Supporting research based learning in a ‘born-digital’ world. Christopher Cipkin, Library Services

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As technology increasingly drives the way education is delivered, the library of the future will need to rise to the challenge of collecting and archiving a wider range of digital formats – music, news media, gaming software, research data etc. We may need to adapt our library and IT infrastructure to better reflect an educational trend towards students as co-creators of knowledge, not just passive consumers of it. The responsibility for preserving ‘born digital’ and ‘transition to digital’ content will, however, need to start with the creators – ie the students. This could be achieved by embedding essential digital and information management skills into the curriculum from the outset so that the early works of writers, artists and musicians of the future are not lost.

We will also need to build local and national infrastructure which provides new standards of access to born digital primary source materials for students and researchers to work on (eg literary manuscripts, collections of email ‘letters’). This is a far greater challenge than the digitisation of existing print material and our success with this will significantly affect teaching and research for decades to come. As more content becomes ubiquitously available online, it is this unique and distinctive digital content (as well as our heritage print/archival collections) which will become a significant part of Birmingham’s teaching specialism and distinctiveness.

2 thoughts on “Supporting research based learning in a ‘born-digital’ world. Christopher Cipkin, Library Services”

  1. This is very important and as a creator of ‘born digital’ critical editions, I would suggest too that the traditional distinctions between the library and researchers will also change, since we can work together not only in sorting but also in publishing data and research. For much of what we do, will we need external agencies (often publishers) to make what we study available? The Virtual Manuscript Room ( ) was a first step in that direction.

  2. Perhaps this is an opportunity to combine ancient and modern, so to speak. Cataloguers have long since had rules for “ephemera” (amongst other categories), and the current use of the term “metadata” in describing cataloguing work itself acknowledges the terminology used in the digital world for tagging digital material. Add to this our growing use of open repositories, ‘dark archives’ for material not publicly available (1) as well as research data management in an age of open access and data. Is the way forward to combine traditional skills with modern tech.?

    (1) Martin, M. Dark archives. In: US Department of Energy, Office of Scientific and Technical Information. Osti Blog [internet]. 2011 Aug 4. Available from: (cited 2017 Mar 9)

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