Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Global Research Library 2020

Jessie Hey and David Pearson report on a series of strategic workshops on the Global Research Library 2020 - the first of which, the Willows Lodge Workshop, was held in the Pacific North West of the US in the Autumn of 2007.

Welcome to the Future and Day One

Research, scholarship, science, and discovery have been transformed by the Internet and communication technologies across all sectors on a global basis. In order for research libraries to play a central role in this increasingly multi-institutional and cross-sector environment, we must find new approaches for how they operate and add value to research and discovery on a global basis. This was a rare opportunity to make a start on thinking longer term with invitees from across sectors and across countries. The 1st Global Research Library 2020 (GRL2020) workshop was held in Woodinville, Washington, in the Pacific North West of the United States from 30th September to 3rd October, 2007. With such an international gathering it was well planned to start a small intensive workshop with a wine tasting hosted at the Novelty Hill winery next door to the venue, the Willows Lodge on the Sammamish River.

The next morning started with scene setting by Betsy Wilson, Dean of University Libraries at the University of Washington. ‘Why GRL 2020? Why You?’, she asked and pointed to some of the key writings by participants and other key resources in the area we were about to discuss [1]. Lee Dirks, Director, Scholarly Communications, Technical Computing, at Microsoft aimed to keep us tightly focused on Logistics, Expectations, and Intended Workshop Outcomes with the Autumnal Seattle weather allowing few external opportunities for distraction during the day.

photo (56K) : Figure 1 : Welcome Reception at the state-of the-art Novelty Hill Winery (picture courtesy of Stu Weibel)

Figure 1: Welcome Reception at the state-of the-art Novelty Hill Winery (picture courtesy of Stu Weibel)

Tony Hey, Corporate Vice President of Technical Computing and External Research at Microsoft in his talk ‘Global Research Library 2020: The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communication – and Research Libraries’ gave a variety of examples to stimulate debate. These included new forms of research which will depend heavily on curated repositories of scientific data; the influence of the revolution in Scholarly Publishing and the new generations of ‘Web 2.0’ students using libraries in non-traditional ways. He was followed by Savas Parastatidis, Architect, Technical Computing, Microsoft (and Visiting Fellow, Newcastle University) who focused on transforming technology ideas with ‘The Cloud as the Platform for Research - A Technology View’.

The lunchtime talk gave us a real practical example of the global imperative of research. The local speaker was Ann Marie Kimball who is Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Washington but also Director of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Emerging Infections Network (APEC EINET).

The afternoon gave an opportunity to present views from other countries and also from across sectors since complex solutions were anticipated to depend crucially on co-operation and diverse expertise.

photo (72KB) : Figure 2 : Participants from around the world (picture courtesy of Stu Weibel)

Figure 2: Participants from around the world (picture courtesy of Stu Weibel)

We completed the day with a dinner cruise on Lake Washington which took us through to Lake Union, past the houseboats from the film Sleepless in Seattle, to see the lights of the Seattle skyline.

Day Two

The second day began with Chris Greer, of the National Science Foundation, outlining the recent NSF call for “Sustainable digital data preservation and access network partners (DataNet)” [2]. This $100m funding scheme, planned to be distributed in five $20m grants, has an ambitious vision to integrate the work of libraries, infrastructure developers, researchers and commercial partners to create new kinds of services which will not only preserve research data and make it accessible, but also develop sustainable business models which are self-supporting without needing permanent subsidy. The NSF plan is to see the grants given on a 5- + 5-year basis, with the money ramping down during the second 5-year period, as other income streams come in. Although this was most immediately relevant to American colleagues – NSF grant-holders must be US-based – this funding programme is obviously of wider potential interest, not only because partnerships may cross national boundaries but also for its explicit expectations about sustainability (one thinks of the ongoing issues around some of the JISC services, which started life as projects).

The rest of the day was then given to breakout sessions, tasked with identifying critical issues and recommending some action plans to take us forward to the research library of the future. Unsurprisingly, common themes emerged from many of the groups: the importance of capturing, preserving and making accessible research data as well as outputs; the devising of infrastructures and skill sets to do that; the need for libraries to demonstrate both public and fiscal value. Representatives for the developing countries reminded us not only that these are genuinely global issues, but also that assumptions about networks and resources which we may take for granted in Europe and North America may not apply once we step across those continental boundaries. There were also questions concerning where the future was to be mapped out, and by whom: by libraries, with publicly focused missions, or by private corporations with an increasing dominance of the world’s information exchanges? It was recognised that custody of content is an important issue. The discussions, and the themes that emerged, are captured more fully by Stu Weibel on his blog [3]. So, what were the outcomes? It was agreed that we need a published manifesto, setting out a vision of the global research library of the future and the things we want to do in order to get there, and a small group was tasked to take this forward. The Web site [4] has been updated with the presentations which focused the thoughts of the workshop. There was broad support across the group for follow-up meetings, probably outside North America, drawing in a wider pool of participants from organisations who should be represented but who couldn’t make it for the first event.

Day Three

Redmond, home of Microsoft, is not far away, so we were able opt to join its internal community at the Microsoft Library Summit. Jon Udell [5] challenged us to remix the library. In an online world of small pieces loosely joined, he proposed that librarians are among the most well qualified and highly motivated joiners of those pieces. Library users, meanwhile, are in transition. Once mainly consumers of information, they are now, on the two-way Web, becoming producers too. Can libraries function not only as centres of consumption, but also as centres of production?

We saw visual information projects from Microsoft Live Labs [6] such as Photosynth and Seadragon. We heard more about preservation – moves towards open formats and involvement in the big European PLANETS Project [7]. To keep us on our toes, exploring longer-term ideas, we visited the Home of the Future and the Center for Information Work before the final reception at the Visitor Centre.

Next Stages

The workshop was reported on by Jessie Hey at the European Information Space: Infrastructures, Services and Applications Workshop [8]. This was organised by the Diligent Project, with support from the FAO, and took place in Rome over 29 - 30 October 2007. The 2nd GRL2020 workshop is also planned to take place in Italy, this time at the end of March 2008 in Pisa: so watch the GRL2020 Web site [4] for future developments. In the meantime, think back 10 years to the beginnings of the e-journal world and the Open Access movement and see if you can predict how librarians can best facilitate 21st century research.


  1. GRL2020 Resources and Links http://www.lib.washington.edu/grl2020/readings.html
  2. National Science Foundation: Sustainable Digital Data Preservation and Access Network Partners (DataNet)
  3. Weibel Lines http://weibel-lines.typepad.com/weibelines/2007/10/grl-2020-a-voic.html
  4. Global Research Library 2020 http://www.grl2020.net/
  5. Jon Udell, Remixing the Library, talk given at the Global Research Library summit, October 2007
  6. Microsoft Live Labs http://labs.live.com/CategoryView.aspx?category=nav_Projects
  7. Planets (Preservation and Long-term Access through Networked Services) Project http://www.planets-project.eu/
  8. Hey, Jessie M.N. (2007) Global Research Library 2020: a report to Europe. In, European Information Space: Infrastructures, Services and Applications Workshop, Rome, Italy, 29-30 October 2007. Pisa, Italy, Diligent Project.

Author Details

Jessie Hey
Digital Repositories Researcher
University of Southampton

Email: jesshey@acm.org
Web site: http://www.edspace.ecs.soton.ac.uk/

David Pearson
University of London Research
Library Services Senate House
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU

Email: david.pearson@london.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.ulrls.lon.ac.uk

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