A scientist leads TIB for the first time

Ceremony at the library: Professor Dr. Sören Auer officially welcomed as new Director

Professor Dr. Sören Auer is the first scientist to lead the Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) – German National Library of Science and Technology – Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology in Hannover. The computer scientist was appointed Director of TIB on 1 July 2017.

Auer was officially welcomed during a ceremony in the library’s Patents and Standards Reading Room on 18 October 2017, attended by more than 80 guests from the realms of politics, research, librarianship and business.

By appointing a professor to lead the library, TIB is intensifying its focus on research and development. As Director of TIB, Professor Dr. Sören Auer seeks to continuously expand the role of the library as an information centre for the digitisation of science, business and society.

As the same time as embarking on his position as Director, the computer scientist also started work as Professor of “Data Science & Digital Libraries” at TIB and Leibniz Universität Hannover’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. In addition to his activities as Director, Auer leads the Research and Development programme area and the “Data Science & Digital Libraries” research group. His key research activities at TIB are the topics of data science, digital libraries and open knowledge. Examples of his research include semantic data, and integrating heterogeneous and complex data volumes.

During the ceremony, special thanks were extended to Dr. Irina Sens, who took on the role of Interim Director of TIB from October 2016 through to June 2017. The event was presented by Jens Olf, Head of Full-Text Provision at TIB. The “Lothar Krist Latin Quartett”, featuring Latin American sounds, provided the musical backdrop to the event.
Speakers from the realms of politics, research and librarianship took this opportunity to address a few words to Auer. Rüdiger Eichel, Head of Research and Innovation at Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture (MWK), was the first speaker to take the stage.

During his welcome speech, Eichel stressed the constructive cooperation between TIB and Leibniz Universität Hannover, apparent also in the joint procedure for appointing a professor as TIB Director. Eichel wished the new Director: “A great deal of luck and every success in his new tasks.” He stressed the importance of developing a sustainable strategy for the future of the library and was confident of Auer’s awareness of TIB’s tradition.

Loyal cooperation between the university and the library

Professor Dr. Volker Epping, President of Leibniz Universität Hannover, also emphasised the loyal cooperation between the university and the library, which is embraced at all levels: in the provision of literature to the university, as a learning environment for local students, as a research partner with two joint professorships held by Professor Dr. Sören Auer and Professor Dr. Ralph Ewerth, in the close collaboration with L3S Research Centre, and in other topics such as research data management.


“TIB is seizing the challenges and opportunities offered by the digital transition,” stated Professor Dr. Dr. Friedrich W. Hesse, Vice President of the Leibniz Association. This is evident from TIB’s numerous activities within the Leibniz Association alone. Examples of its activities include the library’s involvement in the Open Access portal Leibniz Open, the Leibniz Association publishing fund, which has already funded 144 publications, and the Leibniz Research Alliance Science 2.0. “TIB provides research infrastructures and conducts its own research – and now, with the arrival of Professor Dr. Auer, the key topic of knowledge graphs, one of his key research activities, has reached TIB,” Hesse observed.

“This day represents a significant turning point for TIB,” remarked Professor Dr. Wolfram Koch, Executive Director of the German Chemical Society (GDCh) and Chair of the TIB Scientific Advisory Council. “The new Director of TIB is a professor – meaning that for the first time ever, a scientist rather than a librarian is at the helm of TIB,” he continued. Such a change goes hand in hand with a stronger orientation towards research. Hesse wished the new Director the greatest success and good luck in his endeavours.

Uwe Rosemann, former TIB Director until the end of September 2016, looked back on 18 years as leader of the library. TIB underwent many developments over the years. “Increasing digitisation is also changing the world of literature,” stated Rosemann.

These changes include a strategic transition towards research as well as new management tools and marketing. Irrespective of all these past and future changes facing TIB, one thing must not be forgotten: “TIB has plenty to offer – and its most valuable asset are the people who work here,” Rosemann stressed.

Knowledge graphs – a new area of research at TIB

Not only guests from the realms of politics, research and librarianship took to the stage at the ceremony, but also companions of Auer, who led the “Enterprise Information Systems (EIS)” department at Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS and held a Chair in Enterprise Information Systems at the University of Bonn before being appointed Director of TIB.

In his lecture “New ways of exchange of knowledge: knowledge graphs,” Professor Dr. Stefan Decker, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT, introduced the audience to the world of knowledge graphs.  A question he raised was how knowledge is organised. This question is not new to contemporary society – it was relevant even before Gutenberg’s time. At present, our knowledge doubles every nine years, Decker explained.  But what possibilities exist to support the acquisition and organisation of knowledge using computers? “Knowledge graphs integrate data and knowledge. As an object of research, they offer Germany a unique opportunity to take on a leading role in the valuable resource of knowledge,” stated Decker with conviction.

Dr. Sonja Zillner, Corporate Technology at Siemens, in her lecture on “Data & industry: a bogus wedding?”, spoke of the value of data for industry: “If data is semantically linked, it is of high value to industry and business.” For instance, semantically linked data can be used to monitor machinery, as well as to make diagnoses and predictions.

“Sören Auer is a pioneer in semantic technologies and knowledge graphs,” stated Zillner, who views libraries as a partner of companies in the area of data research. A lot has yet to be done in this field: for example, according to a Forbes study, data scientists spend only one fifth of their time working on data research, which includes the further development of algorithms. The rest of their time – 80 per cent, i.e. the majority of their working time – is spent collecting and purging data.

TIB as a information centre for digitisation

After receiving many good luck wishes for his work at TIB during the welcome speeches and lectures, Professor Dr. Sören Auer took the opportunity to present to the audience his research and ideas for TIB as an information centre for digitisation.

He got off to a good start in Hannover and was made to feel very welcome – at TIB, Leibniz Universität Hannover and L3S Research Centre. “Even though I am not a qualified librarian, I am a librarian at heart,” Auer confessed.

He considers it important to organise and structure information. In this area, Germany can by all means keep pace with the USA, stated Auer with conviction. He believes that digitisation is one of the future challenges for libraries, offering considerable opportunities. According to Auer, new opportunities of knowledge organisation include the machine-readability of content, the integration of metadata and multimedia content.