Having never visited Bath before, I set off for the (un)conference with the double excitement of seeing somewhere new and hunkering down for a day of quasi-techy chat with a bunch of shambrarians.
The conference took place at the Chapel Arts Centre, a lovely little venue (ignoring the suspect wifi) and was presented by the very dapper Julian Cheal, who kept the day running smoothly (no small feat when faced with a group of varyingly-rowdy librarians).
There were three talks planned for the morning, with the afternoon being set aside for workshopping and general consumption of cake (at least according to my personal itinerary).
The first talk of the morning was by Ben O’Steen, who talked about open bibliography. This is the idea of publishing bibliographic information under a permissive licence to encourage indexing. Ben argued that one of the great advantages of this for the end-user would be an ability to discover a wider web of information through more complex and accurate cross-indexing. However, he also raised the issue of consistency of standards across data sets and the need to clean-up a lot of existing data – an idea that might be met with resistance from cataloguers, who take great pride in their work. Ben strongly advocated the need for open bibliography to be embraced, and illustrated the power of a few with a funny video.
The second talk of the morning came from Dan Williams of Pervasive Media Studio, who talked about the need for information professionals to help manage cyber-data, and also threw around some novel RFID ideas. One of the most interesting themes of Dan’s talk was a discussion on the link between the virtual and physical world, citing many examples where people have moved Internet technologies to more primitive vehicles. For example, many people have created books that feature a compilation of tweets, blog posts, or even entries from Wikipedia, transforming data from an evolving environment to a static one.
The third talk of the morning, from Lukas Koster, was probably the most technical and therefore the one requiring the most concentration on my part. Thankfully, the tea break that preceded Lukas’ talk gave me an opportunity to take a quick caffeine hit and scoff as many biscuits as was decently possible, leaving me in a prime state for information ingestion. Lukas described a project he was working on for linking data between the catalogue records of the University of Amsterdam and the Netherlands Theatre Institute. The concept Lukas described was based on an entity-relationship model, but it was quite technical and my notes don’t make a lot of sense a month down the line, so I won’t attempt to describe it any further than that.
Having concluded the most formal part of the conference lunch was served, which was a great opportunity to meet a few new people (especially as I didn’t know anyone, either in the virtual or real world). Lunch itself was a pleasant surprise; expecting a standard buffet I was inappropriately excited when a huge vat of soup appeared accompanied by warm bread rolls.
The afternoon was split into a range of workshops. I attended the least techy groups possible and ended up discussing empirical ways that libraries could demonstrate their worth (most of which made the inner-scientist in me recoil in horror – thankfully I restrained myself from pointing out some of the methodological flaws for fear of being overly serious), and then ways social media could be integrated into libraries to improve the end-user experience. Finally, I sat in on a session where ideas for RFID mash-ups were thrown around.
All in all it was a really interesting day and I enjoyed looking at a variety of differently technologies and how they could be used to benefit libraries. For those who haven’t been to a Mashed Libraries event before I thoroughly recommend it.