by Clare Harrison (@RCPSGlibrary )
This year, thanks to MmITS, I was lucky enough to attend the Internet Librarian International Conference at Olympia in London. This was a fantastic opportunity both for my own personal development and for the continued development of the services we offer at the library of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow where I currently work as a librarian.
Our library is quite unique in that our patrons are based throughout the world. To ensure that we are able to offer the same level of service to these members as we do to those based more locally we are having to look more and more to technology and the internet. This is by no means a chore – it’s actually quite exciting to find out what is possible and we’re huge fans of open source and anything you can get for free!
We make use of social media (do follow us on twitter @RCPSGlibrary and our blog http://libraryblog.rcpsg.ac.uk!) and have online exhibitions, interactive exhibitions, a digitisation programme, and are also starting to investigate ways of offering our information literacy courses online as part of the College’s new VLE platform.
Online resources are becoming a much larger part of my job, and whilst I have quite a good knowledge of this area, keeping abreast of the latest developments and ensuring we are getting the most out of the resources we use isn’t always easy.
I’ve been looking for some time for an appropriate course to attend but it can be difficult to find relevant/affordable personal development opportunities in this particular area (most seem to be aimed at beginners or are based outside of Scotland) and a 2 day conference down in London would not normally be something I could even consider, so I was delighted when I saw that MmITS were offering a bursary to attend the Internet Librarian International Conference. The programme for the conference looked really interesting and particularly relevant to the work I do here at the College, so I gave it a go and applied for the bursary – And I’m really glad I did!
The conference began with a keynote lecture from Michael Edson from the Smithsonian Institute, discussing the ‘Dark matter of the internet’ and how we are only just beginning to understand and take advantage of the full capabilities of the web. This was very much the theme for the conference – unlocking the whole potential of the web to engage more with new and existing users and open up access to information and, in particular, big data.
On day 2, Rachel Neaman from Go On UK, spoke about “Digital inclusion – the big mission” and how digital skills can empower people. Her keynote talk focused on the need to improve digital literacy skills (1 in 5 UK adults still lack basic digital skills) and how lifelong learning is becoming ever more important – It’s great having all this “stuff” online but we need to be able to use it AND find it.
The conference programme was split into 6 separate tracks over the two days and dealt with the themes of new blueprints for libraries, technology innovation and impact, content innovation, marketing and impact, search and discovery, and closer to communities and customers. It was really difficult to choose which talk to go along to (I could quite happily have gone to most of them) but I did have some particular ideas before I went of what would be most valuable and would fit in best with my personal objectives. I wanted to use this opportunity to explore ways of enhancing our outreach programme and developing ideas for online learning – Of particular interest were the talks on Meaningful social media, Co-creation, co-operation and communities which focused on two projects where the institution had worked closely with the local community, Innovative content (particularly useful as it looked specifically at two medical resources), and Driving digital destinies which looked at collaboration across the heritage sector.
I came back from the conference full of ideas and I think we’ll definitely be implementing some changes (probably only small ones, but ones which I think will help to improve our engagement with our users). It was also an invaluable opportunity to speak to and exchange ideas with fellow professionals – it’s good to hear that you often experience the same problems but also good to hear success stories, pinch a few ideas and even offer some advice.
Finally, a huge thank you to MmITS for providing the bursary, I really did gain a lot from attending the conference.
You can read more about the Internet Librarian International Conference on their website http://www.internet-librarian.com/2014/