Yesterday I attended an excellent one day conference in Manchester organised by the Cilip Multimedia Information & Technology Group. Called 'Now that's what I call Library 2.0' it was a day centred around the use of Web 2.0 'technologies' in libraries, although the broad range of speakers meant that the talks were really much more general than that.
First up was Russell Prue, 'IT evangelist, Inventor and Entrepreneur' - an incredibly enthusiastic advocate of new technology he was also very, very funny, not something you come across much at library conferences. I won't describe everything he covered in his talk but lets just say that it ranged from a collaborative attempt to complete the Guardian cryptic crossword to tales of interfering with Her Majesty's postal service with a GPS tracking device. Next was Phil Bradley, someone I've heard a lot about but have never seen in the flesh. Phil urged us to stop being so cautious about Web 2.0 and to embrace it because the pros can far outweigh the cons.
After these two talks I was feeling quite fired up and determined to get back to work and start using more of this stuff (I did suggest today that my Director start a blog but he felt that "it wasn't his style"). The final speaker before lunch was Iain Wallace of Glasgow Caledonian University - Iain is involved in the Spoken Word project which makes BBC material available online worldwide. The Spoken Word makes a lot of use of web 2.0 features to enhance its usability e.g. RSS feeds and one-click delicious bookmarking. Iain also discussed the functionality of library services, in particular OPACs (library catalogues for the uninitiated) and showed some great examples that used similar features to popular sites like Amazon and Library Thing e.g. including book covers, recommending titles that other users have borrowed, fuzzy logic searching and tagging. The examples he mentioned included the University of Huddersfield, Ann Arbour District Library, Darien Library, North Carolina State University and Plymouth State University (note the predominance of U.S. libraries). Someone based at Glasgow Caledonian could hardly give a talk without mentioning the Saltire Centre, currently one of the best known library buildings in the U.K., what I hadn't heard before was that the Saltire occupies the same floor space as the previous building but has twice as many study spaces - this was achieved by putting a lot of the book stock into compact storage (something that we are considering when/if my own library moves in a couple of years).
Issues around library buildings came up several times during the day which is interesting when the theme of the day was supposed to be a little more 'virtual.' I even heard it being discussed on BBC Breakfast News this morning where they were debating whether public libraries should have coffee shops to attract more users or whether this would put off people who came to the library for peace and quiet. Personally I think that this debate is a bit old hat, we already know that we have to cater for all sorts of different users with group space, silent space and IT facilities - now the issue is how to get this balance right. In an academic context it was interesting to hear Iain's suggestion that we encourage more academics to hold tutorials in the library as this could encourage more interaction between academics and librarians, currently my own library is set up to favour the students and we very rarely 'allow' academics to book facilities such as the seminar room.
I have wandered off the point a little although talking about academics using the library leads me quite neatly onto the next speaker, Mark Stiles, an academic who in 20 years has never borrowed a book from his university library (Staffordshire) and rarely even goes in the building. As an educational technologist this is perhaps forgivable as he uses online resources (were there any to speak of 20 years ago?). Mark spoke for the motion "This house believes that libraries need to embrace Library 2.0 technologies in order to develop and deliver their services." He argued that learners will use the technology that they want to use and we shouldn't try to impose anything on them, one size doesn't fit all and we should utilise the technology to offer different models of support. Librarians need to see themselves as part of the community of learning not just as gatekeepers of information. Nick Woolley of King's College, London made a reasonably convincing argument against the motion, although clearly a Web 2.0 user himself the focus of his riposte was mainly on the semantics. He reminded us of our existing skills as librarians and of the technological changes that we have already embraced - Library 2.0 is simply another technological development that we will absorb into our range of skills. I couldn't tell you the outcome of the debate as I was sitting at the front and we weren't actually told, but I got the impression that those who voted for the motion (including myself) were in the minority.
The overall message of the day was that the world is moving forward at an ever faster pace, if we stand still and don't change then we will be perceived to be going backwards as we are left behind by the generations that use new technologies as an integral part of their study, work and leisure.
During the day we saw some great YouTube videos:
What kids are doing in their spare time - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T5_0AGdFic
Michael Wesch - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4CV05HyAbM
Ken Robinson - do schools kill creativity? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga2CYYCrtNE