Libraries without walls: some thoughts and observations on day one

As you’ll know Gwyneth and I attended the Seventh Libraries Without Walls conference in Molyvos, Lesbos last week so I thought I’d write some initial thoughts, based on my notes. The theme of the conference was ‘Exploring anywhere, anytime delivery of library services’ and I was struck early on by how the conference focused less on distance learning than I had expected. I think this is related to an observation from our literature review, that libraries are increasingly providing access to resources remotely and that all our users visit the library less often, so the distinction between the learner and the distance learner and the librarian and the distance learning librarian is less marked.

The conference was small and friendly and great for networking, with delegates and speakers from the UK, Scandinavia, Africa, India, Sri Lanka, USA, Canada, not to mention other parts of Europe such as Greece and the Czech Republic. Our opening keynote from Christine Borgman (UCLA) on ‘Disciplines, documents and data: emerging roles for libraries in the scholarly information infrastructure’ was fascinating. She made some interesting observations about differences in the disciplines in terms of their access to bibliographic data, which is the sciences is far more comprehensive, than the social sciences and humanities. She also looked at the nature data, and how it is generated and then used in the sciences, social sciences and humanities, looking at the incentives and problems with sharing data sets.

Bo Ohrstrom from the Danish National Library Agency then spoke about electronic library research in Denmark and the importance of cooperation and collective licenses. His findings that library websites in Denmark are underused and users still preferring Google were oh so familiar. However he felt integrated searching, rather than federated searching could be the solution and Denmark is exploring the Ex-Libris product Primo and an open source system called Summa described on this blog.

The third paper from the morning was by Pauline Ngimwa (who Moira has blogged about) looked at the Kenyan experience of providing a digital library service, including the enormous challenges of access to textbooks and connectivity, which we now tend to take for granted in the UK. In particular the low bandwidth in African universities (which is similar to what we might have in the UK on broadband at home), plus the high costs associated with it.

Graham Pryce from Project StORe also spoke in the morning session, as did Margaret Markland on the evaluation work that she carried out on institutional repositories set up as part of the SHERPA project.

Gwyneth and I were speaking straight after lunch on the first day, and we were followed by two similar themed papers. Our slides have been made available for anyone interested and we’ve also been blogged by Moira! The first given by Kara Jones and Kate Robinson from Bath on the ‘rise of recommendation and review’. Again Moira has blogged about Kara and Kate’s paper and also the third paper given by Nancy Graham at the University of Birmingham on the practicalities of developing re-usable learning objects for information skills training. I hugely enjoyed both papers in our session and will certainly be adding Kara and Kate’s project to the updated literature review as a great example of library 2.0 initiative.

As the sunset on the first day of the conference I felt I’d learnt a lot and had some great discussions!

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