Monday, June 11, 2012

Of library conferences - CONSAL XV & IATUL2012

I recently had the opportunity to attend two library conferences in June back to back, a first for me.


First off I was invited to CONSAL XV (CONGRESS OF SOUTH EAST ASIAN LIBRARIANS), a regional conference in Bali, Indonesia from 28 May 2012 to June 1 2012

I am still new to library conferences (you can count on one hand the number I have been to) so it was yet another great learning experience.

As a regional southeast asian librarian conference, CONSAL had a different feel from ALA Annual that I attended last year or the smaller scale LAS (Library Association of Singapore) Seminars .

First off, English was just one of the languages used, a lot of talks were in Indonesian as well as English, after sitting through the opening ceremony speech where part of it was in Indonesian, I only caught on later there were translation headsets one could get to get real-time translations in English or Indonesian!

Translation booth

Translator headset

The other major difference was that it was a regional grouping conference hence there was a distinct SEA Games feel or if you preference Olympics Game feel .... Besides the fact that 10 country flags of ASEAN were on the stage at all times the closing ceremony involved a procession like this... (see picture below)

Closing Ceremony

Spot the flags on the stage

The conference theme was Heritage and Digital Preservation, which wasn't really my area, though I did manage to catch a few interesting talks on institutional repositories, Information Literacy in Universities in South East Asia and social media. Looks like moodle is catching on.... But as I learned before, it's not the sessions that matter but who you talk to at conferences... more about that later...

Bali was truly beautiful though,the last time I was here was more than 20 years ago as a kid. The welcome and farewell dinners were held at amazing locations...

Welcome Dinner by the Kuta beach

Torch by the beach that reminded me a lot of survivor

Farewell Dinner

After the farewell dinner, I was introduced to a tradition in CONSAL where librarians from each country had to perform usually a national dance of some sort. The delegate from Myanmar (Burma) who was the sole representative did a sole rendition of their national anthem. Others from Thailand, Vietnam etc were so polished and professional, that a Indonesian Librarian sitting next to me asked me if the performer was really a librarian. (I have no clue) :)

Sorry for the poor picture. I think this was Cambodia

On the last day, I went on a tour of Bali, here are some selected pictures showing our beautiful Bali is (excuse my lousy photography on a iphone). 

Lunch continued the pattern of being held at amazing locations. Lunch was had overlooking this.

This opportunity to visit Bali, talk to librarians in the region was fantastic. Talking to Indonesian, Thai etc librarians was an interesting experience. Almost to a man they initially assumed I was from the National Library Board of Singapore (NLB), a common enough mistake particularly since NLB staff were out in force in Bali, partly I suspect to promote IFLA which is going to be held in 2013. (I believe Singapore had the fourth biggest contingent at Bali with 40? people.)

Still talking to them, drove home the point that NLB truly is a trend setter in the region and perhaps in the world, as many of the librarians in the region told me they made frequent trips to Singapore to learn from the National and Public Libraries here and to attend courses held by NLB.

I am embarrassed to confess that I didn't bring enough name cards and ended up with a bunch of name cards from other librarians that I am going to go through later to make contact via email.

Why I attended CONSAL

Truthfully, I did not expect to attend CONSAL at all, but I was informed a few weeks before that I was one of the final nominees for the CONSAL Outstanding librarian award and as such could attend CONSALXV in Bali as a guest of the organizer!

Why the surprise? Oh sure, I was told I was nominated for the award earlier this year and dutifully filled up the form (though I considered rejecting it) and even shot a simple video as instructed with the help of my colleague but I never expected it to get anywhere.

It was truly an honour to be even nominated , particularly when I looked up the records of past nominees and winners, I was stunned to see that most have long illustrious careers and substantial accomplishments. So I really didn't expect for the nomination to be accepted much less win anything.

As such I was really happy to receive the CONSAL silver merit award, which is truly unexpected and perhaps even undeserved because I don't think I have contributed that much to South East Asian Libraries really.

The award came with a small cash prize as well as conference fee and accommodation at Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel.


The visit to Bali ended June 1 2012, Friday. But the adventure wasn't over yet!

Upon touch down in Singapore at noon on Friday , I was off to NTU (Nanyang Technological University) to do a dry run for a "Social Media Forum" I was moderating as part of IATUL 2012  conference. (International Association of Technological University Libraries)

Why I attended IATUL 2012

Again I initially didn't expect to attend this but I was truly fortunate to have my conference fees waived by the chair of IATUL 2012,  Choy Fatt Cheong (also University Librarian, Nanyang Technological University Library) in return for the job of moderating the social media forum (more on that later).

After meeting on Saturday two other colleagues of mine to prepare for the presentation of the paper   "Check-ins … not just for books! - NUS Libraries’ experience with Foursquare" , it was off to yet another conference beginning on Sunday with a reception at the Pod In NLB.

Me and my colleagues after presenting our paper, courtesy of rambling librarian

I won't talk much about the organization of the conference, suffice to say it was extremely well organized, everything ran like clockwork, great food and performances at the welcome and farewell dinners etc. Anyway this blog post here by "The Naked Librarian" describes it in detail and as you will see there are plenty of other channels with ample coverage with tons of photos and videos.

From my point of view I was more curious of the organizer's attempts to do what basically amounts to an amplified conference.  A Facebook page was created, as well as a Twitter account . Guest bloggers like The Naked Librarian and the Rambling Librarian were invited to help blog, live-tweet.

Presenters were asked for their social media accounts and encouraged to create accounts tagged with #itaul2012.

Before each presentations, the audience was reminded to tweet to specific hash tags which was supposed to be pulled into individual pages setup for each presentation on the wordpress platform.
A twitter fountain was created and displayed on a large flat screen  dubbed "Giant ipad"

Livestreaming of keynotes and selected sessions were made available online. I understand also slides will be made available on a slideshare account I think.

I suppose given that the theme of this conference is "Library strategies for new generation of users" this focus on social media is fitting. 

The rambling librarian  created a twitter list of those of us who were tweeting but there were maybe only a dozen of us tweeting. I metup with @lgreenpd and  @morfaine both I believe from Curtins University, @betabib from Chalmers Library, @betabib in particular gave me some food for thought about branding of Summon during a talk at the reception on Sunday and I also learned a lot from his talk about the trends at Chalmers Library and the pros and cons of a library services platform. 

Lastly I also met up with @libraryfuture who was one of the keynotes speakers. There were many interesting talks at IATUL 2012 , including Beyond Boolean, towards thinking: discovery systems and information literacy but the one in my book that was heads and shoulders over the rest was the final keynote by Susan Gibbons, currently University Librarian, Yale University.

I've read about her work at University of Rochester but nothing beats watches the presentation live as she presented on her work there.

The social media forum that I was moderating was another first for me. Prior to this, I was on the panel once only and had no moderation experience previously. The panel/forum had a interesting twist in that the panelists were not librarians. We had a professor , a student, a education technologist and a staff  (not a librarian) working with the Singapore Memory Project at NLB and the idea was that after a week of hearing academic librarians present, we would let our users talk instead on three issues relating to social media.

It was a good idea but in my opinion it increased the difficulty level for a newbie moderator like myself.

I was clearly nervous and despite plenty of preparation by reading about the art of moderation, plenty of dry runs and learning about the panelists beforehand, I think I didn't do too well. Though thankfully the panelists helped me out by being articulate and eager to share their views despite my clumsy attempts to guide the conversation.

On the plus side, some tweets mentioned that this session was the most engaging yet, basically because there was two way interaction between the panelists on stage and librarians in the audience throughout the session.  Particularly when one of the panelists asked why libraries didn't have amazon like recommender systems. :)


I am truly fortunate to be given a opportunity to attend both IATUL2012 and CONSAL XV thanks to the organizers of both conferences for giving me the opportunity to attend.

It was a crazy two weeks, and while I enjoy attending conferences there can be such a thing as too much of a good thing. I am glad to be back at work, preparing for the new term to start.

On another note, I just noticed this blog was selected as a nominee for the Salem Library Blog Awards 2012 under "INDEPENDENT BLOG: Academic".

The choices for my category are


    Bibliographic Wilderness
    Scholarly Open Access
    Spurious Tuples
    Musings About Librarianship (this blog!)
    Waki Librarian
    No Shelf Required®

In 2010, my blog was nominated but didn't get to the finals to be voted on, so this is the furthest I have reached. Again this is unexpected since I think the quality of my blog posts have dropped since 2010 , as I am running out of inspiration to blog original content resulting in subpar posts like this one! :)

I suspect No Shelf Required which is *the* blog to read on ebooks for libraries is going to win this without breaking a sweat, but if you like to make it a tougher fight you can vote for me. :)

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