Saturday, 14 May 2011

CULN Conference

Earlier this week I went to an event held by the College University of Leicester Network (CULN) entitled Librarians’/LRC Research and IT Conference. It consisted of three presentations and one workshop, all specialising in digital data. Here is a brief outline of my thoughts on the day.

Dr John Haggerty from Salford University described himself as a ‘computer scientist’ and his talk focussed on the security issues of online data. He discussed it wonderfully in layman’s terms so that those of us without in-depth knowledge of encryption or contamination issues etc would be able to understand. He explained how digital data is intangible and ubiquitous, and how this can be problematic.  He focussed on challenges such as storage, structured/unstructured information, encryption needs, longevity of data and how all of this is changing yet again because of the throwaway culture arising relating to digital data. He gave Facebook as a perfect example of this. People create (unstructured) information purely for the purpose of giving it away, without thinking about who then owns that information or how it is stored and maintained. As technology upgrades happen faster and there is a general reduction on technology costs, Dr Haggerty predicted that these problems will increase in the future and we, as professionals, need to be aware of such issues, particularly if we use social networking as part of our jobs.

Jenny Moran gave an interesting talk about Leicester’s archive office called ‘From Dust to Digital’.  She started with a drawing created by teenagers of a typical archivist. It included things such as cardys, glasses, sensible shoes, no alcohol, radio 4 fans etc. It could be interpreted as either quite amusing or upsetting depending on your point of view! This talk was actually quite an eye-opener. I didn’t realise just how much information is held in an archive office, and she spoke about the challenges of digitising the collections. A never-ending task! My only experience of using archives comes from being an undergrad student back in 2000, trying desperately to locate some primary sources for my dissertation on local history. I look back on the experience with fond amusement now, but at the time I found it terrifying being in such an environment. Hopefully, with sources being increasingly made available online, people won’t feel as intimidate of archives in the future.

There was a choice of several workshops to attend and I selected Media Zoo, run by Terese Bird and Simon Kear. It was a hands-on session, allowing each of us to familiarise ourselves with various mobile devices. Some of these I’d used before (iPhone, iPod, iPad, Macbook, laptop) but I found it invaluable being able to spend a significant amount of time comparing e-readers. It was nice being able to do this without constant interruptions from pushy sales assistants! I’ve always appreciated the value of e-readers for students, but I hadn’t been convinced of them in terms of my own private reading. I have various e-books stored on my iPhone (which I usually browse when I’m alone in the pub while my boyfriend makes use of the outdoor smoking shelter!), but felt I’d miss the tactile experience of holding and bonding with a book. However, after the session I felt much more positively about them. That evening I started a discussion on Facebook about e-readers and it was interesting to hear how diverse my friends’ opinions are of them. An e-reader is a considered purchase though, and as I’m currently ‘between jobs’ I won’t be buying one anytime soon unfortunately. However, fingers crossed if I drop enough hints, Father Christmas will hear me...

The day concluded with a presentation from Aly Conteh of the British Library. He discussed the trials and tribulations the BL has encountered during its endeavours to digitise many of its resources. The subjects of Google Books and HarperCollins created some lively debate, before the BL’s 2020 Vision was outlined.

I found this day very interesting and really enjoyable. It was amazing for a free event and I really valued the hands-on time I had with several different e-reader models. It was useful to hear about so many different aspects of digital management from differing sectors of the profession. I was able to meet some people who I will be working with in my new job (when it starts next month), so at least now I’ll know a few faces. This was the first CULN event I've attended and I left most impressed.  All in all, a very good day!

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