Tuesday, June 30, 2009

DLF Spring Forum 2009

The forum was smaller than usual, but that had the benefit of making it a more intimate gathering, where you could have conversations with almost everyone. If there was someone with an interesting idea or presentation, you could easily find them and continue the conversation. As with many conferences, some of the most useful parts happen in the hallways and on breaks.

One of the most interesting presentations to me was Melanie Schlosser's “Whose Stuff Is It, Anyway? A Study of Copyright Statements on DLF-Member Digital Library Collections”. Schlosser did a survey of copyright statements presented on items in library digital materials, and found that most libraries were presenting incomplete, inaccurate, or mis-leading copyright statements, leaving users un- or mis-informed about their legal rights to use the materials. Schlosser suggested that libraries missions required us to do a better job of providing information on particular items we 'publish' online, as well as using it as an opportunity to educate users about their rights under copyright in general.

This forum for the first time (as far as I'm aware) featured something taken from smaller and more informal conferences: "Lightning Talks." Short 5 minute talks any attendees can sign up to give right at the conference. I gave a presentation on Umlaut, the open source software we use to power our Find It service, explaining why i think this is an important innovative building block to a powerful user-centered library infrastructure. I am always trying to stir up more interest in Umlaut, because I think the more libraries adopt and contribute to it, the safer our own resource investment in the open source product is.

Another session that got a lot of 'buzz' was Clay Redding from LC's presentation about the new http://id.loc.gov service. In addition to providing a simple free online interface to the LC subject authorities (which is in some ways arguably easier for finding subjects for assignment than the for-fee Catalogers Desktop I used in library school), what's especially exciting about id.loc.gov is that it provides machine-access to the same information, theoretically supporting seamless (and free) integration of live LC subject authorities lookup into other third party software, any other software whose developers are interested in making use of it. There are still a few quirks to the service, and a few parts of the original LC subject authority records not represented in the id.loc.gov service. It's just the beginning of a work in progress (at least we hope LC keeps it progressing). But it's this kind of service that will bring library metadata into the internet era, in my opinion. For another similar work-in-progress service (although not presented on at DLF) for name authorities, see also the VIAF project at http://viaf.org.

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