Jasna, Slovakia, is mainly known for its beautiful mountains and ski slopes. But from the 3rd to the 5th of April, around 130 people from all over the world gathered here to talk about innovations in libraries in this digital age. The main topics were digital humanities and digital scholarship, open science, repositories and research data management.
In total there were 25 talks and 3 roundtable sessions (inspired by the LIBER open science cafes). Here are some snapshots of what stood out:
Infrastructures and Platforms
When talking about innovation and a digital era, inevitably infrastructures and platforms come up. Indeed, they are key when it comes to digital innovation. Most research institutes and libraries have faced the following question: should we build something ourselves, go for a collaborative or federation approach, or choose a commercial solution? The federated/collaborative approach was presented most at the conference. Below are some links to infrastructures/platforms discussed that may be worth a visit:
- IIIF: the International Image Interoperability Framework
- CLARIN: Common language resources and technology infrastructure
- Open science framework: aimed at improving the whole open science workflow
Digital Collections and Preservation
Not only are collections being digitised, there are also more and more born digital collections. Steven Claeyssens showed that digitising and preserving collections is one of services for digital humanists that the National Library of the Netherlands offers.
Dale Askey from MacMaster University talked about risks and quite rightly stated “we should not be too complacent about risks, especially with born-digital collections where there are no hard copies to go back to.” At McMaster they therefore decided to go for a library research cloud for preservation together with other universities. Tom Cramer of Stanford University talked about the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) programme as a safety mechanism.
Data, Data, Data … and a Bit of Ethics
Many talks focused on research data, and in particular how to keep data safe and findable. This is a real challenge. As Maurice York of the University of Michigan mentioned, we are used to preserving content in separate silos. Although this may work well for things that are known and finished, how do you work with things like data that are unstable, in progress, and unstructured? The answer to this question lies in technical solutions, as well as the ability of people to collaborate.
A very technical example, the CERN Analysis Preservation platform, was presented by Tibor Cimko of CERN. Elena Zudilova-Seinstra of Elsevier on the other hand focused more on the human side and, presented a system to engage scientists to share their research data.
Some food for thought in the data discussions came from Marja Kokko from University of Jyväskylä. She described the ethical side of collecting and managing data, and thinks libraries could help researchers to navigate in the ethics and legislation landscape.
Connecting and Engaging Communities
Platforms, collections and data are important but there can be no change or innovation without people. That is why many of the talks addressed connecting and engaging communities. Jennifer Green of the University of Michigan used interviews to collect the information and data needs of scientists, and to be able to talk about their needs to IT. Stijn van Rossem of the Institute of Historical Research reflected on the use of trusted user groups and user stories as part of the CEDARI project. Jessica Parland presented that, at CSC, they worked with seminars and MOOCs to raise awareness for open science and research in Finland. My own talk also addressed community engagement and how libraries can start to engage for example scientists and service providers for open science.
The Role of the Library
Most talks – implicitly or explicitly – addressed the role of libraries in the changing research landscape. Pekka Olsbo presented the centralized service model of the University of Jyväskylä as a specific example. I was happy to notice that most roles mentioned were in line with the strategic directions of the new LIBER strategy: libraries can take the role of platforms in innovative scholarly communications, partners in research infrastructure, and hubs for digital skills and services. Overall, there was a positive vibe in the conference about the ability of libraries to drive change and innovation and connect communities. Pip Willcox of Oxford University summarized this in a great way at the end of her presentation. She said that despite some challenges, libraries can be optimistic about their role, because “libraries have a history of linking people, a history of linking ideas, of embracing new technology and leading the edge.” Well, if we build on that, what can go wrong?
The full programme and summaries of the talks are available on the ILIDE website.