The Internet Librarian Conference 2007

Hi – I’m just writing up my attendance notes from this conference, held in London on the 8/9th October. Its the 9th year (apparently) that this international version of the conference has taken place, and my objective of going was to try and better understand library life and some of the general going’s on.

Before I go through what I went to, and what I learned – I thought a few general comments would be useful.

Firstly – I was taken by how little the actual concept of library came up. The overriding theme of the presentations and conversations I had was about information management. That is, the traditional library functions of cataloging etc were completely ignored, and the emphasis was really on how folks can improve the (this is my new buzzword, BTW) Information Literacy of their customers. This impresses me because surely, this is what its all about. We have tonnes of information in loads of different sources, and it looks great on the shelves and is easy to find – but who is using in, do they know its there and what can they do in order to extend their knowledge and understanding.

But – the thing is, this is digital librarians who are aware of the power of the information and the massively increased opportunities to improve the channels of delivery to their users. I think the moral I am getting at is that the only way of being sure that you are getting left behind is by standing still.

Anyhow – I sat in on the following sessions over the two days as they were of interest and of relevance to me and my project.

Day 1 – Opening Keynote;

Delivered by a guy called Steven Abram who presented a topic called Next Generation Librarians: The 2.0 Phenomenon. He was fabulously entertaining – and the keynote was basically about how information is changing the way we live, and in particular how work – physiologically, not psychologically. One of his points was that there is no way we can assume how our users under 25 will interact with data, becasuse its been proven that their brains are actually evolving based on the needs for processing greater amounts of info – actually changing in shape and size!  However, the most important point I picked up on was that for anyone under 25 these days, they are information format agnostic. Which means that what they want to see is the info, in whatever format and not the format itself. For example – the actual book is not really that important anymore! Apparently in Shanghai, the most common method of reading is now online….. libraries take note.

if I can find his presentation anywhere I’ll post it up.

day 1 – Track A – The 2.0 Phenomenon and the Impact of 2.0. Basically a bunch of folks who talked at length about the use of social networking tools as methods of delivering information to students.  Should we blog, wiki, ning, second life, flickr and so on. Much of the same to be honest but quite engaging. Ken Chad’s presentation on the Impact of 2.0 was good – it was telling people that you might not like the gung ho nature of web 2.0 activity, but its happening and we need to live with it or get left behind.

day 1 –  track B

this was my favorite presentation of the conference really (bar the keynote) and I’ve already posted about it under the guise of 23 Things. I do think that the approach would be refreshing in terms of how to get people using social tools and just being aware of where the internet is going. if nothing else, its better not to look stupid if the users are asking questions about these technologies and we just look back blankly. Anyhow – have a look at the presentaiton and Helene Blowers blog – all referenced above.

day 1  – track B – Information literacy

This presentation by Barbie Kesler had the potential to be really useful and I think it will be later, unfortunately due to some political technicality (and I’m assuming it involved eastern bloc countries and kneecaps) some of the data was unavailable to back up her case, but we have been promised it later. This presentation was about demonstrating that investment in information literacy projects pays significant and proved benefits in terms of economic output. If someone has got Alec Salmond’s email address I’ll send the link on to him.

day 1 – track A again  – Blogging, Inertia and Scepticism. Yet another set of presentations about blogging and whether it is good or bad.  Here’s a link to a blogging masterclass that was discussed. At this point I’m losing the will to live so I’m afraid my notes are a bit sketchy.

day 2 – track A – recent developments in federated search. Frank Cervone told us all about the basic political goings on at all the major search companies, who is buying who and all that. The interesting thing he mentioned was that the vast majority of federated tools are best on a technology licensed by MUSE and that shortly it looked like the whole marked would be consolidated into only a few commercial players, and also told us about some up and coming open source solutions such as Library Find and DBwiz which are gaining ground in the American sector. I will need to send Gill the presentations for this as soon as they are available as they will help serve the resource discovery project and the TDR in terms of information.

day 2 Track A – Open source search. A demonstraton of Summa – which is the State university of Denmark’s soon to be open source search tool, offering whizzy stuff like ‘ other readers who read this also read….’ and other cool faceted facilities. Its due out in 2008 open source, however is not federated and Gill/Tony are going to see them very soon. The presentation ended with an amusing weblink to their development team who spent 10 minutes waving at us from Arhus!

Track B – Who are the users and what are they doing; This set of presentations was started with an analysis of web stats and using them to reconstruct and inform on the information architecture for the Novo Nordisk websites globally. Interesting but a bit dry for me.

back to track A to wind up the conference – I hopped back and forth between a couple of sessions as was getting a bit bored of the repetition at this point, but there was a session on the growth of open access publishing (as presented by the INTUTE folks) and then a session on repositories and opacs – which was just basically telling us about what the differences are between repositories and opac. I’m going to need to get back to you on the full details of these presentations as soon as they are posted on the web.

I missed the closing keynote as I had to go and get my plane home.

I have to say that by the end of the second day the point was being a little stretched, but overall i think  that my expectations were surpassed in general – but as ever some interesting topics were killed off by poor presentation, although I’m pretty sure that if I had to present in anything other than my first language I’d not be concentrating on the entertainment value rather than the words!

I’ll try to update some more detail, but this is more than enough waffle for now.

James

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