On Friday (22 March 2013) I attended the LIRHEAnet Annual Seminar at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Waking up to a downpour of rain did reduce the spring in my step somewhat as I made my way there. But, being Irish, it takes more than a bit of flooding to put me off a day out. Admittedly watching multiple buses sail past due to the DART lines being closed at Bray did leave me somewhat behind plan for getting to the seminar on time, but I made it with minutes to spare.
The theme for the day was “Publishing, Partnership and Innovation: the imperatives for the 21st Century Library”. The seminar was opened by Brendan Devlin of LIR Group who welcomed us all, thanking those who are leaving the committee and requesting us all to turn off our mobile device in order to create sufficient bandwidth for the first speakers who were Skyping in from Australia. There were a few hiccups throughout the presentation, with sound and image disappearing at a few stages, but that didn’t detract for me. As I don’t have any experience in setting up Skype conferencing it was good to know the type of issues which can be expected and the alternative strategies which can be applied to resolve the problem (texting the speakers via Skype to let them know the sound connection had gone, cutting off the call to advise the speakers there was a problem and, my personal favourite, waving arms at the webcam to get the speaker’s attention. Sometimes a face-to-face interaction is the perfect response!)
The day’s first speakers David Groenewegen (Monash University) and Martin Borchert (Queensland University of Technology) who spoke about e-support for research. David spoke first, sharing his thoughts on the digital repository strategies being pursued in Monash. Currently their repository holds over 91,000 items, not just research articles. He spoke of the importance of consultation in developing policies and noted that policy development is an effective outreach activity in its own right. He also made a very interesting point in terms of framing the need for digital repositories positively, looking at them not in terms of risk and compliance, but in terms of the benefits they can provide for stakeholders.
Martin then spoke about the “green” versus “gold” standards in open access journals i.e. whether fees should be paid for publication of material or whether authors should publish for free but then universities should pay a subscription for the journals. Queensland University of Technology spends approximately AUD100,000 on its digital repository annually and Martin highlighted the importance of the library as a data broker. He mentioned a situation where they had discovered that 13 academics had separately each subscribed to and licensed out the same data subset. Once the library became involved it was possible to centralise the licence and therefore save money for the college.
The next speakers up were Jamie Ward (Dundalk Institute of Technology) and Amanda Branigan (Louth County Libraries). Under the heading of “1 card, 6 libraries”, they discussed a joint project which had taken place to provide reciprocal access for members of Louth County libraries and students in Dundalk IT. Benefits included the sharing of staff practices, developing new skills in promoting events and access to DKIT’s e-resources. Of course no project is complete without its challenges and the different operating systems (Millenium and Horizon library management systems), card bardcodes and changing work practices all required significant collaboration to resolve. Amanda highlighted the opportunity which had arisen as a result of the project to clean up registration records. It sounded like a fantastic project and I can certainly see the benefits for all involved. Collaboration between libraries offers so many opportunities to showcase to a variety library users the variety of services on offer.
Joseph Greene (University College Dublin) spoke next about his experience in hosting an e-journal, a project which was initiated by the School of Social Justice in UCD. As this was the first time the library had been asked to host an e-journal there was a lot of background research to be done in best practice. First decisions included hosting locally or externally. In the end a decision was taken to go externally and to use MPublishing (University of Michigan) which requires only a single once-off payment which then allows the e-journal to be published in perpetuity. Some of the factors which Joseph highlighted for consideration when publishing an e-journal are:
- Hosting fees – Once-off? Or annual?
- Location of Host – are there publishing requirements such as Legal Deposit?
- The journal’s URL (in this case it was http://gsfjournal.org)
- Style and typesetting (How does it look? Can the style be changed?)
- Printing – how will the e-journal render when printed? Is specific print CSS required? What is the availability of print runs?
- Copyright – Who owns it? The author? The e-journal? Or the publisher? What about copyright transfer agreements?
- Listing your e-journal in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) which also allows article-level searching.
- Including Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) which will protect each article even if the format is changed at a later stage.
The next speaker up was Ros Pan, Head of Outreach in UCD Library who spoke about the creation of LibGuides for UCD. LibGuides provide an easy-t0-edit option for librarians to work in a remotely hosted online environment. It is a cloud based computing solution and there are some hard-coding limitations but Ros advised that these were offset by the easy-to-use offering. Ros was keen to point out that the success of the LibGuides would be not the volume of LibGuides which were produced by UCD Library but the volume of usage of the LibGuides which were produced. This was a key message for me, because in my previous experience in working in a website development environment, the usage statistics did not always receive the attention they deserved.
The next speaker up was Marie Cullen from NUI, Maynooth, who reported on Internet Librarian International 2012. Marie was the bursary winner for last year and graciously thanked both LIRHEAnet and NUI Maynooth for their funding of her trip. Marie reported that the ILI 2012 conference looked at innovative services, patron expectations and access via a variety of devices. Due to the volume of presentations which were on offer, and the fact that many ran concurrently, it was necessary to be very selective as to what to attend. She was very positive about the experience and recommended it as well worth attending. A key message which Marie expressed was that it is very important to give your staff time to get comfortable with and experiment with new technology. When staff are comfortable they can then provide the best user experience for library patrons.
Following Marie were a team from Dublin City University (DCU) – Peter Dudley, Siobhan Dunne and Paraic Elliot who spoke about “Adventures in Augmented Reality”. So, what is “augemented reality”? According to the DCU team it is a way of viewing digital content which is blended with real world imagery. It operates similiarly to QR codes except that virtual images are overlaid onto images of other real-world items. See here for a YouTube video showing how AR works.
The DCU team selected Layar as the vendor of choice for their Augmented Reality project. Layar operates a free version (which comes with ads) or a paid for version (which is ad-free). Posters featuring the Layar technology could be placed around campus and accessed by any student with an appropriate smartphone or tablet – “appropriate” because one of the key findings which the team highlighted was the importance of knowing what type of phones the majority of students have. The team stressed the importance of not assuming that all students have smartphones and the risk of creating an exclusive situation by using technology which is not available to all. Another consideration was the positioning of posters. Initially some were so high up that even a standing student had to stretch their arms to scan the poster, which is of course made them inaccessible to shorter students or to those in wheelchairs. What I really liked was that the DCU team had placed posters around the room so that those of us attending the seminar could try out the Layar technology for ourselves – a very effective reinforcement technique.
At this point we broke for lunch, and a good thing too because unfortunately the cold temperature in the hall had most people shivering. The hot soup provided for lunch went some way to warming us up but I have to admit that a couple of us took a quick run across the road to the nearest coffee shop for some hot chocolate (and the chance to sit in a warm room!). Bringing back a second hot chocolate to keep me warm during the next part of the seminar was a good idea – as was keeping my jacket and scarf on for the afternoon, something most people seemed to do.
The first speakers after lunch were Helen Fallon (NUI, Maynooth) and Anne Murphy (Tallaght Hospital Library) who gave a joint presentation on an academic writing workshop which Helen created and Anne attended. Breaking articles into sections and tackling the individual sections rather than feeling that the entire article must be done in a single sitting makes the task significantly less intimidating. Helen also pointed out the importance of recognising that a first draft is just that – a draft. Don’t worry if it’s not a work of genius on your first try, that’s what re-writes are for!
Anne spoke glowingly of her experience on the workshops and the benefits of peer evaluation, in particular the opportunity to receive suggestions on potential publication venues and the fact that reviewing others writing can help you improve your own. She also highlighted the importance of letting your colleagues know when you have been published, particularly if you are working in a medical or legal environment where publication of an article is seen as raising your credibility.
Both Helen and Anne agreed that people develop resilience about their writing through peer-feedback, something which is very important if you are planning to publish. They also highlighted the importance of normalising writing as part of what librarians do. We all write in one capacity or another, be that emails, articles, memos or monographs. We just need to recognise it and focus on improving our skills.
Miggie Pickton from University of Northampton followed Helen and Anne. Miggie talked about the experience gained in sharing LLS (Libary and Learning Services) information and research with university colleagues and the importance of promoting the librarian as researcher to academic colleagues.
Nancy Graham then gave a short presentation on the CoPILOT project which she worked on with Dr. Jane Secker.
Last up were Ellen Breen (Dublin City University) and Michael Ladisch (University College Dublin) talking about MyRI, a free open-source software which measures research impacts. MyRI came out of a National Digital Learning Resources project to develop materials which supported bibliometrics. Benchmarking is becoming ever more important in the current climate and the ability to produce statistics supporting our research will be a key skill which we should all acquire.
Then it was all over bar the Q&A, after which it was time to hit the road. It was an interesting and informative day and I’m glad I braved the bad weather to go. I learned so much about new technologies in a short space of time and even though there wasn’t time for most speakers to go into a substantial amount of detail, it gave me a good starting base from which to begin my own research. As always, I met lots of new people and had the opportunity to chat to librarians working in a variety of fields and this is one benefit of conferences and seminars which should never be undervalued. Next on my agenda is the HSLG conference on 11 April. In the meantime, it’s back to study for me!