First-time view : National Acquisitions Group Conference 2014

Ann Martin and Sara Pink receiving the award from Corina Petcu of Nielsen Discovery Services

Ann Martin and Sara Pink receiving the award from Corina Petcu of Nielsen Discovery Services

First-time view

by Sara Pink (Head of Guildhall and City Business Libraries, City of London)

This was an event of many first-time experiences for me: attending a NAG conference; visiting the beautiful York (to which I had never previously ventured) and winning an award for Guildhall Library.

And first-time experiences didn’t stop there!

I submitted an entry to NAG for the 2014 award for excellence in innovation and original thought for the Guildhall Library Incunabula project. It’s a project which really does embrace the omnipresent themes of increasing access to collections; digitising collections to make them accessible via online platforms and to utilise existing and emerging technologies to engage new audiences. It also encouraged us to look at books differently, not for the content of their text, but for all the other things they could tell us about the value of the book as an object such as who owned the book, what do the annotations mean, whether there is evidence of the readership of the book passing down through generations within the same family, how it is bound together and who and why did someone draw all those lovely pictures in the margins! It really was a fascinating way to get to grips with pre-15th century books and to challenge our perception of the ‘important’ things about a book.

And so it was wonderful when I got the call to say that the Guildhall Library entry had won and I would need to go to York to collect the plaque! From photo-shoots to presentation speeches, we were made to feel like royalty and it was lovely to have the opportunity to share our aims and objectives of the project with so many interested and enthusiastic attendees we were meeting for the first time.

 

I knew this was the conference for me when we were quickly introduced to the idea of libraries as ‘pleasantly mad places’ and when the themes of the conference got into full-swing we looked at everything from the provision of free hard-copy textbooks for students at Coventry University to the National E-book Pilot Scheme and, my personal favourite, ‘Future libraries and the technological singularity’ presented by Dave Parkes.

This session included the opportunity to try out the revolutionary new Google Glass and to see the Tuttuki Bako in action (Google that and you’ll find out what everyone in my family is getting for Christmas!) and we even ended up signing up to two new services as a result – the Internet Archive of 17th and 18th century material and Easy Proxy authentication.

Technology and its future explored means that we next ‘met’ the fascinating book-fetching robots at the University of Chicago – an ambitious project to use drones for book retrieval which is really paying off there.

Finally, it was time to make new friends over a fantastic Conference dinner and try our luck at the Casino table. If only it were real money I would have made enough to catch the next flight out to Las Vegas, complete with my newly acquired Conference Cat bag! (thanks to YBP)

I was a sponsored guest of the NAG Committee and my thanks go to them for successfully organising so many first-time experiences in so few days!

Innovation, inspiration, creativity : i2c2 in Manchester

i2c2logowithdateRecently, two of our basement dwellers went roving up to Manchester to attend a conference on innovation, inspiration and creativity: the i2C2 Conference. This was a conference aiming to encourage out of the box thinking to achieve practical solutions (which seems timely because apparently libraries don’t just offer access to information, we also offer solutions to problems).

In one of the two keynote speeches, Brendan Dawes talked about his approach to data visualisation. Data can be artistically presented. It can be made interesting and it can be made to interact with people. It does not have to be static or boring. Information as art can still be informative whilst being engaging. Raw data is interesting, but a graphical representation might be more memorable, not to mention enjoyable (even if some of us do enjoy numbers and lists without pictures).

Penny Anderson talked about LibraryBox, an open source, portable digital file distribution tool. Inexpensive and easy to operate, LibraryBox is inspired by PirateBox, a mobile, anonymous file-sharing device. Penny Anderson talked about using LibraryBox to create spaces for the sharing of fanworks and creating open libraries. Though some couldn’t see the advantages of such a device in academic libraries, perhaps even public libraries, LibraryBox certainly seemed to show a lot of promise for use as an advocacy or maker-space tool.

David Parkes took us on a psychogeographic library exploration, or a dérive, an unplanned journey around a small block. He suggested finding new approaches for looking at our surroundings, reflecting on the changes in history that must have taken place in the last hundreds of years. Parkes said he used this approach in campus inductions for university students, to make a place imprint on their minds, by going beyond the usual signs and directions.

Sam Helmick (read her post on the conference here) and Mallorie Graham talked about tapping into Generation Y’s tolerance and openness while also trying to find a way around GY’s digital proficiency, which makes them a small library user group. They both talked about making public libraries attractive to this group by offering alternative services, by luring them into the libraries through fun and inventive methods. We liked their ideas so much we invited them down to London for some library chatter.

Other sessions at i2C2 covered topics such as ways to promote library services in a more personalised and less traditional fashion, libraries collaborating with each other in order to complete projects, guerrilla ethos in the libraries and the employment of tactical urbanism, innovation through discussion, using typologies to create informal learning spaces, and library maker spaces that can take library users on creative journeys.

There was also a short presentation on Cityread London, which is of course of interest to us, and begins on April 1st. Andy Ryan’s talk was on how to generate big bucks through partnerships and collaboration. Working with 33 London library services (and booksellers, publishers, schools, museums), each library involved in this project contributed £500, expecting a return of over £15,000 per service.

Overall, the insights we took from the conference were to seek out opportunities for collaboration, to consider any and all ideas, even if only for a second (before asking yourself, really?), and to be open to change and innovation. If/when this conference takes place again, it really is worth attending.

Contributed by: HD