Keynote Address: Doing Things Well, Bernard Reilly, Center for Research Libraries
This was actually perhaps the weakest of the presentations delivered over the three days. Reilly emphasized that the mandate for creators of digital libraries is to insure accountability and to create trust among our users. In discussing this mandate, Reilly focused primarily on retaining accountability with one’s user base, with his emphasis on a user base of scholars.
As concerns accountability to scholars, Reilly asked whether or not open access approaches are always the best model for providing digital information to academics. He suggested that the answer is “not always” using African scholars as his example. Reilly noted that the “brain drain” in Africa is so extensive and governmental support of scholarship is so weak, that there is no incentive for African scholars to make their research freely available, as opposed to selling the information that they create on the open market. Thus librarians should not seek to provide open source platforms to scholars in the African model. This entire argument seemed rather odd to me, particularly given the almost completely American demographic of the conference audience.
A second example seemed to me more concrete: that of a digital repository whose aim is to archive the manifold political/politics-related websites which have appeared over time. Reilly noted that the initial project sought to archive the entirety of these sites, including their graphic design. This approach, however, proved to be very expensive, and a survey of the anticipated user base suggested that patrons were mainly interested in the text of the sites, vis-à-vis their look and feel, as they (scholars) were primarily interested in having access to concrete texts for citation in their writing. This paramount need to survey and conform to the needs of one’s user base was a point emphasized numerous times throughout the conference.
In tandem with his talk, Reilly included in the School for Scanning “proceedings” binder a handout entitled “A Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections”. The handout – which strikes me as being quite good – is available at http://www.niso.org/framework/forumframework.html