Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow: poor players on the digital curation stage
In this chapter, I will argue that there are non-obvious choices to be made about the “poor players” who manage data. In particular, the role of the librarian in this is not clear. Reg Carr (Carr 2004)attempted to persuade his CURL colleagues at a meeting in Dublin that they should address the emerging importance of data collections head on. His efforts were accepted with enthusiasm by some, resisted by others. There were good reasons for both positions, but I argue that the latter in particular is a temporary phenomenon, strongly linked to budget constraints and to the current transitional phase of librarianship from “mostly physical” to “nearly all digital”. Paul Courant, economist and ex-provost of Michigan, pointed out to a JISC/NDIIPP meeting in May 2006 that, particularly in the context of library budgets and the need to curate data: “There’s plenty of money for anything. There just isn’t plenty of money for EVERYTHING!” Casting one’s mind sufficiently far into the future, it is clear that the trend to digital is irreversible (unless the world as we know it crashes and burns), and hence in a comparatively short time, digital data as well as digital documents will become primary stuff for libraries, and the resources will adapt accordingly. Meanwhile, awkward decisions are needed, on whether to be pioneers, early adopters or late followers! But whether they want it or not, what SHOULD be the role of librarians towards data? To answer this, we need to understand a bit more about data curation.
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