“Library Trend Watch”

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Discussing the future of libraries at the 11th InetBib Conference / photo: Ralph A Stamm, ISN

If you think librarians are old-fashioned people dressed in checkered shirts, I tell you: they’re not. At least not those attending the 11th InetBib Conference.

I entered an auditorium populated by people sitting with computers on their laps, listening, thinking and twittering about the future of libraries. Encouraged by an atmosphere of open discussion and criticism, participants would, from time to time, raise their voice and challenge the presenter’s views.

For the session I attended this morning, the organizers invited five people to give five-minute presentations on technological trends that might influence the future of libraries. “Let’s look into the crystal ball,” Patrick Danowski, the moderator, said. Fittingly, his introductory talk was entitled “Library Trend Watch”.

Dr. Rudolf Mumenthaler from ETH Library, talked about the future of e-readers. He argued that only multifunctional tablets such as iPad will become popular, with classic e-book readers remaining a niche product. It is the libraries’ job to provide their users with electronic content, on which they could cooperate with publishers.

Christian Hauschke from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Hannover, talked about Linked Open Data. He called on libraries to open access to their bibliographical information and follow the four principles of linked data.

Andreas Kahl introduced us to Google Wave, an open-source collaboration tool currently under development. Wave would allow librarians to log themselves into the work process of students and make suggestions like: Have you considered this source? At the same time, Google Wave allows users to delegate certain processes to the machine, such as including biographical references.

Till Kinstler of GBV, a German library network, talked about the sorting of search results. In his definition, information is only that part of knowledge, which we can use to solve an actual problem. There is a lot of knowledge which is not useful to us. Therefore, search engines need to present the results in a personalized way that matches the researcher’s needs.

Finally, Gerald Steilen of GBV talked about the presentation of search results. First lesson: the interface of search engines needs to help the researcher formulate the right query. Second lesson: libraries can learn a lot from other providers of search engines, be it an internet search portal or the timetable search site of a railway company.

Five minutes for each of these topics was certainly too little. The session gave me an idea, however, of the issues researchers and providers of research services need to think about when improving the art of research in the age of the Internet.

InetBib is a German-speaking community of librarians who exchange ideas and collaborate on the use of internet technologies. Its 11th annual conference took place at ETH Zurich, 14-16 April 2010. The ISN was present with a booth at the conference exhibition.

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