Advancing the Research Mission

Research libraries are caught between twin pressures. There is pressure on resources as public and private institutions review and reallocate investment against changing priorities. There is pressure on services as changing research, learning and information behaviors create new demands (think of data curation for example).

Many library functions can now be outsourced or addressed collaboratively, and an imperative for distinctive library services is accelerating the transformation of organizational culture.

The past practice of collecting information resources and helping people when they come to the library to use them is no longer adequate.  Libraries need to continue to shift their focus to more proactive ways they can support the research and teaching processes. This may require recasting services, re-skilling staff, finding new uses for library spaces, hiring post-doctoral grads and other specialists from outside the traditional library fields, and taking on entirely new responsibilities. With these changes come new technological impacts, challenges in managing change, and the need to integrate new types of staff.

OCLC has a strong interest in understanding and shaping how library services are changing and a responsibility to help libraries plan for and manage these changes. To progress in this area, OCLC Research has established a dedicated thematic area—advancing the academic mission—that draws on our capacity to convene staff from key institutions to review emerging new practices and to make recommendations for action.

We'll explore the shift from passive provision of information to active involvement in the research process, all the way from grant proposal to dissemination of results. We'll seek out unmet needs that require local solutions and present opportunities to make better connections to mission-essential activities. Our objective is to understand the ways that libraries can have maximum impact in providing support to academic departments.

Areas of focus

  • Evidence: Accumulating qualitative and quantitative evidence and literature syntheses that help libraries prepare themselves to provide better support for teaching and scholarly research.
  • Internalization vs. externalization: Determining where services outside the library are sufficient to rely upon, so that local efforts can focus on distinctive services tuned to the local academic environment.
  • Convening: Bringing together the best examples of services, the most creative thinkers, and those who want to do more, to make recommendations and provide models for exemplary support services.

How we advance thinking

Activities provide library managers with information that will help them provide distinctive services that reflect their institution’s research mission.

We focus on:

Current work


Please note, Advancing the Research Mission is an updated theme that was previously referred to as Research Information Management.


Most recent updates: Page content: 2014-06-09

ResearchWorks icon (RW) Some of the activities listed here have prototypes or demonstrations you can explore and play with. You can find a list of just those hands-on activities in ResearchWorks.

Software icon (SW) A few of these activities have generated software that you can download and build upon. Go to our software page for a list of only those activities.

ORL Partnership icon (P) The OCLC Research Library Partnership has sponsored the activities with this mark.

OCLC Research on YouTube

Watch OCLC Research YouTube Channel videos that feature some of our current work or recent findings

We are a worldwide library cooperative, owned, governed and sustained by members since 1967. Our public purpose is a statement of commitment to each other—that we will work together to improve access to the information held in libraries around the globe, and find ways to reduce costs for libraries through collaboration.