New digital networking technologies and media have impacted many basic activities of university students and scholars but have also had essential consequences for the radical “datafication” and \u22networkization\u22 of entire academic and scientific discourse. For this reason the information needs and customs of the patrons of academic research libraries have been changing at much faster rates than the libraries themselves. To answer the urgent challenge, the leading American research libraries have begun to pursue more profound conceptual and infrastructural developments – sometimes called ‘knowledge environments.’ Rather than mere virtual research libraries, repositories, or library consortia, the new academic knowledge environments are meant to become synergistic and open networks for all available intellectual, technological, and material potentials. These new meta- and transinstitutional networks of shared resources, services, ideas, and expertise (which are shaped by and around the immediate actions and requests of the individual users) mean that ‘participants’ in such an academic knowledge environment (students, scholars, librarians) are no more only consumers, researchers, producers, or organizers/archivists of the information, but they are also immediate and simultaneous co-creators and co-interpreters of the particular knowledge environment/network. Establishing and building such a knowledge environment within and across a traditional academic institutional framework often collides with inertial forces associated with more deeply-rooted institutional and individual processes. Nevertheless, the new ‘meta-institutional’ academic knowledge environments are one of the most emerging and challenging platforms to reinvent the research library as a fundamental component of research and teaching in the new, rapidly changing conditions
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