ALIA Information Online Conference

I just attended the Information Online 2007 conference and exhibition held at Darling Harbour in Sydney from 30th January to 1st February 2007

There were speakers from around Australia and overseas on a range of topics – from information security to knowledge management, from managing in the virtual world to managing with disruptive technologies aimed at challenging and inspiring delegates from all aspects of the information sector including librarians, knowledge/information managers, intranet managers etc

As I was a volunteer helping out at the conference (helping lost attendees, taking photos for the conference website, assisting speakers and the organising committee in their preparation room), I didn’t get to see all the papers, but I did find these speakers/vendors interesting:

Ross Ackland, Research Manager Information Engineering Laboratory CSIRO ICT Centre and head of the Australian W3C office – spoke about the future of the web and how sensor web technologies can be used to tackle problems like monitoring Australia’s scarce water resources.


For an example of what is possible check out the WRON (Water Resources Observation Network) using data gathered by remote sensors to show dam levels around Australia on a Google maps interface, as a Gauge, time series or a widget on your PC desktop.

EBSCO booth at the Information Online exhibition

James Robertson of Step Two Designs spoke on his pet topic of Intranets. The key point I took away from his talk were that “usable” and “accessible” Intranets are all well and good, but they MUST also be useful. To that end the best way to decide what features an Intranet should have is to ask staff what would help them do their work better and deliver this.

Dr Diana Oblinger, Vice President EDUCAUSE (USA) spoke about what media and technologies are being used by young people today to socialise, learn and entertain themselves.

Her message was that the goal of organisations which deal with information should be to constantly make the future, not defend the past.

Leona Jennings of Gold Coast City Council spoke about their RFID project which won the Inaugural Information Online award for Excellence. The main benefits were fewer OH&S incidents, better accountability of assets and efficiency gains which meant staff were now not just treading water, they had time to interact with customers and consider ways of improving services rather than doing manual processing.

Warren Cheetham from Thuringowa Library Services and a staff member (can’t remember her name) – presented a paper titled “From Table To Tablet – How A Wireless Tablet Pc Could Help To Deliver A New Customer Service Paradigm In A Public Library”. They went through their paper alternating in tag team style and showed that public libraries can successfully move out of the dark ages by embracing technology and changes to reference desks, furniture etc to improve customer service and be more relevant to their community.

A selection of some of the freebies offered by vendors at the Information Online exhibition

At the Exhibition Hall Santo Cavallaro was promoting the Libero library management system and the practical implications of adopting Library 2.0 theory by integrating things like RSS feeds, tagging, library member reviews of books they’ve borrowed etc into a library management system.

He showed me the system in action on his laptop and I was impressed that it was W3C compliant, very customisable and user friendly and streets ahead of the ancient, unreliable version of AMLIB that my local council library (Liverpool Council in Sydney) uses. If only they followed the example of Bankstown, Gosford and other public libraries who have rolled out Libero.


Another vendor at the exhibition was Deep Freeze, a software package that allows PC’s to be rebooted to their original state if users have messed about with the operating system or any other settings. I’ve seen it in action at a small public library and the librarian in charge of their public access PC’s told me that it’s saved him a lot of time compared to his previous method which was re-imaging PC’s if the public had messed about with them.

The National library of Australia also had a booth and amongst other things was promoting their Asknow! service – “a virtual reference service staffed by librarians in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. It aims to provide high quality information to users, with the convenience of immediate, online communication. Using purpose-built software, it allows librarians and users to interact in real time.”

If only more libraries in the public and academic sphere realised that they can have strength in numbers and collaborative programs like this are a great way to improve customer service while sharing the costs and staff time amongst all the participating organisations. Unfortunately due to power plays and organisational politics I’m told that this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

On the whole all the keynote speakers were great (and this is pretty rare for a large conference) however some of the other papers had little practical value eg: story telling or telling the audience lots of statistics without analysing them much or making detailed conclusions on their ramifications.

For more details from the view of a conference attendee I suggest you read reviews by Michelle McLean, Peta Hopkins and Fiona Bradley

Copies of most papers in PDF format are available at the official conference website

5 thoughts on “ALIA Information Online Conference”

  1. Very interesting. Thank you Neerav. I found the WRON site quite thought provoking. Must chat to you about the Google Map interface.

  2. Thanks for posting this info for those of us who didn’t make it, Neerav. I’m interested in LM systems that incorporate Library2.0 features – my library uses Horizon, and I’m wondering what the next version (due next year) will contain in this regard.
    Cheers, Matthew

  3. I agree with your comments that the keynotes were really good on the whole. One I’m suprised you didn’t mention was Damian Conway form Monash, perhaps you missed it? I thought he was really very good and inspiring, he asked pretty interesting questions like: What will be the purpose of a librarian when you have the whole of the Library of Congress on your Seagate 300Tb drive sitting next to your computer?

    Matthew – you should take a look at Encore. It’s a new OPAC frontend kind of thing that was on show at the conference, very Web 2.0, and very impressive! Still in development phase though, I heard they were looking for development partners in fact, if your library is interested?

    EDITOR: The reason I didn’t mention Damiens talk was because although he’s a very good speaker and it was very well delivered, the content was basically pandering to the crowd by saying librarians are in the box seat … I don’t think the future is that rosy for a large proportion of librarians long established in the field.

  4. Hmmmmm. I hope my actual message wasn’t as simplistic as “Librarians will rule”, even if that was the catchphrase I used to grab the audience’s attention. The actual message was: “Librarians face enormous challenges from disruptive information technologies (library-on-a-disk, print-on-demand, single-word-resolution digital call-numbers, collaborative knowledge, etc.) but are also presented with commensurately enormous opportunities because an ‘ambient knowledge’ economy will require precisely those information handling skills that librarians have been developing for the past 25 centuries.” I would fully agree with you that the future isn’t rosy for any librarians who are so “long established” that they can’t retool themselves to master these new technologies.

    Indeed, that’s precisely why I spent the first third of the talk showing pictures of cavemen, shamans, clergy, and aristocrats progressively losing out as they failed to adapt. But I think it’s unfair to characterize my intent as “pandering” just because I chose to leave the audience with the hope that their fundamental skills will continue to be valuable, rather than in despair at the magnitude of the changes that will be required.

    EDITOR: perhaps it is unfair, in which case sorry, but the audience seemed to take away the last line in their discussions afterwards because it’s only human nature to remember and promote the bit that said they’re great, than the bit which says they’re under threat eg: the post at says:

    Damian Conway, futurist, made a keynote speech at Information Online 2007 this afternoon. It was an exciting presentation showing how Librarians were going to rule the World with the disruptive technology of ubiquitous computing – ambient knowledge — and unlimited storage leading to the demise of the info-stocracy (ie Rupert Murdoch et al.)

    I tend to be fairly direct and forthright so would have made it clear that this was a “natural selection” kind of event where those who didn’t adapt fast would go the way of the dodo, but obviously as a good professional speaker you know that only saying this without saying something good would not endear you to the crowd 🙂

  5. Comments from a (slightly worn out) Committee member. After 18 months of planning and hard work it is fantastic see so many delegates (over 1,000) at the Conference and the feedback on the various Blogs so far. The many discussions by the Committee on the choice of speakers obviously went the right way.

    Thankyou to all who attended as a delegate, presenter, volunteer and exhibitor. See you all in 2009! Jan

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