On Tuesday last week I went to my third (and the eighth overall) Mashed Library event at the University of Lincoln. It probably goes without re-saying that I love these events: both as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of what can be done with technologies in libraries and as a chance to network and swap ideas with like-minded information professionals.
Pancakes and Mash (named as it fell on Shrove Tuesday) kicked off with an opening keynote from Gary Green from Voices for the Library, talking about the role of social media and data in his team’s project to save public libraries in the UK. I won’t go into much detail here, but please do go and check out the website and at least read their guide to 10 things you need to know about library closures / campaigns.
This Mashed Library I wasn’t aiming to extend my techie skills, but instead focused on learning more about the kinds of events and projects others were using tech to support. Exposing your data with Nick Jackson and Alex Bilbie from Project Jerome was a great introduction to the kinds of challenges libraries face in using data. Key learning points from this session for me:
- Cultural change is required to truly seize open data in libraries: asking what companies will allow you to do with data when taking on new software and services
- Licensing of data is immensely complex, but it is worth trying to negotiate changes or exceptions to terms and conditions
- It’s easy to substitute data you’re not allowed to use (e.g. bought-in catalogue records) for data you can use (e.g. by matching data by ISBNs)
- It’s not unusual to find obtaining rights to use data which belongs to your own institution as complicated as using external data.
After lunch, I then went to see Alison McNab talking about De Montfort University Library’s Mash at Lunchtime events – see their blog at http://librarymashups.our.dmu.ac.uk/. Essentially this is a platform DMU is using to share knowledge about technology in libraries internally (within library and across the institution) and represents an interesting model for developing a technologically aware community. This was followed by an interesting chat led by Stephanie Taylor about the ways in which librarians and geeks can work together: although it soon grew clear that library-geeks talking to computer-geeks was a better analogy, as most of the communication challenges were two way!
To finish, a few of us went to have a look around the interior of the Great Central Warehouse Library of the University of Lincoln. Rather appropriately for a Mashed Library event the architecture is a beautiful combination of old and new, with modern glass panels in amongst the old brickwork, and there’s some ambitious use of new technologies like information screens to convey library information and get feedback. Also on the techie side, I have to say that this conference was the best I’ve ever attended for wireless internet access and availability of power points for charging laptops: good work Lincoln and the organisers!
This event was great fun and has yet again extended my knowledge of what libraries can do with data and information. However, one thing that was discussed both at the (un)conference and on the associated Twitter feed, was that many of those attending weren’t funded by work (in my case a combination of different reasons meant I didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask). I encountered mixed feelings about this: the Mashed Library events in general always seem affordable for those living locally, which is great, but it’s also a shame that for most of us this kind of developmental work just isn’t central to our job descriptions. In tough economic times, however, perhaps that’s inevitable.