John Coll, Head of Access at the National Library of Scotland, kindly provides his thoughts on the ILI Conference 2012.

If January is a time for New Year resolutions then mine must be to provide a rather belated report on the Internet Librarian International Conference (ILI) that I was very fortunate to attend back in November 2012. This was my first attendance at such a conference and the international theme was very much evident both from the mix of speakers and delegates present, as well as the range of papers that covered work in America, Asia and Europe.

Space prevents me from covering the conference in detail, but the very wide range of topics covered would make if difficult for anyone interested in digital information not to take something useful back from the conference.

ILI 2012


Prof. David Lankes’ paper on ‘Stop Lending and Start Sharing’ was both stimulating and challenging in terms of its view that a library’s role as a physical building that lends, needs to be superseded by one that facilitates knowledge creation within its own community. Roly Keating‘s paper on the work the British Library was doing in terms of digital curation and access was a useful summary for those unaware of the great strides being done by national libraries in terms of incorporating digital content.

The sheer number of other presented papers makes it difficult to single out specific topics but a few worth mentioning are Keren Mills paper ‘Mobilising academic content online: challenges and rewards’, which highlighted useful work being done by the Open University on evaluating student use and demand for mobile services; Matthew Reidsma’s amusing but informative paper ‘Your website stinks and it’s your fault’ reminded delegates that user experience isn’t about expert intuition but about expert listening; Aaron Tay’s paper ‘Marketing libraries with memes’ showed how creative university libraries can be in using social media to promote and obtain feedback through the use of “memes”, while SLA’s own Hal Kirkwood spoke on the work Purdue University has done in developing its new business library, including factoring in the need for students to be able to sleep there!

Within the public library sector, Liz McGettigan from Edinburgh and Rebecca Cadwallader from Birmingham spoke on developments in their own cities highlighting key factors such digital inclusion, changing formats, government agendas and the need to replace some of their physical buildings to demonstrate how far some public libraries have come in repositioning their library services to meet the needs of a 21st century audience.

If there was one small criticism of ILI 2012 it would be that there were perhaps slightly too many papers presented; useful as it was to have such a wide range of papers, this compressed the time available and some of the presentations were a little on the short side. A smaller number of papers presented in more detail would have added even more value to the event.

Despite these niggles I found ILI 2012 a very useful and informative conference. The topics covered and the useful networking opportunities made it very productive. ILI looks set to be a key winter conference for many information professionals.