23 January 2009

Information Online 2009: some observations

This isn't going to be comprehensive. It is just a few observations that I came away with from Information Online 2009. As I gave a pre-conference workshop and a keynote address, I think it is probably up to others to make more detailed observations. I believe that my keynote address has been recorded and will eventually be podcast somewhere, so I'll link to that when I read about it. The photos used above (by Neerav Bhatt) are some of the more interesting slides that I used in my presentation.

I was a tad annoyed that many in the audience got hooked up about a minor point that I made. I said that we should not obsess so much about metadata. I think we've talked and debated so much about it for so long now (with very little real progress) that we just need to start making other things happen without waiting for it to be "perfected". It is I believe, with Copyright and "stakeholder consultation", used as an excuse not to progress things. If Flickr, Google, Amazon or iTunes had waited for us to agree on a schema they'd still not exist. I said a lot of other things, but all the metadata crusaders got hooked up on that wee point and missed all of the others. Typical.

A number of points I made and that were also made by Paul Hagon of NLA and happiness guru Liz Lawley were later re-inforced in other keynotes by Laura Campbell of the Library of Congress and the futurist, Andy Hines. (I'm very glad that we didn't have to listen to anyone banging on about a new management theory from their recent MBA.)

I took some rough notes at Laura's keynote address:

Keynote 21 January 2008 – Strategic Directions and Initiatives (on the Library of Congress’ last 20 years)

1. Increasing access American Memory, Thomas (workings of Congress) & their Learning Page – to general public and education audience (this to me was quite similar to our history in opening and broadening public access at the AWM, albeit on a smaller scale). They, like us needed to broaden access to be relevant. They have 110 million online users and 2 million onsite users (we have about 850,000 visitors).
2. Expanded offerings to new channels: embracing new partners & new sectors. Global Gateway – vast foreign collections. eg. the national newspaper program. Can search 1,000s of newspapers. 1 mill online now(?). Flickr Commons pilot – 3,000 images offered (Depression photos) – 10.4 million views in a few months – inviting user annotations and descriptions – all captured. Viewership up. They also arrangement with You Tube.
3. Networks NDIIPP & WDL – changing work in the future:
  • National Preservation Program (NDIIPP) - $100m in 2000. Guided by NDSA Board (all 27 of them). The Preserving Digital Heritage report in 2002 mapped out strategy for distributed network of trusted partners (never to be centralised). Goals – included at-risk content, identification of tools & partners, developing a strategy. 130 partners because even LoC can’t collect everything. Infrastructure addressed to share content. Had eight consortia groups for geospatial, political business/economics, cultural, public & social services data. They have 70 Tb of data. Partners include: universities, broadcasters, commercial enterprises, states, federal agencies, new businesses, tech companies, and other national libraries. Also IIPC – the international internet preservation consortium. 37 member libraries working on this now. they resisted temptation to start with by-laws and got on with accomplishing it. A sensible way to move forward. Now have 248 Tb and they are expecting 650 Tb by 2013. Laura: “Taking early action allows you to learn by doing!”. She also put up a slide about them being catalytic, collaborative, engaging multiple platforms, leveraged networks, shared resources.
  • WDL – prototype launched with UNESCO a couple of years ago. No "show-runners" – all their own content. 25 partners now. You can browse by locations, type, time, institution, etc. – for books, manuscripts, maps photos, film and sound (more audiovisual than anything else); heaps of intelligent search (via annotations, curator videos, etc.); multi-lingual (translator services). Memory packages are available. They've set up a mirror site at Alexandria. See their online concept video (it is pretty good). (Prototype and Concept videos available here.)
Final comments from Laura: it is not the technology that is the hard part, it is the human element. That will never change. She also mentioned making choices about what work you are in. She said her early work at the LoC was "triage", then pushing out content, and now building on all of that and embracing networks, and solutions. They did consult some wise gurus about the future to learn about the driving forces of the future. “Creative collaboration is the key to future invention and innovation.” Not a perfect story, but a lot to be said for real collaboration – not easy, but a lot to be said for it when it works.

I didn't take many other notes that I can pass on right now. I took some notes from Andy Hines' presentation, but left them at home today on another laptop.

I did like what the State Library of Victoria is doing to connect with students, principally using their Inside a Dog website. Great stuff.

Oh, I almost forgot: Libraries Australia (courtesy of Paul Hagon) have now started their own Ning site, so check it out.

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