Fresh back from the LIShow in Birmingham, and as usual things have piled up at work. I’ve spent most of the day catching up on enquiries and web-site edits that my colleagues would like me to carry out. It didn’t help that I was finishing early today to go off to a CILIP group meeting. That said, the meeting was very useful and we were all remarkably productive for a sunny Friday afternoon! However I digress.

I haven’t been to the LIShow before, so this year I decided to go for the full 2 days and take advantage of a friend’s hospitality (thanks S!). I’ve often wondered why people only go for one day, and I can kind of see why now. Although when you first enter the designated hall there seems to be more trade stands and paraphernalia than you’ve had hot dinners, once you’ve made your way systematically through the stalls (sampling the odd free glass of wine and picking up the usual freebies in the process) you’ve reached 3pm on the first day and you’ve seen all you need to. I suppose I’m not helped by the fact that I wasn’t really looking for any specific technology solutions as we rely primarily on open-source software to advance our services. However, as the title of this post suggests, I did meet a number of old friends that I hadn’t seen for some time, and most were looking for something specific for their workplaces. They were more than happy to let me tag along on their missions, and it was enlightening to see the different needs of different organisations, and how they were looking to new technologies to solve their problems. One friend was looking at the use of social bookmarking to improve the functionality of their organisation’s intranet search facilities, whereas another was looking at hybrid self issue machines in an attempt to solve a conflict between the use of RFID and EM security systems in her library.

The main draw to the show for me was, however, the series of seminars given over two days. Perhaps with the typical one-day-visitor in mind, he programme seemed to be split largely so that talks appealing to academic and special libraries occurred on the first day, with more school/public library talks on the second day (with, of course, some notable exceptions).

As I mentioned in a previous post, my former lecturer Sheila Corrall was speaking about information literacy, and as usual her talk was very inspiring. She spoke out in favour of Information Literacy (IL) teaching (both formal and informal) as a key mission for librarians from all sectors in the 21st century. Whether it be delivering specifically designed training to patrons, or a public librarian answering a query from a user, we all have the opportunity to pass on our knowledge to others. It is obviously something that we have been encouraged to do for some time now, but it is surprising how easily opportunities can be missed. I have personal experience of answering information requests from my clients and then thinking afterwards that if ‘d approached it from a different angle in the first instance I could have passed on some valuale information about search techniques or new resources to the user, thus adding value to my service.  I make a conscious effort to do this as much as possible, but in the heat of the moment and when time is of the essence this isn’t always easy.  Remote enquiries (which are what I mainly deal with) pose more of a problem as you have no personal contact, so gentle instruction can be more difficult.  However, this is no excuse.  Adding value to your services gives people higher expectations and greater respect for what you do, and this has got to be a good thing both in terms of increasing library usage and awareness of the librarian/information professional’s value to the organisation.

Karen Blakeman’s talk on RSS, Blogs and Wikis was pretty much a concise version of the one she gave at the UC&R Group event in Birmingham in December 2006,  but she is such an engaging speaker and so enthusiastic that it’s hard not to come away from her presentation with at least a few nuggets of new information and a renewed desire to implement more Web 2.0 applications for the benefit of your users.

Thursday also saw some interesting talks, but the most eagerly anticipated (and most well attended) had to be that of Jason Hanley from Google.  He spoke about Google’s services for librarians, including their booksearch facility (where he made every effort to stress that no copyrights were being broken!) and their Librarian Central site, which incorporates a blog of new developments.  However, I was most interested in the Google Co-op application, which allows you to build your own search engine, focusing on only sites you select yourself.  It’s a bit like what Rollyo has been doing for some time now, but with the power of Google’s search algorithms behind it.  I haven’t yet looked into it in detail yet, but I would hope the Google effort doesn’t limit the number of sites you can add to your personalised engine.  This would be a real advantage, and would allow for some excellent professional applications.  I’m currently working on a social bookmarking site targeted specifically at our user-base, and the ability to add all the relevant resources to a dedicated search engine would prove to be exceptionally valuable for meeting their information needs.  Indeed, some form of mash-up of the 2 sites to show the search box along with the bookmarking site itself would be great.  Using a service like superglu or a library blog to incorporate multiple Web/Library 2.0 features together is becoming an increasingly simple process, and it’s definitely something I’d consider.  The less places my users have to traipse for their information the better as far as I’m concerned.

So, to wrap up, from a newbie’s perspective the LIShow proved to be a very interesting experience, with lots of new technology on show and key thinkers in the LIS field empowering the rest of us with ideas on how to use it all!  Ok, so 2 days may be a little long for one person, but putting in the effort was worth it for the ideas that I came away with.  And as a bonus, I shan’t need to buy any pens for the library for at least 12 months now!! 😉

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