Now that I am back from the Information Online conference in Sydney it is time to sit down and go through the notes and report back. This posting is an overview; the more detailed comments will be posted over the next few days.
So what did I learn? Well, ... actually not that much. There was no real parting of the clouds and radiant shafts of insight, nor were there any (for me) really challenging papers. This said, it was still worthwhile, and there were some good things to see and hear.
Liz Lawley's keynote address on Libraries as Happiness Engines was inspiring, positive, and very good. Maybe because of my close proximity to the local film industry (which is busy building interactive online gaming content) I did not really come away learning anything new. On the Friday after the conference I was lucky enough to visit an inner Sydney production studio and see first hand what they were doing with film, interactive online content, and games for the education sector. More on this when it is released into the public domain and I can blog about it. But back to Online; it was great to meet Liz and her new research (I am sworn to secrecy for the time being) sounds very interesting indeed. Liz and I also worked out we have a common friend in Karen Schneider. Is LibraryLand small or what!
Andy Hind was very good and insightful. It was good to see that it verified everything I have learnt in my Post Grad Marketing Diploma. Paul Hagan from the National Library of Australia also gave a very good and inspiring paper on what libraries can do to build really interesting and relevant content on the fly using mashups.
Some seemed to have found Mal Booth's comments on metadata unsettling, and they then got distracted. This is a pity, as it was only one part of his excellent presentation. Still, (to be controversial) let me say that: just as we have lost the search portal wars to players such as Google, we seem to be oblivious to the fact that we are quickly loosing (if indeed we were ever ahead) the tagging and client content war to players such as Flickr who make it so easy for people to upload content and who do not ask for '12 core metadata fields' in the process! More on this latter.
There were of course many more good papers, but there were also some very ordinary papers. However, compared to some of the comments from my peers, I seemed to avoid the worst of these papers. Maybe after going to conferences for many, many, years you learn how to pick and choose the best.
Three general observations:
A. It was interesting to see that some (and it was only some) librarians still hang onto sacred cows when rapid changes in information technology is making some of these cows fit for the knackery. These seem to be the same librarians who complain about not having enough time to do all the new things that are expected of us because they seem unable to give up any of the old. Not that everything new is good and everything old is bad, BUT it is so much more difficult to move forward when you are stuck in the past.
B. Speaking of the new(ish), it was great to see the incorporation of a wide range of social networking platforms in and around the conference. In 2009, Information Online used:
* Twitter tagged to io2009,
* a Flickr group,
* a Conference Blog,
* Technorati tagged to io2009,
* a Facebook group,
* a Linked in group, and
For this the Information Online Committee should be commended.
C. It was also good to see a new generation of tech savvy and articulate librarians participating in the conference. I wonder if it was this new generation librarians who were behind the use of social networking at the conference. For example, I notice that the links to the Information Online social networking options do not go via the conference domain, but rather go via (the very smart and tech savvy) Neerav Bhatt's domain at http://www.bhatt.id.au. Though these younger participants may still hold junior positions in their libraries, they often outshone many of their ‘older’ colleagues. This can only be good for the future of libraries.