Highlights from ALIA Information Online 2015

Liz McGettigan’s pre-conference workshop on ‘Driving a vision to be the best’ highlighted the importance of the library as both a place and a platform. Liz also focussed on the importance of effective leadership, marketing and the need for libraries to reinvent and transform themselves.

Siva Vaidhyanathan’s keynote on ‘The human knowledge project’ was inspiring. He outlined how he thinks Google has abandoned its original mission and instead now wants to be the ‘true operating system of our lives'! 

Sarah Kenderdine’s keynote on ‘Cultural data sculpting: creating immersive experiences from digital archives’ was amazing – incredible use of technology to exhibit cultural material. Sarah also stated that we are in the midst of transformation from screens and devices to a world of immersive experiences … she also spoke about the blurring boundaries in the GLAM sector.

Erik Boekesteijn’s keynote on ‘Extreme library makeover and mindshifts: Evolving spaces, services, skills and tools’ was very engaging (as expected). Erik told the audience that our business model is going to change ... we need to think; keep stories, share stories, make stories. The video he showed of a RFID library card used with a ‘heritage collection’ touch table was very impressive, the touch table reads their library account and links to and displays related heritage material, ie related to their address, name, etc. The Bucharest library with book shelves printed on wall paper with QR codes on the spine (to download the book) was also a great idea – looks like a regular library on first impression but no actual physical shelves or books!

UTS Library’s talk on ‘The library as shapeshifter: the new rules of engagement’ was very good as well. They spoke of the importance of knowing your audience, avoiding officious communication (“don't be Telstra!”) and making the ordinary extraordinary. I loved their three book returns chute options; Books you loved - books you didn't - everything else!

Jane Cowell’s session on ‘The future of public libraries’ really resonated and would have been great if she’d had more time to talk. Jane reminded us that our future is not about us, it's about the communities we serve. She told us how we need to be much more intentional – it’s not about being busy, it is about making a difference. Jane also told us we need to rethink our visions, reframe our policies and redesign our services … we need to be actively people centred and outwardly focussed. 

Mitchell Whitelaw‘s keynote on ‘Collection space’ was very impressive. He showcased a number of innovative online interfaces for accessing and engaging with very large cultural digital collections. Examples included the Internet Archive book images channel on Flickr and everynoise.com. 

Finally the series of panel discussions on ALIA Futures on the last day included a presentation by Phillip Mottram from Deloitte on Inclusive Leadership. He told us that tomorrow, business will not be as usual and change will not be incremental. Leading companies are working to build not only a diverse workforce, but inclusive workplaces to remain competitive. The session named ‘Brave’ was insightful, in which Laurie Atkinson, (Supreme Court of Victoria Library) and Cynthia Love (CSIRO Library) spoke about the recent major change programs undertaken in the libraries/organisations.

A common thread throughout the conference was on the need for library leaders to be bold and brave in transforming their services to meet the changing needs of their communities.

Enzo Accadia

Manager – Library Service

Coffs Harbour City Council


Papers and presentation from the conference are available via links in the program.