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Information Management Viewpoints

Topical opinion pieces on the latest issues in information management

Opinion pieces on topical and contentious issues facing practising librarians. Also included with the viewpoints are further articles on the same subject that might be of interest.

Readers are invited to comment on viewpoints or submit a viewpoint on the information management subject of their choice.

The Future of the Library Management System

The Library Management System (LMS), also referred to as Integrated Library System (ILS), is the lynchpin of library automation. Yet Marshall Breeding, library technology guru and one of the main writers on the subject, forecast its demise at the American Library Association

User behaviour – what the librarian should know

There is no doubt that the move from a print-based to an electronic environment has given rise to a huge change in the way that people discover, access, use and communicate information. For librarians, and other "information intermediaries", it is vital to watch – and understand – the way that user information behaviour changes. This article looks at some of the most prominent user studies, the research methods used, and lists the main findings along with the implications for librarians.

How students are engaging with libraries on the brink of Web 3.0

A typical freshers' week in the 1970s included brief guided tours of the library, outlining such issues as where the periodicals could be found, which floor housed the record library and how the classification system worked. Today, the face of higher education in the UK has changed almost beyond recognition and so too have libraries and the way that students engage with them.

Using evidence-based practice to inform decision making

The concept of evidence-based practice – the use of research to inform practice and improve decision making – first originated in the health-care sector over 30 years ago, and has been routinely used by health professionals ever since. Its use has subsequently spread to other disciplines, including physical therapy, education, management, librarianship and literacy development. This viewpoint looks at how librarians can use EBP to work with management to inform managerial decisions and improve organizational performance.

The Semantic Web – a new tool for libraries?

The Web is enormous, it pervades every area of life: we use it for keeping up with old friends, buying presents, booking holidays, browsing library catalogues, reading academic journals, and much, much more. And, it keeps evolving – first of all, it was a collection of documents, so we used it to look up information and make purchases. Then along came Web 2.0 and we could upload our own content in the form of blogs, social networking sites, etc. Now the Web has evolved to the point where it is possible to extract information in a meaningful way to meet our immediate needs. Margaret Adolphus explores what is meant by the Semantic Web, provides a brief overview of how it works, and looks at its applications, particularly with respect to libraries.

Mary Ellen Bates: profile of an information brokering expert

Information is a major strategic asset: put it at the heart of the organization, ensure that it is properly shared (and that's not just documents, but also what's in people's heads), create the right process and systems – and you can guarantee improved performance. In this viewpoint, Margaret Adolphus profiles information brokering expert, Mary Ellen Bates, one of the world's leading business researchers. Mary Ellen provides in-depth business research for business professionals and consultancy for special librarians and vendors of information products.

Institutional repositories

Institutional repositories can provide an elegant publishing solution, both to the wider academic community by providing a timely distribution mechanism which can increase impact, and to that of the institution by offering a central place to park research in a way that can easily be retrieved.


There is no doubt that academics and librarians want to see more e-books. They are more fluid, and flexible, than their print counterparts. They can contain a wider variety of media, and they can be more easily updated and refined, an advantage in rapidly moving disciplines. In this viewpoint, Margaret Adolphus looks at the current state of e-book adoption and the challenges it presents for librarians and publishers. This article was updated in March 2011.

Information architecture and knowledge architecture

Information architecture (IA) is poised to become a key discipline for the 21st century, as important as usability. This article describes what IA is, how to apply it, what it can do for librarians and the library, as well as enterprises. Finally, it considers how IA relates to knowledge architecture.

Library 2.0 and the catalogue

Libraries are increasingly using Web 2.0 technologies to involve the user in their services, but, however much libraries have evolved as something more than the sum of their collections, they are still an important part of their offering, and the catalogue the main means of discovery. Yet catalogues are losing out as search tools to the Internet. This viewpoint examines ways in which libraries can augment their catalogues to include information from participants, enhance the search process and deliver as satisfying and rewarding a web experience as the best commercial web products available.

Developing a Web 2.0 service model

Web 2.0 is the collective name given to a number of newly emerging applications such as blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, RSS feeds, podcasts and vodcasts, all of which change our relationship with the Internet, which in turn dramatically changes the world of information. It is no longer static, but democratic and collaborative as the barriers to publishing have diminished and as people can converse and share resources and ideas. Margaret Adolphus asks what this means for library service provision.

Jenny Levine on Library 2.0

Jenny Levine is the Internet development specialist and strategy guide at the American Library Association's (ALA) information technology and publishing departments, a role which involves exploring emerging technologies and teaching them to other librarians. She is a keen advocate for gaming services in libraries, which she frequently writes about on her blog, The Shifted Librarian. Jenny is also the project leader of ALA Connect, the ALA's new online community service. Here, Jenny discusses her views on libraries and Web 2.0 technologies with Margaret Adolphus.


If libraries are not to become like travel agents, losing their customers to disintermediation and the Internet, they must go where their users go. And in the first decade of the 21st century, that's mobile. So, how can libraries be ready for the rapidly approaching future?

Librarians in government

President Obama is a great champion of libraries. In 2005, while a senator from Illinois, he described to attendees of the American Libraries Association Conference how, if he felt lost or adrift, just "walking into a library and seeing those books, seeing human knowledge collected in that fashion, accessible, ready for me, would always lift my spirits". To coincide with his recent inauguration, Margaret Adolphus explores the role of librarians in government using examples from the USA and UK.

The librarian as knowledge manager

Margaret Adolphus profiles Karolien Selhorst, digital library/knowledge manager at the Public Library of Vlissingen, Holland. Karolien is a prime example of the new breed of what we are now urged to call knowledge and information management professionals. She believes that, just as librarians have always been experts in making information accessible to people, so they should do the same with knowledge.

The role of the information scientist and specialist librarian in the 21st century

Award-winning information scientist, Dennie Heye talks to Margaret Adolphus about the skills you need to be an information professional in the 21st century. Dennie works for Shell International Exploration and Production, a business of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. He has used a combination of traditional information skills, such as cataloguing, taxonomies and indexing, together with technological know-how and management skill to make a considerable contribution to the Dutch energy giant.

Scholarly communications

David Lamond, Associate Dean of Nottingham Business School, is an expert on publishing in the electronic era. He has presented papers on these issues to both the the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the European Foundation for Management Development conferences, and he also provides strategic advice to Emerald. In this viewpoint, he talks to Editor, Margaret Adolphus, about the future of scholarly publishing.


Collecting usage statistics has become an important task for librarians, helping them to ensure they are providing the right resources and getting good value from their budget. Usage is much more easily measured in an electronic environment as users leave digital footprints which make it comparatively easy to see who has used what and when. This viewpoint looks at the importance of collecting usage statistics, how to analyse them, key findings that have emerged from important studies, and finally at the help available to librarians.

Academic search engines

We live in an era of instant information and there has been much concern in academic library circles that students have adopted an "instant gratification" approach to information gathering which has set them against the more structured world of libraries. The problem with this approach, however, is that whereas search engines are fine for general requirements, they are rarely suitable for academic research. Studies have shown that users want to be able to search library resources, where they can be sure of the quality, but don't want to learn complex search strategies or search across multiple databases. How then should the librarian advise, and how can the library itself create this quality controlled, one-stop-shop search environment?

Niels Jørgen Blaabjerg and the Learning Objects Web development project

This viewpoint looks at the innovative work being done by Niels Jørgen Blaabjerg and his colleagues Thomas Vibjerg Hansen, Lotte Stehouwer Øgaard and Bo Hvass Pedersen at the Learning Objects Web development project, Aalborg University, Denmark. Aalborg has become a byword for innovation with its emphasis on interdisciplinary research and use of problem-based learning. Based in the library, the Learning Objects Web uses e-learning to teach information literacy.

Information literacy

Thirty years ago, a student doing a liberal arts degree could expect to have a list of "recommended reading", most of which were printed books and available in a well-stocked library. Because these titles had been recommended by the relevant lecturer, the quality was assured. Today's student has a vastly more extensive possibility of sources in different media, both print and electronic. Information is probably more extensive and more freely available than ever before and finding it is easy. Finding the right sort of timely, accurate and quality information, however, is not. Developing the ability to find the right sort of information is a major concern for higher education, and indeed the world beyond and outside academe. Drawing on the most recent articles, we look here at the main frameworks for information literacy.

Unanswered questions about open access

Scholars and researchers, librarians, users, publishers, vendors, subscription agents, other sales organizations, and freelance workers such as copy editors and indexers are all affected by open access. This article raises a series of unanswered questions affecting each of these stakeholder groups.

Knowledge management and special libraries – amicable companions or uneasy bedfellows?

Much has been written on special libraries and the pursuit of knowledge management (KM), but it is the way that organizations have misinterpreted the knowledge management concept and in doing so, marginalized already excellent information services, that forces David Tan to continually re-examine the KM catch-cry, and its relationship with special libraries.

Knowledge management: a wolf in sheep's clothing?

David J. Pauleen defends the legitimacy of knowledge management (KM) as an authentic management practice, considering the essence of KM in an organizational context.

How close are we to realizing Vannevar Bush's dream of the Memex?

In 1945 Vannevar Bush published the oft cited article "As we may think" in The Atlantic Monthly. It was a piece that discussed the direction of technology in the aftermath of the Second World War and his concept of a memex, or memory extender. In this column Thomas R. Kochtanek reflects on past IT accomplishments within the profession, and asks questions about the current state development of IT applications within libraries, and those services we are able to provide to the end user.

The uniqueness of knowledge management – or the emperor's new clothes?

There are many professionals these days being paid very handsome salaries indeed to work as "knowledge managers" in rather posh corporate suites in London, Melbourne, Boston, Singapore... Are they laughing all the way to the bank, or are they actually doing something new and unique that adds value to an institution? Professor G. E. Gorman investigates.

Riding the knowledge management wave to job security

How does one remain useful, even valuable, in an ever-changing professional environment? Must one stay current with technology, or are there other more fundamental skills that will carry us through to the time we choose to retire? At the turn of the twentieth century, organizations appointed Chief Electricity Officers to try and figure out a way to profit from that latest of technologies. In a short time, however, electricity was ubiquitous and hardly given a thought: Chief Electricity Officers were no more. Is history repeating itself with information technology, and will the fate of the information professional be the same as the Chief Electricity Officer of yore?

Professional praxis and publication: a challenge

If you're a newer member of the information profession you may need to be encouraged to publish your work, as this isn't common. Why not? Is it because you feel that it's not your place, that this is something which should be left to the "experts" in the field? Or perhaps that your work wouldn't be good enough? In fact there are many contributions younger professionals could consider making.

Culture matters in information and knowledge management

Cross-cultural information and knowledge sharing has been forced to the fore through the forces of globalization, increasingly culturally diverse workforces as well as through international mergers and acquisitions, internet-based e-commerce, and an increasing trend to global outsourcing. An understanding of the influence of culture is now therefore, arguably, a critical requirement in understanding and implementing successful information and knowledge management.

 Social exclusion – do collections matter?

The concept of "social exclusion" highlights something we have long known – that only certain portions of the public make use of libraries. This is a common phenomenon around the world, from Brighton in Sussex to Brighton in Melbourne. In this viewpoint, Professor G.E. Gorman considers a new approach for tackling social inclusion.

For whom the Google bell tolls?

LIS professionals have been looking at Google initiatives with increasing adversity trying to decide whether Google may jeopardize their future. One thing for certain is that the deceptively simple search engine, with its white interface and primary colours, has become a powerfully influential and ubiquitous enterprise.

Distance education: A-grade for e-learning?

The challenges of e-learning are far greater than converting traditional educational methods into electronic resources. All the effort involved might come as a surprise but, if done correctly, then distance education yields positive results.

Wikipedia: it's far from perfect ... and that's OK

What should librarians make of the Wikipedia phenomenon? Luke Vilelle compares Wikipedia to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and illuminates the difference in the fundamental nature of the two publications.