Librarians without Limits

 Contributed by Danielle Botha, OSALL

The 11th SAOIM (SA Online Information Meeting) conference , titled: Innovation in an age of limits, and held from 6-7 June 2012, was one of the best SAOIM conferences I’ve attended. In fact, it was so refreshing, it felt like my brain had a shower.

There were some brilliant presentations, both from our esteemed overseas speakers as well as from our local librarians and information specialists. It’s always a pleasure to listen to Stephen Abram, who kick-started the conference with his keynote speech on spotting new trends and opportunities, such as the 23 transformational things we will encounter now and in the near future. These include e-books and e-journals, embedding, streaming media, and new devices. He concluded that the future will be confusing, and we should get used to it and find our own path and help create the future instead of letting it just happen.

Pavlinka Kovatcheva showed us how librarians should embed themselves in other places than the library by demonstrating how the UJ librarians have used social networks and other tools to reach out to students. It was truly fascinating to see how passionate librarians are about their jobs and how they never limit their ideas. (Presentation) It was also great to have a presentation by some of our Zimbabwean colleagues. (Capacity building in library services: influencing innovation and competitiveness, Gracian Chimwaza, Michael Chimalizen & Blessing Chataira).

Maggie Verster showed us how to be a connected librarian and to make sure our roles stay alive and relevant. She introduced us to the online ID calculator as a good starting point to find out if you are on the right track. (Presentation)

Bettie de Kock gave an in-depth, practical demonstration of how the University of Pretoria uses gaming software to teach first-year students how to use the library. In fact, the avatar cannot progress in the game if he or she doesn’t choose the option to take the librarian with from the very start! (Presentation)

Karen Blakeman’s presentation on the future of search was a real eye-opener. We learnt how cookies on our computers affect our Google search results and how to limit these effects to achieve more accurate search hits – of utmost importance to any librarian!

The keynote speaker for day two of the conference was Michael Stephens, who helped instill passion for our profession and gave some great tips on how to approach the future: play, experiment and keep learning. (Presentation)

Then there were a number of presentations on projects done by librarians to “get used” by their users. I was amazed at the lengths that academic librarians have gone to set up virtual research environments. Kosie Eloff then introduced us to Cloud Computing and its risks: privacy, security, reliability, internet speed and network downtime, to name a few.

These enlightening two days were suitably ended off with a performance (it can hardly be called a presentation) by the energetic Richard Mulholland, from the presentation firm “Missing Link”, who entertained us with his topic of “Legacide: why legacy is the silent killer of innovation”. He told us to have a “kick-ass trick” – even if it’s just one!

Much as I wished to have been able to attend all the workshops, due to time constraints I could only attend one, “Frankenbooks: understanding the e-book opportunity” by Stephen Abram. Stephen tackled some of the obstacles facing e-books, and revealed that neither publishers nor librarians are fully ready to embrace them. The workshop was a wonderful opportunity to pose some questions to some of the speakers such as Michael Stephens, who also attended it.

I returned to the office on Friday afternoon, only to be hit by a wave of the mundane, (read: mountains of e-mail and admin) enough to squash any original thought the minute it hatched. This really brought home to me the importance of attending such a conference, where new ideas are born from fresh views, and have at least a short time to mature in the company of innovative peers who have brought them to life.

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