When I first heard about The Bloomsbury Conference, I immediately thought of literary London in the early 1900s. But this was the name of the spring 2008 conference of EUSIDIC (the European Association of Information Services) as it teamed up with CLSIG (the Commercial, Legal & Scientific Information Group of CILIP, the U.K.'s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals).
The word "Bloomsbury" evokes aesthetics, new art forms and philosophies, cultured intelligentsia, and lives devoted to writing. How would these two information associations relate modern technology to such historical luminaries as Virginia and Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Vanessa and Clive Bell, and Lytton Strachey? They were the progressives of their day, the intellectual avant-garde, propounding new ideas, proffering new philosophies, and pursuing different lifestyles.
The Bloomsbury area of central London remains the locale of the British Museum (where Virginia Woolf said she went to find truth) and numerous universities. The British Library is also nearby. Numerous blue plaques on buildings commemorate places of historic interest. Indeed, it is a suitable place for the contemplation of the next generation of information users and their searching skills, wants, and needs.
The Future of IT
The tagline for The Bloomsbury Conference was Beyond Discovery. On the first day of the conference, Jackie Marfleet, a consultant formerly with Ernst & Young, asked the audience members about their game plans for Enterprise 2.0 in her opening Heinz Hauffe, or keynote, lecture.
"Things once unthinkable are now part of daily life," she said, adding that people want to have the same things at work as they have at home and become frustrated when their IT departments want to control their computer experiences. She thinks Gen Y-ers will substantially change the workplace and the role of information professionals. She said it will be about people before information and facilitating connections before managing information. The information professional will be the node connecting a series of networks.
Picking up on that theme, Edith Salz, substituting for Rafael Ball, described the subject information portal at Forschungszentrum Julich, the Research Centre of Julich. She sees library staff members entering a consulting role, creating concepts for research groups, scientific institutes, and their administrations. She said that in an atmosphere of open innovation, librarians will enjoy close connections with scientists. She also talked about the graphical interface to chemical information on the Chemistry Library's portal.
Later, Jens Vigen of CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) said that the organization has been open access (OA) since 1953. He believes that all high-energy physics information should be OA, and he cited the importance of repositories. However, he wondered about the role of journal publishers and thinks that full text and data mining are still primitive. For high-energy physics research, he said depth of content, quality, access to full text, and search accuracy are more important than an easy interface.
What Students Want
Academic libraries were the topic of the afternoon sessions. Marvin Pollard Jr. of California State University (CSU) explained how CSU standardizes content across 23 campuses with a recommender service, the ability to save results in various citation formats, institutional repositories, social networks, and a Get It Now ecommerce engine. Next, Bas Savenije of Utrecht University said traditional boundaries are shifting or disappearing at the school. Rather than maintaining a traditional library, which users find "too difficult to use," Utrecht is moving toward a virtual knowledge center, and librarians are becoming community managers, he said. …