Tuesday, 27 August 2013

World Library and Information Congress 2013

Thanks to the generosity of the John Campbell Trust in awarding me a travel / conference bursary, I was able to attend the IFLA WLIC2013 conference in Singapore - my first ever large-scale global conference!

Singapore is such a vibrant place, it's a real melting pot of cultures from all over Asia and India. With over three thousand delegates from across the globe, I knew I was about to get some serious international perspective! After registering, where we were even given complimentary travel cards for the metro, my first session focused on e-books and e-book provision. It was invaluable to be given a perspective on the developments and challenges faced by each continent of the world on this topic straight from my international colleagues. Seeing how much people do with comparatively little budgets and next to no infrastructure is truly humbling.

The main theme was all about the future; future libraries, infinite possibilities. Are we ready for the future? Are our services? Can we even predict how trends will happen? How can we ensure that our collections and our services will still be a part of the information process in a hundred years time? These are difficult and challenging questions to ask, but I found it really inspiring to be able to ask them together with international colleagues without any pre-existing assumptions or fears. It was liberating to gain different perspectives.

Essentially, we need to start to look at resource collaboration where appropriate and we need to think really carefully about how we can best expose our collections to the ubiquitous web search engines.

 Open Access cropped up in several guises: as an aid to collection development in Canadian libraries, as an important tool in research development, and as a bridge between knowledge management and democracy. Subject access and collection management models also came under scrutiny. One newly established library explained how their collections model had been set up and the policy developed. Resource sharing models were explored, such as Taiwan's public library e-books model and the Uborrow scheme set up between several academic libraries in the mid-West of North America.

The British Library explained their project to transform over ten thousand off-air recordings from pure video speech into transcribed text. One of the problems they faced were accents. For example, 'turn-up' was often mistaken for 'turnip.' Retrieval of specific content within videos was also discussed, with several indexing methods proposed.

The future of MARC was a hot topic and much discussed in light of developments in linked data standards. As someone who has recently trained staff across my organisation in RDA, the future of bibliographic standards and models is very relevant to my work. If we accept that, as was proposed at this conference, a large proportion of our users are starting their information search on a web search engine, we need to make our bibliographic data more discoverable by web browsers. It is all about making sure that the library, our collections and our services, are not overlooked. We have so much value to add to the learning experience, we need to start making this more explicit.

On a professional development level, this conference was astoundingly important to me. I would encourage everyone to apply for awards and bursaries to attend international conferences. It has developed me and furthered my perspective on these issues that are affecting libraries now and will most likely continue to offer us challenges and opportunities in the future. What's really important is to recognise challenges and then turn them into positive opportunities. If we can do this, our future libraries will have infinite possibilities.

So a big thanks once again to the John Campbell Trust and to all the volunteers and speakers who made this conference possible! And finally, thanks to my wonderful husband for accompanying me to this amazing place, and for keeping busy when I was at conference sessions without one word of complaint. My very last thanks must of course go to Singapore itself, that steamy tropical multi-cultural technologically plugged-in paradise. Malls, 7/11s and hawker markets - I'll never forget you. So long, and thanks for all the Slings!

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