Internet Librarian International 2010.

To be perfectly honest, there’s not much in the way of facts from ILI2010 left in my brain! They went in my ears, and straight out of my fingers on to Twitter. Yes, I ignored all the good advice I gave myself about taking more time to reflect and listen, and not just pour out a stream of tweets. A combination of dedicated tweeting and reliable 3g (after hearing the complaints about the wifi I didn’t even try to connect) means I was able to spam entertain my followers with huge numbers of tweets.

Tweeting seemed like the entirely natural thing to do – so much so, that when I was sat on the platform listening to Tony Hirst and waiting for my turn to speak, I was tweeting. Reporting Tony’s session on Twitter actually really helped me: it helped me to feel ‘normal’, and not just a bundle of nerves; it made sure that I had to be listening to Tony (which is always worth doing), and not just running my talk over and over in my head; in short, it helped me to stay relaxed and focussed. I was slightly concerned that the audience would think I was rude for tweeting from the platform, but I misjudged the ILI crowd – only one person commented on it, and she said it was brave 🙂

So, my talk. May as well get this over with now. It went well – very well. (Possibly slightly too well! Have I set a standard I can’t live up to?) The audience was lovely – although it did throw me off when people actually laughed at my jokes. Not a big laugh, but as I was expecting polite smiles at best, it was a bit of a shock. Anyway, the scripting and the practising and the agony paid off – I found myself more confident and comfortable than I’d imagined I could be. Slides are available at slideshare and authorSTREAM – though they don’t make much sense without the text! This should be appearing somewhere (probably here) soon.

So, what – apart from sore thumbs and an inflated sense of importance – did I take away from ILI? One a practical level, the MARC-> RDF mapping from the PODE project, which is very useful when I’m considering the Copac data for the LOCAH project. On a personal level, I got to meet some tweeps I’ve been wanting to for a long time – notable Hazel Hall and Phil Bradley – as well as some lovely new people.

On a professional level, I was struck by how many themes kept recurring in different sessions. These are speakers from different countries, sectors, and career stages, talking about very different topics, yet they had similar themes running through them. A lot of people were talking about edges and interstices – places where the digital and physical libraries overlapped. I love the example from Barbro Wigell-Ryynanen from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, who said that when people bring laptops to the library, they are ‘bringing the virtual library inside the physical library’. That gives me a lovely image of library within library within library – doesn’t matter how far you go – it’s libraries all the way down 😉

People are also starting to design the physical library to interact with the digital library, which is another fascinating idea. This was highlighted by Ebsen Fjord describing the cool developments at Gladsaxe public libraries, including a drawing machine for children, a chair specially designed for listening to music, and an interactive floor. I really like this recognition that the digital library and the physical library are just two parts of the same whole, that should work together and complement each other.

Another idea which struck me strongly was the point that we need to focus on the content, not the container. This came from the closing panel, and was based on the idea that ebooks are letting people get closer to interaction with the pure text – and that it’s this text, and this interaction which is important. Libraries have so often been focussed on the container – to the extent that it is hard to define what a book is: is it the container, or the thing contained? Is it the pages, or the ideas in them? I hope we can make the shift away from our preoccupation with the physical medium, and move to a more ideas-based model.

This recurrence wasn’t just happening within ILI – Lukas Koster was at #openculture2010 that day, and tweeted several times that similar themes were coming up in the two conferences.

I thoroughly enjoyed ILI! But what did I really learn? That the Novotel don’t trust librarians with sharp objects. Or they just really like giving us challenges (“Before you, gentlemen, lies a crusty roll, some butter, and a fork. You must use the materials provided to create a nourishing and delicious meal”).

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