Carnegie Mellon University

Prepare for the next evolution of libraries

Students in Sorrells Library at Carnegie Mellon University

“OCLC has done a huge service in bringing to the forefront this model of The Evolving Scholarly Record. The traditional outcomes-focused model of library organization needs to be expanded to take account of the objects and data generated during the research process and the reflection, the sharing, the reuse that takes place during the aftermath of the research process.”

Keith Webster
Dean of University Libraries and Director of Emerging and Integrative Media Initiatives

Carnegie Mellon University’s unique history has resulted in two distinct areas of research strength: engineering and the arts. “We really have a rich focus on interdisciplinary research,” explained Dean of University Libraries Keith Webster. “In the library, we have tried to capture the best of that and pivot it into a rich interdisciplinary educational experience for students.” Keith noted that this goes beyond the library’s traditional collections-focused role, but library success depends on “recognizing that the library in today’s world has a very different role to play in supporting research.”

Keith continued, “In today's digital world, people are designing their own information workflows. And we need to figure out what those workflows are, what tools they are using, and make sure that the library can integrate into those as seamlessly as possible.” Keith cites research from OCLC, especially The Evolving Scholarly Record, in helping him formalize this idea into something he can share with others. “As The Evolving Scholarly Record model points out, we are in an environment where it’s not just the published outcome of the research process that is relevant.”

He references The Evolving Scholarly Record model when speaking to administrators and other university officials. “The report crystallized a lot of things that I had been observing and pulled it together elegantly and succinctly,” he said. “I use it as a way of illustrating how libraries have a powerful future ahead of them. People who kind of gave up on libraries 20 years ago understand very quickly, when you explain the model, what it is that we can do.”

“I believe there is a role for the library to step in and help identify and curate the core parts of the scholarly record.”

The model identifies research outputs beyond published papers, the disconnected systems where these outputs may be stored, and how these outputs contribute to global scholarship. “It’s a way of conceptualizing the different components that we need to identify and track,” Keith said. He kept this new role of the library in mind when contributing to the university’s most recent ten-year plan. During budget planning, “I was able to point to the strategic plan, illustrate those ideas with the OCLC model, and argue for the first round of funding to build the systems that we have now rolled out—services like our KiltHub repository, our campus research information management [RIM] system, and other digital platforms.”

Since that initial funding, the library has further expanded services for researchers. For example, connecting the RIM system to the university’s grants management system allows librarians to reach out to researchers very early in their projects, before the researchers have considered the library’s help. Keith added, “We have been engaged in hiring a lot of faculty into the libraries who have come from a background of research in the discipline that they're going to work with,” which helps develop trust with researchers.

Keith continues to look toward the future, recognizing challenges with search and discovery across platforms and re-imagining library space. “In this environment,” he asked, “what is the inner essence of libraries, and how do we represent that in our space?” With the help of OCLC Research, Carnegie Mellon gives him a perfect place to work out these questions. “Andrew Carnegie defined the library of the 20th century through his international philanthropy,” he said, “and it's absolutely fitting that the university that bears his name should try to define the library of the 21st century.”

Map showing location of Carnegie Mellon University

Library at a glance

  • Moved into its first purpose-built space in 1961, after existing for decades in departmental offices and converted spaces
  • Consists of a central library, two disciplinary libraries, and another library on the university’s Qatar campus
  • Maintains and trains researchers on the use of research information and data management systems

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