MmIT National Conference 2012 – find out more about the plenary and workshop sessions

TheMmIT National Conference was held in Sheffield on the 17th April.

Conference plenary and workshop abstracts

Marshall Breeding – Director for Innovative Technology and Research @ Vanderbilt University; Editor of Library Technology Guides
Paradigm Shift: A Slate of New Automation Platforms address Current and Future Library Realities
The operations of libraries focus on ever increasing proportions of electronic and digital content relative to print materials.  The structure of the legacy library management systems that dominated the last three or more decades of library automation was rooted in print, though some products have evolved better than others to accommodate modern content formats. The established worldview that libraries can rely on one set of automation tools for print and another set for managing digital collections and electronic subscriptions is in danger of collapse in favour of library services platforms that aim toward a more unified approach to resource management.  The economic realities that libraries face today demand that they operate in the most efficient ways possible, with workflows that accommodate current needs and not built around assumptions of a past print-centric age.  Breeding will provide an overview of the new library automation products now emerging and how they differ amongst themselves and from traditional library management systems.   He will also provide information on the development progress of each of these new products and trends relative to their adoption in libraries and forecast their longer term impact on the library automation industry.

Ross Mahon – Google Apps Edu Evangelist @ Google
Cloud Computing and the Digital Natives
The next generation of students bring to University a different set of expectations. These “digital natives” have grown up in a world where consumer technology has evolved at a rapid pace and this has changed the way in which they communicate and share information. Of course, there are many differences within the group and in some respects the problem lies as much in their over-confidence as their comfort with technologies. Meeting the needs of these students and providing the tools to enable the next generation of teaching and learning provides difficult challenges for universities today. Ross Mahon from Google will explore these trends impacting the Education sector and the challenges universities face today addressing them. He will also look at how tools like Google Apps for Education can help universities leverage powerful consumer cloud based technologies to engage students and foster creativity in the use of technology for teaching and learning.

Andy Tattersall – Information Specialist and Claire Beecroft – University Teacher @ University of Sheffield
A Free Web Toolkit for the Modern Library
There are legions of free Web based tools that can help you promote and organise your library and information service. You may have heard of many of them, but how do you choose from a bewildering number of tools? Which will survive in the long term? Which ones offer true value? And which will have true impact? In this session, delegates will be introduced to a variety of tried and tested web 2.0 tools which we believe offer something of real value to LIS professionals. We will debate their pros and cons before demonstrating some inspiring ways in which they’ve been put to use, drawing on examples from public, business and academic libraries. The workshop will show delegates how to make the tools work best for you with minimal effort and how to make them join up to make a cohesive tool kit for any modern LIS. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering ‘Where do I begin with web 2.0?’, the answer is ‘Here!’

René Meijer – Information Commons Manager @ University of Sheffield
Designing Space and Services to Support Digital Literacies
Appraising and creating digital information can be challenging to support, in particular when this information is not in a textual format. Working with media requires different equipment, different spaces and different skills in supporting staff then working with textual and more traditional resources. This interactive workshop will give an overview of how digital and media literacy is supported in the spaces, technology and services available in the Information Commons, and how lessons learned are currently being applied to the design of new spaces and services in the University of Sheffield.

Dave Pattern – Library Systems Manager @ University of Huddersfield
Discovering Discovery: Experiences of Implementing Summon at Huddersfield
This session will cover Huddersfield’s experiences of being the first commercial implementation of Summon in the UK, including details of the implementation, marketing and rollout, and the impact on both information literacy training and on journal usage. The workshop will be an opportunity also to discuss experiences at other institutions and learn from each other.

Jon Fletcher – Faculty Liaison Librarian @ Nottingham Trent University
In the Palm of their Hand: The Next Step for the Handheld Librarian
Ever imagined QR Code library inductions where you collect coins and unlock extra in-game characters by learning about library services? How about Augmented Reality quests where you explore the physical library space whilst hunting mysterious objects and virtual 3D maps? Or have you considered the future of enquiry systems in the mobile age? Many of our users now carry mobile devices which offer previously unparalleled opportunities for interaction, yet many libraries have yet to explore these opportunities. This interactive session will discuss the latest developments in handheld technologies and look at developments in the library world and beyond for examples of good practice and case studies. Participants will be invited to  discuss whether libraries can turn the ‘wow’ factor into the ‘now’ factor in order to offer exciting (and necessary) new services to users.


WebGL Bookcase – Google’s interactive bookshelf experiment

Although heavily overshadowed by the release of Ice Cream Sandwich, Google have also announced their take on the digital bookcase. You can try the WebGL Bookcase out now, but only if you are using a ‘modern browser’ (and for Google this tends to mean Chrome; even Firefox versions that do support WebGL aren’t always ‘modern’ enough). A bit like the Interactive Library prototype we’ve mentioned before, this presents eBooks in a digital bookcase that you can browse and select from (but no search yet).

And, as you may have guessed from the name, it uses WebGL with the Google Books API. You can open a 3D version of the book and each book comes with a QR Code for downloading to your mobile.  You can find out more on the Chrome Experiments page.

‘Skypebook’ hits back at Google+: what does this mean for libraries?

In what seems intended to be a high-profile response to the limited release of Google+, the 6th of July saw Facebook’s online announcement of a major video chat development between themselves and Skype. Facebook users will shortly find that their profiles offer them the in-built chance to chat 1-2-1 with their friends, with the seamless integration of this service into Facebook’s chat service. If (like this author) you’ve been initially mystified by press reports claiming that you can try it but were wondering why it has not yet turning up in your Facebook account, simply visit to access an introduction plus setup instructions. There are a couple of things to install, but the whole thing is far easier than opening a Skype account; if a user doesn’t have a webcam, they can still chat over microphone. Sadly it doesn’t seem to work with Android mobile phones yet (I can’t verify other platforms), but mobile versions are expected. Google+ may be going for videochat quantity in terms of ‘Hangouts’ (with its much vaunted 10-person video chat facility), though Facebook have definitely stolen back some of the limelight by launching a Facebook/Skype integration which doesn’t even require users to have a Skype account.

Despite the temptation to see this solely as a retort to Google’s headline-grabbing ‘launch’ of Google+, it is certainly not the case that this was an overnight development. Skype and Facebook struck a (largely unspecified) partnership back in October 2010, so this has probably been in the pipeline for some time. However, with the Google+ juggernaut gaining momentum and Microsoft (who are in the process of buying Skype as well has having Facebook shares) now firmly on the side of Facebook, this will be one web war worth watching. Whether or not this is the beginning of the end for the traditional phone network remains to be seen, though this is undoubtedly a major development.

Away from the tech intrigue, what could the integration of Skype and Facebook mean for libraries? Many libraries are currently using various aspects of Facebook for service promotion such as having a Facebook page, responding to user comments and allowing users to ‘check-in’ via Facebook places. Once Skype is 100% integrated, libraries can allow users to video/voice call to ask questions, and it is possible that this might be used by some for enquiries and enquiry handling. Many libraries already use web-chat/web-conferencing software for such purposes, and those with superior technology could see the current Facebook/Skype offering as a step backwards; however, those without these services might be attracted to the idea. And, in these hard times, using Skype via Facebook will be free, which is always good. The question remains about whether (in the above scenario) staff would use their own profiles or create alternate ‘work’ profiles for chatting with customers, but it is an interesting thought. Perhaps, one day, part of joining a library could even include the option for a user to befriend the library on Facebook and supply said library with a user’s online identity as part of their join-up record; this could form another route of communication, and is helpful if a user changes their mobile phone number and doesn’t tell the library…if the person being called is not online, they can even be left a video/voicemail message which they pick up next time they sign in. Intriguing.

Overall, one must admit that the Hangout feature on Google+ looks much more advanced, though the really exciting thing is that Facebook and Skype seem set to announce even more developments (see the BBC News article), so perhaps group conversations will one day be possible on ‘Skypebook’. Certainly Skype is an acknowledged leader in its field, so more developments are credible. One thing is for sure – we haven’t seen the last of the videochat wars yet, and interesting tools might well emerge which are useful for libraries.

The story so far: Google+

June 28th 2011 was a big day in search engine & social media land, seeing the  launch of Google+ (pronounced ‘Googleplus’ or ‘Googleplussed’?). Well, ‘launch’ is perhaps the wrong word, with only a small amount of early testers having access to it; the general launch date apparently “won’t  be long” ( Essentially, Google+ may be seen the introduction of social networking elements with the ubiquitous Google search interface…why use a search engine and a social networking site when you can do both at the same time? Google+ allows users to log into the Google environment and personalise it as usual, with the addition of a live and customisable newsfeed stream called ‘Sparks’ and a way of putting contacts into groups for social networking known as ‘Circles’. ‘Hangouts’ allow a small group of contacts (10) to link up for a webcast session, and a ‘Mobile’ element most notably allows group instant messaging chats. For a fuller description of features, check out the official Google blog at

Overall, the jury is currently split. Clearly Google is trying to take on Facebook with this venture, with the aim of drawing all users into one information finding & sharing tool. This is not lost on a great many commentators (cf. xkcd’s rather amusing strip), and it’s true that most people are focusing on the looming assault on Facebook. With high-profile failures in the form of Google Buzz and Google Wave, Google really need to do well with this product, though the project is not an off-the-cuff venture and has been in development for some time (cf. this very positive review from Wired). But it seems to be trying to do more…certainly one can see the appeal of having a tool which makes it easy to search and share, and addition of web-conferencing and mobile tools is a powerful incentive to try it. There are downsides with the current version (read Phil Bradley’s blog posting, which highlights the confusion about the ‘+1’ function for web-links which doesn’t seem to act like a ‘like’ button on Facebook), but it’s too early to really tell what will happen. Perhaps the big question many will keep asking is ‘Would it replace Facebook?’, though (speaking personally) this author of this posting would be tempted to try it in a workplace setting before deciding whether or not to shift lock/stock to Google+. Certainly this has the potential to be far more than ‘just  another social networking tool’.

Will you be planning to use Google+? Join the debate below!


Computers in Libraries 2011: around the web

While I haven’t been able to keep up with Computers in Libraries 2011 conference on Twitter (a combination of conference noise, time differences and crazy busyness), I’ve been keeping an eye out for any write-ups and presentations as they become available.

While it was undoubtedly a shame that James Crawford (Engineering Director for Google Books) didn’t make it to deliver the keynote at CiL 2011, the panel discussion pulled together to fill the gap sounds like a very worthy substitute. Sarah Houghton-Jan has a great write-up of this and other CiL2011 sessions on the Librarian in Black blog (and you can catch Crawford’s keynote at Europeana Open Culture 2010 on YouTube if you still feeling bereft).

The Demonstrating the Impact of Public Access Technology session has been blogged and it’s good to hear that the survey tool used will be shared.

Nicole Engard has a writeup of the Building Great Websites and In Pursuit of Library Elegance presentations on the What I Learned Today site.

You can also find slides from the Drupal session (focusing on RSS) on SlideShare.

Google Editions: around the web

Google has announced that Google Editions [1], its eBook store, will launch internationally in the first quarter of 2011 (or first half, depending on who you ask).

Apparently Google is adopting a ‘universal ‘ approach by relying on browser-based access rather then getting embroiled in the ePub vs. PDF vs. proprietary formats debate. Other technical and legal details are still a bit unclear.

Further reading:

1. And then, of course, they went and renamed it Google eBooks but now you can read more about the formats and other technical details.

Q&A is the new black – is leaving search behind has announced it’s ditching search in favour of focusing on being a Question and Answer-based service, though their have been rumblings of this for a while now. Q&A is quickly drawing a crowd, with Google buying up Aardvark (and then setting it down quietly in Google labs), ex-Facebook employees launching Quora and, on a smaller scale, a change of plan for Stack Exchange.

Apparently no news yet on whether Jeeves will survive the latest changes but there is a nice summary of the announcement in the NY Times.

We will be casting a reference librarian eye over these various Q&A services over the next couple of weeks and it would be great to hear your thoughts on this proliferation of  Q&A sites.