Thursday, 19 October 2017

Internet Librarian International 2017

For the last couple of days I've been in London attending my second Internet Librarian International conference. The event aims to bring together an international audience of librarians to talk tech, tips and new innovations. I was there in a dual capacity - helping to staff the SLA Europe stand and giving a presentation on the work of the Office of Scholarly Communication at Cambridge. This presentation was part of a new strand at the conference on New Scholarly Communications which is an area many academic libraries are becoming increasingly concerned with as they move to develop and enhance the support they offer to their research community. There was a lot of other great information from the conference but in this blog post I'm going to focus on the scholarly communication track.

Several themes emerged which helped to tie the talks together. One such theme was the benefit that can be gained by encouraging researchers to promote their work via social media. Andy Tattersall from The University of Sheffield talked about the work he has done with academics to get them using social media to share their outputs. He recommends treating site recommendations like writing a prescription - instead of just encouraging people to use a tool because it's trendy we need to really think about what the tool is and why it's useful for that particular researcher. He used the example of someone working in linguistics where a YouTube presence might have more impact that a Twitter account. Andy has also adapted Maslow's famous Hierarchy of Needs to show the different tools which could most benefit researchers at different stages of their career (seen in slide number 24 of this presentation) which is a great visual way of getting the information across. This theme was continued by Nick Sheppard from the University of Leeds in his case study on using social media to engage the research community. He pointed out that modern academic libraries are central to the dissemination of the message of the university, most obviously through providing access to its research outputs. One of the aspects Nick has been looking at is the range of places this output is being accessed from (as seen in the tweet below):

#ILI2017 Feeling envious of libraries with research support teams who have time to collate/analyse this type of data
— AlisonMcNab(@AlisonMcNab) October 18, 2017

Showing this kind of evidence to researchers really helps to show them the impact that sharing their research can have and libraries are ideally placed to offer help and advice. We're used to dealing with information, can help with copyright queries and often have a solid working knowledge of different social media platforms. I certainly learnt about a few new ones in the course of ILI!

Unsurprisingly in a track focusing on scholarly communication another theme was openness. The theme of open research is one of the core areas of modern scholarly communication and certainly underpins everything we do in Cambridge but there are of course external pressures to consider. One of these pressures is around the cost of an education. There are of course tuition fees to pay but I was surprised to learn from Bruce Massis from Columbus State College that textbooks can add as much as 31% to the cost of a course. This puts the cost of a college education beyond the reach of many, even if they can afford the initial fees and living costs. Massis suggests that one answer to this is using Open Educational Resources (OER) instead of the original textbook. OERs aim to equip students with what they need to learn on day one of their course but they need to be of good quality. Again this is where the library has a role to work with educators to adapt or create resources that are useful to students. The theme of openness was also present in the talk by William H. Mischo and Mary Schlembach from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who outlined their work opening up library spaces through digital scholarship centres. These centres combine technology with library space to encourage innovation and open up the library to new audiences.

The final theme of the track looked at the different services that libraries are providing in research support. Alison McNab from the University of Huddersfield talked about the new developments in reference management software, something researchers are always asking us about in Cambridge. She pointed out that these now go far beyond just managing references and offer services which integrate into every stage of a researcher's process. She recommends a flipped classroom approach when teaching students to use these tools. There are many instructional videos available from the companies behind the software so have students watch those in advance and then save class time for their questions and comments. Finally Andy Tattersall cautioned us to remember that researchers are busy people. When we're giving them advice on which software to use we need to remember that they have limited time to learn. Make things short and snappy so that it fits into their day (and their attention span!).

As part of the strand I co-presented on the work of the OSC including it's triumphs and challenges and if this is of interest it can be found via the Cambridge repository. Overall ILI provided another great conference experience. I came away with lots of different ideas to put into practice over the next year until ILI 2018. If you want to know more about the rest of the sessions then multiple tweets can be found via #ILI2017.

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