Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Computers in Libraries 2008 highlights, day one

I am currently attending Computers in Libraries in Arlington, Va. I went last year and found it amazing in terms of exposing me to all the new things out there that people are doing and using with Web 2.0. It really energized me and inspired me to do try many things. I am still processing all the information from the presentations I attended, but I intend to post some highlights of the sessions I attended.

Apart from dealing with the excitement of the night before (my colleague Tara's and my luggage didn't arrive when we did, but luckily it was delivered to our hotel at 2 am.) the first day was very interesting.

The first session I attended was on Going Local in the Library presented by Charles Lyons--and the gist of the presentation was how to use Google, mashups, and other web tools to create local information sources for our users. He pointed out that this localization of web services is becoming quite common, even to the point of social networks being created for a block or an apartment building in a neighborhood. I can see perhaps where in an academic setting, this type of idea could be something like an extension of maybe a facebook group for a particular dorm or class maybe. or even commuter students.

The next session on Mobile Search, was very fascinating. It was presented by Gary Price and Megan Fox, and it was jam packed with information. I had thought of myself as a heavy user of my blackberry but I had no idea what was out there in terms of applications for the phone. I found this session very relevant because as they pointed out, having an internet enabled phone/device allows people to access information 24/7. They also discussed characteristics of how users ask questions with these devices, mostly short "ready reference" types of things. The discussion they had on using barcode readers in phones to get information about objects was really cool. I also learned about "snippets" which are widgets for your phone. I really think this is very relevant information for a growing group of users, and I suspect that it will be the pivot point for the next evolution of library services--not only in the places we can see being affected (txt chat service) but also because it changes user behavior so much, and will in turn shape their expectations.

I also went to the What's new with Federated Search presentation given by Frank Cervone and Jeff Wisniewski, another very relevant session as we are discussing implementing federated search in our library. The main point that seemed to be stressed was the idea that the use/concept of federated search as a standalone product is evolving into a more holistic view of federated search as a component of the new library catalogs. This means that the federated search results include all library content, not just aggregating results from databases. And, when they mean all library content, it literally means getting results from the library catalog, digital holdings (I think that would include items from institutional repositories and also digital collections) and articles. They mentioned some products by name with some features that they felt were "standouts." Worldcat Local (OCLC) for its level of granularity, Encore (III) for the tag clouds (that map to LCSH), Primo (Exlibris) for facets that enhance searching, and also a few other new and interesting products/companies, such as University of Chicago's implementation of the Opera browser (would definitely like to see this) and also Autographix, who they described as being comparable to the main library vendors although they focus on enterprise business and academic libraries.

I think i will stop for now, my apologies if my irregular posting is causing havoc, but I have started drafts the day these things occured, and naturally meant to post that evening, but was caught up in conference doings. At least we have the Airline flight cancellations to thank for this stretch of uninterrupted alone time so that I may catch up. :)

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