Sunday, 15 February 2009

Information Online 2009: B3. Mashing Up the National Library of Australia

Life has been busy but I am determined to publish a record of the Information Online sessions that stood out for all the good as well as not so good reasons.

The address by Paul Hagon from the National Library of Australia stood out for all the right reasons.

For example, in Paul's Information Online 2009 abstract he asks the questions we should all be asking ourselves as we build more dynamic content based on API's, RSS feeds and tag clouds. "Are we creating an artificial barrier for entry to our collections by persisting with these interfaces and interactions? Are we building the interfaces for ourselves rather than our users? What type of interfaces can we design to break down these barriers and encourage entry into our collections?"

In answering these questions Paul used a number of case studies that showed what is possible away from the traditional library catalogue. The case studies are:

1. The Picture Australia redesign to improve the search by revising the way the search was presented and to offer relevance ranking in the search results.
2. The Picture Australia experiment to overcome the problem of bookmarking Picture Australia items without the interference of session details in the URL.
3. AskNow and API experiment so that AskNow participants could share bookmarks via Delicious.
4. The Then and Now mash-up, which experimented with using an institution’s online photo collection (in this case the Power House Museum's collection of historical photos of Sydney) mashed up with Google Maps Street view. See Paul's blog post "Powerhouse Street View Mashup" for details on this Now and Then project.

All these case studies either enhanced library productivity (as in the case of AskNow) or improved the way clients could use content.

It is interesting that while there are so many free APIs out there, libraries still seem to be a bit slow on the up take. Yes there are some people like Paul doing some remarkable stuff but this seems the exception rather than the rule. And a lot of this stuff is free for God's sake! There should be a stampede of librarians doing mashups, especially as not everything has to be as technical as the examples cited by Paul.

The question of mashing up as a new core competency for librarians was raised in Paul's Information Online 2009 session. Unfortunately a librarian from the floor confused this issue with the need for the profession to (quote) "focus on metadata". Go figure?!? Used wisely, Mashups have the potential to empower libraries and give us the opportunity to provide really rich and relevant content to clients. How many librarians, (especially those who have done
Learning 23 Things and the follow up Learning 2.1 programmes) have started using the power of mashups in their libraries? I know some have, but what about the rest? Time is ticking.


Click here for a copy of my notes with a podcast of the Pauls's address.

Click here to see what bloggers are saying about Paul Hagon. Paul's own blog is called... "Paul Hagon". Not very original I know, but there is some very, very good stuff on Paul's blog so it is worth checking out.

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