Reshaping Scholarship: a conference
This year’s RLUK conference was held between 20-22 March at the Wellcome Collection, London, and brought together around 200 colleagues from across the international research library, information, and academic communities. The theme of the conference was ‘Reshaping Scholarship: Transformation, Innovation and Cultural Change’. As RLUK Chair, Nicola Wright, stated in her introduction, this year’s theme reflected the unprecedented level of change being experienced by research libraries around the world, whether in relation to their ‘collections, priorities, spaces, or strategic positioning within their parent institutions’. Change was, therefore, a key strand running throughout the conference programme, whether caused by the shifting expectations of library users, the multiplicity and diversification of library audiences, and ongoing, and increasing, uncertainty in the macro-political, social, and economic landscapes in which research libraries operate. Delegates discussed how we can respond to this change as a community, and the role of RLUK’s strategy, Reshaping Scholarship, in supporting collective action.
Reshaping Scholarship: a challenge-based approach for collective action
The conference and its various discussions will shortly be summarised in a forthcoming blog. Instead, this post will reflect on the fact that this year’s conference marked one year since the launch of Reshaping Scholarship and the work now emerging from this. Based around eight shared challenges facing members, we’re now deep into the implementation phase. A lot has already been achieved in the delivery of the strategy, in which RLUK’s member networks have played a key role. Over the last year, the Associate Directors’ Network (ADN) have hosted a series of very insightful and enriching meetings around the issues of succession planning and empowerment, and will soon hold meetings to explore workforce development and research-led learning. The Special Collections Leadership Network (SCLN) has supported valuable and original research into evidencing the impact of special collections, has overseen the creation and launch of RLUK’s Professional Fellowship Scheme (in partnership with The National Archives), and has represented RLUK members within collaborative projects, such as the Digitisation for Digital Scholarship initiative, facilitated by Jisc. The work of the SCLN has formed an integral part of the wider Special Collection’s Programme, which has seen RLUK work closely with members, funders, and wider stakeholders around demonstrating the impact of special collections. Both the ADN and SCLN have continued to harness the collective knowledge and voice of RLUK members to explore key challenges and opportunities facing institutions, both individually and collectively, and have led tangible programmes of work to support these.
The ADN explore the role of staff empowerment within research libraries at the John Rylands Library, March 2019.
This work of RLUK’s networks has recently been extended following the launch of a Digital Scholarship Network (DSN). The network has already brought together colleagues from across the RLUK membership to explore the definition of digital scholarship, what this means for member libraries and their operations, and some of the emerging opportunities and challenges associated with this work. The meeting explored the various roles of the research library in developing and delivering Digital Scholarship services, whether as provider, partner, or pioneer.
The network has devised and launched a major piece of research, in the form of a Digital Scholarship survey, which interrogates both the nature and infrastructural needs of digital scholarship services, but also how they relate to the changing nature of the research library audience, collection, and mission. Importantly, the outputs from this research will go beyond a summary report, to enable international benchmarking and will form the basis of an action plan of activity for the network to undertake in the coming years.
The work of RLUK three established member networks was the subject of a panel session at this year’s conference: