Disruptive technology: Conference report from ILI2016

In October this year I attended the Internet Librarian International (ILI) conference in London. This was my first time at ILI, and I was really excited after hearing so much about past ILI conferences. I was there presenting about the ILN as a source of online professional development, but in this post I want to tell you about a few of the sessions I attended.

The overall conference theme was not “disruption”, but it could have been. Several speakers talked about disruption, both in the form of technology and ideas.

Stuart Hamilton at ILI2016

Stuart Hamilton at ILI2016

Opening the conference was Stuart Hamilton from IFLA. Stuart started by talking about how the idea of sustainability was created and adopted by the environmental movement, and then normalised to mainstream discussions. “Environmental sustainability” is now an uncontroversial idea, widely adopted and supported by many governments and agencies. Stuart asked “What if we were able to do for access to information what the environmental movement did for sustainable development?…What if we started a movement to mainstream sustainable information access?” He strongly challenged the audience to bring discussions about sustainable information access to our employers and our national professional bodies, and connect with IFLA’s global work in this area.

Rafael Ball from ETH Zurich presented about how big data is changing libraries. His central premise was that libraries developed in an age of small data, and our perspectives on data have been shaped by this – our cataloguing principles and schema designed to evaluate data as precisely and accurately as possible. Rafael’s thesis is that this is no longer a useful paradigm in an age of big data, which he characterises of consisting of:

  • Volume: lots and lots and lots of data
  • Variety: many different forms of data
  • Velocity: data that is streaming, real time, sometimes short-lived
  • Veracity: high uncertainty about the truth or accuracy of the data.

Rafael argues that the greater the volume of the data, the less likely it is all accurate – but the more data underpins research, the better the research will be. His end message was that “Librarians need courage to let go of accuracy”.

Jan Holmquist at ILI2016

Jan Holmquist at ILI2016

Jan Holmquist from Guldborgsund Public Library in Denmark wanted to disrupt our ideas of strategy in libraries, with his oft-repeated statement that “your strategic plan is not your strategy.” He believes the best way for libraries to connect with communities is to know the answer to the question “To what challenges in society is your library the answer?” He talked about the rise of misinformation in the media, challenging us to discuss the role that libraries can play in a world where reliable information can be hard to find. Jan shared both his slides and some notes about his talk on his website.

If you were doing a conference presentation, and wanted to challenge your audience to disrupt something in libraries, what would it be?

Alyson Dalby, ILN Director of Business Operations


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