Collection Strategies for Grey Literature in the Sciences: Implications for Research Libraries in the Digital Era

GELFAND, Julia and LIN, Anthony (Tony) (2019) Collection Strategies for Grey Literature in the Sciences: Implications for Research Libraries in the Digital Era. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2019 - Athens, Greece - Libraries: dialogue for change in Session S12 - Serials and Other Continuing Resources with National Libraries. In: Grey Literature: Scholarly Communication in a Digital World, 23 August 2019, Athens, Greece.

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Language: English (Original)
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Collection Strategies for Grey Literature in the Sciences: Implications for Research Libraries in the Digital Era

Grey literature started with content that was difficult to find, acquire, describe, challenging to process, cite and problematic for libraries to manage. Grey literature was considered a low priority commodity that was labor intensive serving a specialized, but limited group of researchers. Today, grey literature has shifted from the shadows into the mainstream. The proliferation of electronic resources and digital services in recent years demonstrate the increasing importance of e-formats in the marketplace transforming how central and ubiquitous they are to libraries. As a result, the value of grey literature skyrocketed to unprecedented heights. Libraries have not only learned to process grey literature more routinely, but also initiated collecting in new formats and scope. These often include data, multimedia, audiovisual, imagery, graphics and a wide range of physical and digital components. Unfortunately, library collection policies have fallen behind the trend especially in consideration of the ephemeral nature of grey literature. Newspapers, maps, games, technical reports, theses and dissertations, data sets, government information are all included as a part of the current research landscape. In time, improved metadata facilitates accurate description and the catalog record enhances discovery. In addition, searching, usability, citations, and references specific to this medium have experienced an evolutionary leap. The value ascribed to grey literature is often determined by its research impact. As new forms of scholarship emerge across disciplines, greyness shifts from dark hues lighter introducing new content and outputs. The research lifecycle benefits from refinements including information citation and repurposing. The investment libraries make in developing collections to respond to user demands for new outputs with social capital contributing to research fulfillment increases. Research using grey literature has transformed from a narrow group to multi-disciplinary environments. Digital scholarship redefined how research in the humanities and social sciences is conducted. Previously traditional published works influenced research outputs. Now a reverse trend with research outputs influencing traditional publishing emerges. Publications that are part of series are no longer an obstacle to handle. Scientific grey literature today is more complex and shares frontiers with museums and other special collections that highlight content using appropriate technologies to exhibit, capture and process it. Physical objects appear more frequently in libraries than before and can be photographed at high resolution, digitized, scanned and described so users can discover and examine such collections with reduced barriers and increased accessibility. Scientific grey literature includes biological pathways, lab notebooks, posters, and videos of scientific procedures, large data collected from observatories, animal testing, healthcare records, models, patents, lab specimens, electronic components and many other sources. The advent of 3D printing, fabrication of new materials and ethnographic processes can tell important stories and contribute to new science in novel ways. This form of innovation and scholarly communication takes into account technology transfer, intellectual property and best practices in sharing resources that make grey literature less grey. This paper addresses how libraries have adopted a more centrist approach to handling scientific grey literature and the successful strategies research libraries practice to acquire grey literature in perpetuity. These new practices highlight how grey literature contributes to cohesive, balanced collections and open science.

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