Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Internet Librarian International 2012: Share and be nice

Preface: The blog is back. For now. With more library-themed material. 
Preface 2: This is now two weeks late. Oh well.

ILI 2012 was one of the more refreshing library conferences or events I've been to recently, and this was largely because it took us back to preschool and the values we learned there. 'Share', we were told. 'Be nice.' 'Let go.' 'Listen.'

The conference kicked off with a keynote from R David Lankes (virtual, as he was ill - and doubly virtual for me, who was stuck on a train and reading tweets until I got a chance to watch the presentation later), whose key message was 'the more you share, the more you have'. Libraries and librarians only work when we act as a platform for knowledge sharing, not as a repository for books or even just gatekeepers of digital information. This carried through the rest of the conference, with sessions on finding new ways to engage with users and learning more about search and other technologies that will help to open our data. 

Although Matthew Reidsma was only one of two to say it in his presentation 'Your library website stinks and it's your fault', many of the other messages at ILI boiled down to 'be nice'. Yes, this sounds like we're back in school. But no, you can't ignore it. In this context, being nice is about listening to our users and working with them to give them what they need - not what we need. We might indeed know better, or think we do, but the way we succeed is by working with our users (oops - patrons? readers? visitors? this was one of the discussion points of the conference) to ensure that we are sharing our knowledge to give them what they need most.

Highlights of the conference, in more detail?

Online tools galore! Phil Bradley gave us a whirlwind run-through of interesting online tools - some I already knew about, some I didn't. We also considered how Google operates and how it makes its money - and how this affects the results we see. Arthur Weiss of AWARE, a marketing intelligence agency, also talked about analytics tools for Twitter. This is an area I've been exploring quite a lot over the past year, so it was great to see a few new tools to look at.

Using new technologies in teaching and learning - from using video (everyone should be doing it, basically - it's so easy you don't have an excuse) to the Journal of Visualized Experiments (I can't stop telling everyone about this. It just makes sense! Peer-reviewed articles turned into short tutorial videos so experiments can be reproduced, saving everyone time and money). We also heard about ways Spotify can help librarians add value to articles and reading lists and looked at a successful example of Kindle lending by Hugh Murphy of the National University of Ireland Maynooth. Gary Green gave us examples of IFTTT in use (some great ideas despite the fact that it no longer supports Twitter); Aaron Tay of the National University of Singapore Library talked about using memes to market the library (check out the results of their meme contest).

From the NUS Library meme content
Sharing our information: From Eleanor Kenny on Europeana's decision to release all their metadata under a CC waiver (making the largest open domain cultural data set EVER) to 'Happiness is a warm API', open data was everywhere. We heard from Roly Keating about 'liberating content for new things to happen' and that the Rijksmuseum claims the 'best defence against fakes is open content'. 

Measurement: This was touched on here and there, but certainly wasn't the one of the main conference themes. It's dear to my heart, though, so I was at workshops on the bottom line and ROI and on using data sets to present information (Marydee Ojala). We explored the concept of data manipulation and 'truthiness'.

Following up
So what have I taken away from ILI? Besides the pages of notes listing websites to try and people to follow up with (did you know Wolfram Alpha can do math story problems? Blown. Away.), I'm strengthened in my desire to understand the numbers behind what we do. We must be able to say to whom we're listening and whether our sharing is working - it's not all about just shoving data out there (although sometimes that doesn't hurt). One of my chartership goals is to take a look at statistics and 'big data', learning more about how to use them to reflect goals and successes. I'm also more and more convinced that holding on to information is the wrong approach; there are ways to share information via social media and via my special collections positions, but it requires thinking about the most effective formats and methods. 

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