Internet Librarian International 2011 – day 1

Internet Librarian International (ILI) is a major European conference for information professionals (mostly librarians attend) that takes place in London every autumn. Last week, my collegue Cathrine Fjeldstad and I spent two days at this conference – as delegates and speakers. It was my third ILI and Cathrine`s second.

First major problem: impossible wifi connection. The few times I was able to connect, I was kicked off within a couple of minutes. We had a similar problem at the Novotel in Hammersmith last year, too, but nothing like this at the Copthorne Tara (stay well away from this hotel, by the way..).

Anyway.. Internet or not, the keynote started. Dr. Klaus Tochtermann from ZBW (Information center for economics in Hamburg) talked about the four new dimentions of the new Internet: The People dimention, the Content/Knowledge dimention, the addressability of “things on the Internet” dimention and the Internet of services dimention. He said that the goal of the library is to connect the online services with the physical library, and he mentioned Bookcrossing as an example of a service that does this. Ex: A book is catalogued on Bookcrossing and then geotagged and placed in a plastic bag somewhere (like a tree, a cafe or similar). The students search for the book they would like to borrow, uses the geotag to get the physical book, read it and then geotag it with a new location and place it there for the next person. Fun experiment, but I think it works better as a stunt than a regular part of the services.

After the keynote, the rooms for the three tracks were arranged and I had to begin choosing between sessions. The first choice was a tough one, I wanted to listen to both Åke Nygren from Stockholms public library in Track A and Thomas Brevik from Lindås library in Track C. I finally decided to go with Track C and “The e-book revolution in libraries”. Karen Worlock from Outsell, Inc. was talking about estimates for how the market on e-books will be within a couple of years. There has been a steady increase in sales, but not dramatic yet. She was also talking about how we still teach by Victorian methods and that the new digital methods may help us change the way we teach. Warlock said that libraries are now testing out new methods, trying to anticipate what our patrons want.  Digital rights management is a big issue and leads us to ridiculus solutions like only being able to lend out an electronic book to one patron at the time (resulting in waiting lists for digital copies.. ). It is now about content more than form, Warlock said. A couple of years ago we were all talking about the platforms and devices, but the discussion is now about available content.

Thomas Brevik was talking about how e-books now must be considered “old news”, and that e-literature is the new thing. E-books are books that were born physical and then converted to a digital format, but can still be printed (and make sense) in a physical format. E-literature are books that are born digital and that makes no sense in print. E-literature cannot be read on a Kindle or other dedicated e-book readers, but must be read on a tablet/iPad etc. Thomas mentioned ELIT as a good place to start. “Flight Paths” and “The Unknown” were mentioned as examples. The latter is a hypertext book, and when read aloud, the listeners can decide where the performer should click to continue the story. When it comes to e-literature in libraries, Brevik said that e-literature began in academic circles and that we need to reach out to academics to include them in our project – because academics generally are not great at reaching out beyind their own circles. (I couldn`t agree more..) Thomas then talked about some of the challenges: They are the same with all other digital content – the changed formats. Preservation and reaching the patrons were also mentioned here.

It was a very interesting session! Great speakers.

Next I went to “On the Move: Library Services on Mobile Devices”. Alison McNab were sharing her experiences on reference managers on mobile devices. More and more students and academics are using reference manament software, and academics in particular want access to their reference libraries where ever they go (a good point since many of our academics travel a lot and may even have several offices..). Portability is a major issue – should references be stored in the cloud? How about tools for sharing? Apart from academics within humanities and social sciences, most academic collaborate more now, and sharing references is an important feature for a tool. So – what about access to them after leaving the institution? There are licensing problems..Should we choose open source software or licenced? Should we provide training and support or rely on self training and peer support? There are many software options, so we should choose wisely. Good backup possibilities and being able to export to other systems is important.

Jennifer Baxmeyer and Trevor Daws from Princeton University was taking about a project they had on e-reader circulation at the University. They had discovered that formats and platforms matter, and they had to give up on their Kindle project because they could not be used by students with a sight impairment. They are now testing iPads with apps from Kindle(Amazon), iBook (Apple), Nook (Barnes and Noble) and several others.

Next session was “Market your Resources”. Robin Dresel from Singapore public library board was talking about how they were marketing e-resources. They had started with ads in the paper and then targeted audiences more (like school classes, senior citizens and so on) before moving on to more specialisation: e.g. senior citizens tend to be more interested in health resources. They made a “Don`t panic” guide online that was a success. Now – the library has just launced a website for mobile devices and will also shortly have an app. The major challence is training, Dresel said. First, the patrons have to know about the resources and then learn to use them.

Beatrice Pullham and Jennifer Bond from Providence College and Bryant University were talking about their experiences with short videos (15 sec) that were shown on screens around the library, about marketing (using the Uni mascot and a web address to the library on cups, pens and so on). They were using  QR codes outside their group study rooms that the students could use to book the rooms (good idea!). And they were using Concerto, open source php based software for their digital signage.

My next session was “Innovations in User analysis” where Dave Pattern and Bryony Ramsden from the University of  Huddersfield were talking about a JISC funded project to see if there are direct correlations between library usage and grades. They had found statistically significant numbers that suggest there is a strong link between number of books a patron checks out/number of downloads and the grades that patron receives. There are seveal problems to such a study, though.. including that there are leagal issues and comparing grades is not easy. (Also – I thought: Haven`t they done studies that show that most active library users have well educated parents and that these social factors would influence their grades independently?) Anyway.. Pattern said that there have been several other studies that suggest the same findings (including one by Brian Cox?), so it seems there is something to this, even though checking out a book at the library will never be a guarantee that you get a good grade. But it is all about proving your value in these times..

Lisa Charnok and Andy Land from Mimas were speaking about a recommendation system that they had made, showing that users are interested in reading books that they would never have stumbled upon themselves. The SALT project.

The last session of the day was “Beyond digital collections”. I must have been tired when I went in because I had intended to see Rurik Greenall and others at “Cutting-edge technology”, and I really did go to the wrong session. Not that there was anything wrong with the theme or the speakers, but really – I have no interest in JISC collections (I actually find it a little weird that it was on the program seing as nobody outside the UK use JISC. It the talk had been about how to handle consotias, I would have seen the use for it..). Anyway, there was one speaker that had something interesting to say: Willow Fuchs from the University of Nottingham was talking about academics and their lack of understanding and interest when it comes to institutional archives and open access. Most academics only thing about “the golden route” to OA when they hear “open access”. Fuchs had done a study that showed that only 64 percent of academics knew that their institution had its own repository, and 10 percent were sure they did not have a repository (when they in fact did). Academics care about high impact journals, and they are not worried about lack of access, because they are working at universities that have the access they need. Fuchs said that librarians have done the job a little too well when it comes to seemless access – no one knows the back end of the access process and dealings anymore.We have to get good (economic) incentives to make academics publish OA, Fuchs said, and talk a lot more about self archiving and publishing.

Phuh! These conferences really are exhausing.. but all in all – very interesting day at ILI.

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