NETSL 2011 Annual Spring Conference

The NETSL conference was amazing this year!  It was forward-looking, inspirational, and energizing — it’s put me into a rapturous state, all inspired and ready to go out and change the tech services world one Shelf-Ready book at a time!

Conference building

Here is where the conference was held. Very nice!

The conference theme was “2020 vision: A new decade for technical services.”   The four main speakers were all   library administrators who discussed the future of technical services from an administrative perspective.

To read the program and download presentation slides, go to the conference website. The slides by Brad Eden are especially useful — packed with information and good sources.

There were some common themes throughout the day:

  • User perspective: This was huge.  Over and over, we were admonished that we need to be evaluating everything we do from a user perspective.
  • The Cloud: Every speaker believed that moving local catalogs to a shared Cloud system is inevitable and that we should embrace it.  They also all supported increased collaboration and consortia-building via a Cloud setting.
  • Outsourcing: I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase “Shelf-ready books.”
  • Importance of unique collections: All the speakers thought digitization of unique collections and the building of institutional repositories was where today’s libraries need to be focused.
  • Print is no longer viable: They all supported moving print collections to off-site storage and increased shared print collections among libraries.

All the speakers were great, but I especially liked John Palfrey, the Harvard Law Library director who has been getting a lot of buzz for his book “Born Digital.”  He talked about how young people learn, and how libraries need to change to support them.

One “Wow” moment from Palfrey’s presentation was when he showed “StackView,” a project from the Harvard Innovation Lab that will virtualize stack browsing – and even make it better by adding social data.  Totally cool.  And also totally unavailable unless you are Harvard….

It was also interesting to hear about Palfrey’s Digital Public Library of America Project, which is trying to provide a viable, publically-owned alternative to the Google Books project.  A noble and valiant effort, but probably doomed to failure.  He does have some impressive partners on board, however, including Google itself.

Clock Tower

Clock tower on campus.

My breakout session was “The Unified Discovery Platform and the Library Catalog: Teammates or Rivals?”  presented by Cecilia Tittemore from Dartmouth College.  She demonstrated Dartmouth’s recent implementation of Summon, and let a spirited discussion of the pros and cons of discovery platforms.  It was interesting to hear about Dartmouth’s experience: they have yet to decide if their new search interface is an improvement.

The most provocative quote from the conference came from Brad Eden, from the University of California Santa Barbara: “RDA is DOA – we don’t have the time or money to go in this direction.” He does want us to invest in non-MARC metadata, though, and did not explain how RDA wasn’t compatible with that.

All in all, a very interesting conference.  I’m glad I went!

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