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National Acquisitions Group (NAG) conference

I was privileged to attend the NAG conference in Manchester on the 7th and 8th of September. I brought home one main impression and three subsidiary ones.

The main impression was the speed of change. It has been well said that change often takes longer to arrive than expected; but that once it starts, it occurs faster than expected. We have been telling each other for years that change is in the wind for libraries but the reality on the ground is that much the same patterns of behaviour have prevailed. For years library conferences were attended by people playing in the same positions and doing much the same thing as they always had. The NAG conference this year felt different. Here are the three straws in the wind:

The pace of change in academic e-resources

The move to e-resources from print has been gathering pace, but for me this was crystallised by a chat with the Head of Service of a university library. They are creating a “digital library” with a very limited quantity of physical stock. Instead of a book-repository-with-PCs, they appear to be creating a learning space based on digital resources with a few books on the side.

Changing business models

  • Firstly, (although almost the last chronologically at the conference) was an enthusiastic and engaging presentation by Darren Taylor, (Worcester University Library) and  David Pearson (Worcestershire Libraries) on the Hive project. This is a major new build project, but in one sense the striking new building is not the most significant aspect of the exercise. The Hive will be one of relatively few joint public/academic libraries but appears to push new boundaries in that it goes beyond merely the sharing of facilities, by removing most of the distinctions between academic and public patrons.
  • Secondly, I attended a workshop ably run by Luke Burton of Newcastle Public libraries on e-books in public libraries. The workshop was nominally about the different formats available (epub, pdf, azw etc) but the discussion at the conference and subsequently on the LIS-PUB-LIBS email list seemed to me to raise more fundamental questions: should public libraries be in this market at all? If so, how are the publishers to be persuaded to provide useful, timely and stable content? Should it be a chargeable service, and if so, how should it relate to the forthcoming Amazon e-book rental service? Do libraries loan e-book readers as well as the titles themselves? Should it be a national service?

The use of Open Source software

For some years, in many different domains, there has been greater and greater use made of Open Source software (software written by a community of users and freely available) . Much of the World Wide Web runs on Apache. Many servers in large organisations use the Linux operating system. Many Universities use the Moodle VLE. All of these are commercial-strength open source software (the Open University Moodle implementation supports almost 0.75 million students), but whilst the software itself is free, implementing and running it isn’t; the original budget for the Open University project was almost £5 Million. You either pay installation and support costs through your payroll, or engage a third part organisation to provide the support.

At least two large scale open source Library Management Systems (Koha and Evergreen) have been available for several years, but there have been few implementations in major academic or public libraries in the UK. One of the first UK public libraries to adopt Koha was Halton Libraries and that was only about a year ago. 

At the NAG conference, there was a very interesting presentation by Staffordshire University and PTFS Europe about an implementation of Koha for the University. As someone remarked, we are past the point where vice-chancellors either dismiss open source software on the grounds that “if it is free it cannot be any good”, or ask plaintively why free software costs money to install and run.

Halfway to paradise

Almost halfway there, a research report authored by Holly Mercer from Texas A&M University, is an analysis of the behaviours, as opposed to the attitudes of academic librarians in relation to Open Access publishing. With the issue of Open Access, academic librarianship seems caught between the imperative of cost-saving, difficulties in effectuating change in the faculties and the need to provide a continuous service (not mentioned in this study, but an important factor in inhibiting the cancellation of journal titles or “making a stand with the publishing industry” over price rises).

With an emphasis on behaviour then, the research methodology avoids the survey approach, and instead conducts an analysis of literature published by the LIS community and indexed in the LISA abstracts database, rationalising that data in ways such as de-duplication and exclusion of non-academic librarian authors.

Early on in the report, the issue of Open Access is situated in a broader context of shifting roles and responsibilities in academic librarianship:

Bibliographers and reference librarians have become liaisons who provide expanded services to academic departments. Liaison-librarians often are responsible for discussing scholarly communication topics, such as the rising cost of scholarly journal subscriptions and open access alternatives, and are expected to advise authors to retain enough rights to their published work to use in the classroom, to share with colleagues, and to deposit in an institutional or subject repository.

Yet the report highlights significant levels of ambivalence around this new responsibility:

A 2009 study by Palmer et al. concluded librarians are generally quite supportive of scholarly communications programs including opening access to scholarship, but are nonetheless ambivalent or unsure how to discuss these topics with faculty at their institutions.

It may be that this lack of confidence is symptomatic of uncertainty across academia of the benefits of Open Access. The report discusses the low take-up of institutional repositories, and this reminded me of some qualitative research I carried out in 2008, in which a Russell Group university psychology researcher told me that the benefits of simply dumping [sic] a paper into a repository hadn’t been made clear to him. The problem goes beyond poorly rolled out repositories. It remains the case, for example, that the “certification process” (i.e. quality review) of a published article sits with the journal rather than the repository.

One of the strengths of this report is its constructive criticism of institutional repositories. Dorothea Salo is quoted as making the following very strong statement:

Repository software serves observed and stated faculty needs surrounding content creation and dissemination hardly at all.

And the report goes on to say:

The University of Rochester library investigated the discrepancy between the stated benefits of institutional repositories and the desires of faculty and found that most want to work with colleagues, as well as organise and manage their research and writing. IRs only minimally cater to these goals.

Back to the advocacy issue, a particularly valuable recommendation made in the body of this report is that if academic librarians were practitioners of open access publishing, they would find it considerably easier to evangelise to academics:

Academic librarians believe the profession should advocate for OA but few said they were supporting OA by taking action individually, such as self-archiving or amending agreements.

So the report suggests that the full power of evangelism is only released when you practise what you preach. And for this point alone, the report is valuable. Practise what you preach, and provide tools to help the congregation to follow suit. But if neither the academic librarian nor the academic in the faculty is adopting open access en masse, then there may be deeper problems not dealt with in this otherwise excellent report. So the report does provide a rare analysis of librarian behaviours around Open Access, but ultimately fails to dig down into the reasons behind the behaviours described. We need to look beyond the report, not necessarily for attitudinal factors, but for more cultural, political and economic reasons behind this resistance to change.

Miranda McKearney talks with Talis at the Summer Reading Challenge launch

In this podcast, Sarah Bartlett talks with Miranda McKearney, the Founder Director of The Reading Agency at the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge 2010 at The House of Commons. The Summer Reading Challenge is underpinned by a strong belief in the public library ethos and the ideal of equal access to reading opportunities. In the podcast we discuss the origins of the Summer Reading Challenge, The Reading Agency’s biggest and most successful model of reader development. Miranda explains how the agency arrives at a compelling reading theme every year that will engage children and facilitate a broad range of partnerships. This year’s theme, Space Hop, will enable libraries and schools to partner with the scientific domain, and is also designed to encourage boys to read. Miranda discusses other important hard-to-reach groups of children, emphasising that priorities will vary locally. Ultimately, the success of the Challenge depends on the school – librarian partnership, and Miranda emphasises how important it is for schools to recognise the importance of reading for pleasure. Miranda outlines the proven positive outcomes of involvement in the Challenge in terms of reading attainment and motivation levels. Finally we discuss the prospects of ongoing funding for the Summer Challenge.

Ed Vaizey pays homage to the Summer Reading Challenge at this year’s launch

As co-sponsors of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, a number of us here at Talis made our way to the House of Commons yesterday for the launch event. The Summer Reading Challenge is one of those initiatives that everyone loves, and it’s a privilege for Talis to be associated with something that has such broad and valuable outcomes.

In case you’re not aware of it, and as Miranda McKearney, Director of The Reading Agency, explained in the main address, The Summer Challenge is essentially very simple – children across the UK are challenged to read six books over the summer holidays. In what was a clarion call for the retention of reader development activities in public libraries in the current cost-cutting climate, Miranda emphasised the research that has repeatedly demonstrated tangible outcomes of the Challenge in terms of the reading levels, range and motivations of the increasing numbers of 4-11 year olds who take part every year.

Whilst Ed Vaizey, Minister of Culture, made ideological overtures about the Big Society flavour of the Summer Reading Challenge, he was clearly deeply impressed with its successes, as were all the speakers at the event. Around 750,000 children took part last year, and of these, 413,000 completed the challenge, involving 95% of libraries, and resulting in 47,000 new library members. And in case you’re wondering, there were 20 million loans of children’s materials, and 3 million books read as direct outcomes of the challenge.

To complement this quantitative view, his colleague Don Foster from the Liberal Democrat party testified that the reading habits of his then-8 year old grandson were transformed by the Challenge last year, and he is now the kind of boy who reads after bedtime with a torch under the covers, to the astonishment of his parents who had been deeply concerned about his disinclination to read.

On a more sobering note, Alan Davey from The Arts Council reminded us that beneath the statistic that 60% of the population read regularly for pleasure, lies a less comfortable reality that 40% of us don’t. As a long-term supporter of The Reading Agency, he concurs that encouraging the young to read is crucial.

Anne Sarrag from The Reading Agency took us back to the inception of The Summer Reading Challenge 11 years ago, round Miranda’s kitchen table, as the legend goes. Anne affirmed that children’s libraries are integral to The Summer Reading Challenge, which really operates as a big team, with The Reading Agency as a catalyst, and librarians customising it and prioritising partnerships to local needs. Its relationship to Big Society becomes clear at this point, and is driven home further by a wave of volunteer effort entering the Challenge this year as large numbers of young adults apply to volunteer in libraries over the summer holidays to encourage children’s reading. Many of them, according to Anne, took part themselves when they were younger, which is testament to the power of the Challenge.

Recently in CILIP Gazette, a French public librarian working on placement here praised the range of reader development initiatives in which British public libraries engage. The Summer Reading Challenge is a piece of good news that just gets better and better, as its participation rates improve every year, and its significance is validated by research such as the OECD Reading For Change report, cited by Anne, which demonstrates that reading for pleasure is essential to children’s life chances. And I’m sure we can all agree that it’s everyone’s responsibility to encourage reading – not just schools’ – in a fun and enjoyable way. Its fundamental objective, as Anne pointed out, is to give libraries and teachers the book knowledge, confidence and understanding of implementing initiatives and learning opportunities to develop young readers. Specifically, it helps to reduce what has become known as the “summer reading dip”, a common phenomenon in which emergent readers return to school in September, having lost the input of the school over the holidays, and struggle to regain their previous level of attainment.

Talis is proud to be supporting The Summer Reading Challenge, which builds both enjoyment of reading and a relationship with libraries. For many of us, it’s the embodiment of librarianship and the reason why we originally entered the profession. Long may it thrive.

Find out more….

These podcasts were recorded at the event and offer further insights:

2010 top ten trends in academic libraries

The US-based ACRL Research, Planning and Review Committee has produced a valuable 2010 top ten trends in academic libraries report, with plenty of relevance for UK librarians, as well as interesting insights into the US higher education sector. The trends are identified via a rigorous methodology which incorporates a literature review (the report incorporates an impressive array of recent industry sources) and a limited survey “to clarify the trends”.

Space oddity

One key trend is the challenge of the constant rebalancing of library physical and virtual space, noting, interestingly, that “in-person reference desk statistics are declining in many academic libraries, while online reference statistics are increasing”. The report points to the expansion of library virtual presence through course management and other institutional systems as well as social networking tools, and reminds us of the overarching need to “support the teaching and instruction mission of the university”.

A sea change in collection development

The report makes the point that academic library collection growth is now driven by user demand, in other words we’ve shifted from a “just in case” to a “just in time” approach.  Is “just in case” in fact integral to the library mission? Only time will tell how susceptible this makes the academic library to further disintermediation, facilitated by:

“… customized patron-driven acquisition programs from some major library book distributors, improved print-on-demand options for monographs, patron desire for new resource types, and resource sharing systems, such as RapidILL, offering 24-hour turnaround time for article requests.”

The report further acknowledges:

“Still to be determined are the long-term effects of this change on the ability of academic libraries to meet their clientele’s information needs, the stability of some of the new access methods, and implications for future scholarship

Digital data set management: a grower

A sub-set of this trend towards user-driven collection development is “the need to collect, preserve, and provide access to digital datasets”. A 2009 OCLC report is cited to make the point that libraries need to support discovery in this area, and notes that the 2010 Horizon Report identified visual data analysis tools as a technology trend on the 4-5 year horizon. Digitisation more generally is a trend in its own right and the report warns that this will require a larger share of resources in future. On the upside, the Coalition of Networked Information makes the point that the academic library has a real opportunity with the digitisation of special collections – “a nexus where technology and content are meeting to advance scholarship in extraordinary new ways”.

More mobile

The explosive growth of mobile devices is a standalone trend, alongside a more general Technology section. Again, the report brings us back to the need to consider not only user needs and preferences but also “the relationship of services to the academic program of their institution”.

Accountability and assessment

A particularly significant trend, in my view, is the increasing need for accountability and assessment, i.e. the library demonstrating the value provided to users and the broader institution, specifically:

“… the library’s impact on student learning outcomes, student engagement, student recruitment and retention, successful grant applications, and faculty research productivity.”

Bad moon rising

The report makes the points that you would expect about budget challenges, but there are some interesting vignettes around the US higher education sector generally, notably this, sourced from Chronicle of Higher Education:

“… the average return for college and university endowments in the 2009 fiscal year was -18.7%, the worst since 1974.”

Importantly though, the report doesn’t dwell on this unfortunate reality, and really does accentuate the positive. One area of optimism highlighted was increased opportunities for collaboration, the epitome of the service orientation of librarianship, as the report correctly notes:

“Collaboration efforts will continue to diversify: collaborating with faculty to integrate library resources into the curriculum and to seek out information literacy instruction, and as an embedded librarian; working with scholars to provide access to their data sets, project notes, papers etc. in virtual research environments and digital repositories.”

And another real area of opportunity is scholarly communications:

“Recent developments illustrate a trend toward proactive efforts to educate faculty and students about authors’ rights and open access publishing options and to recruit content for institutional repositories (IRs).

The report urges academic librarians to provide value-added intellectual property services, and there are some really interesting US exemplars highlighted:

“Some libraries have created scholarly communication librarian or copyright officer positions. Others have taken a more distributed approach. The University of Minnesota, for example, has included scholarly communication responsibilities in the position descriptions of all of its liaison librarians.”

The ACRL Research, Planning and Review Committee is to be commended for such a lucid report that is concise enough for everyone to read in full.

Talis Open Day: Linked Data and Libraries

Register to reserve your place for the latest in the series of free Talis Platform Open days which is specify for anyone interested  in understanding and applying Linked Data in the world of National, International, Cooperative, and other large libraries.

Talis Open Day: Linked Data and Libraries
10:00 – 16:00 – Wednesday 21st July 2010
British Library Conference Centre
St Pancras

Register for the event from the Platform events page.
Location Information, from the British Library.

These Open Days are designed to introduce you to the principles, practice and potential of Linked Data.  Included is a short tutorial on RDF and the SPARQL query language, pitched at a level which will engage the technical and inform the non-technical attendees.

Linked Data is being adopted by many significant organisations across the web. and the BBC are just two that are working with Talis on applying Linked Data Semantic Web techniques and technologies.   As can be seen from the provisional agenda below, this day will (in addition to addressing general Linked Data issues) be covering leading library specific initiatives in this area.


  • Introduction to Linked Data
  • Overview of the Talis Platform
  • The Bnf Pivot project – Emmanuelle Bermes, Bibliothèque nationale de France
  • W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group
  • RDF/SPARQL tutorial
  • Bibo – The Bibliographic Ontology
  • Finding Semantic Relationships in MARC
  • Linked Data in action

This is an ideal free day for those wanting an insight in to the potential and the practicalities of applying Linked Data to library data.   Follow this page as we announce more speakers for each of the sessions.

Understanding the Semantic Web – 1

The American library technology commentator Karen Coyle has produced an ambitious report Understanding the Semantic Web: Bibliographic Data and Metadata under the auspices of the American Library Association. In our increasingly open world, it was galling to have to pay $43 for the privilege of reading it, and especially ironic given that the Semantic Web delivers its value exponentially according to the amount of linked data made available to it, a point that is not lost on Karen Coyle in relation to library data.

In this first chapter, Karen sets the scene, providing rich historical context in terms of a history of cataloguing, and thus builds up an irresistible argument as to why libraries need to embrace the semantic web.

What is metadata?

It does no harm to define metadata, and these three points provide a useful starting point:

  1. It’s constructed – it is fundamentally artificial.
  2. It’s constructive – it is purposeful.
  3. It’s actionable – it should be possible to act on the metadata in some way.

Even more useful, though, is the example Coyle uses to show good metadata in action, i.e. the subway map, and saying that “If you were to superimpose this map over the city it represents, you’d find that the subway isn’t “true”, in the sense that it is neither to scale nor are the stations located where they would be on a map based on longitude and latitude.”

And continues…

And yet they perform their job incredibly well, to the point that one can arrive in a city for the first time, perhaps even with only a limited understanding of the local language, and find one’s way. These maps are a good example of functionality in metadata.

Karen then develops the idea by comparing the old-style inert paper map with one that has “machine-actionable metadata” behind it, which has the effect of enabling users to reuse it in unforeseeable ways.

Historical evolutions

Karen explains that the basic functions of bibliographic metadata have extended over time, in response to related changes in the catalogue’s context.

The sharing of cataloguing between libraries has a surprisingly long lineage. In the nineteenth century, libraries apparently used to exchange their printed book catalogues, sometimes for a charge. The industrial revolution was accompanied by a dramatic increase in printed publications, and the card catalogue came about at this time. This proved to be a mixed blessing, because although it was easier to update, it lost the ability to be accessed remotely, until the dawning of the database era a century later.

Over the course of the twentieth century, the library underwent transformative growth, new technologies were introduced to meet the needs that arose from that growth, and library management became more complex, until we get to today’s situation where, as Karen illustrates, we have a “need to filter one’s retrieved set by language in order to reduce the number of items retrieved from thousands to ‘only’ three or four hundred.” Functional augmentation such as faceting and ranking results have, as Karen puts it “put pressure on the catalog record, pushing it to perform functions it was not consciously designed to do”. This strain has been compounded by the merging of diverse back-office catalogues such as the serials check-in records into what we know today as the library management system.

And Karen is perfectly correct to remind us that information overload predates the Internet by almost half a century. The post-war boom led to an explosion of research activity, and new retrieval mechanisms, such as the citation database, were invented to help people navigate through the morass of papers written.

Whose metadata is it anyway?

Despite all these innovations though, one incontrovertible truth remained in place – the separation of library data from data in other domains. It now needs to be an integral “part of the dominant information environment that is the web.” As Coyle emphasises, that is where library users are, so it’s where the library needs to be.

The important question now is: how can the library catalog move from being ‘on the Web’ to being ‘of the Web’? The linked data technology that has developed out of the Semantic Web provides an interesting path to follow. It is specifically designed to facilitate the sharing of information on the Web, much in the same way that the Web itself was developed to allow the sharing of documents. The library must become intertwined with that rich, shared, linked information space that is the Web. Rather than creating data that can be entered only into the library catalog, we need to develop a way to create data that can also be shared on the Web. This requires that we expand the context for the metadata that we create.

Coyle notes the overlap in content between the library and the Web, which as yet, is extremely under-exploited, citing the simple fact that the name “’Herman Melville’ and the fact that he wrote Moby Dick are facts that are not limited to the data in library catalogs…”

She has set up a context that is both broad and deep for chapter 2 in which she will consider the Semantic Web in much greater detail.


MiddlemashI was a newbie to the library mashup scene, and took in a lot of information yesterday at Middlemash, hosted by Damyanti Patel and her colleagues at Birmingham City University. It was every bit the friendly and stimulating event that I’d expected to be, but by the time I, along with an impressive number of co-malingerers, got to the Barton Arms at the end of the day, I was able to pinpoint what had made me mildly uncomfortable at intermittent points of the day.

The discomfort had nothing to do with either the organisers or the participants, or indeed with the concept of mashing itself. The problem is that the same forward-thinking librarians who celebrate the advent of electronic resources and innovative technologies for discovering them, are the same people who, in a mashing context, are forced back into the world of print. And this has to be about ownership of data. Bibliographic data is much more “ours” than electronic resource metadata, that has traditionally been proprietary, locked away in abstract and index databases, available only in academic institutions and certainly not mashable by a bunch of librarians with a strange predilection for creating more exciting experiences of scholarly information.

Mashing the reading list

Like many people at the event, Edith Speller from Trinity College of Music was concerned about her institution’s reading lists. She felt that they were getting too static, and out of date, and, like many Talis Aspire customers, wanted to raise awareness of all those expensive subscriptions to e-resources among academics who would then be more likely to include them on resource lists. However, the solutions arrived at seem to be very book-specific, involving the following:

• Using the ISBN of a book on a resource list to look up recommendations (along the lines of “people who bought that also bought this”) using Amazon Web Services.
• Using the Mosaic API to:

• Perform an ISBN look-up to find the courses associated with the people who have borrowed that book.
• Use course codes to look up what other books were borrowed by people on those courses.

Paul Stainthorp at University of Lincoln is using RefWorks to create embeddable lists of new titles and communicate them to users, by sharing folders within RefWorks publicy and creating RSS fees on that folder. He’s also used Yahoo! Pipes (the mashup panacea du jour) to pull in the book cover image and description from Amazon. Because their academics prefer notifications by email, as opposed to running their own RSS feed, an email now comes in when a new book arrives in their subject area.

No doubt academics are availing themselves of current awareness services provided by publishers to find out about new e-journal articles, but it comes back to the disintermediation of the library from e-resource metadata. Owen Stephens from Open University reflected in the pub afterwards on the decisive break that occurred with the electronic journal, when the library no longer owned the item, but merely licensed it. Tony Hirst concurred that the library world had never challenged the proprietary nature of abstracts and indexes.

Mashing the library floor plan

Owen ran a workshop in the afternoon to develop his idea for mashing library floor plans with Google Maps. We used the University of Sheffield library floorplan as a working example, and it was fascinating to hear about how Open Layer (an Open Source mapping tool) works. Apparently maps are divided into tiles of 256 by 256 pixels, and then some javascript asks for each tile as needed as the user navigates around the map. And as the user zooms in, the map simply moves to a more detailed set of tiles. The exercise of converting a floorplan into a zoomable map forces the library to consider how granular and practicable their floorplans – is there enough detail to establish on which shelf a book is located? Maintenance is also an issue and Owen suggested augmenting the shelving workflow, so at the end of shelving, the librarian records the start and end classmark of the shelf. We also considered separate scenarios where the user wants a particular book, on the one hand, or books on a subject area on the other.

University of Sheffield plans to use heat maps to analyse how users are navigating the library. With the Ranganathan maxim in mind (positioning the stock to minimise the need for users to move around the library) they would then be able to optimise the library layout.

Sure it’s funky, but I just want to renew my books

Earlier in the day, Mark Van Harmelen from Hedtek Ltd. based at the University of Manchester, urged us all to listen more to the student voice, through focus groups and other mechanisms. I know that Owen Stephens and many other Middlemash attendees are making every effort to engage with students in the idea and design stage right now. It will be interesting to see whether we’re expending too much energy on over-sophisticated solutions for the dying format of print. As Chris Keene from University of Sussex stated, the response of students to tag clouds and other features at the discovery layer is, “Sure it’s funky, but I just want to renew my books.”

Personally, I’d love to see more focus on work-level data. The published works of an author or indeed a subject area plotted against an appropriate timeline could be tremendously useful – the works of Dickens plotted against key social legislation of the 19th century springs to mind. But the approach would come into its own with non-fiction, where there is a more direct relationship between published literature and real world events. That would really add scholarly value to bibliographic data, and would enable us to break out of transactions such as reservations that are rooted in the past not the future of scholarly life.

Karen Calhoun completes a conversation with Talis

sm_calhoun_karen When recording my previous Talking with Talis podcast with OCLC’s Karen Calhoun, in a hotel lobby over the road from the British Library in London, we suffered a technology failure loosing the last third of our conversation.

Karen kindly agreed to spend some time in a follow up conversation so that listeners could get to hear her thoughts on a couple of further questions I asked, including one about the future for library metadata formats. 

In addition I also gained the opportunity to ask her reflect upon the presentation she gave on that day.  The slides for which are available to view from the OCLC site.  The other benefit being that we were not competing with the music, staff, and hotel guests during the recording.

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Interesting developments at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France

BNFHaving read some documentation recently around the plans of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BNF) for what they call a “pivot” – a mechanism based on semantic technologies for optimising the value of the BNF’s entire web presence, including Gallica, its digital library, it was great to have the opportunity to hear Dominique Stutzmann from the BNF speak at the recent Eurolis Seminar in London.

The future of the library (Doom or Bloom?) was what the day event was all about, and according to Stutzmann, we’ve already invented it. We’ve got the nice buildings, and so ostensibly the library of the future will be the same as that of today. If the library space vanishes, he argued, it will only be the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy because librarians aren’t confident about what they’re doing. I think he’s really onto something – there is indeed an element of subjective crisis in the problem of the future of libraries. He admitted, though, that Web 2.0 re-presents the user-librarian relationship in quite a fundamental way; the user becomes both publisher and librarian. But users don’t want librarians to disappear. He seems to be saying that our library spaces continue to be successful, so leave them alone but engage with some interesting technological stuff as well, because libraries are well-positioned to do so. He added that users trust libraries with everything including long-term preservation of data, and BNF is clearly poised to exploit that trust, but not for its own ends, but for everyone, in the great universal tradition of libraries.

Stutzmann perceives the potential of semantic technologies very clearly in terms of the user experience – giving everyone improved and accurate access to the information available, and had an impressive array of exemplars to reel off, citing Google Book Search’s use of data mining tools taking city name from search results and pinpointing them on a map, and Bibliosurf’s map of novels as examples. Along similar lines, he demonstrated an interactive map with mashed up data from last-fm to produce a map of composers, where proximity indicates artistic commonality rather than geographical proximity – for example Beethoven is situated alongside Vaughan Williams.

As a Modern Languages graduate, I loved hearing about semantic search developments at the European Library and specifically in their TELplus project, where multilingual search (i.e. a search query with terms from more than one language) has been achieved. Stutzmann was clear that authority data is indivisible from semantic web developments, and that is where the librarian tradition really comes into its own; he demonstrated search results with LCSH headings as a facet on the side-panel. He pleaded with librarians to use metadata to give more accurate access to data.

The only downbeat element to his presentation was a survey carried out at BNF in 2008 to get a clearer picture of their users. A key finding was that the average user of the digital library 48, although there is an overall age range of 14-94. Europeana suffers from the same problem. Funnily enough, when I was out on Saturday night, a friend was saying how almost all the people who queued up recently in Birmingham to see the Anglo-Saxon treasures recently discovered in the West Midlands were white people aged 50+. Stutzmann pondered whether there was anything that could be done about it – does it come down to lifestyle fundamentals?

In the same survey, there was a fascinating finding about Library 2.0. Many users questioned felt that library sites should not be spoilt by the comments of user. They are happier to share their information and collaborate with the librarian than with other users. Obviously this goes against received Library 2.0 thinking, and left me wondering, is that a specifically “French thing”, or do UK users have more in common with their European counterparts than we think?