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The Access conference is always on my top list of conferences to attend every year.  I’ve been crossing the border for this event since 2008 when the conference was in Hamilton, Ontario.  During that conference I presented the work I was doing on the launch of VuFind while at Villanova University.  Coming to Access has built friendships, furthered my passion for solving technology problems in libraries and sparked a whole new appreciation for being above the 49th parallel in October.

This year’s conference, in downtown Montreal, was filled with great talks on a wide range of topics, from the future of the book, to the future of the library space, to the future of plastic fabrication.

Hugh McGuire, founder of LibriVox.org, said “Books are of the Web” during his session “Keeping Books Open.” McGuire shared his view of books in the future and touched upon what I also see as a clear indication of what the future entails for us with the iPad, Kindle, and other tablet based devices becoming omnipresent in our everyday lives the physical format of the book will change.  There are many of us who will always grab that paperback book with a familiar smell from the cheap newsprint paper, however, for future generations, in this case I look to my children, the physical book will be much different.  Our next generation may very well favor the e-book over the print book. We’ve already seen this happen in the music world.  Radiohead, one of my favorite bands, began selling their music exclusively as digital downloads a few years back before releasing the physical medium.  Today, artists are releasing one-off tracks that can be purchased before the entire album is complete.  Apple has begun transforming the textbook with their iPad device to make textbooks more of an interactive app rather than a linear and quite expensive physical monstrosity.

McGuire’s revolutionary talk was spot on with discussion of the values and reasons why the book, as we know it today, will be much different as the web evolves.

The complete LibriVox.org collection of over 5,500 audio books is coming soon to the Summon service.

I think everyone in the room had a great deal of fun with Alistair Croll’s talk, “Big Data, Answers and Civil Rights.”  While his talk was fun in nature there were some significant takeaways with respect to understanding the value of analyzing big data, which is anecdotal and data driven, and to get confirmation, which is based solely on data.  If you have ever done a usability study, you know users tend to stop and think much more about what they are doing with when someone isn’t standing over their shoulder.  The only true way to understand how your library, its tools and services, are used is to analyze the big data - sources such as catalog and web site query logs, circulation logs, gate counts, reference appointments, etc.  This data is important to product managers such as myself because we must have confirmation on how users work with and use our products in order to make the right decision about how to improve the user experience or functionality. 

Another session that hit on a very important and popular topic - linked data – was Lisa Goddard’s, “Adventures in Linked Data: Building a Connected Research Environment.”  This was one of the best primers of the value of linked data in academia I’ve heard to date.  The most beneficial principle I took away from this session was about the value in creating unique identifiers for everything in our everyday world.  For example, creating a unique identifier for buildings so they can be uniquely referenced in architectural research.  The sky is still the limit with this technology and we will have many new concepts in development with linked data that will come to fruition in the future.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by the caliber and the quality of the presentations at this years Access conference.  I’d like to thank the conference organizers for framing this year’s conference and pulling it all together.

29 Oct 2012 | Posted by Andrew Nagy

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