I can’t believe its been3 weeks since VALA 2010 finished. But it has been and in the wake of all my notes from the conference and inspired by some excellent summary blog and twitter posts from fellow conference attendees, here are my key reflections from VALA 2010.
1. Discovery layers
It doesn’t matter what vendor you use these days, a discovery layer will sit over pretty much every library system and open your content to your users in a new and exciting way. Academic and State Libraries have already implemented this software and public libraries are starting to. And it sits on top of your website to give the integration between the website and catalogue that our users expect and that librarians have been seeking.
I never realised the range of offerings available until I chaired the Vendor session which demonstrated a wide range of the offerings available from different companies. If you don’t already have a discovery layer in place or in process, you need to be looking at them now.
I have heard talk about metadata for well over a decade. Til now, I thought it was the domain of repositories, archives and the like. After VALA2010 I can finally see its relevance for my own library’s web content, which is neither archival nor relating to repositories in any form.
So add another thing to the list of things to do.
3. Semantic Web
Linked data and the whole concept of the semantic web is moving from a concept to a reality in small ways. Its fascinating to watch this evolution, from concept to working tools. Its early days yet, but there will be a lot more interesting developments in these areas in coming years, which I will be watching for with continued interest.
4. Mashups and APIs
I always thought that APIs really belonged to the realm of programmers or those with some programming knowledge/skill, of which I have a minuscule amount. After listening to Paul Hagon at the L-Plate Series at VALA, that misconception has been corrected. I have already been planning with APIs without realising it (its only Google Maps, but hey, its still an API) and Paul pointed out some great tools to help us get into some more serious stuff. It’s time to play! Thanks Paul.
This new service from the National Library of Australia is very cool and I look forward to learning more about it and seeing how we can better utilise it and promote it to our users. There was several papers on Trove, so check them out to find out more about how it was created and exactly what it can do.
6. Open source
Is more widespread than I had ever thought about. But when I did, realised that we are using so much open source software already – it runs our Internet servers and our browsers, as well as much of our communications. Is it that big a step for us then to start using open source software for other purposes? It’s already proven its worth in those areas listed.
7. Twitter and Blogging
Twitter was the new kid on the block at the last VALA conference. This year, it made its presence felt big time. It was a great back channel to what was going on in other sessions, a guide to what was worth checking out and a great way to network with other librarians, both at the conference and following along from outside.
Much to our delight, the hash tag #vala2010 was in the top 5 twitter tags in Australia the week of the conference, hitting number 1 on the Thursday – the last day. It was also a great delight to finally meet all those twitterers I had only known online before then and to meet and start following twitterers that I met there. I think that I have started following at least another 20 people since the start of the conference.
Keep up the good work all – you make working on computers all day all the more interesting and what you share is entertaining, informative and useful in turn.
Twitter probably outdid blogging in terms of content sharing this VALA, but it still had its place for the detail on content. Being a conference blogger myself, I really appreciate the depth that I can get from a blogger’s reports. They are also a great teaser for the papers that I may want to go and read in full. The papers BTW are freely available from the VALA website – well worth checking out.
It was the best conference ever, for just spending time with other like-minded library staff. The social events were great for this, but it was even happening whilst waiting for sessions to start, or during the breaks. It was wonderful sharing thoughts, ideas, feedback and what you’re up to, with other enthusiastic librarians (and others), who speak the same language.
I was fortunate enough to present two papers, and get away with it, lol. Both my papers, presented with two different co-authors were well received much to my amazement and relief. I have had several people follow me up with questions on both papers since, much to my delight.
Writing a paper is a difficult enough process to begin with, but then trying to present that paper in a snapshot presentation is even more so. I learnt a lot from other presenters at VALA about how to engage the audience and even how to present so that you retain their interest.
10. VALA Conference Committee
I was a member of the conference program committee this year, but the role we played was so small, compared to all the work put in by the VALA committee in general. These guys all have regular jobs and real lives, yet put everything into getting this conference off the ground, running as well as it did and responding to issues quickly and efficiently as they arose.
Alyson Kosina, the backbone of VALA is an amazing lady, who you should take a moment to meet and chat with. You will walk away enriched. David Feighan and Bart Rutherford, the Conference Chair and VALA president respectively, were endlessly everywhere, managing, listening, participating, anticipating and in Bart’s case, presenting one paper when the speakers couldn’t get here in time. Dedication personified.
I really enjoyed working with them in the small role I played and learnt a lot. I very much look forward to more opportunities to be involved with VALA.
And amazingly, this blog posts has ended up with 10 reflections. That was not my intention, it just developed that way.
Thanks to all my co-conference attendees for helping to make it the best conference I have ever attended. Bring on #VALA2012!