Monday, November 08, 2004

Changing mission of Learned Societies

"As digital networks become more central to scholarly communication, scholars are increasingly facing a torrent of electronically accessible resources, many of unknown provenance or quality. The challenge and the opportunity for learned societies is to assess the quality of these resources through peer review, to provide these assessments to scholars in the field, and to organize access to the full range of validated materials in an easily navigated, intellectually thoughtful manner." (Bennett p7)

James J. O'Donnell echoes Bennett's reference to a "torrent of electronically accessible resources" when he speaks of "infochaos" in Avatars of the Word. Both speak of the emerging need to provide a means of filtering this torrent to enable the information seeker to identify useful and usable information. O'Donnell suggests this role is that of the librarian. Bennett claims the role for the learned society. I suspect both would agree that it is a role to be shared.

Bennet also speaks of Learned Societies functioning to "connect" scholars in what has become a fragmented existence. He speaks particularly of three emerging issues where learned societies can make contributions:

  • Internationalization

  • Interdisiplinarity

  • Interactive learning and scholarship

These are precisely the issues I've identified as significant factors influencing changes in theology libraries.... (forthcoming article in Theological Education)

(Bennett, Douglas, and American Council of Learned Societies. New Connections for Scholars: The Changing Missions of a Learned Society in an Era of Digital Networks, Acls Occasional Paper ; No. 36. [New York, N.Y.?]: American Council of Learned Societies, 1997.)