Ask Scotland Development Day

The morning of Friday the 13th of November saw the Ask Scotland Development day at the Mitchell library. The day was a chance to outline the overall strategy of implementing the service and was also an opportunity for the first group of librarians involved in Ask Scotland to ask questions about it and give their own thoughts.

Elaine Fulton, Director of SLIC, started the day with a brief introduction to the day and the ideas behind Ask Scotland. Library services need to do more to keep themselves relevant in an age where increasingly the perception is that the first place to gather information is Google and Wikipedia. Library services need to align themselves more closely with the needs of a generation that tends to expect to receive information immediately and also not to discriminate between formats.

This introduced Senior Information Officer, Gillian Hanlon’s, presentation about the Ask Scotland service. Developments in the web (commonly described as “web 2.0”) allow people to access and discuss information in a variety of ways. People can share information via social networks or even contribute to the knowledge held online via a variety of services such as wikipedia or youtube. Furthermore this desire amongst people to contribute as well as consume can lead to the development of other services, such as the free to use Ask A Citizen service which allows volunteers to answer questions about their country.

This, to detractors, would seem to make libraries an anachronism. However, library services have much to offer to web users that goes beyond what they can find when making searches at online repositories or via online search engines. Scottish library services have much to offer even now; as a community they have great reserves of professional knowledge and also a great deal of esoteric knowledge which is less likely to turn up easily in a Google search.

Many people have an interest in, for example, genealogy or local history. Queries about these topics are where local library services can shine. Indeed, when it came to discussing the kinds of question that are frequently received at reference desks it seems clear that these kinds of query are frequently received by reference librarians. When one considers both those that have moved within Scotland and the wider Scottish diaspora, it would seem that the ability for anybody anywhere to make enquiries on Scottish matters is a positive step for Scottish libraries.

After the presentations the day moved on to a discussion amongst those that are already making use of Ask Scotland and what they have found so far and what they’d hope to see. Also considered were future developments of Ask Scotland (including frequently asked questions, how this can feed into ongoing digitisation projects, and the implementation of new services, such as online chat.)

Overall the day was a positive one and we hope to see Ask Scotland go from strength to strength! Thoughts or questions about the service and any ideas for improving it are always welcome, too.


Emerging trends in technology: IFLA 2009, satellite meeting

In the lead up to the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) World Library and Information Conference (WLIC), which opens in Milan on Sun 23 Aug, a number of pre-conference satellite meetings have been held across Italy, with a few others taking place in other European destinations.

I attended the IFLA Information Technology Section’s event, titled Emerging trends in technology: libraries between Web2.0, semantic web and search technology, which was held in Florence 19-20 Aug. The topic of this meeting fits in well with my work at SLIC, and I was especially interested to find out about developments and initiatives related to the adoption of new technologies in libraries in different parts of the world.

Due to problems with my flight, I missed the first part of the programme but was glad that many of the issues that had been covered were consolidated through the talk show (panel discussion) that took place on day two. The slides from the whole meeting will also be made available so I look forward to browsing the talks that I missed.

On day two, the presentations covered: the European Library’s work on developing a schema for the integration of web applications and services infrastructure; the ongoing development of OCLC’s WorldCat in line with emerging technologies and a discussion of ontologies and folksonomies.

There was also a particularly interesting presentation by Anne Christensen of Hamburg State University Library on next generation catalogues and users’ expectations. Anne discussed her experience of implementing the beluga project in Hamburg and provided some fascinating insights from user feedback.

The day ended with my own presentation on Web2.0 in Scottish libraries, which focused on CILIPS and SLIC’s engagement with Web2.0, including the forthcoming Web2.0 guidelines. Following my talk, I discovered that the IFLA Information Technology section had been considering developing international Web2.0 guidelines and I was invited to contribute to this process. I was pleased to learn that Scotland is leading the way in this type of work and look forward to being involved in the international collaboration.

Enterprise, engagement and new communications: Web 2.0 in the library

On the warmest day of the year in Edinburgh so far the hottest ticket in town gained admission to this sell out event at the National Library of Scotland where the key themes of the day were communication and engagement.

While some sectors have experienced enthusiastic uptake of social networking technology the public library service has been slow to engage.  Not so Edinburgh City whose head of service Liz McGettigan spoke passionately about how the service had seized on Web 2.0 to engage with users, exploit the collective intelligence of user communities  and  build the foundations for the library of the future.

Phil Bradley advocated  use of weblogs and Flickr as well as Librarything to enhance communication and engagement but stressed that ‘it’s the activity, not the tools’ which is important.

Jason Campbell of JISClegal highlighted the law surrounding Web 2.0 for library and information service staff in his usual entertaining style while sharing insights and anecdotes gleaned from his work with the tertiary education sector.

Gillian Hanlon  introduced important work being undertaken at SLIC to create national guidelines for library services which will support the implementation of Web 2.0 services across the Scottish information landscape.   She discussed CILIP’s use of liveblogging and Twitter during our recent annual Conference at Peebles to open up the Conference and engage in new ways. Finally, Dave Errington from TALIS  took everyone on a nostalgic trip down  memory lane as he discussed the effects of disruptive technology.

Delegates came away from the Conference with the key message that Web 2.0 is integral to community engagement and should be a part of library core services.