Library Discovery Directions

By Lorcan Dempsey

In this foreword to the edited collection Resource Discovery for the Twenty-First Century Library (2020), Lorcan Dempsey discusses the diversified scope of library discovery. In only a few years, the emphasis of library discovery has shifted, expanding from consideration of a particular library application (most recently the “discovery layer”) to a broader consideration of user behaviors and service development in a complex network ecosystem of offerings. A full appreciation of discovery and discoverability in a library environment now involves thinking about much more than the discovery layer.

Dempsey identifies and discusses briefly three broad trends of interest within this shifting library discovery environment:

  • First, “discovery often happens elsewhere”
  • Second, while the library collection may be a part of the library’s information universe, it is not necessarily central, nor the first used
  • And third, we are observing a reconfiguration of researcher and learner workflows

These changes are important because, historically, library discovery and library collections went hand in hand. Dempsey suggests, however, that both our sense of discovery and our sense of collections are changing in different ways in the current network environment.

This foreword traces two important trajectories that thread their way throughout much of the discussion in this edited collection, and perhaps provide an integrating pattern.

  1. The peeling away of library discovery from the local collection.
  2. The peeling away of library discovery from the local audience.

He also discusses some technology and service trends. Collection and audience boundaries are both blurring, placing different requirements on discovery. Of course, each of these has very much coevolved with changing research and learning behaviors in a rich networked, discovery ecosystem. 

Read the foreword

Note: The full collection, including this foreword, is now available in Resource Discovery for the Twenty-First Century Library (2020), from Facet publishing.

Suggested citation:

McLeish, Simon (ed.). 2020. Resource Discovery for the Twenty-First Century Library: Case Studies and Perspectives on the Role of IT in User Engagement and Empowerment. London: Facet Publishing.