Friday, June 29, 2007

Elizabethan Banquet

I am so glad I came to this conference if just for the experience of an Elizabethan banquet at Hatfield House. The banquet hall is the original that was used by King Henry VIII and the meal was done in period with actors and performers - great stuff. I particularly enjoyed the singing and music as I am a fan of the music from that period and have sung quite a lot of it myself with the Lady's Mantle choir. Hatfield House is where the young queen elizabeth I grew up and she was seated in the garden when she was informed that she had become the queen of england.

The boys caught a bus to St Albans today to look around an historic English town and Richard was showing me the photographs they took when I got back from the dinner tonight.

I attended some interesting presentations today. They plenary session was a talk by Alex Byrne (current IFLA president) and university librarian from UTS. His topic was around Advocacy for Freedom of Information and Open Access which he is very passionate about. I was proud to be a fellow Australian.

There was a very good presentation on "Digital Outreach and Social Engagement: connecting with users" by Lisa Hinchliffe who is the head of the undergraduate library at the university of Illinois and Lisa Sloniowski who is the information literacy coordinator for York university in Toronto. These are both very large universities and they are doing very interesting things to foster student engagement and development of critical thinking and information literacy skills. They are both worth inviting to speak at a relevant event in Australia. Someone from CILIP heard them speak in the US and decided they had to invite them to speak at this conference.

I went along to Ed King's presentation on the British Library newspaper digitisation project. He is not a very good presenter though the content was well organised. I was surprised that the slides were all text based - there wasn't a single mock-up of how the user interface might look and he seemed uncertain about its features. The most depressing news is that they will be charging for search/browse access unless you are a member of a higher-education institution. This is because JISC funded the digitisation and Zoning/OCR processes. Their reason for charging others is to generate revenue to maintain the repository and fund further digitisation of more newspapers. I can't see how it will be worth the negative publicity as those eafected will be the least able to pay, independent scholars and researchers who are working in their spare time and have no money. Perhaps because it will be such a valuable research resource they anticipate organisations outside of the JISC community will be happy to pay. I have an impression though that most private entities interested in keyword searching this corpus probably have a staff member still attached to a University in some fashion or other and will be able to search it for free anyway.

I spent almost an hour with Richard Wallis from Talis and gained a better understanding of the talis arhitecture and how it might be applied in various situations. More detail later ... I have been thinking a lot about the issues of blending very divergent data sources describing archival collections into a national discovery service - some catalogue only at the collection level, some only at the item level and a few might be able to expose their collections with a multi-level encoding system like EAD. he had some really good ideas about how to manage that scenario although they do not as yet have such collections in their national union catalogue.

I asked the rep on the Innovative stand to give be a demo of the Electronic Resources Management system which they are marketing to Voyage clients in particular. I was not very impressed I have to say. I didn't have much time so I told him i was interested in their public interface (I am confident we would be able to do a better job what with the e-reources portal and an extension of our own platform (libraries australia).

Well I'd better wind up so I can sleep. I'll have a challenging day tomorrow

Thursday, June 28, 2007

the umbrella conference

Well the first day of the conference is over. It's late, almost midnight, and I have just returned from the conference dinner and subsequent socialising. I don't know anyone here but I am becoming quite practised at seeking out kindred spirits and enjoyed the evening nonetheless. I don't have their names committed to memory yet but had some good companions at the table and afterwards at the bar. One was an information officer for the Danish Library Association, another from Oxford University press who have a stand here. I also had a talk with a Medical Librarian from Nigeria.

I visited a few booths at the exhibition, the Innovative stand where i quizzed them about support for interoperability standards. I am going back tomorrow to have a closer look at their Electronic Resources Management module. They are working with a few Voyager clients to implement their product integrated with their traditional LMS interfaces. I also had a quick chat with the rep at the Oxford University Press stand and have been given a contact to follow up as I was interested in whether they were exposing their biographical content via a web service so it could be mashed up with other data services, both bibliographic and biographic. I also talked with the Talis rep and will be meeting Richard Wallis at their stand tommorrow. I had a short chat with Brian Kelly from UKOLN as well. I enjoyed Lynne Brindley's keynote and I'll talk about that more when I get back.

I drove the boys to the train station this morning to catch a train to London. They had plans to attend a performance of the Merchant of Venice at the Globe Theatre in the standing area (only 5 pound) but it was sold out and I've checked on the web and it is sold out tomorrow and Saturday night as well. The bought tickets for the original london sightseeing tour and enjoyed that. They were too tried to do much more and were back in their rooms by 5:30pm. I left them to fetch their own dinner from the nearby shopping centre and when i checked on them after my function they were asleep.

The main local attraction is Hatfield House

It is where Queen Elizabeth the 1st grew up and there is a spot in the garden where they have marked that she was sitting when she was informed that she was to be the Queen of England.

They serve a hearty breakfast as part of the accommodation package and I have encouraged Richard and Darcy to stoke up for the day ahead. Tomorrow they will be exploring the local area. The swimming pool and gym facilities here are good and they have free entry as part of the accommodation deal.

It is a pleasant environment here if a bit sterile. The de havilland campus of the University of Hertfordshire is quite new. The old village itself is typically English but there is a lot of new housing around as it is a satellite town for London.

We are staying in London Saturday night so I will do some sightseeing with the boys on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

first stop - Hatfield

The flight went well, no hiccoughs and the boys were helpful and sensible (no distractions once we we had to leave all the friends behind). One of the stewardesses was a real hoot - another woman my age and we shared some laughs. I'll choose to fly Air Canada again in spite of their aging planes and efficiency issues because of her.

I am exceedingly tired though. I dozed briefly on the plane but not much. I watched the Bourne Identity with Matt Damon and read the Ottawa Citizen and then a Gartner report on SOA and component-based development which was given to me as a parting gift? It is a few nights now that I have been having the minimum hours of sleep necessary to function. After all the check-in procedures at the university campus and toing and froing, I am finally able to lie down for a much needed sleep in my student room. It's small but neat. There are only small single rooms available here so Darcy and Richard had to have their own rooms.

The flight arrived around 7am (2am Ottawa time) then after customs and immigration we picked up our rental car but we had to wait a while. I was quite surprised that it all went so smoothly really. The signage on the motorways in the UK is excellent from the little I've seen, which was why I managed it all fairly painlessly, and kept on the 'correct' side of the road as well.

There were a few more tears on the flight but really I'm fine and enjoying the English countryside and the funny accents! I don' know how I am going to survive the cuisine though - and the prices!

I must go to sleep, I can barely think. To be continued ...

un pincement au coeur

My aussie friend and colleague, Marie-Louise, who was visiting colleagues at LAC the day I left, gave me good advice - hold it together until you get on the plane. Well I almost made it. There was a lot to concentrate on - getting everything out of the apartment, handing over the keys, returning the rental car (I lost my temper - very uncool) and the check-in procedures. The boys did a great job cleaning the apartment.

Mathieu was a wonderful help with loading up the cars (his as well) with our luggage and the stuff still left that we were not taking with us. The boys had girlfriends with them and were finding it hard to concentrate. He also kept me company at the airport as Richard and Darcy were consumed with farewelling all the friends who had showed up to say goodbye. I thought I would prefer to be alone at the airport but I was glad to have someone by my side. it meant I could leave the boys to wallow in their leavetakings while we queued up with luggage etc.

The down sides were that Mathieu came armed with a camera and his presence reminded me of all the new friends I had made and how generous and funny Canadians can be. Vous avez touché mon coeur - chacun d'entre vous. Vous allez me manquer. So I have to confess to not quite making it through security before the tears started to flow and there are evidentiary photographs. Sorry for not being able to follow your advice Marie-Louise! and to Mathieu for adding yet another chore to your list - trying to cheer me up.

As often happens, I was the one selected at random for the pat-down - and quite an intimate one at that. I think I get picked out as the token example of their lack of bias - anglo (sort-of), middle-aged, female, badly dressed, frazzled - all the low-risk attributes.

Excuse the bits of French my aussie friends. Soon I will be smattering my posts with Italian phrases instead. I can't communicate in either language really but when it comes to matters of the heart their words seem to come naturally to me.

I am determined to study French again when I return to Australia. I love Quebec as well as the rest of Canada and I plan to spend more time there one day.

Just some of the things I’ll miss:

Maple flavoured everything
Skiing and ice skating as often as I like (in winter anyway)
Watching Ice Hockey
Rick Mercer
The Red Mile
The most pleasant and courteous panhandlers on earth
Ditto for employees in shops and restaurants (but not counter staff for govt agencies)
Some of the funniest people and great stand-up comics
Good public transport
Good central heating, air-conditioning and double-glazed windows in my house
Well behaved youth and safe streets (well relatively anyway)