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.

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/main/basics/about/aims/stratplan.pdf

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.

http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/italics/vol2iss1.htm

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!


- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Phil Bradley

    I use RSS all the time now and it’s quite simply invaluable – I can’t do my job without it. I have RSS feeds for my major searches, to keep me up to date on certain webpages and forums so that I don’t need to go and visit them, RSS alerts me to breaking news stories and much, much more.

    I also have RSS feeds of my own weblog on my home page and an RSS feed for del.icio.us there as well to act as news sources and reminders to me of recent stuff that I’ve added. All of this is also used in my Pageflakes collection, so I’m constantly up to date on what is happening.

    RSS really isn’t an optional extra these days, it’s a vital part of the information professional’s library, and the more I use RSS the less I use email and search engines. RSS is wonderful!

    23 Apr 2007, 15:30

  2. Jenny Delasalle

    I wonder if you found this blog posting through one of your RSS feeds, Phil?

    I just worry about being overloaded with information if I start down the RSS route. It takes a lot of investment to learn how to really use a new technology to your own advantage. I’ve got a bloglines account set up, but now I need to do something with it…

    23 Apr 2007, 15:38

  3. Indeed the crucial issue is not anymore how much information you can or could ferret out, but how much of that information you can dispense with and still be able to be effective in your job.

    Obviously the time you have left to actually do something with the information is inversely proportional to how much information you have to process in order to be able to do the job.

    For quite some time now it has been possible to have enough information to fill anybody’s life 24×7x365. Since then the issue has been how to cope with information overload.

    I think that’s the challenge of Web 2.0 technologies: finding the right measure for one’s particular needs.

    For somebody working in the field of web communications, RSS feeds may be just the best platform to find their kind of information. For somebody else, working in another field, RSS may draw a blank, be irrelevant, or at best duplicate what is available in the preferred medium of their particular community of interests.

    24 Apr 2007, 11:14


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