Friday, October 28, 2011

Suzanne's Thoughts about MLA Annual Conference

Here is a summary of key points from the presentations I attended at MLA this year:

I attended a great presentation about Business Plan Research for Poets: How to Support Entrepreneurs. It was a reminder that a reference interview is important in working with all patrons. One of the librarians recommended asking "tell me more about your project" to get started understanding the information needs of entrepreneurs. I know Kim will be integrating some of the resources mentioned into our business plan research guide, but one resource that sounded especially interesting was Research on Main Street which focuses on finding local business information.

The other presentation I wanted to write about was Local vs. Cloud Based Discovery Systems. Librarians at Western Michigan talked about how they implemented VuFind (an open source, which the presenter described as "free like a puppy") and Summon (a serials solutions product that allows users to search multiple databases and the catalog).

I now understand the difference between the "federated search engine" that we have, MultiSearch, and a web scale discovery system like Summon. Federated search engines connect to each database individually when you perform a search whereas Summon is a database with metadata harvested from publishers and the library catalog. So, Summon doesn't have to wait to connect to each database, the response time is much faster than with a federated search engine.

The speaker at the Academic Libraries lunch, Barbara Jones, from the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom was excellent. She discussed how important it is to protect our right to freedom of speech and how this is tied to academic freedom and academic libraries. She mentioned the Muzzle Awards, given by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression to institutions that limit freedom of expression.

Someone asked an interesting question about balancing between new trends like patron driven acquisition and providing a balanced collection which provides access to scholarship even from those who hold unpopular ideas.

Finally, I wanted to post a link to the presentation Regina and I did at MLA (Free or Cheap Tools You Can Use to Improve Your Library Website) if you are interested. I put links on Delicious to the tools we discussed. The presentation slides should be posted on the MLA website soon.