Indiana University (Bloomington) Science Libraries Services

in the Era of Multidisciplinary Science









A White Paper


Prepared by the Science Librarians

at the Bloomington Campus

of Indiana University


Roger Beckman

Julie Bobay

Doug Freeman

Elizabeth Hanson

Bob Noel

Mary Strow

Gary Wiggins

Linda Zellmer






June 30, 2003







IUB Science Libraries Services in the Era of Multidisciplinary Science



I. Introduction


Research and scholarship are increasingly interdisciplinary, collaborative efforts. The Internet and new information and communication technologies are enhancing—and transforming—research and scholarship, enabling users scattered throughout the world to share facilities, instruments, immense collections of multimedia information, and tools for analysis and synthesis. These technology-mediated environments, often called collaboratories or knowledge networks, not only allow scholars and scientists to work together more effectively, across distance and discipline, but also offer whole new approaches to investigating and analyzing concepts and phenomena.  

--University of Michigan President's Information Revolution Commission Report.


Eugenie Prime, who runs the global library services at Hewlett-Packard, has adopted as a guiding principle in the provision of library services: "Own nothing.  Maintain nothing. Access everything."  While that approach might work well in an industrial environment, in this white paper, it is assumed that the sciences at IUB will continue to need research libraries and librarians.  But how will the libraries function, and what will they look like?  In particular, what is to be the relationship of the existing science libraries and science librarians and staff on the Bloomington campus to the new multi-disciplinary science buildings that are in various stages of planning?


The science faculty and students to be served, while largely concentrated in the science triangle formed by Jordan Hall, the Chemistry Building and Swain Hall West, are in fact almost as geographically dispersed as the campus itself, ranging from the 46 Bypass to east of Jordan, south of Atwater, and north of Tenth Street.  Furthermore, a significant portion of the older printed scientific literature is now in an off-site storage facility east of the 46 Bypass.  Therefore, provision of remote services will be a key factor in the success of future science library services at IUB.    This will require the creation of high-tech information centers within the multidisciplinary science buildings that will allow the science librarians to project their presence, skills, and resources to virtually every corner of the Bloomington campus and beyond.


Units to be Served: Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Cyclotron, Education, Geography, Geology, HPER (Health, Physical Education, and Recreation), Informatics, Library and Information Science, Mathematics, Medical Sciences, Nursing, Optometry, Physics, Psychology, Speech and Hearing Science, and SPEA (School of Public and Environmental Affairs).


Buildings Where Primary Science Library Services Will Be Concentrated: Chemistry, Geology, HPER, Jordan Hall, Optometry, Swain Hall West.


Buildings Where Remote/Limited Access to Science Library Services Will Be Offered: Cyclotron, Education, Geography, Informatics, Lindley, Life Sciences, Main Library, Multidisciplinary Science Buildings, Myers, Optometry, Psychology, Rawles, SPEA, Speech and Hearing, Sycamore.


Library services in the future are likely to be judged most critically by our users on whether the information found is:


  • Pertinent—appropriate, relevant, customized information that fits an individual’s or an institution’s particular information need
  • Timely—information must be located very quickly
  • Easy to access and use—information that is compact and relatively easy to identify, access, download, and combine with other useful information.


The science librarians must plan their services to best meet those criteria. 


Competition for funding and space on the IUB campus is increasingly forcing the science librarians to justify the existence of the science libraries.  This is occurring at a time when the marvels of the Web have caused some to question the need for libraries and even librarians.  ACRL President Helen Spalding notes that “…in today’s complex information environment, we have a greater responsibility to communicate the resources and expertise our libraries and librarians provide, both on our campuses and in society.”  She sees public relations and marketing as the key.  In support of that view, Anthony Albanese, summarizing an ACRL report on the top seven academic library issues today, stresses that “Librarians must demonstrate to the campus community that the library remains central to academic effort.”  In order to serve as an effective interface between users and services, librarians must understand science, know what the scientists are currently doing, and find out what services the scientists really need (research tools, databases, software, etc.).


IUB science libraries support the research and teaching/learning activities of IU students, staff, and faculty, as well as those of Indiana businesses and citizens.  That support still involves the provision of a physical space in which to ponder the research results and accomplishments of other scientists, whether the material is obtained from print or electronic resources.  Of course, other activities take place in the science libraries, notably reference services, instruction in the use of complex reference tools, and counseling on the best ways to access and capitalize on the huge investment the university makes each year in scientific research materials.  Science librarians must plan now to project their services to people who cannot easily come to the sites where the science libraries are located.  Finding the right mix of equipment, publications, people, and space that incorporates the vision of the library as facilitator of innovation is the key to providing excellent library services for the sciences at IUB.  How best to integrate our resources into the research, teaching, and learning activities of the university, while managing scarce resources and preserving information for future generations is the main question we must answer.



II. Changes in Libraries and Librarians’ Tasks


Collaborative facilities integrate the services of information technologists, librarians, instructional technologists, multimedia producers, and many others to serve a wide range of faculty and student needs. The organization and functions of these facilities vary widely, but all include a distinct physical space, participation by at least two separate campus units, and staff members dedicated to collaborative work. Collaborative facilities include "information commons," which provide information and reference services and networked information resources to students and faculty. Some campus centers for teaching and learning that assist faculty in integrating new technologies into the curriculum are operated as collaborative facilities. Multimedia production and service facilities are another type of facility that some universities are developing as a joint project of more than one campus unit. (Collaborative Facilities; also, Lippincott)


[Librarians] should participate in building networks and nurturing communities, and work to create situations where people can meet each other.  They should get to know who knows what and share that knowledge with other people.  (Lawrence Prusak)


A. New Roles


In the health sciences there is a growing appreciation for someone to interpret the scientific literature for the general public.  This underscores the need for people to have accurate health-related information.  Health professionals expect librarians to help perform this important role.


Librarians will increasingly be called on to identify and acquire digital and spatial data and to archive that data.  Geographic Information System (GIS) software is not intuitive at this point in time, and spatial data are not well documented.  Use of spatial data in libraries is at the level of mediated searching 20-30 years ago, with the librarian doing the work and the user looking on and providing feedback.  New developments in bioinformatics and other areas of science informatics challenge science librarians to learn even more skills.  Those avenues to scientific knowledge must be carefully integrated with portals to existing library services.


Customized knowledge management tools will be needed to take disciplinary information from internal and external sources and organize it by subject categories.  Metadata will increasingly provide the mechanism to insure the pertinence of retrieved items.  Whereas the Web of today often brings back a smorgasbord of retrieved items, many of which are irrelevant, efforts to create the Semantic Web will greatly enhance the accuracy of future searches.  “The Semantic Web is an extension of the current Web in which the meaning of information is clearly and explicitly linked from the information itself, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation.”  (Miller and Swick)


Lougee expands on that definition of the Semantic Web:


The Semantic Web brings together metadata, a language to structure the data, and a road map (or ontology, as known in the artificial intelligence community) that explains relationships between terms.  These ingredients for knowledge representation—structured content, rich metadata, and a framework or ontology of relationships—allow software agents in computer systems to make inferences and therefore retrieve more intelligently from the vast body of distributed information on the Internet. (Lougee, p. 7)


Librarians must be prepared to utilize the new tools developed to facilitate the use of information.  There is an increasing need for relevant data to be evaluated and plugged back into the early cycles of an experiment.  Librarians must become familiar with the tools for data mining, whether involving bioinformatics or other modern techniques that draw heavily on statistics and information technology.  Repackaging scientific data for its most effective use should be a major activity in the science libraries.  “One of the profound changes in store for libraries is that parts of their collection will be active—software agents collecting, organizing, relating, and summarizing on behalf of their human authors.” (Wulf, p. 18)


Lines are blurring between corporate research and academic research as more and more academic scientists are being funded through industry.  The scientists need to be made aware of the use restrictions on databases and other resources that are put at their disposal, but whose use is limited by the contracts and licenses for those services.  There are deep suspicions among commercial database producers that the so-called “greening” of academia is violating the very favorable cost agreements that have been negotiated by librarians on the assumption that the use of those products will be restricted entirely to academic research and teaching.  Librarians have a critical role to play in educating scientists on the allowable uses of the electronic resources that we provide.


B. Physical vs. Electronic Libraries


What do people do in libraries today?  They:


  • Come to see what’s new
  • Consult bound and current print journals
  • Check factual information in reference books
  • Find and borrow books
  • Read textbooks on course reserve
  • Scan images
  • Use laptops
  • Work together with their peers on collaborative projects.


Librarians today work in both an online virtual environment and a physical environment that is housed in traditional library space.  Electronic resources are having an impact on the way people think about science libraries, given that many of the primary scientific research journals now have their entire contents online.  At a recent Charleston Conference, it was estimated that 70% of the scientific primary literature is now electronic.  Information technology is also having an impact on the way librarians interact with library users.  It is relatively easy now for a librarian to deal remotely with a user and even take control of the user’s computer to share a Web browser or other computer resource.


On April 18, 2001, a survey on consolidated science libraries was sent to CHMINF-L, the Chemical Information Sources Discussion List.  The results were summarized in a posting on CHMINF-L on April 30, 2001 (  Librarians from CalTech, the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, ETH, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio Wesleyan, Princeton, and Western Ontario responded.  Of particular interest were responses to the question:


In those institutions that have moved to a central science library or consolidated branch libraries into one unit since 1995, what has been the reaction of the users?


One respondent noted that when a library is closed, the researchers feel deprived since they have lost a library that was providing unique services tailored to their needs.  However, he said that such reactions decrease with time as more and more resources become available online and the need to walk across campus to a library is not a regular occurrence.  Others spoke of the better services offered to interdisciplinary researchers in a consolidated facility.


There are many examples of the merging of science libraries in recent years, either planned or completed.  Penn State University is planning to merge the Physical Sciences and Mathematics Libraries, with the result that significant portions of the collections will be stored offsite.  Michigan State has recently merged their chemistry and physics libraries, and Princeton is planning a new library that will merge the Chemistry, Biology, and Geosciences Libraries.  At Indiana University, Bloomington, large portions of the science libraries’ collections of printed materials have been stored at off-site locations for many years.  They are now being consolidated into the ALF (Auxiliary Library Facility), the state-of-the-art building east of campus that can hold up to 2.7 million volumes.


Does the physical space of a library have value in itself?  At the University of Texas, Arlington, plans for a new main library were shelved in favor of a network of smaller computer-based libraries throughout the campus—a network of libraries situated within the academic units.  At Johns Hopkins University Medical School, the Welch Library is embarked on designing a new model for library services.  Their plan incorporates the concept of a central “hub” library and a series of “touchdown suites” and “nodes” that provide locations for individual and group in-person consultation with library staff.  The goal is to extend the walls of the virtual library into every aspect of the physical campus.  (Johns Hopkins)  A recent visit by one of the IUB science librarians to the American Museum of Natural History found in place of a traditional library only a reading room with new journals and new books and computers.  Librarians could have instruction sessions or one-on-one meetings in the room.


Regardless of whether a science librarian is permanently stationed in a science library or simply becomes a frequent or occasional visitor to a multidisciplinary science building or other campus location where scientists work, there is a need for space to interact with and to provide instruction to new users.  Even in the traditional science libraries at IUB, mini “information commons” areas are needed to bring together users and librarians for collaboration and consultation with electronic resources.


While there was a general consensus a few years ago that traffic in libraries was lessening, that trend has been reversed in recent years. (Albanese, April 15, 2003)  “Despite press accounts to the contrary, research libraries report that use of the library's physical facility remains heavy, especially for collaborative learning and research activities and for access to computers and information technologies.” (ARL Bimonthly Report 225)  Demands for interlibrary borrowing and user education are steadily increasing.  Indeed, studying is frequently a group activitity and not likely to be silent. (Crawford, p. 62)


Crockett feels that “Perhaps the most important function of the library within a university department is the function of intellectual meeting place, a place where people go not only to search for information but to talk about ideas and the meaning of information.”  She maintains that branch libraries may not need books at all, provided there is a storage facility, an excellent retrieval service combined with interlibrary loan, and excellent electronic resources.  She sees a trend of having roving librarians with offices in the departments served.  For such a scenario to succeed, Crockett points out the need for an individual with deep subject expertise to serve as the librarian.  Pradt also mentions the practice of sending electronically equipped “field librarians” to work directly with faculty and students in academic departments outside the library.  Such an arrangement is in use at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where librarians’ activities include liaison with the central library, provision of information literacy instruction, and promotion of the use of electronic resources. 


All electronic resources must have reliable and appropriate support.  We should help users to identify electronic resources and to use them effectively.  In interdisciplinary research, it is often appropriate to search across multiple sources. Yet users in a specific discipline are unlikely to know about tools outside their own discipline.  Librarians must be prepared to assist them in appropriate information acquisition, management (organization), and use.


C. The Move to Electronic Publications and Digital Archives


The Collection Management Initiative is a University of California system-wide research project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.   From October 2001 through September 2002, selected print journals for which electronic access is available through the California Digital Library were temporarily removed from the shelves in UC libraries.  During the study period, researchers relied primarily on the electronic version of these journals.  The library world awaits the results of that experiment, but given recent local experience, one can fairly confidently predict the results.  The print materials will not have been missed, given the availability of the electronic versions.  Performance, reliability and continuity have been cited as appropriate criteria by which to judge e-publications.  All indications are that they are meeting those criteria.


At the 2002 Special Libraries Association conference, Tina Chrzastowski, chemistry librarian at the University of Illinois, described the bold step being taken there to move toward electronic journals as the primary means of access to the journal literature.  Her data indicated that e-journals accounted for only 64% of the journal use in 1999, but now cover 94% of the use.  Under the new model, they will continue to take some print journals, but they are going to shrink-wrap and store the current journal issues, rather than bind them to keep on site.  Space will be given back to the Chemistry Department for office and classroom use.  Reporting at the same conference, K.T. Vaughn found a similar shift to electronic journals in her study, "Changing Use Patterns of Print Journals in the Digital Age."  The study was conducted at Duke University, where the use of 253 journal titles was monitored.


Institutional repositories to collect everything from preprint/e-print archives and working papers to electronic journals, course materials, and electronic theses and dissertations are very much in the news today.  An electronic archive is a place to store, preserve, and easily access faculty and graduate student research, plus teaching and learning materials.  What role should the libraries have in migrating information from old to new formats as future storage media are introduced?



III. Objectives and Proposed Actions


Two key objectives in designing future science library services at IUB are:


  • To continue to offer excellent services to the traditional clientele of the science libraries
  • To support new initiatives in interdisciplinary science and health-related areas directed at clientele in geographically dispersed physical locations on the IUB campus.


Proposed Actions:


·          Make maximum use of the science and technology databases and electronic journals currently available at IUB

·          Obtain access to needed materials and databases not found on the Bloomington campus

·          Hire librarians who can assist in the identification and delivery of needed information in new areas of focus: proteomics, materials science, quantitative biology, human biology, physical biochemistry and biophysics

·          Provide an infrastructure to allow the science librarians to interact with researchers wherever they are located via videoconferencing and remote searching

·          Examine the existing space occupied by the science libraries and develop plans to utilize the space presently allocated to science libraries in the most effective way possible in the future.


Enhanced services/collections that might be offered in (or from) a science library or in/to the multidisciplinary science buildings include:


·         Expert reference service and assistance with database searching

·         Customized knowledge management tools (disciplinary information from internal and external sources that would be organized by subject categories)

·         One-on-one or small group instruction

·         Current awareness searches in interdisciplinary areas using services not commonly accessed at IUB

·         Federated searching across appropriate databases

·         Data format conversion and facility for using older formats (e.g., DOS and Windows 3.x)

·         Expert advice on personal bibliography (citation manager) software (e.g., EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager)

·         Advice on metadata use, XML, archiving of data, mounting of databases

·         Directory services

·         Assistance with essential plugins for browsers to take advantage of science materials (e.g., Chime, CN3D, Rasmol, Kinemage, Alternatiff) and assistance with printing

·         Color copiers

·         State-of-the-art equipment to receive images from ALF

·         Secure places to receive items delivered from ALF

·         Card access to the collections after hours

·         Self-circulation of materials with secure identification

·         3M security gate plus a camera that takes an image when the gate is triggered

·         Rapid delivery of patents and other non-traditional literature (e.g., reports, standards, dissertations)

·         Basic collection of engineering-related materials and links, including standards

·         Basic collection of reference materials that people in interdisciplinary areas would need

·         Other basic reference materials for all of the disciplines served

·         Circulating laptops for use with wireless networks

·         Service point to handle reserve requests by instructors.


Whereas medical school reference librarians routinely deal with questions requiring the use of biomolecular sequence and structure searches, science librarians who work outside the biomedical research areas typically have little or no call to do so.  Another area that is critically important in interdisciplinary research is statistical mapping.  While our geology librarian has considerable expertise in this area, she cannot serve all of the various needs of the entire Bloomington campus for services related to statistical mapping and geographic information systems.  Another physical science librarian to work with environmental and health-related data--increasingly found only in computer-readable format today--would be a significant addition to our staff.  Furthermore, such a librarian could assist in the engineering aspects of the materials research for which we have little expertise among the existing science librarians.


The IUB campus has invested heavily in an information technology infrastructure that is second to none among public universities.  With our technology infrastructure, we have the capability to utilize videoconferencing and other collaborative techniques to converse and interact with colleagues halfway around the world.  The time is right for the university to provide the means for librarians to interact with students and researchers wherever they may be located.  We envision equipping each of the science libraries and common areas in the multidisciplinary science buildings with teleconferencing equipment to permit two-way communication with remote users.  Furthermore, many scientists on this campus do not use computer systems based on Microsoft PC operating systems.  Thus, they are effectively cut off from many of the relevant databases that could be of assistance in interdisciplinary research.  The installation of a Citrix server would solve that problem, allowing Unix, Mac, and PC systems direct access to all of the rich resources of the IU Libraries.



IV. Conclusion


…the idea that the web can be a replacement for a library ignores the most important characteristics of a library.  A library is not merely a collection of books, or some vast warehouse of words, books, and journals; it is part of our cultural, historical and scientific memory.  –Wil Weston


The difference between a “reading room” and a “library” is, of course, the librarian!  --Jane Holmquist


Given the monumental changes that are occurring in scientific publishing and the enhanced capability for the libraries to store materials off campus, it is appropriate to examine library options for providing scholarly information services within the context of the multidisciplinary science buildings.   We must consider optimal configurations for staffing and materials and evaluate how library services and user expectations will change over the next several years.


Robert Hulshoff has stated that "The most significant additional service that electronic library users have is the need for technical support."  What technical functions will the Libraries support?  If not supported by us, to whom can the patron turn?  If it is not possible to meet with a librarian in the same room, then at least we should provide a video link with a librarian.  That is much more desirable than an impersonal, though perhaps accurate FAQ or help file at a Web site.  We need a significant marketing effort to communicate library services to the people who could use them.


John Seely Brown, Chief Scientist of Xerox Coroporatin, speaking on learning in the digital age, states, "We are witnessing a profound blurring of the classical boundaries separating teaching, learning, research, administration, communication, media, and play, all brought about by new technologies.” (Brown, p. 80)  Specialized libraries are moving away from the role of repository of print materials and more toward being a facilitator of the research process.  Electronic reference sources are becoming more and more accessible at the desktop, so there is less and less need to visit a library, even a central science library, for the most important scientific abstracting and indexing tools and journals.  The science information area will become increasingly complex in both the resources and management over the next decade, and there will be more need for people to help both faculty and students make the appropriate choices to satisfy their information needs.  With the use of appropriate technology such as Microsoft's NetMeeting and videoconferencing equipment and techniques, the impact of not having a librarian or other library staff in a building where library services are needed can be minimized.  However, it will always be necessary to also allow for close, face-to-face contact with library users in order to insure that their needs are being met.  Librarians and other library staff must define for themselves an active role in the research process, a role wherein they participate as a partner in the scientific inquiry process.



V. Bibliography


Albanese, Andrew Richard.  “The top seven academic library issues.”  Library Journal, March 15, 2003, 128(5), 43.


Albanese, Andrew Richard.  “Deserted no more.” Library Journal, April 15, 2003, 128(7), 34-36.


Birman, Joan S. “Scientific publishing: A mathematician’s viewpoint.” Notices of the AMS, August 2000, 47(7), 770-774.


Brown, John Seely.  “Learning in the digital age,” in The Internet & the University: Forum 2001 edited by Maureen Devlin, Richard Larson and Joel Meyerson, pp. 65-91. Published as a joint project of the Forum for the Future of Higher Education and EDUCAUSE, 2002.


Chrzastowski, Tina E. “Making the transition from print to electronic serial collections: a new model for chemistry libraries?”  Tri-Society Symposium, Los Angeles, June 9, 2002.


Crawford, Walt.  “Library space: the next frontier.”  Online, March/April 1999, 23(2), 61-66.


Crockett, Charlotte.  “Reconfiguring the branch library for a more virtual future.”  Library Administration & Management, Fall 2000, 14(4), 191-196.


De Cagna, Jeff.  “Keeping Good Company: A Conversation with Larry Prusak.”  Information Outlook, 2001, 5(5), 41.


Fox, Geoffrey.  “E-Science meets computational science and information technology.”  Computing in Science & Engineering, July/August 2002, 4(4), 84-85.


Greenberg, Jane; Sutton, Stuart; Campbell, D. Grant.  “Metadata: a fundamental component of the Semantic Web.”  Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, April/May 2003, 29(4), 16-18.


Holmquist, Jane. “What’s the difference between a ‘reading room’ and a ‘library’?” Library and Information Services in Astronomy IV (LISA IV).  Proceedings of a Conference held at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, July 2-5, 2002.  Corbin, Brenda G.; Bryson, Elizabeth P.; Wolf, Marek.  Washington, DC: U. S. Naval Observatory, 2003.  pp. 29-30.


Hulshof, Robert.  Providing services to virtual patrons.  Information Outlook, January 1999, 20-23.


Lippincott, Joan.  “CNI and Dartmouth launch collaborative facilities web site,” ARL Bimonthly Report 222, June 2002.


Lougee, Wendy Pradt.  Diffuse Libraries: Emergent roles for the research library in the digital age.  CLIR Publications & Resources; pub108.


Miller, Eric; Swick, Ralph.  “An overview of W3C Semantic Web activity.” Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, April/May 2003, 29(4), 8-11.


Pemberton, Jeff; Pack, Thomas. The cutting edge library at Hewlett-Packard: Bringing together knowledge, access, and tools.  Online, 1999, 23(5), 30-36.  [based on an interview with Eugenie Prime]


Spalding, Helen H.  “It’s not just academic@your library any more: The Campaign for America’s Libraries Academic and Research Library Campaign.”  C&RL News, March 2003, 64(3), 159-160.


Weston, Wil.  “Access to scientific literature.”  Nature, 7 November 2002, 420, 19.


Wolpert, Ann J. “The future of electronic data.”  Nature, 7 November 2002, 420, 17-18.


Wulf, Wm. A. “Higher Education Alert: The Information Railroad is Coming.” EDUCAUSE Review 2003, 38(1), 12-16, 18-21.


Collaborative Facilities.  URL: (accessed: June 28, 2003)


Collection Management Initiative (University of California)


Collections & Access for the 21st-Century Scholar: Changing Roles of Research Libraries.  A Report from the ARL Collections & Access Issues Task Force.

(ARL Bimonthly Report; 225)


Five-Year Information Format Trends.  OCLC Library and Information Center Report Prepared for OCLC Members Council, February 2003.


Institutional Repositories: A Workshop on Creating an Infrastructure for Faculty-Library Partnerships.  Co-sponsored by ARL, SPARC, and CNI, Washington, October 18, 2002.


Johns Hopkins University Welch Medical Library Architectural Study (look at the "Summary Version" link at the bottom that leads to the Executive Summary of the Master Plan)


Will the Sciences Need Libraries? (PowerPoint from the 4/8/2003 IUB Libraries Senior Management Group Meeting)