A group of professional librarians recently convened in Sheffield to participate in a global focus group sponsored by Fretwell-Downing Informatics (FDI). The gathering's goal was to answer the questions, "Where does the library world need to go technologically?" and, "How can we get there?" After the two-day discussion the group concluded that getting to the "real material" and providing a choice of delivery methods are key issues for the library's future.
The all-important library portal was a much discussed topic. Libraries need a seamless service allowing users to authenticate once and yet have multiple databases delivered to their desktop. The user wants some control over both the look and feel of the data being accessed. Virtual reference services, community information, selective dissemination of information, e-documents rights management, and open linking technology were all also examined.
Robin Murray, managing director of FDI, presented a view of a library portal possible with today's technology. He said, "A researcher can jointly search the local library catalogue with web and other meta-data and full text resources." The various methods of content delivery and ways a library can fit its best technologies together were discussed. Acknowledging the modern trend of researchers to bypass the library and go straight to the Internet, the group unanimously agreed, "Libraries need new tools to help add value to web resources."
FDI's long commitment to leading edge research and development projects is exemplified in this year's Global Forum's excellent results. The highly-experienced library professionals participating in the spirited exchange included:
- Madeliene McPherson, University of South Queensland, Australia
- Kerri Blinco, Infostructure Consulting and Services, Australia
- Mike Hosking, Cambridgeshire County Council, UK
- Mary Rowlatt, Essex Libraries, UK
- Brenda Bailey, Colorado State Library, USA
- Carol Roddy, Ohio Public Library Network, USA
- Mary Jackson, Association of Research Libraries, USA