Lorcan Dempsey

The inside-out library - scale, learning, engagement

11 April 2013 

The classic library was built on an outside-in model: information materials were brought to the institution, and made available for use. This was appropriate in an age of information scarcity and high transaction costs. The only way effectively to interact with a large body of knowledge was to have it assembled close to the reader.

Our environment has now changed. We live in an age of information abundance and transaction costs are reduced on the web. This makes the locally assembled collection less central to the lives of readers.

At the same time, institutions are generating new forms of data – research data, learning materials, preprints, videos, expertise profiles, etc – which they wish to share with others. These need to be managed and disclosed so as to be discoverable by others, as an ‘inside-out’ perspective becomes more interesting.

This creates new questions for libraries. What is the best scale to do things at (locally or in the cloud)? How do you collaboratively source common infrastructure which creates little unique local impact? How do you better understand the changing research, learning and information workflows of readers and become more engaged with them? How do you become a learning organisation which can respond effectively to change?

Lorcan Dempsey oversees the research division and participates in planning at OCLC.

OCLC Research is one of the world's leading centres devoted exclusively to the challenges facing libraries and archives in a rapidly changing information technology environment.

Lorcan is a librarian who has worked for library and educational organizations in Ireland, England and the US. He has policy, research and service development experience, mostly in the area of networked information and digital libraries.

He writes and speaks extensively, and can be followed on the web at Lorcan Dempsey's weblog and on Twitter.

Before moving to OCLC Lorcan worked for JISC in the UK, overseeing national information programs and services, and before that was Director of UKOLN a national UK research and policy unit at the University of Bath. Lorcan is Irish, and before moving to the UK he worked in public libraries in Dublin, Ireland.

Recent publications by Lorcan Dempsey

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Libraries, Discovery, and the Catalog: Scale, Workflow, Attention
EDUCAUSE Review Online, Monday, 10 December 2012.
This article is a slightly amended version of a contribution of the same name to Sally Chambers, ed., Catalogue 2.0: The Ultimate User Experience (London: Facet Publishing, 2013).

Libraries and the Informational Future: Some Notes
http://www.oclc.org/resources/research/publications/library/2012/dempsey-informationalfutures.pdf (302 K/18 pp.)
This e-print is a slightly edited version of a chapter of the same name which appears in Information Professionals 2050: Educational Possibilities and Pathways, edited by Gary Marchionini and Barbara B. Moran. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2012, pp. 113-26. http://sils.unc.edu/news/2012/ip2050-book-video .