Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reference Excellence

This morning at Information Online 2009 Ross, Ellen & Cathy presented their paper detailing the path the Reference & Information Services Group (RISG) has been travelling with the development of the NSW Public Libraries' Reference Excellence project culminating in the Ref-Ex wiki.
It's been a long while coming but it's great to see that the Ref-Ex wiki is now out there for public library staff from around NSW to use as a training tool.
The talk came across well and received some good questions from the audience - now it's up to you to go online and use this training tool to both enhance your existing reference skills, develop some new ones or train up new staff - and don't forget to provide feedback to the maintenance & modification crew on how the Ref-Ex wiki could be made even bigger and better than it currently is.

Information online - day 2

Laura Campbell from the Library of Congress spoke about current collaborations.

The National Digital Information Infrastructure and preservation program aims to capture “at risk “ born digital material”. This is done through a distributed network of over 130 partners who collect this content. So far 248 terabytes of at risk content has been collected, and by 2013 they should have 650 terabytes

See for more information.

Another venture to watch for is the World digital library network. This has over 25 partners and includes enhanced description and consistent high quality metadata. You will be able to search by place, time, topic, type of item, institution in 6 Unesco languages plus Portuguese. Viewers can add content. Core metadata has to be provided by the contributor in their first language. There are three pillars to the strategy for this project – content acquistion, construction of sustainable network, and development of state of the art web site. The public launch date is 21 April. Watch this site Laura finished her presentation by saying “creative collaboration is the key to future invention and innovation”.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Information Online 2009 (day 1 - part b)

The session: From Sandbox to Search Box took 3 different approaches to the idea of "engagement". John Law from ProQuest discussed the need for having seemless and simplified access to content via the library catalogue; Lili Wilkinson from the State Library of VIC then spoke about 2 websites hosted by VSL - 'ergo' and 'inside a dog' - specifically targeting YA. Whilst 'ergo' is a learning and research site helping teens to develop onine literacy skills in exploring Victoria's rich history, 'inside a dog' is a teen-focussed site for books and reading, providing reading lists compiled and reviewed by teen peers rather than adults (librarians, teachers, parents). Both are extremely poplular and show the value of reading and blogging to this particular demographic.
Finally Paul Hagon from the National Library of Australia spoke about different ways of exploring visual collections (think Picture Australia) using specific examples from the PowerHouse Museum being loaded into flickr, translated by GoogleMaps into a geographical location, and then utilised by GoogleMaps Street View to enable a comparison between the hitorical image and the modern one. This process utilised the APIs of the sites to withdraw relevant information (such as geotagging on flickr) and then translate that into a different perspective (GoogleMaps Street View). So on the one screen you could see the historical picture as well as the modern street view - very cool.
Bottom line, the more we share, the more we engage.

Information Online 2009 (day 1)

It's great to see there's a few of us here at Information Online 2009 - yesterday was a full day with the Official Opening from Senator Stephen Conroy followed by Sherman Young from Macquarie Uni posing the question of the difficulties faced in finding a 'place' for the book in the Web 2.0 world. He made some interesting comments, among the few that standout are that the modern 'user' doesn't want to pick up a device and 'go online', today's user wants to pick up a device that is already online; modern access should be invisible, ubiquitous, connected, multimedia.
He also spoke about the need to consider 'book culture' and 'print culture' as distinct elements rather than the same thing - Young recently published a book, "The book is dead: long live the book" - and stressed that so as not to 'die out' altogether, books need to become part of the online community.

Elizabeth Lawley

Elizabeth Lawley spoke about Libraries as happiness engines based on some work done by Jane McGonigal a game designer who has presented on Games are happiness engines.

Lawley highlighted the range of games including learning 2.0, reading programs, suduko, board games as well as online games with the highest percentage of gamers being adult women.

Also mentioned that four key elements of happiness are
o satisfying work to do
o the experience of being good at something
o time spent with people we like
o the chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself

and that libraries can help people with this and library staff can be happy as well. Mary Poppins was also an inspiration.

Paul Hagon

Have a look at some of the mashups Paul Hagon is doing using images on the Flickr commons, Google maps and other tools. Check out his paper from Information Online (available later this week).


The State Library of Victoria has been using Vocera devices to provide a roving reference service since 5 January this year. You will have heard about this technology at the reference seminar last year, and if you want a reminder of the details you can read my paper here.

I think this implementation helps show the importance of travel scholarships, so think about applying for the Colin Mills scholarship, or for a Churchill Fellowship. Note Churchill Fellowships close at the end of February.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Online gaming and problem solving

According to a recent article in New Scientist online games are solving uncomputable problems

Using the distributed skills base of online gaming enthusiasts scientists (with the help of the general public) are able to find out things which has been beyond their reach including more ideas about how proteins can be folded, and about spiral galaxies. You may want to profile some of these games in your libraries as a way of stretching people's understanding about online gaming.

I am just starting some research into the possible and actual use of gaming methodology for reference and information services. There would seem to be some really useful areas around expanding research skills as well as in other areas.

If you have never tried online gaming check out one of the games mentioned at the end of the New scientist article.