I find the day after a conference has finished is a good time to let the knowledge gleaned from the previous days flow through the brain without reference to notes. I like this type of unstructured post-conference flow because it allows key themes to emerge by themselves in my thinking.
A key theme for me (and I mean a theme that I have been thinking about in response to the combination of information and experiences from the conference) is that libraries and organisations need to go where to the clients are in a way that is meaningful to them.
Amy Sample Ward started this thought in me when she emphasised working with the community, not for the community. Working with a community or a client group means working with them in consideration of what they want and how they want it. How they want their information may be different to how the organisation believes it should deliver the information.
Michael Clarke (no, not the Australian cricketer) from Silverchair (no, not the Australian band) presented on “the great unboxing”. Libraries had to start thinking more about content than just the format (the container the information was in). The focus on content is something I have emphasised in my workplace as well. Other presentations, particularly around library catalogue search and the library catalogue GUI, also emphasised the need to provide the traditional library service in a way that was effective, but also both familiar to users and appealing to users. In some cases being like Google was important because Google is a familiar and well-used information search option. If we want users to use the catalogue, then we must make the catalogue as appealing to use as Google.
My thinking around this is that whilst as librarians we have a range of library tools and information technologies at our disposal, they don’t really mean much unless we meet the needs of our clients in the way the clients want their needs met. And information needs are becoming more focused on content from a multitude of sources and networks than ever before – and libraries and organisations need to be there in all those places. In marketing speak, you go to where your customers are and meet with them in a way the customers have determined. So, if your customers are on Facebook, then that’s one place you need to go. Interestingly, at the Web 3.0 conference I attended last year in Sydney, the same sentiment was expressed: using social media is fine but it only really means something if it means something to your audience. The Web 3.0 conference is on again in June.
The upshot (take-home?) of this is that if libraries or organisations want to push a system that their clients won’t use, but go ahead with it anyway because the library or organisation sees some other “benefit”, then we are wasting time and resources because the clients aren’t going there. We need to consider the customer experience!
And if your clients aren’t going there, then it doesn’t matter what the system can do compared to something else, it just isn’t going to work!
Today was the third and final day of the Electronic Resources and Libraries Conference in Austin, Texas.
There were presentations given on standards; acquisitions and assessment, web discovery, ebooks, and content indexing.
From the presentations I saw, there were two stand-outs. The first was the presentation by Hana Leavay of the University of Washington Library who gave an interesting and informative talk on assessing electronic resources. Considerable thought had gone into the data collection, the sorting and analysis, and then finally the input into decision-making. Once again this presentation demonstrated to me why we need to better capture a range of statistics and work out ways of using the data for management and reporting purposes.
The other presentation was a group presentation about web discovery. The prime mover here was John Law from Serials Solutions and the product called Summon. Tammy Allgood from Arizona State University Library and Anne Prestamo from Oklahoma State University Library both provided practical ways in which Summon could (and did) work. Summon is a way to search across electronic journals from different sources and providers, with the added benefit of consistent indexing across repositories and databases, and quicker retrieval of material. I will investigate this product further when I get home.
I am organising a couple of library visits tomorrow and hope to see more live music before I start my way home with a flight to Los Angeles on Friday afternoon.
Finally, Austin is a great place to visit and you gotta see the Eric Tessmer Band live – awesome!
I am at the halfway point of the Electronic Resources and Libraries Conference in Austin, Texas. The conference has been pretty good so far, with a nice mix of thinking pieces and practical case studies. And Austin is a great place to visit for live music!
Some key highlights so far:
Amy Sample Ward yesterday emphasised the library should be thinking of working with the community (or your user group), not for your community (or user group).
A couple of presentations yesterday looked at presenting your library’s story ( your story to management or other stakeholders) in a more effective light by using good data and effective data presentation for your data to tell your “data story”. My only criticism was the lack of focus on the stories (narrative) from the library user group or your clients. Naturally, I made a comment and let the audience know about what SenseMaker might offer.
Library promotion was another topic of interest from Day 1. Nothing revolutionary to me in that presentation, although it did focus my attention on executing marketing strategies back at work when I can find the time to escape the daily minutiae of my administrative library work.
Yesterday afternoon we heard a passionate “rally to the library cause” from Michael Porter of Library Renewal who advocated public and academic libraries needed to organise more effectively to combat a growing threat to library budgets and library work. I do wonder how much impact “the intrinsic value of the library” has on governments looking at slashing budgets; and that’s exactly what US states are trying to do across the country at the moment. A more focused argument needs to be made on how libraries service the needs of community and what the impact that has on people and their ability to get things done both socially and economically. And enlisting the support of people (voters) is something libraries also need – so, libraries need a more politically focused approach.
Today we had some presentations of a more practical nature. We had a great presentation on analysing ejournal collections from database vendors. Nice MS Access database used as an effective tool to compare database collections.
Well, gotta get back to it. The afternoon session is about to start shortly.