Wednesday May 12, 2010

Highlights from ‘Reference at the Metcalf 2010’

Dali Atomicus (detail) by Philippe Halsman (Library of Congress)

‘Reference at the Metcalf’ is an annual seminar organised by Public Libraries Australia aimed at showcasing some of the most recent developments in information and reference services. This year speakers explored the role library’s have in creating, collecting and sharing digital data. With the rapid move away from physical resources a key feature of reference work lies in providing access to, organising and preserving this ever increasing array of digital data held on the web.

Tim Sherratt ‘digital historian and web tinkerer’ opened the day with an interesting presentation on ‘linked data’ otherwise known as ‘the semantic web’. This is the next generation of the web as we know it and the idea is that by providing certain linked data to pieces of information it will enable the web to ‘understand’ the meaning behind our searches and thus return more relevant information. Making our searches more meaningful however is an ongoing process and relies on everyone working together to add linked data to the web.

Rose Holley, Manager of Trove at the National Library emphasised the changing role of librarians in the digital age and our increasing role as teachers and facilitators rather than just gatekeepers of information. The digital age is calling for new ways of managing information and therefore new challenges for information professionals. According to Rose Holley the key lies with crowd sourcing, a concept where the public work together to reach a common goal. The success of Wikipedia certainly illustrates the effectiveness of collaboration in order to achieve enormous tasks. Who would have thought that the world’s most popular encyclopaedia could be developed solely by volunteers? Trove’s newspaper digitisation project is another great example of what volunteers can do to enhance access to information.

Mal Booth Director of Education and Research Services at UTS gave a fascinating talk about digital preservation highlighting the need for library professionals to be actively involved in this endeavour even if it means going beyond our comfort zone. Mal travelled to Iraq when he worked for the Australian War Memorial to take photos and oral histories of the soldiers for the museum’s collection. In years to come Mal’s extraordinary collection of materials will ensure that this important time in Australian history will not be forgotten.

Overall the key point to come out of this insightful seminar was collaboration. All the presenters emphasised the need to work together to not only improve access to information but to preserve our cultural heritage for the good of future generations.

— Posted by Merilyn P in  |  Permalink





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