ALCTS Pre-conference: Definitely Digital – Part 1

Definitely Digital: An Exploration of the Future of Knowledge on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services

Friday, January 19, 2007 — Grand Hyatt Seattle, Eliza Anderson Amphitheater

This preconference is the first event of the 50th anniversary of ALCTS. Information will be made available via the ALCTS website after the conference. It is co-sponsored by

There were four speakers plus a panel discussion. My notes below give the major points from the four speakers, but I have not reported on the panel discussion, which covered the questions discussed in the pre-conference blog:
Digiblog, the ALCTS Blog.

First Speaker

James Hilton, “Scholarship in the Digital Age: Opportunities and Challenges”
VP & CIO, U of Virginia

He began by listing and explaining some assumptions about scholarly publishing. Publishing is a basic need of scholarship because it is how collaboration takes place. The publishing environment is changing, and a current assumption is, if it is not online, it will not be read. You can view this as a new dawn or “the perfect storm.”

Disruptive Forces

Disruptive Force #1: The emergence of the “pure property” view of ideas

Next he spoke about patents, noting that they were originally conceived as a way to encourage and share new ideas, but that now large corporations will patent methods of doing business. The problem, he says, is not that we have insufficient property protection or insufficient respect for new ideas, but that we are deploying new protections; we will soon be paralyzed by the “plethora of IP fences thrown up around ever smaller pieces of property.” How do you get innovation?

Today in academia, “job one” for faculty, researchers, and students is protecting their personal property. He has even heard of cases where students are asking their professors to sign non-disclosure statements.

Scholarly publishing should be a large and countervailing force to this mentality.

Disruptive Force #2 – Technology and unbundling.

Technology tends to unbundled activities that were formerly packaged together. For example, in banks you used to deal with tellers for many activities, but now internet banking has replaced them.

Education is a hugely bundled endeavor. The first unbundling will be that of content. We’re going to see unbundling of scholarship. We have a benign conspiracy that says the product of a thesis belongs to the lone author, but it takes a village to support authorship now. The current model will be reconfigured.

Universities bundle all costs by charging “tuition.” How do we think about unbundling monographs, articles? Should the cost be bundled with the distribution price?

Disruptive Force #3: Producer Push v. Demand Pull

Lectures are an example of “producer push.” But now it is more about “I want what I want, when I want it.” He contrasted university lectures with collaborative exploration.

He spoke about libraries and the “long tail,” and emphasized the need for broad, efficient access to public domain works. Universities and libraries see themselves as doing the “gate-ing” of resources, but this won’t work any longer.


We’re living in a world of abundance. It costs a lot to put in a large storage system, but the marginal cost of using it is zero. We are used to managing in scarcity, but we haven’t figured out how to manage the abundance. University presses are “code blue” and libraries should be at the center of solving the problems: we have an opportunity to drive a close alliance between the library & IT in support of teaching & research (scholarship). If what you’re doing doesn’t relate to teaching & research, you risk irrelevance. Libraries are at the center of this; they can help channel the expression of their communities. The library is at the geographic center of campus; the challenge is to remain at the virtual & active center.

Libraries have the opportunity to reduce costs and take control of scholarly publishing.

Second Speaker

Lorcan Dempsey, “Moving to the Network Level: Discovery and Disclosure”

The key points in this talk centered on how the network is re-writing user behavior, about workflow and attention, and the aggregation of supply and demand. The ways in which people use systems and services have changed; the URL is the currency, without which you cannot share.

A long time ago we thought about databases as the center of attention. Now it’s the workflow as the focus (CMS, IR, etc.) What we’re doing on our desktops is assembling resources and constructing a digital environment for ourselves.
Increasingly the focus of our relationship with the network is that of workflow. Tools and services are being rebundled in peoples lives in a variety of different ways, e.g. PictureAustralia uses Flickr to get into the flow of people who are managing their photos, so the chances of finding photos are higher. This site is now very popular and it is driving traffic back to PictureAustralia. We need to be where people are in the network.

For libraries the big issue is that it must build its services around user workflow. Libraries must disclose what they have in a variety of places. There is strong competition for the attention of network users.

Library resources are fragmented and have large delivery costs. There is small aggregation of supply, but large aggregation of demand. Libraries aggregate neither demand nor supply (though it is improving through metasearch and resolution). We have to think about how people discover things where they want them.

Increasingly people want to get directly into the article of interest through search engines, linkservers, and RSS readers & blogs. The burden on the publishers is to see how to make content available Users won’t come to your website, but will come in from their other workflow resources. We need to position resources so they are effectively used.

Common misperception is that people will use your website. This is fluff, it is in the way. People want to get in and get out (drive-in users) ; they are the majority, but these are not the people we pay attention to.

We need to make our data work harder; so much data lies unused. We need to integrate access to locally managed resources. He cited Endeca and North Carolina State University’s public catalog interface as an example of how this is being done.

He then demonstrated how OCLC’s Fiction Finder makes the data work harder. In addition, Libraries Australia also tries to increase discovery and availability.

He stressed that a focus on integrating discovery and delivery is becoming essential. By offering a syndicated discovery experience, you pass data off the another service to drive traffic back to your own, as for example in Google Book Search.

In summary:

  • The library website is not the front door
  • Connect multiple discovery environments to library fulfillment
  • Put library resources in the user’s workflow
  • Place library resources in places which aggregate demand

Top Tech Trends Part 4 – Karen Schneider

In part four, we hear from Karen Schneider about her thoughts on the near-future of library technology.

If you’re enjoying these podcasts, leave us a comment and let us know…we’d love to hear this is a valuable thing for our members. Plus, it will help us justify expanding our podcasting reach for Annual this summer.

Thanks again to Maurice York, whose work allowed us to provide these to the LITA members.

Digital Libraries Interest Group

Sunday, January 21 1:30pm to 2:30pm.

Some topics presented for future discussion:

  • How is Web 2.0 being used?
  • GIS Systems: metadata requirements
  • Institutional Repositories: capturing data output from faculty
  • Raw Data Storage: practices and procedures, storage of statistical data and field research
  • National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIP)
  • Digitization practices for cultural and heritage collections
  • Partnering and sharing of resources for digitization projects

Discussion Topic: Education and Preparation of Digital Librarians.

Question: What is being taught in current library and information school programs?

Several students who are currently enrolled in a program responded to this question. Some reported they are taking metadata classes that cover topics such as crosswalks and standards. Other courses being taught include web design, archiving, and preservation.

Those involved in a practicum or internship are working on projects that include activities such as document scanning, working with cataloging, and creating metadata.

Question: What are employers looking for?

Those responding to the question are currently hiring or employ digital librarians. Attributes of a digital librarian include a diverse blend of skills, such as marketing and technical knowledge (especially database management). It was recommended that those interested should look at the ARL job description for a digital librarian.

Emory is currently training PhD students from other fields to do this work because of a librarian shortage.

Question: How are collections going to be used? How will they be found?

Some libraries are working with early digital libraries to standardize their metadata. Collections work with various interfaces. It was noted that it is important to make collections crawlable.

Question: What alternatives are there for learning about digital libraries, especially for those who already have a graduate degree in library science? How do we fill in our knowledge and make ourselves more marketable?


  • School for Scanning
  • Project Management Institute
  • Cornell University Library’s digitization services
  • Tennessee currently offers in-state training, but will be available to others soon
  • OCLC programs
  • SirsiDynix
  • Wikipedia
  • Conferences: code4lib, Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (sponsored by ACM and IEEE)

Town Meeting, always interesting


Originally uploaded by Wandering Eyre.

The LITA Town Meeting yesterday was action packed even at 8am. I know there were a couple of other people taking actual notes. These are just my thoughts.

The activity that Mark Beatty had the packed room complete involved writing things we liked about LITA or things that LITA could do on pieces of paper. Groups then took their “tags” and made tag clouds out of them. It was fun, loud, and very productive.

I was again reminded why I love LITA. People like being here. We like each other and the “people” aspect of LITA got more tags then anything else. Education, training, and technology were close follow-ups. Some very hopeful member also requested a new Mac, but I am not sure that is in budget.

The picture here is one of the tags for the “Liki” as it has come to be known this conference.

Over the next couple of weeks, Mark Beatty and I are going to be taking all the tags, which I transcribed yesterday, and creating a report that we will eventually place here and on the Liki. A report filled with the ideas of our fabulous members. Thanks to everyone who participated. It was great fun.

To see more pictures of the LITA Town Meeting, feel free to browse here.

LITA IRC meeting

About a dozen people attended the meeting on Monday morning from 10:30 to 12:30.
International Visitor Grant

The first topic of discussion focussed on the very generous donor who funded the attendance of a librarian from Trinidad and Tobago at the LITA Forum in October – he was so impressed by the moving thank you he received from the winner (“a memory I will always treasure ..”) that he is funding two more awards. The announcement for this year’s award had been written, and accepted by the committee. Details of procedures will be ironed out by Claudia with the LITA liaison, Karen Starr.

There was general excitement about the possibility of more awards, particularly for international librarians from areas other than the Caribbean. Ideas for encouraging more donors were solicited, and some will be pursued.

Members of the committee were surprised by the fact that LITA charged a $500 overhead fee for handling the grant, almost 20% of the total!!! Karen will try to find out why. There are communication issues that have to be resolved.

Jim Agee gave a short presentation on activities of the IRRT, and their hope for an endowment to support the international receptions., which cost $7-13,000. Soliciting donations is tricky business.

David Nutty explained last year’s grant process, and summarized some of the glitches (including the fact that the grant check was delivered very late, bogged down by ALA bureaucracy.

Co-sponsorship of ALA Program
The deadlines have already passed for this year, even for poster sessions.
There is still a possibility that there will be a tour of portals (digitized international collections) at LC.

Call for involvement
There will be a call for volunteers to staff the international visitors’ center (2 hour blocks), and members are encouraged to sign up for the international reception. See you there??

Members are also encouraged to attend town meeting and give input (normally 8AM Monday morning) and the social hour on Friday evening.

There was more, but this is all I can remember at the moment …

Top Tech Trends

With enormous thanks to Maurice York, the first of many LITA Podcasts!

There are seven segments in all for about an hour and forty-five minutes of trending goodness. For the sake of immediacy, this is pretty much the raw audio–not much editing or finessing. A more refined audio experience will be posted as we go.

If you enjoy these, be on the lookout for more podcasts from the 2007 ALA Midwinter meeting from LITA. We’ll be podcasting more than just the Top Tech Trends in the upcoming days, including some video from the LITA officers, and reactions to the LITA Town Meeting.

If you’ve never subscribed to a podcast before and would like some tips on how to subscribe or applications to use, post a comment to this post and I’ll go more into depth….just trying to get this up quickly for now!

LITA Town Meeting

Today, I attended my first LITA Town Meeting. It was great, and I hope to attend many more. I liked that it was a good blend of meeting other LITA members, learning about our users, and brainstorming about the future.

The Town Meeting started with a breakfast and introduction to the LITA leadership. We were shown the LITA Wiki, the LITA committee volunteer form, and were told that there is still time to apply to be on a committee. Appointments will be made over the next three months.

Then, even though it was a large meeting, everyone introduced themselves and revealed how long they had been LITA members. Reception was warm for new members, and the crowd was impressed with folks who had longer memberships.

Then, Mark Beatty, vice-president/president-elect, gave a presentation on his presidential theme. He gave an overview of the OCLC Perceptions report, the Pew report on Social Networking Sites, and talked about the value of ALA membership and 3rd places. He’s focusing his presidential theme on an updated environmental scan and improving on the values that LITA delivers to its membership. He used the town meeting as a way to learn about what people consider to be valuable about their LITA membership, as well as what they would like their LITA membership to provide.

Then, everyone in the room participated in a brainstorming process focusing on what people want from LITA. The ideas included (from most frequently cited to least frequently):

Continue reading LITA Town Meeting