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Charting a Course for the 21st Century – NLM's Long Range Plan 2006-2016

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Publishing, Libraries, and Information Delivery

Beyond the development of increasingly sophisticated ways to connect scientific publications to underlying data and interactive multimedia appendices, by 2025 research will have greatly increased our understanding of visual reasoning and how different types (e.g., text, numbers, pictures, sound) and methods of interaction with information (e.g., ability to request transformations or additional details) affect identification, understanding, and retention of useful information. As a result, digital publications will have learned how to adjust on the fly to user learning styles and preferences.

As new items are added to libraries’ digital collections they will be automatically connected to related information already present, expanding on techniques currently used at NLM to relate information across a wide array of Entrez databases. In this environment, books and other types of information and data will literally "talk to each other" and report any interesting findings back to human beings for further consideration and analysis. Across all types of biomedical and health-related information – and all types of users – there will be a continuing demand for ever more sophisticated computer-based systems that can understand a specific user’s information need and deliver a concise and appropriate response that is readily understood by that user. There will be a thriving market for products and services tailored to the information needs of individuals - and more than enough work for skilled people who will use increasingly sophisticated software to select, organize, analyze, link, and synthesize the information in the digital libraries that feed individualized services. Thus medical libraries and medical librarians will continue to be essential, although with a host of new duties.

In a sense the role of the medical library may change from housing and archiving information to more of an essential intellectual place of collaboration and constant information analysis, and in some cases, synthesis.

As the published knowledge base continues to expand incrementally, it should be possible to create computationally-aided "ripple effects" in research, health care, and public health systems – reducing the lag time between the discovery of important new knowledge and its application in real world settings.

The majority of new scientific research results will be freely available in permanent digital archives shortly after initial production or publication, thus fueling additional scientific discovery and encouraging the development of a wide range of value-added commercial products and services.