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Dean’s Update: Getting Ahead of Losing Knowledge

November 9, 2018

This past month I found myself wondering whether, in a world increasingly dependent on digital materials—such as research data, textual posts, images, videos, official documents and emails—if we are at risk of losing critical knowledge?

Libraries, particularly ones serving research institutions, share a defining mission to organize information and to guide the discovery, use and long-term availability of knowledge. In the past, that fundamental obligation to society focused on stewardship of physical items. Library and archive stewards intentionally and selectively collect publications and historic artifacts. They create catalog records and guides for inventory and collocating contextual meaning. They preserve these knowledge carriers from physical deterioration, loss, and theft; and they guide people to discover, evaluate and ethically use the intellectual output of others. All this traditionally has been done in physical spaces designed for accessing preserved materials and also for people to interact with experts and information to support the academic and scholarly mission of universities or research agencies.  

However, with greater dependence on computers and digital data, we find ourselves faced with new challenges that push us to reexamine and re-prioritize investment in the organization and preservation of digital “carriers of knowledge” as well. We are working to add processes and tools to preserve and organize new “digital collections” of research data and published output, as well as images of fashion. And too, we are striving to provide convenient integrated discovery of all these formats. The Drexel Libraries continues to advocate for leveraging its resources and expertise to transform itself to be an essential contributor to the University by ensuring continued access to authoritative knowledge for generations to come, regardless of format or location.

Read in this issue of In Circulation about an opportunity for a new round of Libraries Fellows, including opportunities to help field test Esploro, a research services platform under development with ExLibris, which will provide a tool for the integrated discovery and accessibility of Drexel-generated research output. Other Fellows opportunities involve experimenting with greater use of both Open Textbooks and materials the Libraries licenses in course reading requirements. We also invite colleagues around campus to help us fine-tune our communications skills so we are even better equipped to promote the important work we’re doing in support of our faculty, staff and students.

Last month, the ScholarSnack series successfully attracted curious students to think about writing a book, cybersecurity, and the impact of the Internet. We also celebrated Open Access Week again this year, using this annual event as an opportunity to promote our ongoing work around Open Access and to learn more about how the high-price of textbooks impacts our Drexel Dragons and how they manage those costs. 

As the air outside grows chillier, we encourage people to enter the Libraries’ informal learning environments for whatever hot topic they are curious to explore.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries