Thinking big at the Libraries Australia Forum

Thinking big at the Libraries Australia Forum
Librarians from around the world met in Melbourne to talk library resources in a linked data world
4 January 2016

On 1 December 2015 more than 180 librarians and library technicians gathered at the State Library of Victoria for the 2015 Libraries Australia Forum. The theme of this year’s Forum was ‘Unique to ubiquitous: library resources in a linked data world’. The Forum’s intent was to deliver a range of perspectives, from global, regional and local, highlighting directions in a range of areas that are relevant to Libraries Australia members.

Libraries Australia is a resource sharing service managed by the National Library of Australia for Australian libraries and their users.

The day opened in style with scene-setting from the National Library of Australia’s Director General, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, and Marie-Louise Ayres, Assistant Director General, National Collections Access Division. Anne-Marie exhorted us to create value for our users through high-quality bibliographic services. Marie-Louise shared the National Library of Australia’s approach to resource sharing infrastructure: our services are a mix of custom and purchased software and the choice for each approach is informed by the market. If hosted services exist and meet our service’s needs then it is the approach we will take.

Our colleagues Jenny McDonald and Kaye Foran from ‘across the ditch’ shared New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings style quest to revolutionise their members’ resource sharing and cataloguing needs by moving to a hosted, cloud-based service. Their mantra has been ‘rent rather than buy, buy rather than build’. Their experiences have been overwhelmingly positive and the National Library of Australia will be learning from their experience.

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Lorcan Dempsey from OCLC broadened our horizons with his discussion of the changing nature of collections in a networked world. Libraries are now paying attention to the collection and sharing of research data, and not just the published results of that data. In the digital world, library workflows will increasingly organise around the workflows of researchers and learners: workflows that will both create and consume information resources. Dempsey challenged us to become partners in research, learning and knowledge creation. Libraries will need to do more towards ‘conscious coordination’ of distributed resources rather than curation of an ‘owned’ collection.

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Kevin Bradley from the National Library of Australia shared the findings of the National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) Pictures Digitisation and Description Project working group. The group found an interesting variety in digitisation workflows, and a lack of end-to-end process visibility, metrics and automation. Although no ‘super workflow’ has yet been found, the National Library of Australia is focusing on continuously improving digitisation workflows, with an emphasis on our strategic direction of ‘making access happen’: as Bradley said, the goal is to get picture collections shared as quickly as possible, which has led to the implementation of a ‘no research’ rule. And at the very least, digitise your finding aids.

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Kevin Bradley, Senior Curator Pictures and Manuscripts, discusses digitisation workflows.

David Whitehair from OCLC gave us an overview of OCLC’s WorldShare Collection Manager, a service which manages eCollections, and John Butera from Swinburne University of Technology shared his library’s experiences of using this service to source MARC records for demand driven acquisitions of EBL titles.

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After lunch the Forum kicked off with a panel session which discussed linked open data. Linked data extraordinaire Ingrid Mason led a lively discussion between Peter Neish, Karen Yoshimura-Smith and Ebe Kartus. As a profession we are at the beginning of these discussions, but our technology, and more importantly our history of creating good quality metadata, will make linking our data possible in the very near future. Linked open data will create meaningful relationships between the entities described in our records—we will be able to flood the internet with library data.

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Monika Szunejko, Director Libraries Australia, introduces the linked open data panel.

Basil Dewhurst reported on the progress of the project to redevelop the Australian Libraries Gateway and the Interlibrary Resource Sharing Directory, the first major overhaul either service has received since they were launched in 1998 and 2001.

The day was entertainingly and informatively rounded out by Dennis Massie who asked the big questions: is there intelligent life in space, and are interlibrary loans going up or down? Massie took OCLC’s interlibrary loans data apart to see what was really happening in this space.

The Forum produced a lively Twitter discussion which has been captured in Storify, if you’d like to explore the day in tweets.

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And in a small measure of success, the Forum’s hashtag, #laf2015, was trending in Australia—we were filling Australian Twitter with library discussion, which can only be a good thing.

From one catalogue to rule them all, to linking all our data, via digitisation workflows and interlibrary loan costs, 2015’s Libraries Australia Forum gave all who attended much to think about. Geoff Strempel closed the Forum with the thought that much of the work we are doing now will be helping users in 50 years’ time.

There are many advantages to attending a Libraries Australia Forum.

  • Learn—about the forces that will be shaping the work you do now and into the future.
  • Network—talk about the issues affecting your library’s clients with colleagues from other libraries.
  • Share—take back ideas and inspiration to your workplaces.

Join us for next year’s Forum where we will endeavour to give you all that and more.

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The speakers at the 2015 Libraries Australia Forum.

Comment: 
Hi Catriona, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. I just have a question regarding "Linked Open Data", given that it has been a year now since that great conference, have you observed any immediate impacts since the forum? Thanks