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portal: Libraries and the Academy 4.1 (2004) 1-7



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The Keystone Principles and OCLC:
Four Years Later

Jay Jordan


Whatever became of The Keystone Principles? On September 24-25, 1999, eighty academic library leaders attended a program at the Keystone Conference Center in Keystone, Colorado, sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and OCLC on the"Future Roles and Contributions of Academic Libraries." In two days of discussion and debate, the attendees forged The Keystone Principles--"a set of core values and related actions believed to be critical for creating and sustaining open and dynamic user-oriented library systems that will be relevant, viable and vital in the new century." 1 ARL subsequently published the The Keystone Principles with the unanimous support of the conference participants in order to promote discussion on issues of vital interest to libraries.

There were three principles:

  1. Scholarly and government information is a "public good" and must be available free of marketing bias, commercial motives, and cost to the individual user.
  2. Libraries are responsible for creating innovative information systems for the dissemination and preservation of information and new knowledge regardless of format.
  3. The academic library is the intellectual commons for the community where people and ideas interact in both the real and virtual environments to expand learning and facilitate the creation of new knowledge. 2

There was considerable discussion. There were calls for action, including the creation of a portal by academic and research libraries called "library.org." A few weeks later, at the October 1999 OCLC Members Council meeting, I described the principles to Council delegates as follows:

The principles say that knowledge and information are public goods, that the library is the intellectual crossroads of the community, that librarians will ensure systems to pass knowledge on to succeeding generations, and that a new knowledge commons will emerge . . . a cooperative coordinated enterprise of traditional library services and new [End Page 1] electronic ones. Library.org is the sum of distributed Web-based and brick and mortar resources made accessible through a unified, trusted Web presence. Library.org incorporates library core values applied in the digital knowledge age. It leverages new models of organizational cooperation. It exploits access to unique digital and paper-based resources as well as expert library staff. 3

The Keystone Principles were part of a larger attempt by librarians to deal with the enormous amount of change that was and is sweeping over libraries and the institutions they service. For example, in May 2000, eight months after the Keystone Conference, the Association of American Universities, ARL, and the Merrill Advanced Studies Center of the University of Kansas issued "Principles for Emerging Systems of Scholarly Publishing." Signatories to this set of principles included university presidents, provosts, and professional association leaders, as well as library leaders.

In addition, over the past four years other initiatives have gained considerable momentum--including the Dublin Core, the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR).

Clearly, the concept of the knowledge commons set forth in The Keystone Principles is alive and well today. It's a good thing, too, because declining endowments, reduced funding, increasing costs, and changing service demands are placing new strains on many U.S. academic library budgets and impeding their planned initiatives.

Even when the pressure eases, academic institutions will continue to have seemingly unlimited needs and limited resources. They will continue to face vexing challenges in e-learning, unlocking special collections, preserving digital assets, and increasing staff productivity. Institutions will never have enough money to do everything that they want to do in their libraries. As a result, they must choose from a vast range of opportunities, and they must select those that are consistent with the long-term values associated with research, scholarship, and education. Choices made become the future.

Permit me to share with you OCLC's strategic directions (which are in basic harmony with The Keystone Principles) and how we are working to help academic libraries not only ride out the current storm...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-7131
Print ISSN
1531-2542
Pages
pp. 1-7
Launched on MUSE
2004-01-22
Open Access
No
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