Online Conference 2007 – Day 2 Session 3

Dr Damian Conway, a futurist from Monash Uni spoke on Disruptive Technologies and Digital Convergence. What? I’ll explain. We had quite a few people talking about libraries in the short term, Damian was looking further, 10 to 20 years.

Spoke about the insatiable need for information in our society, which places libraries and librarians in an ideal position – in a parallel to the drug scene, people in our society are information junkies and we are their dealers. We are Infovores, addicted to consuming vast amounts of information.

According to Damian, the most disruptive technology has been Info Tech – in general. IT changes what we do, not just how we do it and who does it. Writing was the area of the clergy, until others could write, printing was the aristocracy until the Gutenberg press, most recent disruption is the public library, giving power to all!

Damian’s title for this presentation was Four funerals and a wedding. The four funerals are for:
Ignorance – ubiquitous computing and ambient knowledge will mean that everyone will be able to access all information, anywhere, anytime. The disruptive technology here is ultra storage, for example, the entire Library of Congress on one small memory device.

Publishing – new model is now e-books, Gutenberg, Google’s Book search etc. There is the potential for an unlimited catalogue and theory of unlimited print distribution and duration with print on demand etc. The disruptive technology here is the rpint on demand machines (Espresso at NYPL), Sony Book Reader which is very paperlike.

Dewey – proven, extensible and out of date. Disruptive technology? Been replaced by IPv6, the newest version of numerical URLS (IPv4). Instead of having 3 ranges of 3 number, IPv6 will have 8 ranges of 8 numbers, with a maximum of 340 billion, trillion, quadrillion unique addresses. Which means every word, in every copy of every edition of every title published, could have its own address. Every word could be cross-referenced. Add to this that in 10 years, RFID tags will be the size of a full stop and you will be able to make ink with them, which can then be read by a reader. Whoa!

Media Barons was the last funeral – print is declining and online is not making up the difference. Disruptive technology here is hyperlinks that link the knowledge. What happens when meta knowledge is created by everyone all the time?

The wedding is a world that is suffused with ambient information. But it needs navigators, teachers, guides, architects, conservators, reviews, critics, police – a skill set which librarians have been developing for centuries.

So what will librarians do in the coming information economy – everything that matters!

Peter Blake from Australian Catholic University then spoke on using wikis in Information Services. They converted their Reference Desk Manual into wiki format. His advice included: working out the wikis purpose, decide on features, database, community and scope and decide on how much structure it will have. Wiki features include images, attached documents and RSS feeds. If it is included as part of an intranet, it means one login gives you access to everything. Their structure is a loose hierarchy of topics, cross linked to the maximum depth with a welcome screen and help text. From their evaluation they found that they were missing features they really needed and that there was confusion as to whether or not to link to their intranet. The intranet is only at one campus at present as they have been unable to do training and rollout to others because of other IT rollouts.

Sue Grey Smith and Luke Padgett from Curtin University spoke of some of the initiatives that have been introduced there using Open Source software. They are using Miranda IM to provide their Ask Online chat reference service. Its free, customisable under open source and has a number of install options. No IT support, but has a great support Forum. Can receive messages from different IM clients. Students can login directly via Curtin’s IM system or via any IM client. It has been marketed as a general point of contact, so queries can be technical, reference or lending based. Answers are immediate and although statistics are not availabe in the software, it has been very successful and saved money.

Using Open source PHP – Pirate Source from East Carolina Uni, they are able to provide subject guides on the fly. 46 guides are provided, the old format was static and linked to via divisional directories. Programmers at Curtin had to make some changes to the software, but as a result, they now have 2 click, customised subject guides.

Podcasts have been created using Audacity, a laptop, microphone, quiet place and script. Mixed using Audacity and Creative Commons music from CCMixtr. They generated RSS feeds for them using online tools and created a web page to host the podcasts and feeds. They now have 30+ podcasts covering info literacy and book reviews, with 9379 downloads made from Feb to Nov 06.

They use b2evolution as their blog software – its free open source, which allows mutiple blogs, categorisation and has anti-spam features. It is resilient, needs little support and is easy to maintain. The use MediaWiki, a server based package for their internal documentation. They are considering using it for their public FAQ page. Open Source has made all these things possible. Some IT support is needed.

Gerard Egan from the ATO spoke on podcasting from a non-techie view. He highly recommended Michael Abulencia’s (RMIT) guide on podcasting. What to podcast? News, tours, information literacy, storytimes, workplace training, 5 minutes on important topics. Podcasts give personality and a voice to your organisation. You can find them using Podcast Directory or Loomia search engine. Podzinger lets you search within podcasts. Reverse podcasts are being used in education – the students listen first then come and discuss it in class. To convert text to MP# you can use Natural Reader, 2nd Speech Centre etc.

That was it for Day 2 – Session 4 was dedicated to exploring the Exhibitors Hall. I spent some time with old friends at Thomson Gale, OCLC Pica and Sirsi-Dynix and picked up the odd bit of information elsewhere. Didn’t win any of the prize drawers unfortunately.