Interview with: TIB Director Professor Dr. Sören Auer

The first 100 days as Director of the TIB

Since the beginning of July 2017, TIB has a new Director: in our interview, find out more about Professor Dr. Sören Auer, his key research activities and ideas for the future of the library.

You’ve now been at TIB for 100 days. How are you feeling as Director of TIB?

The first few days were very interesting; I learned a lot of new things and got to know many interesting people.

I feel great and have settled down well. I’m delighted to have the privilege of leading such an exciting and diverse organisation as TIB. I’ve also settled in very well in the city of Hannover. I’ve visited all of the library sites and have had several opportunities to discover some of the nice areas that Hannover has to offer. What I like is the fact that, in spite of a few minor difficulties, the key players involved, such as the university, the ministry and we at TIB, generally work hand in hand very effectively.

What major changes have occurred in your life since July?

I have little time for research at present, being extremely occupied with learning the ropes, preparing for the evaluation, transferring projects and staff, and so on. I hope that I’ll have more time to actively pursue a number of research issues by the beginning of next year. Another exciting change was entering the world of libraries and information centres, where I have been able to familiarise myself with various perspectives and topics at several different events and meetings. I hope that I’ll be able to incorporate my research topics – knowledge graphs and linked data – and the experience I gained at Fraunhofer and other organisations into a productive synthesis for TIB with the new library perspective.

Looking back at the first 100 days: what was the most important issue?

The core topic is undoubtedly the evaluation that TIB will undergo in February 2018. We need to prepare this evaluation very carefully, which involves a large number of documents and talks with our administrative bodies, partners and the Leibniz Association. But preparing for the evaluation also enabled me to become deeply acquainted with many aspects concerning TIB. The wide range of topics that we cover is remarkable. To mention just a few things: the different subjects we cover, day-to-day library operations, information skills, research data management, licensing negotiations, Open Access, document delivery, copyright, and so on and so forth. This diversity is both a source of inspiration and a challenge for us.

One of your key activities is research. Data science, digital libraries and open knowledge are just some of the issues you explore. What does this entail?

The opportunities offered by digital technology are fundamentally changing the way we live and work. Although we hardly recognise these changes from one day to the next, they are significant from a yearly perspective. We can share information much more specifically and widely; it is easier for us to collaborate with others; and we process data on smartphones that would have required a supercomputer just a few years back. In my research, I wish to harness these opportunities for TIB. In the SlideWiki project, for example, we teamed up with 15 partners from all over Europe to develop the SlideWiki.org web platform, which enables teaching staff and learners to jointly create learning material and translate it into different languages. We hope that SlideWiki will be able to fundamentally improve the way teachers and learners work together to develop OpenCourseWare content, just like Wikipedia revolutionised collaborative work on encyclopaedic articles.

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges currently facing a library like TIB? And where do you see TIB in five or ten years from now?

The greatest challenge is for the library to make greater use of the opportunities offered by digital technology, without neglecting our classic services and customers. Further changes will arise in interplay with publishers, specialist organisations and libraries, and we need to maintain our central role in this regard. I hope that in five to ten years’ time, TIB will have established itself as a central player in interlinking information from all stages of scientific work, also beyond subject boundaries. I believe that my research on semantic technologies, linked data and knowledge graphs will make an important contribution to this goal.

About: Professor Dr. Sören Auer

Professor Dr. Sören Auer was appointed the new Director of the Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) – German National Library of Science and Technology ‒ Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology and University Library in Hannover on 1 July 2017. He also started work as Professor of “Data Science & Digital Libraries” at TIB and Leibniz Universität Hannover’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the same time. In addition to his activities as Director, the 41-year-old 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.

Before being appointed Director of TIB, Professor Dr. Sören Auer, born in Dresden in 1975, 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. After studying Mathematics and Computer Science at Hagen, Dresden and Yekaterinburg (Russia), Auer earned a PhD in Computer Science at Leipzig University. This was followed by posts as post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania (USA) and at Leipzig University, where he led the “Agile Knowledge Engineering and Semantic Web” (AKSW) research group.

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