Peter Murray-Rust’s 12 point action plan for libraries

Peter Murray-Rust Keynote at ILI 2009 from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Peter is seeing no fire in our collective bellies and not enough passion coming from librarians about our own future. He puts forward an interesting action plan calling for librarians to be less passive and far more proactive on issues such as Copyright in academic publishing, open everything (publishing & data), community collaboration and action, and taking more steps to make the library a growing and addictive organism.

In this talk he delivers a pretty good 12 point action plan that most of us working in academic libraries should at least consider very seriously. The whole video is well worth watching, but I know most people won’t bother so here again is my summary of the key points along with a few of my own comments thrown in for good measure.

Before introducing his action plan he mentions a few other interesting ideas:

  • He grounds his presentation by referring to Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science, although he dislikes the term “user” preferring “reader”.
  • Copyright as we know it must be destroyed for the sake of academic publishing and in order to facilitate the sharing of knowledge (as distinct from the business of making money from restricting the sharing of knowledge). He claims by example that Copyright is currently preventing the sharing of knowledge that could help to save the planet and that we as librarians should be agitating, displaying our “raw anger” and protesting for legislative change.
  • He laments the situation in academic publishing where academics create works for free, but are expected to pay in order to see the work of their colleagues. It is a situation that must be changed.

The 12 Point Plan (in no particular order):
1. We should act as citizen librarians towards a common or shared goal. (See some examples below of communities collaborating towards shared goals.)
2. Post all academic output publicly: ignore Copyright. For this, we need to display our passion and one of probably has to volunteer to go to gaol. I like this one, but I can’t be the one going to gaol. Sorry. (Beth & Belinda: step forward please. Don’t worry, I’ll look after the shop.)
3. Text mine everything. Currently this isn’t allowed by the publishers who own nearly everything. It stops researchers trying to find stuff. As he says: “when violating a publisher’s terms of use, you are guilty until proven innocent”.
4. Put 2nd year students in charge of developing educational technology resources. They use it all the time and will know whether to go mobile or to use Xbox or Play Station. There is some truth in this.
5. Actively participate in obtaining science grants. Because scientists find it all too repetitious and cumbersome. They need our help.
6. Actively participate in the scientific publishing process. Again, they need our help. Maybe we can help them to publish their work more openly and also to facilitate better management of their IP.
7. Close the science library and move it all to the departments. He says this is a no-brainer. (We don’t have a science library at UTS.)
8. Handover all purchasing to national Rottweiler publishing officers. Apparently they deal with the publishers centrally in Brazil. We could not do it in Australia. Getting any form of agreement with so many egos and so much self-interest in the room would prove far too complicated. Besides, we have less important issues to worry about. It is actually something we should at least try to do, very seriously. It may well be one of the big issues on this list, along with taking action on Copyright and open access publishing where we really could have a very beneficial effect and demonstrate our worth.
9. Set up a new type of university press. The traditional presses have all been failures. We have been handed an opportunity with the Internet, but our presses have been less innovative than other publishers. I think we are taking steps in this direction now and UTSePress is a good example, publishing journals, books and conference proceedings online.
10. We should develop our own metrics system. Publishers manipulate the metrics system in order to get us to buy what they think we want.
11. We should publicly campaign for openness. He gave a few examples like the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Open Rights Group. We should be actively involved.
12. We should make the library an addictive “game”. He used the example of building “reputation points” through involvement and participation in something like stackoverflow.com After a while it becomes a bit addictive, like ebay.
We should be asking ourselves “what can we do to change the world and keep the library a growing organism”? His list seems like a decent start, even if it is a tad biased towards science.
He wound up his presentation with a few examples of the contributions made by online communities, including: Galaxy Zoo where 150,000 members world-wide have assisted professional astronomers to classify over one million galaxies; and OpenStreetMap, a free editable map of the world that is up-to-date within minutes thanks to the contributions made by over 250,000 members.
One of the most important pleas he makes is for the democratisation of knowledge. This should be possible on the web. For it to happen, democratisation must win over commoditisation for commercial purposes (i.e. the protection of business empires).
I am surprised that there has not been more debate about his address.

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