VALA – day 2

I have been extremely impressed with the keynote speakers from this conference. I commented previously about Andy Powell’s opening address, and Schubert Foo’s discussion of the initiatives taking place at the National Library of Singapore was truly inspirational. The award winning building shows what could be done with clever design. For me the most thought provoking idea was that their virtual reference services are including conversations with ‘experts’ such as academics and amateur enthusiasts from outside the Library – and the delivery of the answer to the requester includes the conversation used to establish the response. This also becomes part of the knowledge base which is then available for future querying.

I didn’t expect to enjoy Michael Geist’saddress on public policy and legislation which relates to the internet. But I was fascinated by his example of mustering public support to challenge copyright law by using Facebook, although a bit unsettled. While it is easy for a librarian like me to support this use of facebook and other social networking tools, the power of the people that this demonstrates has enormous implications for social change.

I have certainly experienced the power for connecting people, but I hadn’t seen such a clear demonstration of manipulation of public action before. I am a member of the Perth People Who HATE Daylight Savinggroup on facebook, but hasn’t generated the sort of impact that Michael’s has – maybe that is a reflection of our Australian laid back attitude to political issues. My family would say it is because daylight saving is just fine……but I digress.

IT services to support libraries

Today at the VALA 2008 conference, I have had conversations with vendors and librarians from every sector representing every state in Australia. The common thread I have heard is frustration with shared services models for ICT support, which block or restrict services that libraries need to function and provide services to their clients.

Twelve months ago I came to my current position with the belief that this frustration wasn’t necessary, that with enough good will and communication (and some plain old common sense), ICT and Library could co-exist in such a way as to enhance the ability to provide ICT based services to the clients. Ever the optimist, I still believe this should be possible. I’m just running out of ideas and energy to try and make it happen that way. And the conversations I have had today lead me to believe that I am not alone.

I am in the government sector, but I hear that many public libraries find the same problems in dealing with local council ICT departments. I also heard from a vendor who said that one corporate library couldn’t

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VALA – day 1

Today I attended day 1 of the VALA conference in Melbourne. There were some very interesting papers, and in particular Andy Powellgave me a lot to think about, as we move to significantly upgrade our digital repository and the volume of material we preserve in a digital format. His arguments that we need to move to thinking about moving material to the web and optimising it for search engines, instead of focusing on how to lock it up in our repositories, really struck a cord. We now have at least 7 terrabytes of data in our repository that can’t be easily located via a search engine. Sure, we are in the preservation business, but what is the point of preserving something that can’t be located and accessed? This must now be our focus, as we move onto the next stage.

Also of interest to me was the presentation from Joann Ransom on Kete Horwhenua , which is described as “a knowledge basket of images, audio, video and documents which are collected and catalogued by the community”. I am so interested in this open source software which enables a truly community engagement with their own information, that I will be downloading and attempting to set up a sampler to show to the staff in my library when I get back – so I hope it is as easy as Joann says it is!

As usual it has been great to catch up with old friends, and make new ones, during the breaks and refreshment periods (and the food has been great I might add). Many of the conversations have revolved around the problems caused by IT services which simply don’t understand or recognise what libraries need from their IT environment. As a consequence I have decided that it is time to write up some of the work we have done to try and redress this situation in our own library. Some research is needed, and I will work out how to start when I get home.I wonder if this is only an Australian problem.  I will begin discussing what may be required in a new post.