This year’s NASIG Conference was a little unusual for me, as it was the first one since 2012 that I was able to attend like a “civilian,” with no Executive Board or program planning responsibilities requiring me to arrive early and/or stay late. Plus, I was actually able to attend a full slate of sessions! Chris and I drove down to Atlanta on Friday, June 8th for the opening of the conference. As a fan of “The Walking Dead” I was a little unsettled by the fact that Terminus Road was near the conference hotel, but luckily, I didn’t spot Gavin lurking around. I was also lucky to be a “civilian” attendee of this year’s conference, because there were a lot of great sessions. I’ll try to give a taste of a few of them.
Violeta Ilik from Columbia University gave a very interesting presentation called “Information Sharing Pipeline,” which discussed creating a real-time information channel that is fed by and consumed by institutions and applications that use identity information. It’s sort of an instantly updating form of authority control for information about personal identities. There’s a set of three protocols (highly technical to describe) that are making this Information Sharing Pipeline (ISP) work, using the Authority Toolkit created by Gary Strawn of Northwestern University. The most compelling parts of Ilik’s presentation had to do with the larger theoretical issues underlying the ISP. Currently, the library community doesn’t leverage identity information effectively and in an integrated way. Ilik argued that the solution isn’t to work in closed and siloed systems, but to decouple data from service providers and specific applications. The people working on the ISP are seeking to build an architecture with applications sitting on top of a layer of commonly accessible structured data, separating the applications from the data itself. For this to work, the end-users become the data owners, applications become the means of viewing the data from the shared pool (rather than having to enter data into multiple systems), and interfaces essentially become queries that access the data set. But to de-centralize the Web in this way, we have to re-organize power, and that’s where the big hold up is. Ilik argued that we have the technical ability to implement this kind of model, but the social paradigm is 25 to 50 years behind our technical abilities. Politics and intellectual property issues are among the major impediments to more broadly developing this kind of information architecture.
Another good session I attended was “Embedding Collective Ownership Into a System Migration,” presented by Sanjeet Mann and Paige Mann of the University of Redlands. They covered a lot of interesting ideas about their system migration that I can’t squeeze into a single blog post, but the gist of their presentation was that they encouraged the entire library to contribute to the system migration, rather than leaving all of the decisions and work to their technical services and technology staff. Because the system is ultimately used by everyone in the library, they thought that everyone should be involved (or have the chance to be involved). Plus, if the process were left to just those people who work with the system regularly, they might miss implications or other issues that staff from other functional areas might notice. They had three teams working on different aspects of the migration, and each team consisted of “insiders” (experts who work regularly with the system) and “outsiders” (staff from other teams who don’t use the system regularly), with a “facilitator,” who was always an outsider with no voting rights, but who could moderate disagreements. They offered a lot of interesting ideas, but this was the one that intrigued me the most.
One more informative session I attended was presented by Juliane Schneider of Harvard Catalyst, the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, on the Metadata 2020 initiative. Metadata 2020 is an initiative by librarians, publishers, service providers, data publishers and repositories, researchers, and funders to try to define issues in metadata and make it work better. They are currently working on six projects: 1) researcher communications, 2) metadata recommendations and element mappings, 3) defining the terms we use about metadata, 4) incentives for improving metadata quality, 5) shared best practices and principles, and 6) metadata evaluations and guidance. If you’re interested, you can find out more about their projects at: www.metadata2020.org
Also, at this conference I signed up to be a mentor to a student member of NASIG. This program is only in its second year, and this was my first time joining in. I was paired up with a very bright student from the University of Toronto who is entering her second year of library school, and I’m looking forward to working with her throughout the year.