EBSLG 2011, HEC Paris: Innovation in Libraries (Part 3)

Day 3
The last full day of the conference kicked off with Philippe Colombet of Google Books who detailed Google’s long-held plans to digitise the world’s books (currently at 15 million books now scanned and available). Some introductory stats on devices used for accessing the web included the fact that in 2011 sales of smartphones have now overtaken desktops and notebooks combined. As this session was little more than a history lesson followed by details of Google Books’ plans going forward, there was little challenging content here, however, it was particularly interesting, if not downright surprising, to hear a stance on obsolescence which suggested that once you had bought and e-book from them it was yours for life regardless of platforms and devices. Philippe concluded by saying that Google Books don’t have “a foot in the street” yet when it comes to the academic market. Watch this space.

The mobile technologies roundtable discussion was a session I was eagerly anticipating as over the past 6 months it has become very apparent that we librarians must embrace the challenges and opportunities presented by the sudden prevalence of smartphones and tablets. Here at Judge we are currently developing an app for our services (which is now likely to be part of a business school-wide app) and have ensured that our new blog/site is mobile-friendly. Talking to an app developer yesterday, he predicted that as many as 70% of our new intake of students will have iPhones or iPads – we have to be ready for that. Anyway, back to the roundtable… Unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that the session had too many presenters and that this would therefore leave little room for questions and furthermore that they were all going to broadcast rather than interact and debate with each other. A bit of a missed opportunity.

The mobile tech roundtable which was, in truth, more of a straighttable

Nevertheless there was a lot of good content on offer such as: the difference between a GUI and a NUI (natural user interface) which is evocative, unmediated, fast and contextual; an exploration of whether students actually know about and use twitter (whihc would lead neatly into Anna Drabble’s post-lunch session) – apparently they don’t at France’s University of Rouen; the clear disparity between what a user wants and what the library offers (in terms of device delivery) with e-books being a prime example; the iCampus ecosystem for mobile devices at ESSEC; the migration of heavy printed study packs to lightweight iPads for MBAs at Manchester Business School; and the aim of the same MBS library service to be viewed by their users as the “go-to guys for app knowledge”. Dominic Broadhurst (of MBS) took the right approach to the session with a concise information-rich and funny presentation (see the video he used of an MBA-type at interview below) that was realistic as to how much information any audience can take in at once. Sadly others took more than their fair share of the time available and seemed unaware that less is often more.

Three overall issues struck me during this mobile tech session: 1) how much the personalised approach to users was talked about (a good job since I’m currently co-writing -editing a book on this very topic!); 2) an unnecessary distinction between the sort of learning that takes place remotely via devices remotely rather than in more traditional places – in my view this is the same learning: boundaryless learning if you like; and 3) the adoption of smartphones and tablets despite the fact that they are not a direct replacement for a laptop or a desktop – meaning that information and data is now more current and transitory. Lots to think about there.

Anna Drabble did well to keep the audience with her in the traditional post-lunch snooze slot with a well-paced and informative session which saw her detail the results of research that Emerald were commissioned to undertake on the real impact of social media on researchers. The main headlines :
– there is a huge gap between awareness of social media and actual use
– social media is finding application at every single stage of the research process
– all age groups use social media
– social media makes research workflow much broader with improved communication and dissemination
– the researchers world is becoming more complex so metrics and authority matter more
– researchers have concerns about non-peer-reviewed content
One of Anna’s most memorable revelations was that in a 4 hour discussion on social media with a group of researchers on their workflow, librarians were not mentioned once. Ouch! We have some serious work to do.

Between this session and the evening trip into the city I decided to take a plunge in the hotel pool – a very refreshing dip, partly because it wasn’t heated!

Maxim’s Paris

Next up was a very special visit to Maxim’s, which is owned by Pierre Cardin. I’d visited Maxim’s in Brussels while researching a book about the 70s wartime BBC TV series Secret Army which was partly filmed there, but never the more famous and original Maxim’s Paris. The art nouveau museum that is located on Maxim’s upper floors was totally unexpected and we enjoyed an entertaining tour of Cardin’s priceless collection before retiring downstairs for wine and hors d’oeuvres. After Maxim’s we enjoyed a late night coach tour of the capital, which included a quick stop off at the Eiffel Tower, much too iconic to ignore. Spirits were, shall we say, er.. high, during this tour as there was plenty of wine on offer in Maxim’s.

Graves et le pain

Day 4
The final half-day of the conference was taken up with the Group’s business meeting at which several members who are retiring said their goodbyes including: Xavier Baumgartner (EBSLG Secretary); Francoise Cousseau and Isabelle Sabatier. We also thanked Pascale Pajona of INSEAD for a successful three years as President – most notable for her fostering of networks and relationships between librarians globally and her bravery in tackling the consititution (!). Two affiliate members of the Group were also formally approved at this meeting – Cass Business School, City University London and University of Edinburgh Business School (Jacqui Gaul and Deborah Morrison respectively) who have already contributed a great deal to previous conferences and the British meetings of the Group.

The lunch that rounded off this year’s excellent conference included some very special Graves Bordeaux – the perfect end to our sojourn in Paris. A big ‘Merci’ to Agnes Melot and her excellent team at HEC Paris and to the EBSLG committee for their work all year round.