MIT Releases Report on Vision for Libraries

MIT decided that the time is now to look at the future of its research library. Transformative changes in culture, technology, publishing, research, and pedagogy require equally transformative changes in research libraries; both in response to a changing scholarly landscape and as a catalyst for new ways of producing, using, and preserving knowledge. As MIT takes the lead in helping to reinvent the future of education, so too must we take the lead on reinventing the future of research libraries.  

To that end, an Ad Hoc Task Force on the Future of Libraries was charged with developing a vision of how the MIT Libraries ought to evolve to best advance the creation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge, not only to support MIT’s mission but also to position the Institute as a leader in the reinvention of research libraries. The Task Force, composed of faculty, staff, and students from across the Institute, sought input from the broader MIT community through open forums, group discussions, and the Idea Bank.

The Task Force has issued its preliminary report, which includes a comprehensive vision for the Libraries in the coming decades.

The MIT task force arranged ideas about the MIT Libraries into four “pillars,” which structure the preliminary report. They are “Community and Relationships,” involving the library’s interactions with local and global users; “Discovery and Use,” regarding the provision of information; “Stewardship and Sustainability,” involving the management and protection of MIT’s scholarly resources; and “Research and Development,” addressing the analysis of library practices and needs. The preliminary report contains 10 general recommendations in these areas.

For the “Community and Relationships” pillar, the report notes that MIT library users may have varying relationships to the system in the future, and suggests a flexible approach simultaneously serving students, faculty, staff, alumni, cooperating scholars, participants in MITx classes, the local Cambridge and Boston community, and the global scholarly community.

In the area of “Discovery and Use,” the report suggests that the library system enhance its ability to disseminate MIT research to the world; provide “comprehensive digital access to content in our collections”; form partnerships to “generate open, interoperable content platforms” for sharing and preserving knowledge; and review the Institute’s Faculty Open Access Policy.  

Regarding “Stewardship and Sustainability,” the task force envisions the MIT Libraries as the leading repository of the Institute’s history and as a leader in the effort to find solutions for the “preservation of digital research,” which the report describes as a “major unsolved problem.”

Finally, in the area of “Research and Development,” the report proposes the establishment of an initiative for research in information science and scholarly communication, to support both research and development on the grand challenges in the field.

This report is great information for anyone interested in the future of libraries. MIT is a premier research institution, and we would all be better served by considering the future of our libraries much like MIT has envisioned.

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