Wednesday, June 3, 2009

CLA Annual Conference Day 4: lounge acts and the CLA Awards!

On Monday, I crawled into the Palais around 7:30 am. The fatigue was starting to hit me and I was looking forward to calling it a day. I dragged the laptop in with me, because we had no Internet café and Megan correctly predicted that we'd be swamped with questions, especially with people wanting to check in on their flights home.

I managed to attend an excellent session entitled "The Impact of Social Cataloguing Sites on the Public Catalogue: Patrons, Social Tagging and the New Face of the Catalogue," with Louise Spiteri from Dalhousie University and Laurel Tarulli (the Cataloguing Librarian! She has an interesting take on that C3 session I attended on Day 3, by the way...) from Halifax Public Libraries. The session promised to "examine the popular features that could or should impact public library catalogues and what you can do to enhance your own library catalogue," and it did indeed do that. The speakers introduced a lot of interesting points about features of social catalogues, and I think this session was best suited to those who have little knowledge of social catalogues. I found my attention slipping sometimes, but that could be because a) I am a LibraryThing addict, or b) I was simply exhausted.

Louise was a pleasure to listen to, not the least of which was because she has a lovely sense of humour (grabbing the mic from its stand, she mutters, "this is going to look like a lounge act, but..."). She told us that there are over 600, 000 LibraryThing users (LT count = 717,099), and then observed, "for those of you who think metadata is dead, HA." Indeed, LibraryThing users are tagging, cataloguing, and indexing their little brains out. Louise explained what a LibraryThing record looks like (her example here and throughout the study was this record - shout out to Yvonne! See, Austen-ites abound!), and told us she wanted to explore two things about social cataloguing sites: how interactive they are (how users use the site to communicate who has read what), and how granular they are (can you search and retrieve by ISBN, for instance?)

For the study (which appears in Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, Volume 47, no. 1, 2009), the 8 ISBD elements were used as benchmarks, and the study also added to additional elements: the presence of an icon (book cover) and language. The study examined the social features of Canadian public libraries and compared them to social sites. LibraryThing ranked quite highly (in one category, #1) as did Stashmatic and BiblioPhil. Public library catalogues do use some features of social catalogues, including professional reviews, links to commercial reviews, cached searches linked to subjects, client reviews and ratings, client-created discussion boards, client posted tags, and recommendations (people who borrowed this also borrowed..."). Laurel urged us to use our catalogue as a communication tool not just an inventory.

Laurel spoke very well, and I was very surprised to learn from her blog that this was her first presentation! She did an excellent job! She spoke about how we can integrate additional features of social catalogues into our library catalogues. She referred to the OCLC report, Online Catalogs: What Users and Librarians Want, for more information. She pointed out that most of our catalogues cannot rank results according to relevancy, don't offer federated search (we do! See the Quick Search box here), don't have enriched content ("search inside" features), and don't have any social features (sharing, ranking, etc). One great suggestion she mentioned was to make new book lists and bibliographies/reading lists available via RSS and Twitter. Our new and on order titles are available as RSS feeds by category (fic, nonfic) - check this out! We're getting there....

Overall, a great session with some thought-provoking points. I will be sure to read that study! The slides from the presentation are here.

I confess to skipping the closing keynote (due to general ennui and a desire to cover the Hospitality desk). I came in towards the end, to not miss the awards, and I caught a bit about supporting lifelong playing, not trying to be perfect but remarkable (Seth Godin quote), and so on. While I think there are some good points in there, I was turned off by the delivery, and massive oversimplification.

Vancouver Sun journalist Kim Bolan (see this and this) gave a particularly moving speech after receiving the 2009 Award for Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada. Kim covered the 1985 Air India bombing and legal case, and is now covering gangs in BC. She received a standing ovation for an excellent speech about freedom of the press in Canada.

Karen Lindsay, a teacher-librarian at Reynolds Secondary School in Victoria, B.C., was awarded the Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship, and also gave an excellent, stirring, impassionned speech. Anyone of my generation in Canada will likely remember one program she initiated in BC, Drop Everything and Read! (For those of you who are going, huh? that's a daily, school-wide silent reading program). Karen spoke eloquently about our profession, referencing that quote about libraries being the "single most perfect expression of the democratic ideal." She used a lovely analogy about librarians putting books into people's hands, regardless of whose hands those were - a woman's hands or a man's hands, black hands or white hands, poor hands or rich hands, and so on. Her love of our profession and her sense of social justice was palpable.

It was clearly a day for good speechwriting, because we were already on a roll and we hadn't even gotten to the best part yet. My boss, Ottawa City Librarian Barbara Clubb, received the 2009 Outstanding Service to Librarianship Award (see poorly-lit photo at left). She gave a lovely overview in her speech of moments in her career, people she has had the pleasure of working with, and our profession as a whole. She peppered the speech with great quotes about what a library is ("a house of healing for the soul," "a place for the soul to loaf," and, my personal favourite, a place "held together by devotion and duct tape" - I laugh because there was that giant tarp fixed with duct tape above my desk for the first 2.5 years I worked at Rideau Branch!). I was touched that she mentioned me by name in her speech, as one of our youngest librarians, and also that she mentioned LANCR as her local library association.

All in all, a great end to the conference. This concludes my conference blogging experience, and these posts will likely help me compile my (more formal, and shorter!) conference report when I get back to work next week. We now return to your regularly-scheduled programming. I am tempted to post the video I took of Ann's speech from ABQLA awards lunch on Friday, but she'd be mortified, so I won't. All I can say is it includes that little anecdote about the consultant with red shoes. Unfortunately, the video is jumpy because I was laughing so hard.

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