What I Learned at Internet Librarian (IL05)

After a day of catching up on emails I'm ready to share with you all what I learned at Internet Librarian 2005 (). {warning – this is a long one}

This was my first time attending IL; usually I only attend Computers in Libraries. I'm not sure what other years were like, but the theme this year was collaboration, collaboration, collaboration!

I spent most of day 1 on the Web Design & Development track, with the exception of 2 sessions on the Information Discovery & Search track.

I started the morning by listening to John Kupersmith explain what terms library users understand. I know that we at Jenkins struggle with this day in and day out and it was good to hear that other libraries have done studies to help us along. The studies that John went over with us showed that most of the terms we use on our sites are often misunderstood by our users, terms like “electronic resources”, “index” and “interlibrary loan”. The only problem I had with this presentation was that it was focused on academic libraries, which we are not, and on undergraduate students, which we don't have coming into our library (much). I'd love to do a study of our own here at Jenkins to see what our users understand.

Next, I learned about focusing a re-design on one persona instead of trying to please the entire audience. I found this concept very hard … coming from a position where I'm always trying to please the greatest number of people, but the theory makes sense. In short, you survey your audience and see what level of understanding they have in regards to the internet and your site. You then narrow your results down into several personas. Lastly you decide which persona to design your site for … and more importantly who not to design your site for. For example, your site should not be designed for the person who does not like to use the Internet for research; this person is better served in person.

The Tips for Keeping Up panel and the Web Wizard's Cool Tools were both helpful and fit into the collaboration theme nicely, but I learned much more from the Keeping Up panel.

Genie Tyburski, Web Manager of The Virtual Chase; Gary Price, Founder of ResourceShelf.com; and Steven Cohen, Library Scientist for PubSub Concepts and editor or LibraryStuff.net gave us tips on how they keep up with what's new in the library world. Their presentations are all available online and include TONS of great tools for keeping up. The one thing they all seemed to agree on was using RSS to make your life easier. Why get 1000 emails a day with updates from the sites you visit when you can just visit Bloglines and read all the updates you want in one place. Read their presentations to learn more: GenieGarySteven.

Day 2 was all about Blogs, Wikis & RSS! The morning started with a keynote address from Elizabeth Lane Lawley who told us to search Google for Liz to find her blog (hit #3)!! Her talk focused on building trusted communities online to augment (not replace) our current social networks. Your best friend may be great at the girl talk, but is she the one you're going to turn to help you design a web site? Maybe you can, but I can't, so what options do I have? I turn to my online community of peers, people I've never met that are able to help me in ways my friends can't. She showed us her bookmark collection on del.icio.us, and explained how she can now bookmark sites she find interesting so that others can come along and say “What does Liz like?”. The same goes for her web searching … she uses My Web 2.0 from Yahoo instead of the basic Yahoo search because with My Web she can search results that have been filtered out by her peers. But all of these social solutions have a flaw … they're dependant on people choosing the same names/categories/filters. She showed us the ESP Game, which came from a study at Carnegie Melon. This game shows the user an image and asks him/her to put in the best keyword to describe the image, at the same time this image is being shown to another user. If you and your partner choose the same word you move on to the next image. The problem you see when playing this game is that cultural biases sometimes show up (ex. girl vs. woman). If we trust an online/worldwide community then these biases are going to affect our results.

The rest of day 2 included blog ethics, marketing blogs and trends for RSS, Wikis and Blogs. Steven Cohen — whose enthusiasm for this topic was infectious — filled us in on What's Hot & New with online collaboration tools. Karen Schneider — who was disappointed in our lack of current events knowledge — filled us in on the Ethics & Guidelines for blogging. Jill Stover — who obviously loves marketing theory — gave us some pointers on how to market our blogs. She suggested (among other things) to lose the jargon, involve our readers and offer RSS feeds for individual subjects.

Day 3 started with a debate on the pros & cons of Google Print. Rich Wiggins of Michigan State Univ. (pro) and Roy Tennant of California Digital Library (con) faced off on this issue. Personally I was pro all the way until I heard this little debate. Rich brought up the good points of this new project like making content accessible to all and the fact that these works will not be preserved for future generations. Roy then came back with the obvious copyright implications and the fact that this project is not selective. What does that mean? Apparently Google is scanning everything in the collections of universities it has contracts with, which means older versions that should have been discarded years ago will be scanned and made accessible to all … this on it's own isn't so bad, the problem comes in when the older version is out of copyright and available in full text whereas the up to date version is only available in snippets. The inexperienced researcher might end up using the older resource and getting inaccurate information just because the full text was available from his/her home computer.

The rest of this final day focused on Intranets (which is the big project I'm working on right now) and collaboration (surprise!) in the workplace. We got to see the newly redesigned CNN Intranet which allowed librarians to edit the content easily to fit the hot topics for each day and brought in current news from other sources using RSS.

The presentation on Fostering Collaboration with Wikis and Weblogs was something I was waiting for. Darlene Fichter was back with lots of ideas for how to use Wikis and Blogs to enhance your library intranet and increase productivity. The example she repeated a few times was using a Wiki to keep the minutes of a meeting. This way everyone can combine their notes online without having to designate one secretary for the meeting. At Jenkins, when we have a staff event, a sign up sheet is put in the staff lounge … but why not put it on the Intranet in the form of a wiki like one librarian in this session suggested? These were just 2 suggestions of many to help improve productivity in the library.

As you can tell, I learned an awful lot at and can't wait to get started implementing some of it! If you'd like to read others remarks about the conference, just search on Technorati for IL05 or IL2005.