Monday, 14 March 2011

Cross cultural willingness and the nature of collections

Many thanks to Alex and Angharad for giving us an insight into their projects. 

One of the joys of working in a department with a lot of foreign students is the glimpses that we get into other societies.  Shahd's views on collection management were a useful reminder of the fact that books that are seen as a waste of space in one library can be of great value elsewhere. 

Of course, even if that is the case, it sometimes takes a lot of effort to match the discards of one library to the spaces of another.  Some time ago, when I was working at a UK Government research institute, a new librarian was appointed.  Within months of his arrival, skips were hired and were soon filled with books and papers.  The librarian responsible still recalls with frustration the outcry that ensued.  Those documents, some of his critics argued, went back decades and were part of the institute’s long tradition.  His response was to point out that he had gone to great pains to offer the documents to other places that might be interested, and nobody was prepared to pick up the cost of moving them.  He was well aware that many of the discarded documents went back decades since they had layers of dust to prove it. 

Interesting Challenge of the Month arose during Alex's talk.  Firstly, how does one define willingness to share?  Secondly, in a study that focuses on willingness to share information, how can a researcher compensate for the fact that, by agreeing to participate in his/her study, volunteers have already demonstrated a willingness to share, thereby (possibly) biasing the sample.  I'm sure Alex will be up to the challenge.

Further discussion revolved around what to do next.  It was agreed that meetings should be set for a regular slot of the second Thursday of every month at 16.30.  Future sessions will focus on the role of blogs in research; JISC's "Researchers of tomorrow" project; approaches to research (based on Father Brown); and journal reading groups.

I hope to see you on Thursday14 April in room 324.

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