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Dealing ourselves out of the game ?

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"Libraries are not perceived as vital resources in the physical sciences," according to a new UK study on the information-seeking practices of physical scientists.

"Few participants have visited their bricks-and-mortar libraries in recent years, as most of the important resources have been made available digitally. But many of these online resources are being delivered to users via library subscriptions. Ironically, libraries in many cases have been so successful at making this process seamless to on-campus users that few even realise that the library is responsible for their access."

Sound familiar? The same issues probably apply in Australia as researchers do more and more of their research from their own offices, laboratories, or out in the field.

So what can be done to make sure librarians have a future?

"This study suggests that librarians need to be flexible when it comes to engaging scientists and researchers, so that they can tap into field-specific needs rather than asking researchers to conform to librarian expectations. There are some examples of success: for example, fields within chemistry are engaging with librarians who have expertise in metadata to help them build specialised chemical databases. These opportunities, where library professionals become scientific consultants that can advise on information practices and policies in scientific collaborations, are one way for libraries to remain central to the research process."

As the report summary says: "New technologies are only adopted if they make life noticeably better: researchers will not change from their habitual behaviours if they cannot see any advantage in doing so."

The report, Collaborative yet independent: Information practices in the physical sciences, December 2011, is a collaborative effort between the Research Information Network, the Institute of Physics, Institute of Physics Publishing and the Royal Astronomical Society.

You can also visit the project web site.