We cannot predict the future, but research libraries can create and transform it. The research paradigm is shifting, and the wider context in which we operate grows ever more complex. We have glimpsed how technology is likely to revolutionise research, through artificial intelligence and machine learning, and how it is fundamentally changing the way in which research is approached, conducted and consumed; there is a greater collective drive towards revolutionising the scholarly publishing models. Increasingly the library is no longer seen as an impartial entity, but as an active partner and co-creator in the research process.
However, achieving our optimal future will require true diversity of thought and our embracing a breadth of ideas and experiences. Advancing equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), through our outreach activities, services, policies, missions and collections, brings the benefits of greater innovation, accessibility and competitiveness for our institutions, and the resultant ripple effect on society at large. But this is a complex challenge, and building a truly inclusive research library also requires us to understand the inherent inequalities and opportunity gaps that exist within the HE sector.
The 2020 RLUK Conference will examine this future and seek to understand how the transformation of the library, and its transformational power, can change the culture of research, and correspondingly shift our thinking, values, services and offer.