As a consequence identifying new developments in research and delivering appropriate services is becoming very difficult for the library. And even if there are services which match the needs of the researcher, they do not know about them.
  2. The newly to be developed services require specialized skills and competencies that must be acquired by the employees. Therefore, dedicated staff development is necessary.
  3. The centralization of traditional library tasks such as cataloging and media processing has led to a restructuring of the tasks in the library, resulting in staff cuts and reduce freedom to decide things on our own.

Worldwide trends in research support

  • Archiving and long term storage of primary research data;
  • Visibility of institutional research output by Current Research Information Systems, University bibliography and publication of scientific articles in professional and university repositories;
  • Integrity of research and PhD theses;
  • Simplifying and supporting access to quality information, 24/7, mobile and personalized services;
  • Support in publications, especially from Open Access;
  • Development of research and publication skills of PhD students and young researchers.

Proposals to implement

  1. The quantitative and qualitative study of the information needs of researchers;
  2. market analysis of „good practice“ examples such as in other libraries;
  3. develop a strategy to support research in collaboration with the Dean’s Office, scientists and other stakeholders. This strategy involves the joint establishment of priorities and objectives, key achievements and outcomes, a structure for quality and risk management, and professional development;
  4. development of a product and service portfolio;
  5. a program of continuous staff development of library staff.

This article was published at JEAHIL, Issue 3, 2014.

Foto: MasterSteve @

No student has to come to the library anymore


Returning home from a road trip through several US american medical libraries, I am even more convinced that just now, just today, we have the unique opportunity (or nightmare, depending on your point of view) to participate in the transition from the printed to the digital age. Brown University / Alpert Medical School’s Library consist of working places and computers only – no textbooks, and (almost) no librarian – it is well managed by a single person, halftime. The pride of Harvard’s Countway Library of Medicine is the „Center for Biomedical Informatics„, where the associate director of the library, Dr. Alexa T. McCray resides. And Yale’s Cushing Whitney Medical Library is very much into the iPad, both as a learning tool for freshmen and (with the iPad mini) as a patient tool for residents. Yale wants to create “Leaders of Medicine” and they imagine the iPad may well be a means for that purpose.

Transitioning from printed to digital age, the transition from printed to digital libraries is just a little facet for a society, that is shaken up by computer glasses, driverless cars, wearable technologies, and quantified selves. As part of this little facet, the transition from printed to the textbooks seems to be just a tiny yigsaw piece. But nevertheless, textbooks do represent a highly successful business model for both libraries and publishers, and therefore it is literally vital to know, when and how the transition process is starting if at all.

As a successor of the iPad lending project [1], since this year the Medical Library of the University of Münster is providing students with an iPad toolbox, serving as a modern, mobile and sustainable learning infrastructure. The toolbox is a pre-configured tablet computer with all the learning materials needed to pass the preclinical exams: electronic textbooks, anatomy apps, tools for exam preparations, and of course PDF annotating and note taking programs.

The project is a partnership between library, faculty, and major scientific publishers. Our goal is to gain a better understanding, how tablets and mobile learning applications affect the education of present and future students. After evaluating the study results, the logical next step would be to provide all freshmen students with such a device, giving them a tool as one single point of access to learning resources, study organization, e-learning, learning simulations as well as patient care.

There were two claims associated with the project called „easyphysikum„:

  1. The exam should be passed more easily
  2. No student has to come to the library anymore

At the moment 130 students are enrolled into the project, 70 having their own tablet computer and 60 loaning an iPad Air from the library for 5 months. Including the content provided by the publisher and staff resources, the project budget amounts to a quarter of a million Euro.

For such transition projects, investment and risk-taking are necessary. But this is quite worthwhile. As the example of the Brown’s Medical Library demonstrates, medical schools may well do without a pivotal medical library as we know it. To experiment with future-oriented learning environments may open up new ways to fulfill our very mission: providing (information) services to our users supporting them achieving their goals. Therefore we quite enthusiastic about the strong interest of universities, faculties, and libraries in this project even at this early stage.

(1) iPad lending project: First Results

This article was published in the June issue 2014, page 18.

Foto: (c) ZB Medizin