Upcoming talk at #REBIUN2016: Towards Rubicon: Libraries that turn and face the strange 

Towards Rubicon: A Story About Libraries That Turn And Face The Strange. That’s the title of my keynote at the annual REBIUN conference at Palma de Mallorca, Spain, November 9th to 11th.

The title reaches for both history and Bowie – two things that I find great for explaining and framing stuff.

I was asked if I would do a talk on struggles and challenges for academic libraries but I find that a bit to gloomy a subject for my taste (I’m a LEGO playing library director after all) but also a theme in lack of some important elements and aspect in the discussion of the future of libraries. Where does challenges come from? Where does opportunities come from? They are mainly driven by changes in our surroundings and changes, if we like them or not, are here to stay. Not much in this world are static (except maybe the magic of David Bowie) and in order to develop and grow I strongly believe that libraries needs to embrace the change and face the strange. Not ignore it or fight it. So my talk will be about that.


Changes often comes with uncertainty and I think many human beings and institutions even if they will admit it or not, really are fans of status quo (myself included on many days). You know that you got but you don’t know what you gonna get, right? But it’s an unhealthy position to take in order to navigate libraries wisely through changes and it often brings out The Let’s Save Libraries Ghost. The Let’s Save Libraries Ghost is not saying boo because of governmental cuts on library budgets (that’s a different kind of change) but it’s scares us to a place where we look at changes in technology, infrastructure, culture and behavior and thinking how do I save the library I know in all this. But that is wrong – leading a library of status quo through tides of changes is a bad trip and will in the end result in a library out of sync with it’s community and the needs it serve.

The Burning Platform methafor and attitude is an evention of The Let’s Save Libraries Ghost

Ask the right questions

In my talk I will address the following questions which I think is crucial for libraries to navigate and continuous create value in research and higher education.

  • What’s the purpose of higher education?
  • What changes effects higher education?
  • Which challenges and opportunities does those changes bring to higher education?
  • To which of these challenges and opportunities in higher education are the library the answer?

My talk looks at those questions and will pinpoint some ways to face challenges, opportunities and changes but most of all, I hope it will offer reflections and a direction on how the culture of libraries can deal with changes.

I’m looking forward to walk towards Rubicon with the REBIUN participants, hopefully cross it, and go back to our institutions ready to embrace the change and face the strange.

Hopefully the REBIUN 2016 participants will be all be dancing like Bowie after my talk

Some thoughts on The University Library anno 2035

You can not escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today
– Abraham Lincoln

A few days ago a got a fun task from a co-worker at Copenhagen University Library; he is the editor of The Faculty Library of Humanities’ newsletter and they where doing a piece on the future of university libraries. He asked if I wanted to contribute with my thoughts and answer the question:

How does the University Library looks like in the year 2035?

Sure! What an excellent and totally mind twisting question. It was really fun and healthy little mind experiment to imagine the University Library in 2035. I think my picture of The University Library 19 years from now might be colored by an inherent optimism on behalf of libraries and the fact, that I wrote down my 2035 scenario in the co-drivers seat en route from Copenhagen to Skaelskoer with a cold Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA in my hand.

You find my University Library anno 2035 below: The space was limited, the context is Denmark but anyway I think the result is worth a share and I recommend the mind experiment for everyone who cares about the future of libraries (I do also recommend a good beer for this kind of work).

Thinking big 

One University Library, four primary tasks

In 2035 the wave of mergers and centralization has left Denmark with three regional universities – one in Jutland, one on Fyn and one on Zealand. Together the three universities cover all relevant research disciplines and educations relevant to society. They are served by only one Danish University Library, simply called The University Library.

The University Library has four primary tasks:

  1. information supply
  2. support for information and data literacy
  3. consulting services in connection with the university’s research
  4. physical learning environments

Information supply
In 2035 the information resources used in higher education is 100% digital. The traditional commercial publishing system succumbed several years ago and has been replaced by 100% open access publishing. In addition to the supply of scientific literature The University Library curates datasets with open data relevant for research and education as well as other materials such as 3D scans of molecules and historical artifacts which can be searched, downloaded and elaborated. All materials is accessibly via a single search interface.

Support of information and data literacy
The amount of information is complex and actors in research and education use many different types of materials, sources and formats in their work. The University Library teaches and supervise academic staff and students at the university in information seeking, source criticism, reference management, data management, data handling and data visualization. The instructions is embedded in the curriculum and is carried out both physically and online.

Partner in research
The librarians of The University Library acts as consultants and partners in university research projects. They assist on systematic reviews, bibliometric analyzes, instructions for data handling and data management and several other aspects of the research process. Often the librarian embed in larger research projects over a period of time.

Where people meet
In 2035 the physical space is more important than ever. The digitization of society activities has not – as some predicted – changed the basic human need to meet physically for dialogue and cooperation in order to develop and learn about the world. The University Library has a number of physical devices attached to the academic environments of the three regional universities. The physical devices, simply called Libraries, functions primarily as hubs for projects, events and workshops related to research, education and learning. The decor of the Libraries are flexible and inspiring with furniture and technology to support creative processes and cooperation; Should one kick start a research project or pitch an idea for fellow students it happens at the Library.

That was my University Library anno 2035. Might look different next year. How does your University Library look in 2035?