The first in our series of reports from Internet Librarian International 2010 comes from David Ogden, Senior Librarian at the Ministry of Justice.
Subtitled The Innovation and Technology Conference for Information Professionals, I spent a useful day at this conference at the Novotel London West hotel on 14 October 2010.
Keynote speech on the day was What Would Socrates Say? by the author of Breakfast with Socrates, Robert Rowland Smith. Basically this involved how can philosophy help librarians?
Robert told us “There is nothing outside the cow” – an old Chinese story about a cow who eats everything in the world. Plato and Socrates believed in a similar structure for the world, i.e. that there is a higher truth, or more ideal world too in addition to the world we live in. Robert discussed the notion of a lie and how it can be a good or bad thing! Plato calls it the noble lie. An example is George W Bush’s war on terror which distorts the complexities of 9/11. Another example is the Cold War which simplified the fact that all the eastern European countries were very different. Staff appointed to specific roles e.g. sales or Marketing Director will act according to how they believe staff in these roles should behave.
Next up came a choice of three parallel sessions – I chose Track C Resource Management.
First session was “Relating Value to Price and Budget”. Making content decisions within budget has always been important, but with today’s economic situation, it’s become critical. In their presentation, Ulla de Stricker, Armand Brevig and Anja Chemnitz Thygesen examined the complexity of value assessment and the justification to management.
Another book selling plug came at the end – it was like watching the One Show! Ulla told us about her new book “Business Cases for Info Pros: here’s how, here’s why” 2008 which did sound very useful. The social capital you can build is priceless was her war cry. She doesn’t dismiss Google as an information source – if you’re getting 95% of required information from it, that’s not bad. We have to be realistic!
Anja told us don’t fall for a “once in a lifetime offer” – it will be on offer again six months later! He described three key strategies:
- Visibility – be more visible in the office
- Positioning – act professionally, stay behind when needed. Participate at key meetings
- Understanding - ensure you’re involved in price/ product negotiations
Armand was enthusiastic about outsourcing, of journal collections and reprint orders for example. His firm have saved a lot of money. No one in the audience was very positive about outsourcing, much to his dismay. He emphasised the need to find a suitable partner.
The social web permeates our information departments and our personal lives. But how to measure the effectiveness of our use of the social web?
Brian Kelly is the face behind UK Web Focus. He said the social web is becoming a accepted as a valuable tool for use by information professionals. He examined the Gartner Hype Cycle – this features a peak of inflated requirements, then a trough of disillusionment, finally a plateau of productivity.
Statistics are essential – its not enough to just think you’re doing a good job. Your users may indicate that services are no longer being used or alternatively the evidence may indicate that services are very popular and need extra resources.
Twitter is rapidly surpassing Google for many website hits. Twitter has already replaced mailing lists as a way of updating your audience. Twitter is a significant driver of traffic. Where would blogs be now without Twitter?
Joy Palmer examined how benefits drive engagement aka sales. She advised us that it is essential to analyse your audience’s use and perceptions of your services. She recommended the Guide to Researching Audiences (concise edition) , a JISC publication. A useful question to ask your users is “If the service didn’t exist, what would you do? “. She described how Mimas performed quantitative and qualitative research, with minimal resources, to bring a new understanding of how the services impact research and the knowledge economy.
All in all it was a very stimulating conference and in particular it will make me take Web 2.0 applications more seriously. The location was excellent as was the catering. The conference name, Internet Librarian sounds very outdated to me however – there must be something more modern and appealing!