Innovative Library Services and Programs from an International Perspective: A Review of the IRRT’s ALA Annual Preconference

By Shannon Marie Robinson

The International Relations Round Table coordinated and hosted a preconference session at ALA Annual 2013. Innovative Library Services and Programs in Digital Era: An International Perspective addressed how global impacts of new technologies have transformed libraries. The four-hour preconference began with informal chats and networking over breakfast. This was followed by five presentations, with ample time for questions. The event concluded with lunch, which provided an opportunity for more conversation.

Constantia Constantinou is a distinguished librarian at the Maritime College Library of The State University of New York. She has been a Fulbright Senior Specialist (2005) and a Fulbright Scholar (2011) in Cyprus. Her presentation, Representing Cultural Knowledge and Heritage to the World, highlighted her work adding the University of Cyprus’ Kypriologika collection to OCLC. The University of Cyprus Library became a member of OCLC in September 2011. Since then, Constantinou has faced a number of issues in completing this project. The 25,000 bibliographic records of the collection needed to be converted so they would be compatible with OCLC standards. She also had to remain cognizant of national and political tensions. As Kypriologika is the first Cyprus heritage collection in OCLC, Constantinou was careful not to misrepresent the history of the country. Now that the records of the Cyprus heritage collection are available in OCLC, scholars all over the world may request the items through interlibrary loan. This will have tremendous impact on international research activities.

Nancy E. Gwinn and Martin R. Kalfatovic of the Smithsonian Libraries presented Creating the Global Biodiversity Heritage Library. Gwinn is the director of the Smithsonian Libraries and chair of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) Executive Committee. Kalfatovic is the associate director of the digital services division and program director for BHL. BHL is an open-access collection of biodiversity literature from a consortium of libraries. It was formed in 2006 by 15 member institutions, all located in the United States, except the Natural History Museum and the Royal Botanic Garden, both in London. Since then, BHL staff has coordinated with international libraries and archives to build portal collections including those in Europe, China, Brazil and as of April, Africa. BHL now has more than 60,000 fully searchable titles and a Flickr account with more than 63,000 images. As with Constantinou’s project, BHL is changing international scholarship. No longer will biodiversity researchers have to travel for days to photocopy passages from a text or scan an image. The BHL team also has embraced social media to reach the general public, increasing interest in the history and wonder of the natural world.

3D Virtual Museums and Library Exhibits Promote International Information Literacy by Valerie Hill steered the session toward the ways technology has affected library services and collections. Hill is a librarian and adjunct instructor at Texas Woman’s University. Unlike other forms of social media, virtual worlds create a shared sense of presence through visual cues. This makes virtual worlds ideal for participatory learning and encourages a global perspective. Hill creates machinima, making animated cinema by filming within a 3D virtual world such as Second Life. These films act as an archive and provide access to the virtual experience for people who did not attend. She shared a few examples of how libraries and museums are using virtual worlds to host exhibitions, teach classes and provide access to resources. The University of Patras in Greece held an Open Workshop on Information Literacy that consisted of weekly class meetings in Second Life. The Anne Frank MOOC was an online course about the Holocaust that took place in a virtual world. Summer in Berlin was a virtual exhibit developed by the Texas Library Association’s virtual world group and the Community Virtual Library in Second Life. The participants explored Berlin during the 1920s by taking virtual walking tours of the city. The Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration held a conference in Second Life. Hill demonstrated that virtual spaces can become international meeting and exhibition spaces, offering alternative access to resources and services. For librarians interested in exploring virtual worlds, join the ACRL Virtual Worlds Interest Group.

Anton DuPlessis, in his talk Los Primeros Libros: Digital Collaboration to Facilitate New World Patrimony, discussed a partnership formed to create a new eBook collection among institutions in the United States, Mexico and Spain. DuPlessis is the curator of the Colonial Mexican Collection at Texas A&M University and the director of the Primeros Libros de las Américas Project. The project, started in 2010, is a digital collection of the first imprints published in the Americas during the period 1539 to 1601. About 135 titles are thought to exist from this time; more than 80 percent are already included in the collection. Duplicates of a title are included to account for printing variations, damaged books and marginalia. Institutional collaboration allowed the creation of a digital collection larger than any one institution’s holdings. Unique print items are now digitally archived and widely accessible. The collection is a wonderful online resource for historians, anthropologists and linguists.

Seangill Peter Bae introduced the participants to ShareILL in his presentation Resource Sharing Starts from Information Sharing: Use of ShareILL Wiki for International Interlibrary Loan. Bae is head of ILL, Borrow Direct and Reserve Services at Columbia University. Interlibrary loan involves more than lending or borrowing books and articles. Columbia University has also shared microfilm, images, audio and video materials, and archival materials. These materials come in dozens of languages and are loaned all over the world. With such easy access to information from OCLC’s WorldCat or Google, more people are discovering more resources. As requests for ILL have skyrocketed in past decades, ILL departments have faced increasing workloads with limited resources. To help ILL staff, ShareILL, a wiki with management tools and finding aids, was created in 2007. The ALA Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) and the Sharing and Transforming Access to Resources Section (STARS) maintain the wiki.

The IRRT preconference at ALA Annual successfully combined informative presentations and professional networking. It was a truly enjoyable morning meeting new colleagues and discovering new resources and tools.

Shannon Marie Robinson is the Liaison Librarian to Fine Arts, Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at Denison University. She received the NMRT Professional Development Grant, which helped finance her first ALA Annual conference.