Conference reports 6 – Internet Librarian International

Today's report is from Laura Armiero.

Last year I attended the Spring Event at the American University of Rome and heard about the SLA. I realised the SLA was exactly what I was looking for: an international association of people sharing professional interests and opportunities for networking. I never imagined that, a few months later, I’d have the opportunity to attend the ILI conference in London; I was fortunate enough to win, courtesy of SLA Europe, a free ticket for the ILI2009 conference.

It was the first time I had attended a conference in London. I was very impressed by how many people from different countries there were; and how many non-librarians. What an opportunity to share different points of view! I found that probably I was the only Italian; so I felt responsibility to share with my colleagues at home what had happened at the conference. I was also impressed by the use of laptops and smartphones during the conference and how many people were tweeting during the presentations; could it have been otherwise in a conference for Internet Librarians?

The keynote speeches were opportunities to hear influential opinions from a high level, by important people. The opening one was Cory Doctorow’s “Copyright, Copyleft, Privacy, Librarians and Freedom.” He spoke about the new kind of information on the Internet, how copying is easier and the problems this causes: the need for new rules for copyright and the role of librarians in assuring access to information at a global level. According to Doctorow libraries play an important role in managing information from the Internet, and should be involved in the creation of new rules. They also need to ensure access to information, particularly for poor countries. Access to information means opportunity for economic development. He talked about every kind of information you can find on the Internet, the various media, such as videos, images, multimedia, yet he ended his talk with a declaration of love for books as physical objects representing our own personal stories and knowledge. Cory Doctorow was adamant that books have an emotional value; and this for me was surprising but, at the same time, worthy of reflection.

The conference was divided up into three different streams so I was spoilt for choice: which should I attend? They were all so interesting; I tried to attend as many presentations as I could. I will make some comments about selected presentations I particularly appreciated.

I attended the entire track dedicated to Information Literacy, because this is what I’m currently working on. I particularly enjoyed these sessions because they gave me ideas and suggestions for my job; so I was up-to-date about what colleagues from other countries are doing in this field. I found out about student surveys made by colleagues from Norway and from the UK; applications of Web 2.0 technologies at the University of Leicester and how quickly and efficiently these technologies were used by students themselves at the University of Singapore. I found out about how Web 2.0 technologies help students not used to using Internet at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Finally I learned about programme for Library staff at Imperial College London inspired by the 23 Things.

The second day's keynote, Peter Murray-Rust’s “Challenging Librarians to Face and Create the Future”, brought me to the more familiar field of academic libraries; even if he talked in general about the mission of libraries and the role they will play in the future, most of the examples he made in his talk were from academics. He also spoke against some copyright rules and the current model for publishing scientific research results. He asserted the active role librarians today must have in changing the situation. That confirmed for me what I firmly believe is a topic for discussion in Italy. He strongly affirmed that open source and cooperation are the answer to these problems and that new technology gives us a lot of useful collaborative tools to facilitate this.

At the end of the second conference day, the theme of the closing panel was “Top Technology Trends for Libraries and Information Professionals“; some expert information professionals from different backgrounds shared very briefly their ideas about the top trends for libraries in the future (cooperation, new technologies, OPAC as gaming, return to paper…); I found interesting and, in some cases, even fun.

As an added value of the Conference, I had the opportunity to meet the two SLA Europe members, Sara and Emma; with them I had only had email contact and it was a pleasure for me to meet them and to share our professional experiences. I also met colleagues from other countries, especially from Northern Europe and from the UK.

The fact that throughout the entire conference the importance of the role of libraries in the future and the challenges which face us as librarians filled me with enthusiasm especially as it was affirmed by non librarian people. I met interesting people from different backgrounds and, even if maybe I missed or didn’t understand something, I came back with new ideas and new and useful things I’m sure I will be able to use every day in my job.

Laura obtained her Postgraduate Diploma in Library Science at the Sapienza University of Rome in 1997. She worked as Assistant Librarian at the Faculty of Medicine Library of the University of Bologna in 1989-1990 She worked as Librarian at the Faculty of Architecture of Sapienza University of Rome in 1990-2004. Since 2005, she has been Library Manager at Department of Computer and System Sciences Antonio Ruberti.

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