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Supporting Researchers at NYPL: Today, Tomorrow & Beyond

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Mary Lee KennedyMary Lee Kennedy

Introduction

Since arriving at The New York Public Library on May 14, I have been particularly focused on three initiatives central to our mission: 1) service design for the 42nd Street renovation 2) acceleration of digital initiatives, and 3) providing patrons with seamless access to services, programs, and information across NYPL.

This blog post aims to highlight some of the advances we’re making for the research community. Our researchers include citizen researchers, educators, entrepreneurs, and students at all levels, as well as acclaimed academics, writers, and journalists. This is one of several forums in which we’d like to directly engage patrons in designing and improving the work we are doing.

42nd Street Renovation Program Design

Researchers gravitate to the collections and experts most pertinent to their disciplines, whether at the Library for the Performing Arts, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Science, Industry and Business Library, or one of the divisions of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street. The design of research services within the 42nd Street renovation will take the entire research community and all of our research relationships into consideration because of three simple facts: our collections are interconnected, we are partners with other research libraries, and researchers routinely cross disciplines. While we are still in the process of designing the services for the 42nd Street renovation, we don’t plan to wait until designs are final to implement enhancements—we’ve already started. For example, we are:

  • Improving delivery of non-circulating research materials held by—or obtained from—other research collections. You’ll hear more from me on this soon.
  • Hiring new curators in the humanities
  • Taking a leadership role in defining how libraries will both support and disseminate knowledge and scholarship in the future

Accelerating Digital Initiatives

Pick your expert, but whichever way you look at it, there is an explosion in born digital materials and digital scholarship. Any library providing research services today must invest in digital initiatives. About 25% of our current acquisitions are electronic or born digital, and we plan on increasing that number. There is significant growth not only in the digital humanities but also in data of all kinds, and there is great interest in user-generated information for research purposes. Recent digital initiatives to support researchers include:

  • The soft launch last month of NYPL Digital Collections, the first step to becoming an interactive center for digital collections consultation and contribution
  • Doubling our digitization capacity this year to provide easy access to even more of our unique print materials
  • Creating a digital humanities center of excellence that supports digital collection builders, incubators of ideas (like the recently held maps hackathon), and new forms of knowledge dissemination

Seamless Access to NYPL and Beyond

Any researcher working at NYPL should have an excellent experience regardless of where and how they initiate their request. Today, non-circulating research materials and in-depth information expertise are sought primarily through AskNYPL, on the phone, or in person at one of the four research libraries. (We do receive some requests from the branch libraries.)

Curators and reference staff across the Library provide in-depth expertise to scholars, and we are also very fortunate to have exceptional staff and scholars through our fellowships. Our aim is to increase access across NYPL to these exceptional people and collections. Some of the advances we are working on include:

  • Supporting and creating opportunities for scholars to work with research materials and NYPL expertise in situ, rather than limiting access to the materials to a single reading room
  • Making it a lot easier to ask for—and to check on the status of—materials requested from NYPL, including providing greater insight into what is being used and what new materials are available
  • Establishing even stronger research collection sharing and development agreements with our peers, specifically with Columbia, NYU, Princeton, and CUNY

We know we can always improve our services. We are committed to providing trustworthy, convenient, and inspiring experiences—today and for generations to come. Concretely, this means having exceptional staff, providing easily accessible information here at NYPL or through partnerships (in digital and print formats), and conserving and preserving research materials for the writers, researchers, and scholars of the future. And NYPL continues to invest in providing researchers with the physical spaces that inspire great novels, acclaimed academic scholarship, and the highest student achievement.

I look forward to hearing what you think will make us an even greater research library over the next five years—for all of the different research communities that use our collections and services.

Best regards,

Mary Lee Kennedy

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