10 March, 2009

libraries transform communities in the West

Beth Jefferson from Bibliocommons speaks at the conference

Last week I attended the LocLib 2009 Biennial Conference in Perth. The theme was libraries transform communities and there were over 200 participants. I presented 2 papers, one on integrating Web 2.0 and a keynote on the Great Public Library Tour.

The opening speaker was Beth Jefferson from Bibliocommons in Canada, who spoke about how we can build online communities in the same way we build real communities. She has developed an online public access catalogue where people can contribute reading lists, tag items and rate and review titles. For many people it can be the equivalent of browsing the shelves and return trolleys. One of Beth's main points was that its no good anymore libraries just being "free" as the cost of information becomes less and less - we are losing that point of difference. We need to add our special skills and build on the trusted brand we have to enhance people's online experience. She said that if all the public library catalogue hits in Nth America were added together this would put them in the top 10 of websites. But we need to work together and standardise the experience for people and give them the opportunity to interact and participate in the catalogue. It's about putting the public library at the centre of the online community, just as they are offline.

The other speaker that I was particularly impressed with was an architect, Josh Byrne, who described how the Peppermint Grove, Cottesloe and Mosman Park Councils have approached the development of a new library, community centre and council offices as an opportunity to create a building that is totally self sufficient using leading edge environmental and sustainable initiatives. As well as being beautiful and functional, the building will act as a educational and learning tool on sustainable architecture and building.

Perth was beautiful, hot and sunny - but I've had enough of hot and was pleased to get back to cool, dampish Melbourne!! I think most people who have endured our summer would say the same. Finally autumn is here and we hope lots and lots of rain.

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