Another good day at EBSLG in sunny Cologne (this time the blue sky is real in the pic) of which the highlight was beers shared with colleagues at a pavement bar by Cologne’s imposing cathedral. Unfortunately in terms of content, some of the sessions lacked relevance to libraries, featuring academics who very obviously did not inhabit the library world. My main criticism of this year’s conference is that, although very well organised and hosted (by Ralf Depping and his team from the University of Cologne – great job guys!) is that there was not enough on the programme on the future of libraries or the specific challenges we are currently facing at our respective institutions as senior business librarians. As I tweeted yesterday, the BLA (The UK’s Business Librarians Association) committee has made sure of securing and upping the number of members sharing sessions at that conference in order to ensure that the expertise we all hold is put to good use, providing our events with true empirical depth. Although we had sharing sessions of sorts at EBSLG (called a Bazaar of Ideas) I’d like to see more members present to the whole group. Incidentally, these sharing presentations are always the top rated sessions at our annual BLA conference (which this year is in Liverpool in July).
Anyway, back to Cologne. Bill Russell of Emerald kicked off proceedings with a session on the Insiders Guide to Getting Published workshops that they offer to institutions worldwide, aimed at PhDs and young researchers. These highly practical sessions have been well received and would I’m sure go down well back at base covering as they do: where to start; what makes a good paper; targetting specific journals; understanding the editorial, supply chain and journal management structure; and the useful resources they should be using to assist them with the process. Bill (below) is a regular at EBSLG and always worth listening to as he’s a vendor who understands what us librarians do.
The next presenter was Prof Dr Axel Faix who gave a rather dry and theoretical lecture on organizational design. There’s no denying that the theory was sound but I could have sat with a textbook for an hour on the same topic and at least that way I would have been able to follow it more easily (his PPT slides were made up of huge amounts of tiny text). His attempts to relate it to libraries were unfortunately rather painful and suggested an old-fashioned perception of libraries. One delegate quite rightly openly complained about this but the lecture and his style did not improve as a result. My view is that if the lecturer really knows about libraries then by all means talk about it, but if not then they should concentrate on their own area of management specialism. We had an excellent conference at IMD in 2008 which was in effect a leadership programme and that was superb despite the fact that libraries were not the central theme, EBSLG members are all managers (and hopefully leaders) after all. On reflection I’m rather relieved that I was using an old fashioned pen and notebook rather than tweeting during this session as I might not have been able to exercise restraint ‘in the moment’. The delegate who created an aeroplane with the case study handout shall remain nameless until such time as I need to blackmail them…
After another excellent lunch, Prof Dr Markus Reihlen brought us back on track with an exploration of the social networking challenge that we face. The session began with the ‘Social Media Revolution’ video – which I had decided to embed on the Cam23 website last week. He described a ‘network model’ focusing on the library as a: discovery to delivery interface; a resource-creation environment; and as a social networker. One of his slides incorporated an image with overlapping circles which I’d seen before and is worth a look (see below).
Reihlen proposed that we librarians should build services around user workflows through a remix of content and service in user environments and by developing digital curating services. His conclusions were fairly generic but were nevertheless sound and applicable. One of his observations was that we need to become more user-centered. I suggested that we have always been user-centred (most of us anyway) and that the real point was that users and their needs have changed so we need to be user-centred in a different – perhaps more full-on – way. One of the best sessions at the conference for my money.
The following presentation sounded interesting on paper: New Ways of Acquiring Media, but instead was a far too straight and limited examination of book supplier outsourcing which went into incredible amounts of detail about approval plans and shopping basket systems. Thankfully the session eventually opened up into a wider and more relevant discussion about e-book provision, something which all delegates were very keen to discuss with each other. A lot of ground was covered in a short amount of time as we discussed: shelf-ready books and the possible dissolution of cataloguing at the library end of the chain; reductions in book budgets due to increased purchase of cheaper e-books (something that may be the case in UK but definitely not in Germany apparently); Print-on-demand; text-book mash-ups (to include audio and video) due to the way students use e-books; and a supplier view (Emerald) that they themselves would ‘rather operate in an e-world’.
The remander of the afternoon was taken up with a trip to Cologne’s huge gothic cathedral. After a time admiring the stained glass (particularly the modern Richter window with its colourful mosaic squares) and the architecture, our small tour party (myself and two other delegates, Mary and Christine) retired to a pavement cafe to sup cold beer in the blazing sun and chat about what we were doing when were 25 (among other topics) – I suspect this will be my abiding memory of this conference. In the evening after an excellent dinner (with similarly excellent company – Dagmar, Thomas, Bill and Chris) I reluctantly went along with the crowd on what was meant to be a ‘ghost walk’. I was pleased that the ghost stories were few and far between and that the history of Cologne was covered instead. Although I was reminded throughout of the sudden bizarre shift in tone often forced upon breakfast TV presenters as our tour guide brightly skipped between fanciful mythical tales about lions & chariots and horrendous real-life wartime stories about Jewish children being thrown out of upper floor windows. An uncomfortable mix. Good humour was thankfully restored by more Kolsch at a nearby bar until it was time to return to the hotel.