Sunday, December 09, 2007

Notes from E-Info Global Symposium, Dec. 6 & 7, Huntsville, AL

I had the pleasure of being one of the speakers at the E-Info Global Symposium. This was a regional conference held in Huntsville, AL geared towards academic librarians. There were nine speakers from the U.S. andCanada who presented on a variety of topics. I spoke on "Trends in eRepositories."

This Symposium (conference) was held on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), however, librarians from across the state as well as Mississippi attended (and perhaps from other states too). Huntsville is in the northern part of Alabama. There seems to be many defense-related businesses in that region. Driving from the airport to campus, we passed the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, where Space Camp is held. Visible from the highway were several rockets and a space shuttle. Huntsville has the second largest research park in the U.S., so this is indeed a place of much activity.

The conference was opened on Thursday afternoon by Dr. David Williams, President, UAH and Dr. Wilson Luquire, Dean of the Library. The first speaker was Stephen Abram, who was also the Conference Chair. Tidbits from his presentation:
  • The cell phone is the dominant device now.
  • Libraries are becoming social spaces and not solely focused on content. (BTW Learning used to be quite social in how it occurred, so we're returning to our roots.)
  • Rather than focusing on books, we're moving to focusing on articles and chapters. (So metadata, etc., needs to ensure that we can get down to that level efficiently.)
  • Don't build libraries for librarians; build them for users.
  • Although we rail against Wikipedia, mistakes in Wikipedia are corrected quickly. Mistakes in a printed publications aren't corrected until the next version is printed (if it is printed).
  • Librarians need to help to improve the quality of the questions that are asked. Improved questions will help people find the answers they really want.
  • Students start with Internet searches. Where do they go after that?
  • LibraryThing is the second largest library in North America (I hope I have that correct).
Stephen, during his presentation, shows us this video from Mike Wesch entitled "A Vision of Students Today." (Really worth watching!)

Jeff Trzeciak, University Librarian at McMaster University, was the second speaker and he spoke on "Transformation Leadership: Process & Change." Jeff has been at McMaster for 18 months and spoke about the changes that library is undertaking as well as other useful facts.
  • He mentioned the "expanding digital universe" and noted that YouTube had 100 million downloads per day in 2006.
  • Library users now move easily from physical to virtual.
  • Students are learning through discovery.
  • In the McMaster Library, there were not enough electrical outlets. Our users are coming with devices that they want to plug in and use. Our libraries need to be able to accommodate them.
  • McMaster will be digitizing World War I and World War II materials.
  • McMaster has approx. 22,000 students and 14,000 of those students each day come to the library building.
By the way, I learned from Jeff that the NAFTA treaty allows librarians (MLS) to move across the borders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. quite easily for employment purposes. Evidently, more than a few librarians from the U.S. have found positions in Canada.

Elizabeth Unger, Academic Fellow at Kansas State University, gave a talk entitled "Social Tools on a Shoe String" but talked very little about social tools, yet made us all think.
  • She showed us several math programs and we quickly saw the context of the questions, which allowed us to answer them correctly. However, the last question she displayed reminded us that we can't assume the context. Assuming is something we're good at.
  • What will the university of the future look like?
  • How do we assure the integrity of the information?
  • How do we improve the quality of the communication?
  • She mentioned this book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture.
  • Identity theft happens to one in 40 people. We're sharing personal information all the time online (even through our library systems). How can we help to protect personal information?
Beth shows us this video from the YouTube Ethnography Project headed by Mike Wesch.

Rolf Goedhardt, from, talked about the changes that have not occurred in our classrooms over the last 100+ years and then talked about a product that his company is marketing which provides a new tool for teachers. What really stood out to me is that we are still teaching the same way that we have for decades (if not longer), and we assume that paradigm will still work today, yet we know from test scores, etc., that it isn't working.

The last speaker on Thursday was Amanda Etches-johnson, who also works at McMaster University. Amanda talked about staff development and five weeks to a social library project. Her presentation is here (4.9 MB). One of her key points is that we need to focus on learning, not on training. We need to get people exploring, experimenting and playing with technology.

On Friday morning, Barbara Tierney, Information Desk Coordinator for University of North Carolina at Charlotte, talked about "The Information Commons: Arena for Innovation." You can read an overview of her presentation here as well as download a bibliography and view photos/details of several learning commons (53 MB file, but worth downloading to view). We've gone from having computer labs to information commons and now to learning commons. And there are commons that integrate faculty, teaching and research into their spaces. She said that if you can't get to the library from Google, you won't get there. (A similar point was made by other speakers, including myself.)
  • She suggested that we must be tuned into what is new -- or coming -- in a student's world. We need to be ready for the "next thing."
  • Place the commons near the front of the facility.
  • Design a flexible space.
  • Provide for collaborative learning spaces.
  • Temple University has the largest information commons.
She made lots of other points, but I couldn't write them down fast enough. However, I'm sure they are in the book she just co-authored as well as in other writings.

The next speaker was me and I'll post about that tomorrow. Unfortunately, I did not get to hear the final two speakers -- Scott Nicholson (Program Director, Masters in Library and Information Science for the iSchool at Syracuse Univ.) and Rick Luce (Vice Provost and Director of University Libraries, Emory Univ.) -- because I had to catch my flight. Scott talked about gaming trends in libraries while Rich talk about transformation leadership. Their presentations should be on the E-Info Global Symposium web site soon.

The staff at UAH did a wonderful job putting this conference together. Thanks to Annette Parrish for her attention to details and Daniel, Daniel & Tom (or D-D-T) who oversaw the technology used during the event. They all could give lessons to other small conferences on how to ensure that things go well.

At the start of my presentation, I encouraged everyone to find one thing in each presentation to take back to the office and share. Imagine the innovations that could occur from that effort?!

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