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"When I look back on the last ten years, we got a lot of letters from researchers just
asking these questions: How do I get access and which way? What letters do I have to give?
When we use the Internet for all these technical things, and maybe then take the next step
and use the Internet to describe our collections and give information about the contents of
our archives, we are able to be a little bit freer to answer the researchers questions coming
really to the collections themselves, to special questions.We are specialists and it is just more
rewarding for your job." (Elke Freifrau von Boeselager, German Foreign Office, Political
Archives and Historical Service; DigiCULT ERT, Berlin, July 5, 2001)
There is some evidence that this hope might come true, due to the fact that scholars and
students "do their homework" and then approach the personnel in the memory institutions
(in-house or on-line) with questions that are intellectually more demanding. But there is
also an increasing demand for faster, ideally immediate delivery of information:
"The information services have completely changed.When we did not have access to the
Internet then people, of course, came with basic questions,`Do you have that and that
book?', and so on. Now the basic questions are solved, people are doing their research work
at home, 24 hours a day and they come to us with complex questions.What we are not
trained to do is to react as quickly as we should to a library that's open 24 hours a day, in
terms of staff and organisational aspects." (Hans Petschar, Austrian National Library;
DigiCULT ERT, Berlin, July 5, 2001)
In-house staff use is unlikely to decline in hybrid institutions
There is also evidence that for hybrid libraries or archives in-house staff use is unlikely
to decline in the digital arena. In a hybrid environment managers will have to enable the
institution not only to provide online services, but also to come to terms with more
physical handling of material. Because, users "mine" online catalogues extensively and then
show up in the library or archive with longer lists of material then before. Furthermore, for
digitised as well as "born digital" resources on the Internet, the need for some higher-value
online information and support tasks can be expected.
The DigiCULT navigator to human capital as key resource
Today, memory institutions are forced to adjust to the digital environment and imple-
ment new technological solutions at a speed that puts enormous pressure on personnel to
acquire new knowledge and skills.Therefore, human resources development is a key task in
cultural institutions.This not only applies to IT competencies; highly qualified personnel
are necessary at all levels.
In the Information Society the most important intellectual capacity of a memory
institution lies in the contextualisation, interpretation and explanatory narratives it can
bring to networked cultural heritage resources.Whereas there is substance in the view that
"the real value" of memory institutions is in the librarian, archivist or curator, in fact, the
efficiency of the intellectual capital of an institution depends on the interplay of the staff
(human capital) and technology (infrastructure capital).
Cultural institutions should put human resources development high on their
priorities list.
For hybrid institutions this means coming to terms with the following challenges:
be prepared for more physical handling of material as well as more competencies
needed to meet the intellectual demands of users,
keep and further improve the key traditional competencies that are valuable in the