Getting lost in VALA 2018

My first trip to Melbourne by myself! I feel like a big girl now. Notwithstanding the fact that I spent most of the first 48 hours in Melbourne hopelessly lost, yet valiantly pretending I knew where I was, I still managed to run The Tan (and yes I ran it clockwise – the hard way); visit the Queen Victoria Night Markets; and buy some very gorgeous shoes.

Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria unite for some post-Conference fare at Queen Victoria Night Markets

Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria unite for some post-Conference fare at Queen Victoria Night Markets

Due to a very generous scholarship sponsored by EBSCO I also brought back to Queensland some new and challenging views on Libraries and met two wonderful co-scholars from Karratha, Western Australia and Mackay, Queensland.

My top takeaways from the Conference are (drum-roll):

Data is both a tool to enable and overwhelm us.

  • We must make it our business to make our data discoverable and accessible; and use it to tell stories.
  • Libraries need to let go a little. For instance, crowd sourcing can expand the reach and amount of digitised material. A great example is Amplify at State Library NSW where online users are enlisted to edit machine transcripted audio files.

What is Libraries point-of-difference in a digital world?

  • We all know the advantages big data can have but it has its limitations. It reinforces perceptions of how we think we are already – not who we really are (think the echo chamber effect). We are complex beings. We are more than our search history. Libraries understand that – real people like our staff understand that.
  • Libraries need to ask themselves, are we building technology around communities or building communities with technology? We shouldn’t think of tech in terms of efficiency and productivity – but in terms in experience.

So what trends should we be preparing for?

  • Digital citizenship is becoming a crucial skill as more government agencies deal online. Libraries can be a non-judgmental place for customers to acquire this skill.
  • Our online identity and privacy is going to be a space Libraries can tackle head-on. How do we balance privacy and yet foster communities? There are an average of 98 data-points captured per person by Facebook. A large part of our identity – even our heartbeat – is in other people’s hands (think FitBit).
  • Libraries have the ability to foster critical digital literacy, which implies the ability to shape the world you inhabit and exert a measure of control over it.
  • Lastly, although it’s not new, open source is creating some very interesting opportunities in the Library space.

There were a couple of refreshing hypotheses expressed. For example, “not everyone should code – it de-professionalises the profession and makes it something everyone and anyone can do.” Creativity in the adaptation of code will be just as important a skill. And of course, the gorgeous and sassy Angela Galvan in her keynote The revolution will not be standardised asserts “Libraries are not – and have never been – neutral.” She further inspired us all with her quote, “Rather than ask, what if we do it and it’s wrong? Ask what if we do it and it’s amazing?”

Neutrality: libraries are not - and have never been - neutral

“Neutrality: libraries are not – and have never been – neutral” Angela Galvan

 

Joyce from WA and I squeezed in a visit to Docklands Library Four floors of amazing-ness

Joyce from WA and I squeezed in a visit to Docklands Library – Four floors of amazing-ness

Finally, my favourite quote from the conference (and there were so, so many it’s hard to choose) is:

“Disruption doesn’t happen to Libraries. It happens to people. The strongest and smartest don’t survive – the most adaptable do.” (Natalia Filbrich)

Thank you EBSCO and VALA, this has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to spread the word and put it into practice. Just hope I don’t get lost in the process.

: Balloons at sunrise over the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. A quiet respite in a very intense three days at VALA 2018

Balloons at sunrise over the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. A quiet respite in a very intense three days at VALA 2018

About the author: Lisa Harth is Libraries Coordinator at Western Downs Regional Libraries.