Internet Librarian 2010

I didn’t feel much like an Internet librarian this year – didn’t bring the Unix Dell Mini, and hand-wrote my notes in a spiral notebook with a pen.  Because of the collaborative presentation I was giving about Info Quest text reference, I felt I needed real PowerPoint and Windows, and my Windows laptop isn’t very portable.  Here’s a summary of the most important sessions I attended:

Search engines and Super-Searcher tips: 

Chris Sherman: Google now has real-time feeds from social network sites like Twitter. It also includes TV episodes, rich snippets (which provide additional info on mouseovers), and new filters for sites with images.   New search engines worth watching: Blekko, which allows you to create “slashtags” and thus a customized search tool; watch the demo video.  Factual – which looks for structured data in an unstructured format and builds a structure around it.  Semantifi searches pages in the 90% of the web that is invisible to major search engines – the “deep web”.

Mary Ellen Bates lined out some of her favorite web sites that should be known by anyone who uses the web for research.  The ones that I want to explore for my work are: Yahoo Correlator, a good way to get an overview of an unfamiliar topic; Google Public Data Explorer, which compiles public data that you can then manipulate, and Google Fusion Tables, where you can upload your own data table and create visualizations like maps, heatmaps, charts, or a timeline.

Other Conference Themes

The theme this year was “Insights, Imagination & Info Pros: Adding Value”.  So most of the other conference sessions I attended centered around innovative ideas for making library services visible, convenient, interactive and current.  They recommended ways to leverage social media, the new QR codes, geolocation tools (Foursquare and others) and games, and branding your online presence.  They stressed interactivity, such as touch screens, online meeting spaces, collaborative presentations, polls and using “cloud” services for storing and sharing documents and presentations.

The potential was made real at the presentation near the end of the conference about the DOK Library Concept Center in Delft, The Netherlands.  This library is not publicly funded, but charges a membership fee.  Its innovative concepts are tested here before being rolled out to other libraries and institutions.  In addition to shelving on wheels in the kids’ section (allows reconfiguration of space for programming), library signage is on the back sides of wii screens, which can be flipped over for gaming programs.  There are no rules, only one service desk (for signing up new members), music is playing, and roving staff is identified by the tool belts they wear.  The library is 100% self-service.  The latest innovations are music chairs ($10,000each) that allow kids to sit inside and listen to music as loud as they like without disturbing others in the library, and the Touch Table, which recognized your library card when you lay it down on the table’s touch surface and shows you historical photos from the city archives based on your address. The photos appear on the touch screen and are manipulable (zoom, reposition, rotate, etc.)

I have never attended an Internet Librarian conference without coming away with a profound respect for the people in my profession that have the vision and courage to take new ideas and put them to work making library services better!  For that reason, I avoided the “failure” track, which was touted in the keynote sessions as a place to feel better about ideas that didnt work – and what you could learn from them.  In the next year, I would like to use some of the cloud services and interactive tools to make delivery of “remote” library services more intuitive and effective.  This would include creating how-to documents for library users, hyperlinking catalog records to online services and help screens, and actively promoting our virtual services like Ask Now and Info Quest text reference to library staff so they can understand them and help market them.

Having training materials and help documents online would also make it easier for branch staff to use them for their own outreach projects.

Most presentations are available on the Info Today web site. I invite you to explore!

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