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No place like home

26 September, 2006

Well, we’re back in Sydney and brimming with ideas and enthusiasm we’ve brought back with us.

The conference was fun and stimulating, but the key thing now is to apply some of what we have learned here in Sydney. The key conclusions are:

- Our users’ habits are changing and we have to change to keep up, in terms of technology, environment and services
- Some academic libraries are getting ahead of us – we need to take advantage of their innovations and learn to innovate ourselves
- Small, low-cost changes can have a big impact on our service

Finally, after this tech-heavy week we feel the final word should go to Sten’s Mum, after hearing him describe Sydney eScholarship – “It was so much easier when you worked in a library”

Thanks for all your feedback,

Sarah, Sten and Tom

Just saw a couple of great papers by our blogging friend, Constance Wiebrands (Curtin University). She has just talked on use of wikis and blogs as communication and feedback tools that libraries can use for formal and informal communication across and within the library. In the library's Web Services Advisory Group we've been talking about incorporating more of these tools in the resdesign of the library's web site. In fact, we've just set up a wiki that the group can use for communication. Constance's talk made me think about how great wikis are for sharing information and also for sharing versions of documents.

Curtin Library has been running its own library blog. It's a great marketing tool for disseminating library information, and for giving users the opportunity to make comments and give feedback. Instead of a "library news" section, blogs allow users to "subscribe" to this content. I was really curious about how Curtin set the tone for their blog. How personal & individual do you make the content? The more "official" or "institutional" the information, the less users might read the blog. However, there is such a thing as a "too informal tone". In the end, Constance said, the tone issue became unimportant - all of the contributors to the blog had a very similar sense of how to pitch the content.

Anyway, another interesting morning here in Perth. Up next is Sten.

550 Librarians at a conference gala dinner
AND An entertaining band
AND Lots of merlot
OR Lots of sauvignon blanc
NOT Any sense of self-consciousness

YOU HAVE FOUND: Lots of fun. It was all valuable networking, honest. Hic.


21 September, 2006

The absolutely standout, rush-home-and-start-doing-it-myself session from today was Jody Atkinson and Sonja Olsen’s talk on podcasting information literacy tutorials at Curtin Library. (Thanks to everyone who counselled me to go!) As an initiative it certainly passes the is it cheap?/is it easy?/is it worth it? trifecta of important questions to ask whenever starting a new endeavor. Eight months later, more than 5,500 downloads of their podcasts have been initiated by students, with some months registering more than 1,000 downloads of podcasts. The secret of their strategy seems to be:
• offering new podcasts every week, thus keeping it fresh and new;
• offering podcasts on useful, practical topics such as library tours (brilliant use of the technology!) and guides to referencing;
• creating not overly complicated podcasts, keeping them under 5 minutes in length, which meant not too much time was spent on each one, therefore maximizing resources and keeping momentum going.
Their paper was jam-packed with lots of practical advice – I’ll forward more detailed notes when I get back to Sydney.

The morning sessions I attended were largely about opac usage. As Tom has covered those sessions I’ll keep my comments brief. The most interesting point for me was something I have suspected for a long time –students find our opacs very hard to use. This seems to be due to a number of factors, including students’ reluctance to change any default settings or to read help screens. Unsurprising stuff, really, considering what google looks like.

Another interesting afternoon session was the “SMS a librarian” service that Southbank Tafe offers. A very interesting and effective service that has been particularly adopted by their young, international, and hearing-impaired students.

So it’s been a tech-heavy day here in Perth. I expect it will continue tomorrow, with papers on wikis, blogs, and of course our very own Sten’s talk on the Sydney eScholarship repository.

Here’s my question of the day: should I go to a session on Libraries Australia and Picture Australia (Tom Boston, National Library), or should I go to a talk about evaluating information architecture of Australian library web sites (Philip Hider, Charles Sturt)?

(See the latest photos here)

This morning's session from a librarian at Freiburg University (celebrating it's 550th anniversary!) was my favourite paper so far. He had logged a massive amount of catalogue sessions and analysed the results. There were too manyy facts and figures to relate here, but here are the ones that stood out:

- Less than 4% of users opt for the advanced search screen
- 80% of searches use a single search box (the interface allows for author/title/subject heading from the first screen)
- 99% of searches using more than one field use the AND operator (OR & NOT are hidden on a dropdown - the figure drops to 80% if radio buttons are used)
- 33% of sessions used only a single query - is the user satisfied or do they give up?
- There were anomalies from ISPs in training rooms, i.e. from training sessions. This activity did not appear to translate into "real world" searches

There was plenty here to cogitate on with an impact for OPAC design, cataloguing, IL strategy etc. I would urge you to read the proceedings of this paper when they are published in a week or two - we'll let you know when it's available.

The other highlight so far was seeing a mentoring medal awarded in absentia to Dianne van Sommers, as nominated by Trish Blatch. Hurrah!

Here we go again

21 September, 2006

Well, we sampled the Dogbolter Beer last night and now I'm raring to go for what looks like the most exciting day of the conference. We've all felt that the concurrent sessions are the real "meat" of the experience and today I'll be going to talks about the following:

- Client information seeking behaviour on OPACs
- What is a library OPAC?
- SMS reference services
- Print vs electronic reference resources
- And, yes, podcasting

Anything in particular you want me to ask about?

Tonight it's the Spanish themed conference gala dinner. 700 librarians drinking sangria and dancing the night away. It should be a sight to behold...

the distracted librarian

20 September, 2006

Hi all

I feel like I’ve had one of those attention-deficit conference days because I've been frantically running between sessions, hurriedly flicking through the programme to see where you should be next, meeting new people and talking, talking talking. It’s been such a fun day!

Here are the highlights so far:
• The people from the Oxford University Press booth telling me that the University of Sydney’s usage of the Dictionary of National Biography is 4th in the world. While I think that’s fantastic – the DNB is a truly magnificent resource – I also think it’s really quite weird. Who’s using it so much?
• Finding out what “self-efficacy” means. Helen Partridge from QUT gave a fantastic presentation about her research into the digital divide. Apparently the digital divide has largely been treated by researchers as an ‘access’ issue. Her research focuses on psychological issues that may cause a lack of digital literacy. Some preliminary findings? Libraries need to provide learning environments for our users that incorporate peer-learning and we need to provide training where users can learn at their own speed.
• ISI Web of Science has been accused of being highly selective, and biased towards North American, English, and Thomson-owned journals. However, the competitor Scopus may have similar biases, except towards Elsevier journals. Dr Gaby Haddow’s talk on the RQF was full of such insights. I was particularly curious and saddened to hear that one of the reasons why the British RAE model (Australia’s RQF model is based on the RAE) is being tossed is that the exercise encouraged ‘RAE focused’ research activity. This meant that research was being published in academic rather than practitioner publications (academic=higher impact factor), and that there was intense pressure to publish early in the RAE cycle so that citation counts are higher, etc etc.
• The library profession might be “greying”, or it might not be. There may be a looming shortage of talented librarians, or there might not be. To date there has been no systematic study of employment trends in the LIS industry in Australia. Dr Gillian Hallam from QUT is addressing this with a new project, called NEXUS, which aims to develop a framework for workforce planning in LIS. We’re all encouraged to complete the NEXUS questionnaire online.

So my biggest problem with tomorrow is working out whether I should go to a session on podcasting of information literacy tutorials (Jody Atkinson of Curtin University) or a session on the future of reference services in Australian academic libraries (Liz Burke, University of Western Australia). Both sound so good! Any recommendations?