By Michael Kicey
University at Buffalo (SUNY)
One of the refrains in recent conversations between academic librarians and their constituencies has been a marked shift in the focus of user needs. For decades, the most pressing need was to create, broaden, and maintain access to research resources, especially but not exclusively online. As a result, an enormous heap of resources is now accessible, and the heap grows greater every day. More recently, however, as the available trove of resources has grown to unimaginable and sometimes unmanageable dimensions, we are witnessing more urgency around questions of organization, articulation, and presentation of these resources, where the most crucial aim is to illuminate relationships between the different elements in scholarly conversations. The task for librarians now lies less in growing the heap, and more in clarifying the narrative in which each element in that heap – each text, author, approach, or topic – plays a distinct and meaningful role. It is one thing to have virtually everything of significance that has been said or written on a single topic at one’s disposal en masse; it is quite another to understand the genesis and internal structure of that written totality well enough to intervene in it effectively and meaningfully with one’s own work.