Feb 152012
 

Today I am at an encore session for VALA papers in Perth. Jason Griffey is repeating his keynote, Libraries in the post-PC era . Four other people will be presenting their papers again – in half the time that they had at VALA.

(I am doing this quickly at the start of the session, so will go back and add links to people and papers later – return for these ).

This afternoon, Jason is taking a group of us through his experience with cloud-based ILMS at his institution.

Here is the CoverItLive window. It is pulling in all tweets from @libsmatter as well as any tweet with #valaencore or valaencore .

Feb 122012
 

You remember those (often) older people in your workplace who didn’t seem to engage with conferences and professional development and had a kind of “seen it all” approach?

I don’t want to be one of those.

BUT… I want to work out how to get the most out of my live conference attendance. What I am doing is not working for me – or (I suspect) what I am doing is working as well as it possibly can, and that it no longer justifies spending as much money and time away from my family as I did this week.

I believe that you can learn from every single experience, that every person has something to offer and that if you are blind to the potential gifts then you are a great big fat humbug …

asenat29. Gift, December 3, 2006. http://www.flickr.com/photos/72153088@N08/6510934443/.

… NONE THE LESS…

I could feel my brain switching off, drifting away and not engaging during many of the sessions at VALA 2012.  I do not blame VALA or the presenters, who on the whole did a superb job that showed the utmost care. I think part of the reason lies in me, and part of it lies in the conference model.

I was both heartened and disappointed when I sat in an afternoon plenary next to someone who I consider smart, engaged, forward-thinking and asked about a session that was concurrent to one I had just attended. They confessed that, after the first few minutes, they also had no idea…their brain (and a fine one at that) had totally tuned out. I heard this over and over from other people. Heartening that it is not just me, disappointing that it is happening.

So what is going on? Is there a mob of smarty-pants know-it-alls who have had our brains totally fizzed by so much immersive gaming and instantaneous access to YouTube that we have lost the ability for long form, sustained thinking – even when it involves just listening, rather than solo reading of an entire 6000 word paper? Are we so arrogant that we cannot show respect and encouragement to those at different stages in their career, or to those who are not also up at 6:30am swapping links on Twitter and comparing notes on the weather, kids, exercise schedules, copyright challenges in France and what happened overnight with ebook supply to US libraries?

I acknowledge that I need to face up to the fact that – although I feel like a completely arrogant tit in saying it – given how long I have been in the profession, and my paid job – I already know a lot about what is covered at VALA and at Library Camp. I just really miss that exciting feeling of stepping out of a conference session, where I didn’t really understand what the abstract in the programme meant, with my mind buzzing with trying to quickly assimilate the new knowledge and ideas into what I already know. That feeling of my professional world..tilting…a little as a big rip appeared in the curtain between me and what was possible and achievable. That feeling of wanting to run out and do something RIGHT NOW.

If I stop going to conferences because I no longer get this experience, however, at what point would ideas start passing me by? When would I become as out of touch with modern tools and trends and ways to help users as I once perceived many older librarians to be ?

Yes, I know that the spaces between the conference sessions are always more interesting and where the real learning happens – if you are doing it right… and this is what unconferences try to replicate. On reflection, however, much of this is daily being achieved for me via my Personal Learning Network, mainly on Twitter. There is a very high level of candour, honesty and transparency. One advantage is the “drip feeding” of ideas. Someone can suggest a problem that needs solving, hear solutions from others, have yet another person ask questions and suggest angles not considered before. Then over a number of months one can follow the trial, measurement and formation of a professional project – with collaborative learning that is not nearly matched by a formal conference paper or by a brief unconference session.

It was drip-feeding that also worked for me as a presenter at VALA. Much of the reward of co-presenting with Con  (No library required: the free and easy backwaters of online content sharing ) was in the very, very long conversation we had in the months leading up to the session. The need for a written paper of a particular length, with a particular level of scholarly argument, made us extremely selective about how we framed the discussion and I learned so much more about the topic as a result. I think that without the intellectual challenge of writing a paper, and trying to contextualise it within the rest of what I was hearing during the live conference, the live conference would have been much less rich for me.

Several sessions did hold my attention entirely. Generally the keynotes did do this. Liz Lyon (The informatics transform : re-engineering libraries for the Data Decade) was not saying anything that I did not know already (apart from mentioning several very useful tools for research data management). Her ease with her material, immersion in it, ability to express the “so what?” of the topic, commitment to support for research data as something academic libraries DO -  made the topic fresh and helped me to engage with the material in ways I may not have been able to by myself. Ditto Eli Neiburger (Access, schmaccess: libraries in the Age of Information Ubiquity) and Jason Griffey (Libraries and the Post-PC era).

During Robin Wright’s session (Libraries and licensing: the eFuture will require legal as well as technical skills)  my brain was totally engaged and I could not tweet fast enough to catch all the important and interesting points.  Her session was a comparison between Australian copyright legislation and provisions of specific parts of academic ebook licenses that covered the same rights. Now… re-read that topic again – not the most thrilling sounding when summarised. Yes, I came to the session knowing very little about the topic specifics, but if Robin had not been able to get to the “so what?” of it, contextualise the implications within the profession and convince me that it was relevant to librarianship then I would have switched off.  Several sessions with more exciting-seeming topics seemed to me to be turgid and dreary (I guess… I do not really know for sure…. as I switched off very early on).

There was a backchannel conversation (via Twitter) about whether people presenting at VALA should be selected on presentation skills (via an audition movie :) ), as well as selected on the ideas that they had to express. I disagreed, arguing that people with good ideas or interesting experiences do not necessarily also have a skillset that makes them good at presenting, so we would be excluding their experiences. The audience needs to be able to think, listen and absorb without expecting to be entertained as well as informed. I am torn, however.

I think being able to present ideas well in a way that suits the audience – in writing, verbally, via movie, as audio-only, as a blog post, as a facilitator  – is a professional literacy. Several people work on mentorship and quality control with the written papers – often with two external reviewers, the conference coordinator and the author together reviewing, suggesting rewrites, rewriting and then reviewing again. It is what makes the VALA papers generally the best quality one is likely to find anywhere in a professional conference not specifically aligned with academia. This excellence in writing is not necessarily a skill set many of the presenters have before the paper review process. Maybe it is time, however, to re-think mentorship to improve what can be achieved during a face to face conference.

It would be useful if – given the affordances of online networked communication – the face to face part of the conference was viewed by the organisers as one component of the entire experience. When delegates were all in the same location it would be best if the event was fine-tuned to take advantage of what can be done best face to face. More conversation, rather than getting across raw information. With the money that I spend getting there, and family time I am giving up, I do not want it to be about getting information that I could download and read at home. Writing and preparing a paper for a conference involves many hours before the live event over a number of months- so possibly we could get attendees also doing a bit of homework in a way that would make the event work better for all attendees.

Hagon, Paul, January 21, 2009. http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulhagon/3215463975/.

This is what I think would make a face to face conference experience more engaging for me. I fully accept that different people are at different stages and that I am probably an outlier. VALA is excellently organised and the topics, keynotes and quality of the papers, are world class – so it is not a criticism of this specific conference.

1. Potential presenters thinking about where the gaps are in professional literature and communication – then trying harder to pick topics that address these, rather than merely describing their experiences with particular work projects. Carolyn MCDonald’s lightning talk at Library Camp about innovation in general, or Zaana Howard’s workshop involving practical application of design thinking concepts  (A speed date with Design Thinking ) are examples of where this was done well.

2. Papers that describe particular work projects emphasising the “so what” of the project – not just to their individual workplace, but to the profession in general. I do not mean a literature search, I mean working out where the novelty and freshness lies and emphasising why it was different or significant. The paper from David Feighan and Sue Healy ( The internet of everything – linking the print and online collections ) was a great example of this – using the presentation time not just to explain what they did to serve their tech-savvy clients, but also explaining where their preconceptions about the group were challenged,  and raising questions about how the rest of the profession may cope when their school kid clients become the audience’s adult clients.

3. Attendees given more opportunity to pre-read the conference papers, plus more expectation that they have done so. Admittedly it is an absolute luxury to have time to read papers beforehand, but having read many papers during my plane ride over, I definitely found the best live sessions touched on and expanded the topic covered, rather than replicated the paper. If presenters were confident that attendees had read the paper, then more time could be spent on the “so what?” and maybe on the discussion and advancing forward from the paper’s topic. Although there is often an argument that releasing the papers earlier would result in lower attendances, if this is so then is the live format REALLY adding that much value? Reading a written play, listening to an orchestral recording, or downloading a restaurant menu is totally different to the live experience… and maybe we should think harder about what it is that makes the “live” part of a live conference lively and special.

4. The bootcamp sessions are great, but attending one or two of these limits the breadth of other sessions one can attend. Maybe it would be useful for participants to work on projects before they attend, so that the session at the conference becomes a trouble-shooting and sharing session. I tended not to go to any of the bootcamp sessions this time because I learn best by getting in there and having a go, mucking around and nutting it out – but having a chance to then expand or reflect with others would be useful. Maybe once one has paid registration, bootcamp presenters could offer a couple of online sessions before the conference, participants could do their homework, and then compare notes during the live conference.

5. Maybe more panel sessions, especially from people who gave papers about similar topics, but who are never otherwise in the same part of the country while also in a room full of professional peers who can ask questions.  Con and I had thought HARD about our topic because we had to narrow down and refine it into a paper, so a lot of ideas had been left on the cutting room floor. Ellen Forsyth (Playing at professional development ) and Philip Minchin (Stacks of fun: games, community, libraries, technology ), Kim Tairi and Helen Reid (Opening up the playground: supporting library staff to learn through play) , for example, had thought a lot about games and play when preparing for the conference. I would have loved a panel session on the last day where an audience could ask them questions about the topic that brought out the depth of their knowledge. I understand that panel sessions have been tried before, but given that definite themes emerged by the last day of this year’s conference (eg. the role of Big Data, whether our users want the services that we value, the effects of copyright, the role of the catalogue, support for researchers) , maybe panels covering these would have been useful?

 

 

Feb 102012
 

This week I am in Melbourne at the VALA: Libraries, Technology and the Future conference (6-9 Feb 2012) and then Library Camp Australia on Friday 10 Feb 2012.

I am setting up CoverItLive windows to help me keep a record of what happened and adding each day as a separate post. You might find them useful too.

For the VALA CoverItLive windows, I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “vala2012″ or “vala12″ or “vala”

For the Library Camp Australia CoverItLive Windows I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “libcamp0z2012″ or “librarycampoz2012″ or “libcampoz”  or “library camp” or “libcampoz12″ or “librarycampoz12″

Feb 092012
 

Here are the slides from the paper that Con and I will present at the VALA 2012 conference this morning.

This is the abstract:

Twentieth century libraries were funded to provide content to their communities legally, easily and free. In the twenty-first century, new online competitors supply home consumers – legally and illegally – with what libraries traditionally were best at providing to library users – free and easy content. This paper suggests that library staff arguing for the value of contemporary libraries should be aware of the quality, methods and material of “hidden competitors”. Some “hidden competitors” discussed include “blackmarket” journal article sharing, BitTorrenting sites, online textbook sharing sites, self-distributing artists, programs to strip Digital Rights Management from ebooks, Amazon’s ebook distribution and fan fiction. Possible future models for both “hidden competitors” and libraries – and implications of these – are suggested.

There is much,much more in the formal peer-reviewed paper that will be published in a couple of days and available on the VALA site for the session.

We are hoping to start a conversation, that maybe can be continued at Library Camp Australia on Friday.

 

Feb 092012
 

This week I am in Melbourne at the VALA: Libraries, Technology and the Future conference (6-9 Feb 2012) and then Library Camp Australia on Friday 10 Feb 2012.

I am setting up CoverItLive windows to help me keep a record of what happened and adding each day as a separate post. You might find them useful too.

For the VALA CoverItLive windows, I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “vala2012″ or “vala12″ or “vala”

For the Library Camp Australia CoverItLive Windows I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “libcamp0z2012″ or “librarycampoz2012″ or “libcampoz” or “library camp oz” or “library camp” or “libcampoz12″ or “librarycampoz12″

Feb 082012
 

This week I am in Melbourne at the VALA: Libraries, Technology and the Future conference (6-9 Feb 2012) and then Library Camp Australia on Friday 10 Feb 2012.

I am setting up CoverItLive windows to help me keep a record of what happened and adding each day as a separate post. You might find them useful too.

For the VALA CoverItLive windows, I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “vala2012″ or “vala12″ (but not  ”vala” as it picks up totally irrelevant tweets in Spanish)

For the Library Camp Australia CoverItLive Windows I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “libcamp0z2012″ or “librarycampoz2012″ or “libcampoz” or “library camp oz” or “library camp” or “libcampoz12″ or “librarycampoz12″

Feb 072012
 

This week I am in Melbourne at the VALA: Libraries, Technology and the Future conference (6-9 Feb 2012) and then Library Camp Australia on Friday 10 Feb 2012.

I am setting up CoverItLive windows to help me keep a record of what happened and adding each day as a separate post. You might find them useful too.

For the VALA CoverItLive windows, I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “vala2012″ or “vala12″  (but not  ”vala” as it picks up totally irrelevant tweets in Spanish)

For the Library Camp Australia CoverItLive Windows I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “libcamp0z2012″ or “librarycampoz2012″ or “libcampoz” or “library camp oz” or “library camp” or “libcampoz12″ or “librarycampoz12″

Feb 062012
 

This week I am in Melbourne at the VALA: Libraries, Technology and the Future conference (6-9 Feb 2012) and then Library Camp Australia on Friday 10 Feb 2012.

I am setting up CoverItLive windows to help me keep a record of what happened and adding each day as a separate post. You might find them useful too.

For the VALA CoverItLive windows, I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “vala2012″ or “vala12″ (but not  ”vala” as it picks up totally irrelevant tweets in Spanish … although it took me until 4pm to work that one out, so there are a lot of bonus tweets in the CiL window for today)

For the Library Camp Australia CoverItLive Windows I am pulling in:

  • tweets from my @libsmatter Twitter account
  • any public tweets that mention “libcamp0z2012″ or “librarycampoz2012″ or “libcampoz” or “library camp oz” or “library camp” or “libcampoz12″ or “librarycampoz12″
UPDATE: Not sure why, but looks like a lot of tweets were not picked up today. Hope tomorrow will be more comprehensive.

Feb 062012
 

So many posts in the pipeline, so little time, such a large title.

1. New York Public Library

I have a huge unfinished post about visiting the New York Public Library in December , seeing an amazing array of cultural treasures in the 100 years anniversary display and evaluating the reference collection in the reading room. The highlight for me, as an educator of librarians, was the exam for children’s librarians in 1944. It contains questions like:

You are in charge of a Children’s Room that formerly had a staff of four professional children’s librarians. You now have a war emergency staff consisting of yourself, the only professional person; an alert young woman, wife of an army officer, who is a college graduate and taught Junior High School five years ago; a full-time clerk; and a half-time Hunter College girl who is at the library all day Saturday and every afternoon from three to six.Indicate how you would allocate the work, which includes weekly story hours and picture book hours, three class visits a week within the library and a weekly visit to a neighborhood nursery school;

AND

In selecting stories to tell to children with a foreign inheritance what books would you choose for children from:

  • Denmark
  • Turkey
  • Brazil
  • Italy
  • Czechoslovakia

In naming the source, give title, author or translator, illustrator and publisher.

Click image for large view

2. Espresso Book Machine at Darien Public Library

Visiting Darien Public Library in Connecticut I made the six minute movie below showing the process of printing and binding a complete book from selecting the item on screen to a finished object coming out of the chute. I love the kids in the background narrating every point.

Two things that stood out for me:

  1. The machine was staffed as a “concession”, so in the same way as a library cafe may be in the United States. The person who staffed the machine did not work for the library, but was trained by the On Demands Books people.
  2. Usage was not very high yet, but there were signs that it was being used not so much for delivery of otherwise out of print or out of stock books, but that the main interest was in library users who wanted to self-publish their own work. In other words, there was a real role for this to encourage creation of content instead of just consumption.

3. Amanda Palmer Ninja Gigs in Public Libraries

Congratulations to Aimee Rhodes from the Melbourne City Library service and Corin Haines from Auckland Libraries for putting their libraries forward to host Ninja Gigs for author Neil Gaiman and singer Amanda Palmer (Melbourne) , and then Amanda’s band, the Boston-based Cabaret-Punk outfit, the Dresden Dolls (Auckland). I blogged last year about the self-distribution model used by Amanda Palmer and why libraries should take notice of this (Who would feel OK asking libraries for money ? ) .

Aimee was very gracious and replied to my questions in an email interview. As soon as I have enough time, I will post it here. I was most interested in fitting this kind of activity into the library’s traditional/future purpose, as I think it is definitely the space we should occupy. In the mean time, here is an account of how it happened from Amanda Palmer’s blog (The most important thing I learned in 2011 by Amanda Fucking Palmer (starts about half way down) , from Aimee’s blog (Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman Ninja Gig at City Library )and from Corin’s blog (Dresden Dolls at Auckland Library ).

Added bonus, Mein Herr being performed at Auckland Libraries (uploaded by Kcajamos )

 4. State Library of Western Australia – filtering and adding value with video

A nice start to a project that I hope develops further. State Library of Western Australia staff create small digital stories using their collection of local content, for example the one below – The last tram in Perth .

 

 

Jan 022012
 

I hope this saves somebody out there some time.

I just wasted an hour or so of my holiday trying to delete 3200 images from my iphone which were stopping me from taking any more photos (or doing anything else) with it. I had already backed up my images both to iPhoto and the two 1TB disks we are carrying with us – so I just wanted them gone.

Here is one of the pics that I wanted to delete, the sight that greeted us in the hotel lobby for New Year’s Eve. Not for a party, just because the staff were being festive. The place where we are staying has a 4:30-5:30 wine and  cheese session every afternoon, where hotel guests can gather in the lobby and eat sweet and savoury biscuits, cheese and wine (with juice boxes for the kids).

 

I did not fancy manually clicking on each image and then selecting “delete” from the iPhone. I could not drag them manually into the iPhoto Trash folder from the iPhone. Some sources suggested going into iTunes and syncing the photos to an empty folder created on the computer just for that purpose – but it did not work.

The solution is something called Image Capture - an application that comes with OS X mainly to upload from digital cameras. Plug in iPhone, use Spotlight to find Image Capture, then tell it to sync the device to Image Capture not iPhoto in the app settings. Highlight all the images, then use the red circle with a line through it symbol to delete.

Takes a while – around half an hour or so for 3000 images. I have had time to write this blog post instead of going out cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge, which I would much, much rather do on New Year’s Day. I guess I would have been better off actually deleting images each day when I uploaded instead of waiting for the phone to fill up.