Oslo, Norway – Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet)
June 17-21 2018
Conference report by Dr. Charles Eckman
The 39th annual conference of the International Association of University Libraries (IATUL) was held in Oslo (Norway) from 17 to 21 June 2019. This year’s conference was hosted by the Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) University Library (former Oslo and Akershus University College, Library and Learning Center) and was entitled “Libraries for the Future – from Inspiring Spaces to Open Science”.
The conference for academic libraries gathered 209 participants from over thirty countries who discussed international collaboration and presented the latest solutions applied in library technology. The participants included librarians, information scientists and other higher education professionals representing several countries including Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Kenya, Latvia, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom, and USA.
On Monday the participants were welcomed by the IATUL President, Reiner Kallenborn, University Librarian at the Technische Universität München. The speech highlighted the breadth of IATUL’s vision and increasing vitality of its membership in terms of the growth of membership and conference participation. Then Lars Egeland, Director of the University Library at OsloMet greeted participants and introduced the conference themes and keynote speaker, Dr. Curt Rice, Rector at Oslo Metropolitan University. Dr Rice described the open access (OA) movement as a failed project. He attributed this situation to lack of clarity across all stakeholders regarding what problems open access is intended to solve. But Dr. Rice asserted that there is hope for open access to succeed in the future. The OA megajournals are enabling transparent review. Open research data allows us to more precisely check the results of our colleagues’ research. Data citation standards are proving valuable to moving science forward. Hildegard Schaeffler of the Bavarian State Library provided a report on Project DEAL. An initiative of the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany, led by university rectors. The DEAL initiative is based on a “Publish and Read Model”. The Publish component involves assurance that all publications by corresponding authors of eligible institutions become open access immediately upon publication. The Read component means that all eligible institutions obtain perpetual access to the complete e-journal portfolio of the publisher. Negotiations are underway with the three largest journal publishers. Andy Priestner, Librarian and UX Consultant outlined how to embed User Experience Research and Design into the fabric of our Libraries. He described a variety of research methodologies that can be employed such as tracking desire lines, photo studies, love/breakup letters, graffiti walls, and cultural probes. He focused on the need for ongoing experimentation and service piloting, acknowledgement of failures, and an iterative process that ultimately leads to better services and an enhanced user experience. Professor Dan Banik University of Oslo spoke to the 17 goals and 169 targets on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, goals adopted by the United Nations following an inclusive engagement process in 2015.
On Tuesday, Aslak Sira Myhre – General Director National Library of Norway challenged the assumption often made that libraries and library services are dying or not being used and have been supplanted by the internet and social media. Yet, according to the speaker, statistics prove the opposite. For example, statistics indicate that more Norwegians are visiting libraries now than ever before. We do not need to save the library. Libraries should still have the core function of enlightenment. They should be lighthouses showcasing the digital collection. And librarians need to become missionaries, reaching out to people to make people read and listen – make them want more knowledge that they did not yet know they need. Bethany Wilkes (Yale-NUS Singapore) and Diane Cmor (Concordia University, Canada) presented the results of their research into the possibility for a new library instruction agenda in a highly automated digital landscape. Such an agenda would reveal the biases embedded in search algorithms and bots as well as challenges to privacy embedded in machine learning and big data that are the basis of AI initiatives. The speakers suggested examples of potential new information literacy topics such as: “Tracing Digital Footsteps”; “Who is Alexa?” and “Personal Data (Dis)comfort.” In the afternoon, we heard how disruptive technologies are seeing the introduction of new spaces and new services. At Auckland University of Technology, Gillian Barthorpe explained how a makerspace is encouraging all to ‘think, make, do’ while working together across disciplines. From the Radcliffe Science Library at Oxford University, Richard Smith described how a virtual reality service is demonstrating that strategic collaborations can bring benefits to both the library and its partners.
On Thursday, Professor Rocky Ralebipi-Simela, CEO & National Librarian (Republic of South Africa) spoke to the topic of strategic collaboration from the local to global levels in the service of the UN’s sustainable development goals. The Republic of South Africa has incorporated the goals in their National Development Plan. An outcome in that plan includes increasing use of libraries and working toward the expansion of reading. She inspired conference attendees with the wide range of activities underway at the National Library to address these goals.
The parallel sessions were excellent – over 60 papers were presented, selected by a peer review panel from close to 100 total submissions. The sessions were characterized by engaging talks and lively discussions covering a wide spectrum of topics falling into three parallel session program tracks: (1) Strategic Collaboration Locally and Globally; (2) User Centered Library and Service Design; and (3) Research Support and Open Science. The papers will be published in the conference proceedings.
The winner of the Irmgard Lankenau Poster Prize was announced during the closing presentation of the 39th Annual IATUL Conference. This year’s Price went to Kristine Jakobsen and Trond Lossius of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts for their poster “How to Convey Artists’ Books in a Digital World?” IATUL’s President thanked all the OsloMet University and IATUL teams - the organizers and supporters - involved in organizing the conference successfully. The President then introduced the University of Western Australia and Curtin University as the hosts of next year’s 40th IATUL conference (23-27 June 2019, Perth) entitled “Shifting Sands and Rising Tides: Leading Libraries through Innovation".