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Library related events, questions and links: My professional life on a page

ILI 2009 – report

Internet Librarian International 2009

It feels like an impossible task to distill two days’ worth of presentations, discussions and thinking into around a thousand words. I hope to give a flavour of the event, some of the ongoing discussions, and my take on the points raised.

I will start with a few of the startling facts I learned: these themselves give an idea of the breadth of content covered as well as being a brilliant indicator of the contribution our colleagues can make.

  • Staff at the British Library’s IP centre have nurtured around 100 business start ups each.
  • An EU books on demand project  involving 20 libraries in 10 countries has digitised books going back to 1492
  • Edinburgh has seen a 60% reduction in petty crime in areas where youth-focused libraries have been established
  • Medical bibliographies have been around since 1679

In the various sessions I attended the focus was on public and academic libraries. I’m interested as a user of the public libraries to see what will be landing in my local branch next. As a part-time research student I can identify with the current student experience. But mostly, the relevance to me from these sessions came from understanding how today’s undergraduates are approaching their research and using the internet. These students will be trainee lawyers in a few years’ time and we in a corporate legal library need to exploit their previous library experience if we are to successfully get them using professional resources.

Both keynote speeches challenged our ideas on copyright and its legitimacy. I felt that Cory Doctorow’s was perhaps the more reasoned in terms of the apparent abuses of the system – catalogued here:

http://www.eff.org/wp/unsafe-harbors-abusive-dmca-subpoenas-and-takedown-demands

I am not quite ready to burn the CDPA 1988 yet, though Cory’s arguments were interesting. His main point is that the rules we run by are outdated, based on a world where reproduction costs for original producers were high. And therefore the world needs to shift its thinking from producers controlling access to information to the products being easily shared; business models need to shift.

I came away from Friday’s keynote feeling a little hectored. Peter Murray-Rust’s talk was billed as provocative – so maybe I felt that way because I am actually Luddite; of traditionalist stock? I don’t think I am. But then I don’t think that IPRs are intrinsically evil. I don’t feel the ‘raw anger’ I was urged to when I consider academic publishing models. (Many of these arguments are set forth clearly on BadScience.net). I hazard two vague thoughts. Would our professor be so keen to advocate a dismantling of the establishment if he were starting out, rather than nearing retirement? And – it would seem Peter’s Chair is sponsored by Unilever. So is big consumer business OK, but publishing isn’t? How much work do Unilever put into patenting their ideas to maintain their IP and therefore their income?

One theme highlighted the gap between a traditional library OPAC and the richer environment found on other sites like Facebook or Amazon. Peter Bryant described how a community of practice in adult education used a collaborative site to define their body of authentic knowledge. When there is no reading list because the topic is new or niche then Web 2.0 can come into its own. As Peter pointed out, library catalogues do not give a value judgement on what is useful – they just tell you what is. I would suggest that this approach is would work best in specific circumstances. I am used to dealing with a body of knowledge that has clearly defined authorities. And I also feel that sifting a reading list, appraising those texts that have been recommended, deciding what fits and what doesn’t – and why – is an integral part of a student’s work. A number of the academic librarians discussed their need to get students to look beyond reading lists – nothing new there – and to go beyond the first page of Google results.

Joanne Dunham also suggested that module-specific 2.0 tools may be operating in too-short a timescale. Perhaps using and exploiting these opportunites to personalise and collaborate is time-consuming and best left to develop over a whole degree programme. Jane’s project aimed to use Web 2.0 technologies to improve students’ information literacy on a specific topic.

Is Web 2.0 therefore more about ambience than accuracy? Whilst I appreciate the value of Web 2.0 I had to wait until Friday afternoon and Karen Blakeman’s session before I heard mentioned the need to evaluate this content for authenticity, accuracy and reliability. Not everyone’s opinion is useful in a world where we need correct answers: and where an incorrect answer can be career-limiting. Eammon Neylon from the BSI described their efforts to make standards easily findable – a problem that is “too small” to have been tackled before, but one that probably frustrated many people at separate times. His cautionary tale of discovering the British Library hadn’t got useful metadata for their collection of BSI documents chimed with Neelan Prasad (Indian Institute of Technology) and her discussion of ensuring digital content is effectively curated.

MIMAS & Intute presented research-led findings on whether there was a demand for customisable interfaces amongst research students. This was a great session, and not just because of the awesome cupcakes. The finding that no-one was saving searches suggests that information is becoming ‘disposable,’ find it once and it’s findable again. Search habits have become more ‘just-in-time’ – there was evidence that people used Amazon or Google books to find part of a book as it was needed.

ILI also introduced me to my first Unconference session. I chose a discussion facilitated by Karen Blakeman about business resources, sharing ideas and useful websites amongst a group of international librarians. I took away some great tips (using Google Street View to check the legitimacy of an address…) and I hope that my suggestions will be useful to others. I learned the statistic quoted above regarding the British Library too: there’s much more about the IP centre at ADD URL HERE.

ILI lives up to its name, with a truly international band of delegates. Silvia Gstrein (University of Innsbruck) presented session on the EU books-on-demand project – there are no UK participating libraries – demonstrated the benefits of collaboration and also showed just what is happening on the continent that we’re unaware of. I loved the idea that Latin will have a resurgence as a common language now centuries-old texts can be shared with ease.

I came away feeling that librarians felt Google was a threat and a friend in equal measure, but they hadn’t quite worked out which. There were presented some great examples of how using a search as simple as Google had boosted the confidence of non-traditional students in accessing library resources.

Many participants were real time blogging during the conference. I couldn’t help but conceal a smile at one point – when waiting for a session to start, the person next to me was too busy tweeting from their iPhone to have a conversation. Babies out with bathwater, anyone?

My thanks go to Information Today for their generous sponsorship of my attendance at the event.

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One Response

  1. […] also attended ILI 2009 – you can read her review of the event here. Bookmark to: Posted in Uncategorized, Weblogs | Tagged ILI2009, web 2.0 Cancel […]

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