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Sync or Sink: not just a clever title

November 29, 2011

After weeks of eager anticipation I finally attended the cpd25 event ‘Sink or Sink: Opportunities for libraries in the digital age’ which was the first of three cpd25 workshops I have signed up for. Ian Clark organised the event, a guilty pleasure as he too wanted to hear from all the speakers. This made for a fantastic and varied line up which covered; the impacts and benefits of digitisation, managing a digitisation project, creating a smart phone application and case study into the British Cartoon Archive. You can read Ian’s blog post here and see the delicious links here. I really liked the way that even if I hadn’t come across the event from the cpd25 website I also received updated JISC mail updates, saw it retweeted a few times and then a few days before hand I was emailed about the Facebook event. I’m sure everyone will agree sometimes it’s hard to frequently check websites for workshops or conferences then there’s an inevitable *head desk* moment when you miss them.

In the opening Ian addressed that this was the time to embrace digitisation and take advantage of the opportunities available. The session would be about how to create something from digitisation and not just reflect on the topic. This is exactly what I needed to hear about, ways to put theory into practice in the workplace. Simon Tanner opened the presentations by addressing the values, impact and benefits of digitisation which also mirrored Ian’s feelings on creating something from digitisation and measuring the outcomes not just the inputs. Simon talked about how digitisation can enable new areas of research and an opportunity to exploit the assets you have. This was all very inspiring and started to make me reflect on how this could open up possible research avenues at work.

Following this Christy Henshaw talked about managing the digitisation process at the Wellcome library. Christy reflected on how 2009 saw a massive expansion in the Wellcome’s digitisation activities and this is a perfect time to reflect on the process. After a shift in the digitisation strategy at the Wellcome there were new aspects they had to grapple with; advances in technology meant the emphasis on IT became a bigger part than they first anticipated. This in turn meant they had to ensure they were more streamlined as a break down in communication was often the cause of mistakes. To get around this they now use Goobi, an open-source workflow management tool, which I am now itching to have a play on. One other aspect Christy reflected on was making sure each person did their job and their job only, this makes less room for mistakes as overlapping of tasks means streams of work are disrupted. After Christy’s presentation there was a short coffee break in which I realised I am possibly more socially awkward than first thought but luckily I survived.

Next up came Geoff Browell who was guiding us through creating a smart phone application. Now I don’t have a smart phone, I owned a Blackberry and fell quickly in and out of love with it, but do love having a go on friends iphones and the apps they have. Navigating Nightingale sounds like just the kind of thing I would happily part with my hard-earned pennies for. Geoff explained how an app had to actually do something, it isn’t enough to create an app for the sake of it. For example they need to boost an exhibition, not just sit alongside it duplicating information. They also need to make use of the unique attributes that come with it being installed on a mobile device (keyword being mobile there!) and they need to go that extra mile. Some of the most successful apps are tour guides, exhibition aids, encourage social interaction and are a fundraising opportunity. These successful apps are image rich and well designed, if it’s shoddy you will be able to tell, and it must contain a strong narrative. During this session I quickly scribbled down ‘Ravensbourne 2012 degree show, tour of the institution?’ as I know a high number of visitors are eager to see tours of the building I work in (RIBA award-winning, dont’cha know?). This is great but it takes up valuable time during busy events. An app could solve these issues and provide a wealth of detail about the architecture, the courses, the students work and the vision for the college all in one fell user driven swoop.  Geoff did warn of the financial side of apps though as tt does cost money to develop an app and there are numerous issues to consider; who owns the app? how do you market it? developer costs? But he offered some great advice to go away with: with sound reason, extensive research and planning, avoiding overloading the app and after user testing and feedback you could have a success on your hands. Brain overload at this point.

To finish the event we heard from Nick Hiley from the British Cartoon Archive who gave a great insight into how digitisation has transformed their service. The impact of digitisation has been felt mostly in the decreased emphasis of location, gone are the cries of “You’re in Canterbury?” as over a thousand users view the collection online per month. One interesting fact was for every publishable day in the 1960’s there was at least 10 cartoons per day, cartoon heaven! Nick advised that if you can digitise in-house, this is usually better, which mirrored Christy’s attitudes toward the process. Nick also demonstrated how the catalogue allowed users to ‘wander around’ the catalogue and not just ‘land’ on the relevant entry. He also talked about the copyright issues involved and emphasised the importance of a robust ‘take down’ policy being in place. Five pages of notes later the event drew to a close leaving much food for thought. If you want to view any of the presentations the delicious links for the event include two of the four presentations.

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