Monday, 1 July 2013

Blogged: Day 2 Interlend 2013

So I'm not going to dwell on the conference dinner. We ate, we drank, we put the world to rights. Pretty much  like any other library conference you've ever been to. It was good fun with good company, even if I have a sneaking suspicion I may have agreed to let OCLC ring me about Questionpoint. (Only joking Viv!) 

Day 2 started with a tour of Cardiff Central Library, an relatively new building in the heart of the city amongst the shopping center and bars. It's bright design, clear signage and mixed use of space was impressive with the white grand piano especially getting a lot of attention from the group. But for me it was the use of the mezzanine for the children's library that made me realise that this was more than your average library, this was a purpose designed space, created by people who understood how a library works and is used. Tucked away to provide not only a sense of security for parents but also a barrier to the inevitable noise the space is more playground than library. From the curtained story area to the convenient baby change facilities this space is everything a children's library should be, complete with dedicated, enthusiastic staff. Anyone needing a lesson in why paid staff are so important to the success of a service you only have to visit Cardiff Children's library to see a visible representation of the value they add. 

We returned to the conference centre for our first speaker of the day, Graham Cornish, who took us back to basics, asking the question, why we do what we do? It was a timely reminder  as to how far document supply has come since the days when everything had to be delivered physically and even a photocopier was a pipe dream. It was also a reminder as to how libraries had changed,  moving away from "a just in case" policy to a supply on demand ethos. Arising partly through need, most libraries do not have either the resources or space to buy everything nowadays, we are now in a world that supports the idea of "anything, to anyone, anywhere and at any time. In line with this libraries are becoming about access rather than acquisition and as it is exactly this that inter lending and document supply supports. 

Next I had elected to attend Dawn Downes look at Paper vs Processing, a presentation that had arisen from the results of a document supply survey taken across UK libraries the previous year. It had been undertaken as a benchmarking exercise as Dawn attempted to move away from a  admin heavy, paper based solution to a more system based process. Although Dawn had no quick fix answers  what the survey did show is that inter lending continues to be a very process heavy service that even the dedicated ILL systems can't seem to streamline. Even where the paper admin has been removed most organisations are left juggling data between spreadsheets, online forms, LMS's and multiple systems. For me it also highlighted the difference between a large and small institution, not only in regards to scale of the service and the size of the teams involved, but also in terms of the way items are procured with larger organisations much more likely to be operating a 'Net' service. Although this maybe a generalisation a quick poll indicated that larger organisations were also  more likely to be using the BL as a last resort, borrowing from established, normally cheaper,  networks such as Unity or SWIRLS first, where about smaller institutions would often use the BL as a first resort in order to reduce checking times. 

After lunch (and cake) the penultimate talk was from Mark Kluzek who discussed the impact of ebooks and ejournals on ILL and Document Supply. As always when entering the world of eresources, publishers and licenses soon made an appearance and reference was made to yesterday's keynote on the changing face of copyright law. 

In the case of ejournals Mark has found that many licenses permit document supply and are very specific in what is and isn't allowed. So in short you are on fairly safe ground as long as you read the small print! For example a license might specify whether an article needs to be printed off in hard copy or whether an electronic copy is permissible. He also touched on the recent changes to copyright law that will see exceptions, such as fair dealings, overrule at least UK license agreements, making DSS for e-articles a much easier mine field to negotiate. 

However ebooks continue to be a very different matter with most licenses currently out right banning lending. Even should licences, or the law,  allow the process, there is no means to carry out the loan.  Short of physically printing off the chapters there is no physical way of lending a book in it's electronic form, existing as they do  on publisher or aggregator  platforms who have no wish to enable such transactions. 

In some ways I found this talk disappointing. PDA and associated rentals from publishers or aggregators  have the capcity to impact greatly on ILL, or at least I believe so. It is something I have heard discussed at length at ebook conferences over the last year yet here it was hardly touched upon. I'll admit it is a step away from traditional ILL but  I was left disappointed that this subjected wasn't more fully explored. 

I couldn't help but feel that more work needs to be done to bring the areas of procurement and ILL together  to address the problem jointly. I was especially disappointed that the group talked about the idea of renting books from each other in order to secure an income for the publishers, an idea that ignores the current rental opportunities already offered by many ebook publishers and shows a lack of understanding as to where ebook supply is heading.  The reality is that ebook models increasingly bypass the traditional means of discovery, such as a bookstore or library, and allow the publishers to market their books direct to individuals through their own platforms. We cannot be blind to this, either in procurement or ILL and we certainly cannot continue to model digital lending after the traditional physical lending systems we have in place. 

Finally for the day we have David Ball and 'Open Access - A Disruptive Technology. If I'm totally honest OA isn't really my thing and although I appreciated the slant David took, looking at the idea that OA has developed as a 'good enough' technology, I failed to really engage with this presentation. Luckily for anyone interested his entire presentation is going to be available on the FIL website sometime in the future and I will post a link to this and the other presentations once they are up. In the mean time here is a link to a Storify of the second day :

Interlend has been a bit of an eye opener for me, not just because I have learnt so much but because I have realised that the problems I am facing are by no means unique. It is too easy in the day to day process of running a service to forget that there are hundreds of similar services to your own, all facing the same problems. If nothing else Interlend 2013 has put my mind at ease that I actually know more about ILL than I think and that I have the means, and network, to make progress if only I can give the subject some time. 

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