May be a false-postive type of situation but the OLA web gang may want to look in to this.
Here’s what you see when you click ‘Why was this site blocked?”.
So I braved the Toronto snow storm on Friday and made my way down to the Metro Convention Centre.
Session 1009 – Google: The New Library Vendor
This session was given by Greg Sennema from Wilfred Laurier. The OCULA blog gives a good description of the talk. I saw his session about WordPress last year and again he put together a very solid presentation. Having a keen interest in all things Google, I must admit I already knew about some of the topics he touched on such as iGoogle and Custom Search Engines. However, his main point in showing some of the new tools Google is creating was to ask the question about how they will effect the services libraries provide in the short and long-term. A thought provoking idea he mentioned was whether projects like Google Books (scanning all of the books in libraries like the University of Michigan, etc.) will replace the traditional delivery of ILL. While the full-text of copyrighted books are not being provided to the public through Google Books, you can imagine that in the future that various universities that are part of the Google Books project may come together to provide full-text access to each others’ user communities, thereby making all the staff time and cost of traditional ILL irrelevant. I’m sure the copyright-owner lobbyists may have an objection or two to this however.
Session 1100 – Slow in the age of speed
This presentation by Carl Honore, author of “In Praise Of Slow“, inspired me to try and make more time to nap in my office. I’ll report back on how my supervisor feels about this effort to be more productive.
Session 1204 – The Kids Are Alright, Or are They?
Any session named after a Who song has to be good. The content of this very interesting talk is summarized well on the OCULA blog. I’m already an avowed Mohawk Library fanboy so it was interesting see and hear from two of the schools’ main librarians. I think the lovely (and award winning) Jennifer commented on my post back in the day. They talked about how educators, library people, etc. are inundated with the idea that today’s students (millenials, etc.) have all these specific characteristics (naturally tech-savy, able to do their homework while listening to their iPods, have differently wired brains, spend all their time in Second Life, etc.) so we must change the ways we instruct and interact with them. They talked about how these claims did not always square with their experiences at the reference desk. I know how they feel. Seeing students struggle with Microsoft Office documents that open inside WebCT and not knowing how to print them, I question the theory that because a kid plays World Of Warcraft all day that he somehow becomes a savant at how various software systems interact.
The speakers did a great job at peaking behind some of the research the Mark Prensky’s of the world use to back up their claims and showing the lack of solid scholarship at the heart of much of it. I knew I recognized that name when they mentioned it and I remembered that I did a copyright request for the use of some of his materials. Hopefully the department I did the request for isn’t basing all their plans on Prensky’s work.
All in all, an excellent example of evidenced based librarianship. Check out the blog they created for their research: http://kidsarealright.wordpress.com/
Session 1318 – Scholar’s Portage. Avoiding the Waterfall: Leveraging Social Networking Tools And Scholars Portal Data
Come 3:45pm on a snowy day, the third day of the conference, people are naturally getting a little tired. Add to this a session that some people may consider a little on the ‘dry’ side and it added up to a sparsely attended event. Luckily I dig ‘dry’ and throw in a cute librarian who’s really into music giving the presentation so I found the session very worthwhile. While it has very little effect on my duties I am always curious about what exactly Scholars Portal is and what the future plans are for this joint effort of Ontario’s universities. The speakers gave some interesting insights into what they do now and were open about their thinking process in trying to decide how to evolve their services in a way that truly is a benefit to their users and not just Library 2.0 applications for the sake of Library 2.0. As usual I’m doing a lousy job of describing the session so here is:
All in all it was another very well organized event with interesting speakers and topics. My only complaint was the lack of a free pen in my conference package. Also I can’t really be seen carrying around a bag covered in butterflies so I had to give the conference bag away to my Mom. I also forgot to see if Access Copyright was giving away free mints again this year. There’s always next year.
The old web site (and the pages for each of the various divisions) was to be charitable, a little creaky from a visual appearance and information design (i.e. it was hard to find stuff I was looking for) point of view.
Now they have a content management system that provides a real nice unity of design across the site. The tabs along the left and the top of the page provide a clear path to all the content I can imagine wanting to get from the site.
The one downside is that for most people this site redesign means they will have to update their bookmarks to get to that page they tend to visit while they should be thinking up ways to improve reference service.
After getting a good night’s sleep I was ready for another day of extreme library fun at the 2007 OLA Super Conference.
Some might think that 9am is a little early in the morning for talking about statistical literacy but this was an informative session, if for nothing else, that it reminded me how much I am guilty of simply accepting at face value the statistical information I come across in my own life. I did have some flashbacks to my own harrowing moments in math class when they started quizzing us on percentages and absolute numbers.
They made the point that statistical literacy is years behind traditional reading and writing literacy and my own experience at the reference desk would definitely bare that out.
Civic guru Glen Murray spoke about his views on municipal development. Just like several other speakers he was quick to tell the group that librarians are they key to the future of civilisation. Well, maybe I’m embellishing a bit, but flattery goes a long way with this crowd.
While what I learned in this session could be considered part of my professional development, I will admit it was more for Library Playground. This session was about creating library blogs using WordPress and was presented by Greg Sennema from Wilfred Laurier.
After having been on my own trying to learn about WordPress it was good to see some of the questions I had clearly explained. It was very interesting to learn that Laurier took an existing blog theme and tweaked it so it looked identical to the rest of the Laurier Library web page. If I wasn’t told this I would have thought they coded the blog from scratch. This gives me a sense of what is possible with a little bit of coding knowledge.
My day ended with a talk from one of the leading lights of the 2.0/Social/Second Life/First-person shooter/chewy-nougat library movement.
Michael Stephens of Tame the Web fame gave his Best Practices for Social Software presentation. He is a very engaging speaker, and while I must admit some skepticism about the time and effort some schools are putting in to efforts like creating Second Life presences, he mentioned several points of interest to me.
A key one was the creation of Wiki’s for library staff. In my case I have created several policy and procedure manuals in Word documents. Often these documents need to be changed, adjusted etc. which is a hassle using a word processor. Also, there is occasional confusion aboutour various reference and circulation policies. Having these accessible in Wiki form would be more seamless than shuffling though various binders.
I have survived my first OLA Super Conference as an official participant. I got to go as a student but we were only allowed to visit the exhibition hall and collect free pens.
I feel it was a very well run event and the sessions I attended provided a fair bit of useful information.
This session was on finding solutions to noise and conduct problems in academic libraries. A couple key points were made. The speakers from McMaster and Guelph both pointed out that their schools have thousands of more students now than there were when the libraries were built. This had led to student frustration that there is not enough space/facilities for them to do their work. And as you would expect, the more cramped people are, the more conduct and behaviour issues are going to crop up.
Going hand-in-hand with this spike in enrollment has been the growing reliance on electronic resources for nearly every aspect of student life. This has led to greater demand for computer access in libraries and speaking in our case, there are not enough computers (or enough space to put them) to meet student demand. Now students wanting a computer to do school work will monitor other students’ computer use for any recreational computer use. We will ask these students to log-off if they are not doing school work but it is not always easy to define what constituents school work. Speaking for myself, when I am at a computer I am multi-tasking (doing work, visiting humorous sites, checking email, etc.) When I go over to a student and ask them to log-off if they are not going to do school work, they can simply re-open a Word file and pretend to be working.
The speakers key message was to get student groups envolved in discussing issues like this and provide very clear signage and ensure all staff understand the policies and enforce them consistently.
Joan Frye Williams gave a very wide ranging talk on finding ways to improve the library user’s experience.
One point she made was that directional questions are failures. While a certain percentage of users will always ask these questions, I agree with her view that high-quality signage and layout can decrease the volume of these types of questions.
She also discussed the need for consistent and user-friendly nomenclature throughout the library. While it is necessary for us to know how to differentiate serials, magazines, journals etc. For the user, we should err on the side of using language they use every day. Hand-in-hand with simplified signage I think it is vital that this conversational terminology be used on our web sites as well.
She also mentioned that you need to keep an eye on what your school’s Wikipedia entry says about your library. I’m not sure if it is a good or bad thing, but we go unmentioned.
This was a talk from Yahoo!’s Tomi Poutanen. He talked about the company’s so-called social search efforts. He gave a general overview of their efforts with Flikr, del.icio.us, Yahoo! answers etc. I thought I heard some people heckling him with a “Google Rules, Yahoo! Drools” chant, but I’m not sure.
Uwe Stueckman from Lowe’s Canada discussed the concept of creating personalized communication streams. While I think most libraries are a long way from having professional customer relations management databases that can individualize the patron experience. He talked about the need to segment your audience. I have thought about how we could improve the user experience of our on-line students if they could access a personalized version of the library web page which was written and structured in a way that presented them with the type of information they need.
OCULA Annual Meeting
This was my first opportunity to experience an OCULA meeting and I must say it felt more like a comedy roast than a dry proceeding.
Report on my Friday at Super Conference to come.