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LITA National Forum 2011: St. Louis, Giz’s Experience Thus Far

On Friday, September 30th, Susan and I left out for the Greensboro airport at 4:30am. After a short layover in Atlanta, where we were able to catch up on email and grab breakfast, we were off to the 2011 LITA National Forum. Last year was my first LITA Forum (in Atlanta) and this year I’m fortunate to be on Susan’s planning committee for next year’s event (in Columbus).We arrived early in St. Louis and after a quick ride on MetroLink from the airport to downtown; we caught up with Erik Mitchell for a fast lunch before the keynote by John Blyberg. In addition to taking notes on presentations, I’ve been taking notes about the event, getting ideas for next year’s forum.

John Blyberg, the Assistant Director for Innovation and User Experience, at the Darien Library in Connecticut, gave a keynote entitled “Gathering the Sparks”. He began with a description of his background and how he came to computers and technology as the manager of a bbs before college and had his introduction to the web during his first year of college. He discussed the importance of incremental change, describing the origins of the steam engine and how it took those incremental improvements to make something great. He mentioned how IKEA is redesigning its famous “Billy” bookcase as it is no longer used by consumers to hold books! He also referenced the legend of instant (just add water) cake mixes which originally sold poorly until the manufactures determined how to make the cook more invested in the cake, thus increasing sales, was water only, (Snopes has an interesting post on this legend) He also discussed new technologies like Graphene, said to be the strongest material ever measured, and the most conductive material known to man, These one atom thick carbon sheets may be the next big thing. His most interesting statement came during the questions at the end when he stated: “We have fetishized books, we need to articulate the value of services and programs to others.” I thought this was an interesting quote.

After the keynote I moved on to Susan and Erik’s presentation, “Data visualization and digital humanities research: a survey of available data sets and tools.” As Susan posted, this presentation came out of their Summer Technology Exploration Grant. Thanks to Susan and Erik, I now understand what Digital Humanities means! I was very impressed with the tools they demonstrated, Google Public Data and Google Refine as well as JSTOR Data for Research. This presentation gave me some great ideas to share with the faculty of the Sociology Department at WFU.

Friday ended with an informal meeting of next year’s LITA National Forum planning committee arranged by Susan, our committee chair. It was a great way to end the day and a perfect way to get to know each other better as we move forward in our plans for next year’s forum.

Saturday began with Karen Coyle’s keynote, “On the Web, Of the Web: A Possible Future” She began by discussing linked data and I immediately realized I needed a definition of “Linked Data”. It is a sub-topic of the Semantic Web. The term is used to describe a method of exposing, sharing, and connecting data via dereferenceable URIs on the Web (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linked_Data). She also stated that the catalog is not the face of the library anymore and rather than work so hard to improve the catalog perhaps we just need to realize that. She stated that “find” and “use” are the key functions, not “identify” and “select”.

After the keynote I attended “Leveraging Student Data to Personalize Your Library Web Site” by Ian Chan Web, the Development Librarian at Cal State San Marcos. The coolest example of how they are personalizing the website involved making student’s reserve reading appear on the website if the student was logged into their account. He stated “If students are already going to log in, personalizing the library website can capture their attention & show them more tools.”

Next I attended “Google Apps For Your Library” by Robin Hastings. This turned out to be a description of a Library’s migration to Google mail that mirrored the experience of ZSR almost exactly.

More to come in my next post!