Where politics and libraries meet #fop12

The Scottish Parliament has created its own Festival of Politics  which runs between 17-25 August in Edinburgh.  Debate and discussion are at the heart of the event, now in its eighth year. Our 2011 CILIPS President Alan Reid, last year opined that the Festival didn’t seem directly relevant to our own professional concerns.  He’s clearly a man of influence because this year’s themed programme ‘Politics. Culture. Creativity. A force for change’ includes several events featuring libraries, writers and professional practice.

So as Alan might ask, ‘What’s in  the programme for library professionals this time around?’

Well, Festival partners Carnegie UK Trust are offering the following sessions featuring some well known faces from CILIP and the library world.

Public libraries in the digital age (Committee Room 1, Friday 17 August, 1.30-2.30pm)
New technology provides new opportunities for public libraries to reimagine themselves and to provide new kinds of services; but also changes the traditional model of the public library service.  How can libraries respond to these opportunities and challenges, and ensure that the public library service remains relevant to the needs of 21st century citizens?   This session, chaired by Melvyn Ingleson of Microsoft, includes contributions from Martyn Wade, National Library of Scotland, Max Whitby from Touch Press, and Liz McGettigan, Edinburgh City Libraries.

The importance of reading to children (Main Chamber, Saturday 18th August, 11.30am – 1pm)
Reading to children and encouraging children to read, is one of the most significant ways to improve their life chances.  This session will explore how we can encourage children to read and what we can learn from practice throughout the UK.  Annie Mauger, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), Marc Lambert, Scottish Book Trust, Miranda McKearney from the Reading Agency, and children’s author Theresa Breslin will debate the key issues.  The event will be chaired by John Scott MSP, Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.

Aye Write! and the National Library of Scotland have joined forces to present

Preserving our Culture, Shaping our Future
Saturday 25 August 10.30-11.30am, The Scottish Parliament, Committee Room 3

Stuart Kelly will chair a discussion on the importance of archives to cultural heritage.  Speakers include Professor Richard Demarco, of the Demarco European Art Foundation, and David McClay, Curator of the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland.

Aye Write! are also offering a second event:

Scotland’s Bookshelf – Politics and Society in Scottish Writing
Friday 24 August 6.30-7.30pm, The Scottish Parliament, Debating Chamber

Hear Iain Banks, James Robertson, Louise Welsh and others discuss how Scottish writing has reflected our politics and society over the last century.

You can find out more by downloading the full programme

and you can book tickets by clicking here

Many of the sessions at the Festival are free or charge only a nominal fee. The theme complements the Year of Creative Scotland which also involves several library initiatives. Where else should professionals be discussing library matters in relation to their political context this summer but at the Scottish Parliament!

E-Books Unbound: Speakers confirmed

The 2011 ebooks planning group have confirmed the line-up for this year’s conference which takes place in the National Piping Centre in Glasgow on 27thOctober.

The National Piping Centre, Glasgow: venue for the 2011 ebooks conference

The speakers are:

Nora Daly of the British Library who will be looking at how digital technologies have changed research and exploring what role the 21st research library has in this new environment;

Consultant, Ken Chad, who has been working with a JISC ebooks project  looking at ebook business models in higher education with a view to help libraries and publishers better understand the requirements of patrons and develop affordable library-delivered e-books;

Emeritus Professor at Loughborough University, Charles Oppenheim, is our featured keynote speaker, and he’ll be discussing the legal aspects of the expanding digital  business models;

Sophie Rochester, an independent literary consultant and founder of The Literary Platform, a website dedicated to exploring new platforms for literature, will discuss new platforms and developments within ebooks,  and finally

Wendy Walker, of Glasgow University, will look at  patron driven acquisition at her home institution.

The Planning Group are delighted to announce that Jason Miles Campbell, manager of JISC Legal Services, has agreed to chair the event.

The exhibition to accompany the event has sold out in record time – a week after we announced the event all our spaces had been snapped up!

If you’re interested in attending there is a special earlybird rate of £65 avaiilable until 15th September and you can register here

You can also visit our lanyrd page   to find out more and add yourself as a delegate or opt to track the event.

Don’t forget the hashtag for the event is #ebooks11 so you can follow ebooks  on Twitter

Dates for your diary

SLIC, in partnership with MMITS and SCURL, recently announced the date for the annual e-books conference which will take place in Edinburgh on 21st October.

Also announced are the dates for the SLIC AGM and Innovation Showcase (16th November) and the SLIC FE Conference organised in partnership with library staff from Scotland’s Colleges  community of practice (18th November).  Both events take place in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

Taking place at the same venue from 7-9 June is the CILIPS annual conference which can be booked here

See you there!

Digital Futures: adapting to new e-environments conference

On Thursday 22nd October the 9th Annual E-Books Conference was held at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. This event felt timely due to the recent increase in dedicated mass-market e-book readers available on the market and the proliferation of large screen smart ‘phones, such as the iphone.

The first presentation, for which Colin Galloway kindly stepped in to present as Linda Bennett was unfortunately unavailable due to illness, gave an overview of the changes that the book market is currently undergoing.

Liam Earney, of JISC, presented on the JISC national e-books observatory project which aims to explore the way that e-books are used and the impacts that they have. The study was carried as the demand amongst academic librarians for unlimited concurrent and perpetual access to e-texts for their students creates concern amongst publishers that their future revenues will be destroyed as students purchase fewer of the “core” textbooks.

David Pattern of Huddersfield University Library rounded things off before lunch with a lively presentation on OPAC 2 and beyond which looked at how library professionals can seek to make their online catalogues more in tune with their users experience of the web by simplfying the front end and adding more web 2.0 type tools to enhance their experience and increase the access to the data held by libraries. This has to be a priority if e-books are to constitute a higher proportion of a libraries stock in the future as, without the physical prescence, if they are not easily available to students, they are effectively invisible.

After lunch, representatives of suppliers (Springer, Dawson and OCLC) discussed what they are doing to make e-books more available to users and some interesting experiments with different payment models which could, hopefully, increase access to information for users.

To round the afternoon off, Dan Franklin, Digital Editor of Canongate gave a thought-provoking presentation on the future of e-publishing, with specific reference to the ability of digital devices to provide a multi-media experience, which is undoubtedly more exciting than simply replicating the printed word on an electronic screen. This was highlighted with the demonstration of writer and musician Nick Cave’s new novel, which is available in print, electronically and as an iphone app.

Update: Slideshows from this event are now available in the scottishlibraries slideshare account.

Mashing libraries: work in progress

After attending Mash Oop North (#mashlib09) in Huddersfield last week, I’ve been playing around with some of the tools and services mentioned at the event. One service that appealed to my imagination was Dipity, which was shown by Brian Kelly in his Enthusiastic Amateurs session. I particularly liked the example of its use in creating a visualisation of media release effectiveness for the University of Aberdeen and thought this could be used for the Slainte Media Centre.

To help me get to grips with Dipity, I’ve already created a simple timeline based on all the Web2.0 services we use, which I’ve embedded within Slainte News. Although links to our Web2.0 service accounts are included in the footer at the bottom of the page, the timeline brings all of the content together in a visually appealing way that might open it up to increased use.

A slight problem with Dipity is advertising, which isn’t displayed on the small timeline embedded in our website but will appear if you switch to the full view. To get rid of this you need a Pro account which costs $99.95 per month and would be too expensive for our purposes. Since no adverts appear on our website, we’re going to proceed with this experiment and monitor its impact on Web2.0 service use stats.

Another service I’ve been experimenting with is Yahoo Pipes, which is a “composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web.” When I first heard about what this could do it occurred to me that it would be a good way to aggregate the news output from all libraries in Scotland to create a comprehensive and frequently updated current awareness service for librarians. This work would, however, be dependent on the libraries or wider institutions (i.e. local authorities, universities, colleges etc) having RSS feeds set up for news items…

Of the 32 Scottish local authorities only 13 had RSS feeds set up on their news content or press releases (as at 13/07/2009). Through a contact on Twitter (James Coltham or @prettysimple) I found a source that reported 24% of UK councils have RSS feeds (see Mash the State). This means that the Scottish figure is considerably higher than the UK average, at around 40%.

In the higher education sector, I found that just three of Scotland’s 14 universities had no RSS feeds evident on their website news content (as at 14/07/2009) (note that there are a further 6 HE institutions in Scotland which have still to be reviewed). There was some variation in how the 11 HE library news feeds were organised; some appeared on news at institutional level, others were on library news (sometimes in the form of a blog) and some universities had both library and institutional level news feeds. From a practical perspective, this meant that I had to create two strands within the Yahoo Pipe: one with a ‘library’ filter set up on the institutional level news and an unfiltered one for the content coming from a library specific feed.

The output of this, titled Scottish Libraries Newsfeed, has now been embedded in the Scottish Libraries NetVibes page and can be re-used or re-purposed by others interested in the content.

However, some difficulties with mashing data in this way are evident. Firstly, it’s clear that the info in many of the feeds has not been created with a view to being used elsewhere so it can be difficult to tell which library service the item is about (i.e. it’s assumed that you are accessing content on a particular library’s website/blog and so would know what’s meant by “the library”). This can make it difficult to pick out items of interest so it would be useful if the source were to appear (in the Pipe’s list view perhaps).

The layout seems to mirror the order in which feeds were added to the Pipe but I suppose this is just a short-term issue since new items will appear according to when they are added to the parent RSS feeds, thus mixing it up a bit.

There’s also a lot of  stylistic variation since some of the content is coming from institutional press offices and other items have been created for blogs and are more informal. This variation would of course increase if the scope was extended to cover Twitter feeds too, with formal press releases appearing alongside 140 character tweets. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I think all of these different sources would add a richness of perspective – giving a more comprehensive and rounded overview of what’s happening in Scottish library services.

It may be the case, however, that too much input (i.e. too many feeds being drawn from too many sources) would make this unwieldy rather than a useful national aggregation. If this becomes the case then the pipe could be broken down into individual sector pipes. In the meantime, I think it’s worth trying a cross-sector approach, both to offer a single source of news about all libraries (that use RSS feeds!) and to facilitate sharing ideas across sectors.

So the next step will be to add feeds from FE libraries, the outstanding 6 HE institutions and the National Library of Scotland. It would be ideal to extend this to other sectors but there are obviously time constraints associated with going through individual school websites, for example, so we may have to look at different ways of getting this information for other library sectors.

In the longer term, we hope to use the output from the feeds to improve the SLIC/CILIPS news output delivered via Slainte news. This currently depends on user submissions combined with staff searching so the Yahoo pipe will certainly be a useful internal tool.

Digitisation 2.0 style?

Most people are probably familiar with CAPTCHA style authentication, whereby online transactions are verified as being human rather than machine generated through the requirement to type displayed text. This spam filtering mechanism is now common when setting up email accounts, buying goods online or even booking a place at a CILIPS CPD event!

However, the creator of CAPTCHA, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has developed the system a stage further. reCAPTCHA aims to assist in the digitisation of old texts by displaying words that baffle Optical Character Recognition (OCR) devices. When texts are scanned, words that are skipped by the OCR process are sent out as CAPTCHA words. More information about how this works in practice can be found on the CAPTCHA website.

The system is currently being used to digitise books from the Internet Archive and old editions of the New York Times. According to an interview in the journal Science, the CAPTCHA team reported that web users had transcribed enough text to fill more than 17,600 books, with better than 99% accuracy.

Could this be a viable, large scale digitisation strategy or is it just an example of Web 2.0 gone wild?!