Outcomes of the Knowledge Cafe at the LIBER 2021 Annual Conference

Posted: 07-07-2021 Topics: Strategy

“Telling the story of the library is seen as a very important strategic priority”

The LIBER Strategy Taskforce has developed a draft vision statement for research libraries, comprising six elements, to be implemented from 20232027. The draft was discussed on Wednesday the 23rd of June 2021 during the Knowledge Café event at the recent 2021 LIBER Annual Conference held online. Roughly 70 people representing libraries across Europe participated in the Knowledge Café and discussed the six main elements in breakout groups. As a result of these discussions, we garnered extensive feedback on LIBER’s future strategy which is outlined below.

The Three Driving Forces Impacting Research Libraries

The Strategy Taskforce identified three major driving forces which will have a great impact on research libraries in the coming years:

  1. Drive for Openness: This ‘Drive for Openness’ comes from the EU as a whole as well as European governments, academia, and society.
  2. New technologies driving further digital transformation: AI, machine learning, and robotics will accelerate the digital shift and profoundly affect research and scholarly communication.
  3. Upkeeping Rights & Values: An increasing awareness and demand by society and academia for the upkeep of rights and values within the digital scholarly environment.

Vision Statement with 6 Elements

As part of the Knowledge Cafe, we discussed what the strategic response of research libraries should be to these three major driving forces. Discussions within the Strategy Taskforce led to a draft vision statement with the following six elements:

  1. Trusted Hub: By 2027, research libraries will be trusted hubs in their user communities, collaborating with each other and with local, national, and international stakeholders, in their role as change agents and facilitators.
  2. State-of-the-Art Services: By 2027, research libraries will provide forward-looking, state-of-the-art services regarding collections, publishing, and curation of information and metadata. These services are relevant and tailor-made for user groups inside and outside academia.
  3. Shaping Open Science: By 2027, in collaboration with researchers, research libraries will stimulate, facilitate, co-develop, and manage Open Science infrastructures and practices.
  4. Upholding Rights & Values: By 2027, research libraries are to uphold public and academic values inside and outside of the research community.
  5. Space for Dialogue: By 2027, research libraries function as an inclusive and inspirational physical and virtual space, enabling interaction between individuals and facilitating dialogue.
  6. Open to Society: By 2027, research libraries play key roles in opening up science to society by taking up public engagement tasks within the field of science.

General Input of Knowledge Café Participants

Overall, the draft vision statement was generally appreciated by participants at the event. Many emphasised the connection and overlap between the six elements. This led to the question of whether ‘to merge or not to merge’ so of the elements. Some participants thought it was better to merge some elements together so the vision statement would be simpler and more easy-to-read whereas others preferred to keep the various elements separate to ensure that each would get sufficient attention as standalone foci in the implementation phase. No consensus was reached on this topic.

Another noteworthy observation that was discussed in one of the breakout sessions was the phrase ‘bridge to society’. This was seen as important in the discussions about various elements: State-of-the-Art Services, Open Science and Open to Society.

‘Rights and Values’ as an element was also thoroughly discussed. Some thought it was a good idea to work on these two subjects in a separate working group whereas others stated that it was relevant to all other elements of the vision and should not be seen as a separate issue.

Towards the end of the event, participants voted on the six elements. They were urged to pick the three elements that they most preferred. ‘Trusted Hub’ was the highest voted for element, winning over 72% of participants. ‘State-of-the-Art Services’ and ‘Shaping Open Science’ followed closely with 63% and 66% of votes respectively. Other elements scored lower: ‘Upholding Rights and Values’ garnered 34% of votes, ‘Open to Society’ 31% and ‘Space for Dialogue’ 19%. However, in the discussion following the vote, many participants again emphasised the connection between all six elements and the importance of the three lowest scoring elements.

A Closer Look at the 6 Elements



There was some discussion about the term ‘hub’.  The term does reflect the ‘network node’ aspect adequately but sounds a little bit static and potentially old-fashioned. However other suggestions such as platform or third space were not embraced by the participants, so the general conclusion was to stick with ‘hub’.

With regard to the roles of the library, participants emphasised that also the role as experts on information management should be mentioned in the vision statement. Another remark focused on the international network and intensive collaboration between libraries which stands out in comparison to other university departments. It is important to emphasise this existing international network vis-à-vis, international actors.

Telling the story of the library was seen as a very important strategic priority. The research library should not be seen as a facility but as a service provider. There was a suggestion to hire professional storytellers to design the story.

  • Tell the story of the library: the story of libraries’ unique values and services and its function and roles now and in the future need to be better told and explained.
  • Help libraries in networking & collaborating with its stakeholders by sharing practices.
  • Advocacy by LIBER directed at international stakeholders.
  • Working on scholarly communication-related policies and guidelines with international stakeholders
  • Observatory of the European landscape: a function for LIBER to inform its members about the developments that shape up scholarly communication.


Participants were happy to see this element in the vision. They saw it as an important shift in emphasis for research libraries. The further development of services around research data should be given priority. In this regard, (1) upscaling of library staff by hiring highly qualified personnel with PhD, (2) more investment in faculty relationships which would create new questions and answers by librarians and (3) the formation of digital competence centres at some libraries were mentioned. Also, it was remarked that the nature of data services would depend on the type of library: a university library would have different data services as for instance a national library.

Participants also spoke of working with collections in a different way: ‘collections as data’, which enables researchers to interact with collections in a different way. Also, the importance of connecting to GLAM collections and looking at the ethical aspects of potential biases in the collections were emphasised.

  • Orientation on service development and new technologies: LIBER can help with the orientation on the possibilities of new technologies for library services [e.g., by Masterclasses on technologies in libraries]
  • Upskilling the library workforce: Help libraries upskilling staff in new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality.
  • Revaluing and reconnecting collections: (1) integrating collections in the workflows of researchers; (2) connecting academic heritage collections with collections of the GLAM sector.


The participants emphasised the importance of OA platforms and stated that the development of Open Science practices should get a high priority in the near future.

With regard to multiple roads to Open Access, it was remarked that the influence by individual libraries on transformative agreements was often limited because they were concluded by national consortia. University presses generally are going in the direction of Diamond Open Access; however, it is also remarked that they operate often separate from the library and not all of them do have an OA mindset.

Research assessment is according to some participants primarily an issue for the academics themselves upon which libraries have a very limited influence.

Open Educational Resources was seen as part of shaping Open Science and deserving more attention by research libraries.

Finally, one participant sighed: ‘What can you do with a limited budget?’

  • Developing, facilitating, and managing collaborative OA platforms for research data.
  • Facilitating multiple roads to Open Access [Transformative agreements, Diamond OA platforms, innovative business models such as Subscribe to Open, etc.).
  • Supporting innovative Open Science practices such as innovative publishing, open peer review and annotations.
  • Helping academia adopt and implement responsible frameworks for research assessment.


As mentioned earlier, there was a discussion about the optimal way to address these issues in the implementation of the strategy.  A separate Working Group on this topic might create the impression that it was not relevant for the other elements of the vision. However, there are difficult aspects to this that require expertise and thorough discussions. For example, some participants remarked that sometimes you have to find the balance between different rights, such as author rights and user rights.

The list of values was seen as incomplete by some: democracy and freedom of speech should be included according to those participants. Also, there were participants who thought that the vision statement in itself was rather broad and not covered as such by the suggested strategic priorities. These participants thought it was better to scale down the vision statement.

Finally, two issues were brought up: possible bias in collections that creates the need to put these collections into context (‘contextualising provenance’) and the legal implications of combinations of various collections of libraries and non-library institutions.

  • Advocacy and collective action regarding protecting rights of creators, contributors, and users in scholarly communication.
  • Developing Guiding Principles for upholding rights and values in services offered to the academic community.
  • Leveraging copyright expertise for the researcher community.
  • LIBER Working Group about ethics and new technologies such as AI.
  • Addressing sustainability issues in the scholarly communication process.


Participants thought that this element was closely linked to the Rights & Values element of the vision. Libraries are melting pots, both for people and for disciplines. This is an important element of being a space for dialogue. In this discussion, it was also mentioned that there might be a risk of libraries drifting apart from each other: some libraries are more digital and others more physical.

  • Knowledge exchange for virtual architecture and user experiences.
  • Sharing best practices in architecture of spaces for social interaction and dialogue.


Participants underlined the importance of openness to society. Library should not operate in a silo but be inclusive. It was also emphasised that openness is of interest of all: it is important for science, it is important for researchers, and it is important for the general public in helping them to understand how science works. With regard to the strategic priorities, it was suggested to collaborate and engage with public libraries, who have a good connection with the general public and are moving in many countries towards a more ‘societal’ function this space for debate & meetings. Also, ‘educate education’ was mentioned as a possible strategy. Finally, ‘public engagement in science’ was seen as a general term that covers also ‘citizens science’, with the last term often used by funding organisations.

  • Increasing levels of awareness, capacity, and innovation through knowledge dissemination to all relevant stakeholders, helping research institutions re-define their societal role.
  • LIBER assumes a leadership role in the European Open Science landscape to advance policies that connect science with society.
  • Creating blueprints for advancing institutional partnerships on infrastructures and services that foster public engagement in science.

Have Your Say

In the months to come, LIBER Participants will receive additional opportunities to provide input on the new strategy. In the meantime, should Participants have any feedback, we welcome emails to liber@libereurope.org with the subject ‘LIBER New Strategy’. We look forward to your input!

[Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash]