All entries for Monday 23 April 2007

April 23, 2007

Highlights of the Library and Information Show

Last Wednesday I attended the Library and Information Show at the NEC in Birmingham. It’s a fairly small affair these days, compared to what it used to be.

I visited the stands and attended free seminars. I saw a demonstration of the Nordplan mobile shelving that I believe we are getting in our library as part of the summer re-modelling work. Certainly it is the shelving that we are having installed in our external store.

SirsiDynix showed me their portal and a new search interface that helps users to select more search terms to refine their search. I also saw a similar search term suggestion feature in a product called “AquaBrowser”, so I expect to see similar search building functions on other products very shortly. It’s not really a big development as you could always select a search term from within subject headings in a library catalogue record, and then you could add your keyword to that in the advanced search screen, but it is another way of presenting these kinds of search options to the user that is probably more user friendly.

Two of the free seminars I attended were Sheila Corrall’s presentation on information literacy which gave me much food for thought and Karen Blakeman’s one on Blogs, Wikis and RSS.

Sheila Corrall’s talk was interesting as she’s a good speaker, although she was preaching to the converted really. I listed the kinds of contacts that Sheila said librarians ought to have (in an IL context) and am pleased that I can tick all the boxes: key skills tutors; staff developers; careers advisers; learning technologists; instructional designers; data and infrastructure managers.

Another point was that Information Literacy ought to feature in libraries’ mission statements: can’t say its explicit in Warwick’s mission statement, although you could argue that it is covered. I have linked to the University of Warwick Library’s strategic plan which features the mission statement so you can see for yourselves.

I asked Sheila about her assertion that we should develop online tutorials as I believe that there are already lots of tutorials of varying quality. Is there are role for CILIP in helping us to identify and use what’s already out there, rather than us all re-inventing the wheel rather badly? Sheila’s answer did not suggest anything specific for CILIP, although she agreed that there is a lot of online information literacy material already, and referred me to Alan Brine and Ruth Stubbings’ evaluation of online tutorials that could probably do with some updating.

This is an interesting article, but was published some 4 years ago now. At the time 47 institutions had an electronic information skills tutorial. How many more must have them now? Are the tutorials so tailored to individual institutions that we couldn’t share or would it be a better use of our time, skills and technology if we were to share materials or reference each others rather than creating our own?

A quick look at JORUM identifies a handful of information skills tutorials, so it appears that we aren’t sharing much of what we’ve created… at least not through JORUM.

Karen Blakeman’s talk was also interesting: she presented her “anatomy of a blog” and talked about the limitations of using a wiki. The main feature of interest for me, though, was what she had to say about RSS feeds. I’ve been well aware of these since I worked at LTSN Engineering at Loughborough in 2000 and we set one up there, but could not really see much of a use for them beyond being an interesting & dynamic feature on a website. I still don’t like the idea that in order to subscribe to an RSS feed you need a separate aggregator. If it doesn’t arrive in my inbox then I don’t want to bother with it! But Karen’s presentation convinced me that there are enough people out there who do use RSS readers and are getting value from them, not just being swamped with even more information.

For some time now I have felt that there is probably a need for librarians to identify useful RSS feeds for our academic community, to educate them in how to identify good quality ones and to give them the skills to use RSS feeds and e-mail alert services alike in order to filter information and find material that is useful to them, without being swamped. Time for some more exploration, I think!

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