POST: Research Libraries, Emerging Technologies—and a Pandemic

Scout Calvert (Michigan State University) has published “Research Libraries, Emerging Technologies—and a Pandemic,” on EDUCAUSE Review. Calvert offers advice for libraries in the midst of the pandemic while reflecting on the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), and EDUCAUSE partnership on “how research libraries can leverage emerging technologies to meaningfully and productively support research and learning, given ongoing evolutions of digital tools and data collections.” Calvert pulls out five key findings from two reports and a series of workshops conducted by the ARL-CNI-EDUCAUSE team: “technological adoption; openness; collaboration; data and data infrastructure; and digital fluencies.”

Calvert points out that while the pandemic and the shift to distance work and education has led to much wider adoption of technological tools, allowing for more feedback on what technologies are working or not working, the desire to quickly adapt also brings up critical issues: “For example, in the rush to find a tool that helps solve a problem for online teaching, instructors may overlook important factors like data ownership, jeopardizing the ability of faculty and students to control their data.” Furthermore this rush to adopt and the new pressures on instructors has led to an increase in labor, with “shortcuts and burnout [as] two likely impacts.”

The pandemic has also emphasized the importance of openness and making scholarly outputs widely and easily available; with physical collections and many labs closed, libraries have needed to “prioritize work that supports distance learning and off-site research” more than ever before.

Finally, Calvert opines that “experts and stakeholders anticipate that research libraries, drawing on their experience and professional history of protecting patrons’ privacy, confidentiality, and intellectual freedom, can convene and guide discussions on the use of data collected in classrooms and through institutional operations.” The shift in how research is conducted and accessed during the pandemic is providing libraries with “a timely opportunity to help students learn where data comes from and how to scrutinize it, to learn how ideas, facts, and information move through digital tools and social media to be used and misused, and to learn how they can participate in furthering knowledge and expressing that knowledge in powerful new ways.”

dh+lib Review

This post was produced through a cooperation between Carla Brooks, Ellen Cole, Mara Cota, Tierney Gleason, Jennifer Matthews, Hillary Richardson, Heather Rogers, Rakesha Spellman, Richard N. Wade II (Editors-at-large for the week), Caitlin Christian-Lamb (Editor for the week), and Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara, Linsey Ford, Ian Goodale, and Pamella Lach (dh+lib Review Editors).

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