5 Apr 2012

Guest post: LIR Annual Seminar 2012: Collaboration in the cloud

Guest post by Ashling Hayes, Assistant Librarian (Research Support and Cataloguing), University of Limerick.

The premise for LIR’s 2012 seminar was one that would interest many librarians in Ireland. The title of the seminar utilised two buzzwords currently floating around the library scene, “cloud-computing” and “collaboration”. Broadly the seminar looked at three different interpretations of these terms: collaboration on a national level and international level, using Cloud technologies to provide services to users and finally Trust and Security.

Liam Earley from JISC looked at the strides libraries in the UK have made towards building a knowledgebase to manage e-resources, Knowledgebase+. His presentation focused on why collaboration makes sense. Libraries are currently duplicating efforts to maintain their individual knowledge bases. For example the data available on licensing, publishers lists etc is often inaccurate. Without a collaborative approach the work that goes into cleaning this data will have to be duplicated in each individual library. Knowledgebase+ aims to fix this by providing a shared service that will include an accurate and relevant knowledge base. Knowledgebase+ will be made available in the UK as a beta service in August of this year. Liam also stated in the question and answer session that in time it will be made available to Irish libraries also.

Continuing with the theme of collaboration was Peter Corrigan from NUIG who discussed the work that The Task and Finish Group of the Irish University’s Association have done on exploring the possibility a shared library management system for all IUA libraries. This is still very much a work in progress but the benefits of a shared service were outlined including, a shared service will require less infrastructure = less cost and less duplication of effort. Overall the central theme of both Liam and Peter’s presentations was that collaboration and sharing make sense both financially for libraries and also as a way to improve services. However we’re not there yet and there is a huge amount of work that needs to be done.

A series of short presentations looked at how libraries can use some cloud computing technologies on a day to day level. Elaine Bean from NUI Maynooth discussed QR codes and gave a demonstration of how to create these. These are both time efficient and free to create. I thought that for librarians wanting to explore technology for their mobile constituents that these were an excellent starting point. Peter Reilly talked about his experiences with Mendeley as an academic reference manager. Mendeley is a free service that is available as both a desktop application and as a web based service. Glenn Wearen from HEAnet discussed the decision process the LIR team went through when transferring the LIR website to a cloud based server. Finally Alison Sharman from the University of Huddersfield presented on her experience with Teachmeets as an informal way of sharing information and expertise.

In the afternoon session there were two presentations on how cloud computing technologies can be utilised by libraries on a grander scale. Yvonne Desmond from DIT shared their experiences of setting up an Institutional Repository in the Cloud. Yvonne discussed how the decision was made to outsource the IR and have it hosted in the cloud. The presentation illustrated that Institutional Repositories are achievable for smaller libraries in Ireland. With a cloud based solution overcoming obstacles such as, small budgets, lack of technical expertise and low staff numbers. Having been involved in the setup of a cloud based Institutional Repository in a specialist research library I can personally testify to this. From UCD Peter McKiernan presented on their experience of delivering services to students and staff on mobile devices and how they have taken advantage of cloud based technologies to deliver services. UCD started moved their student mail to Google mail and academic calendars are linked to students’ Google calendar. Peter’s presentation was eye-opening in how they used established technology and customised it for their own needs, creating a UCD mobile app that is available for Apple, Android and Blackberry.

The final theme was Trust and Security. Brian Conan from the cloud security alliance discussed security issues surrounding cloud computing. I felt this theme was touched upon throughout the seminar but Brian highlighted how much of our online security is based on trust. The first speaker of the day Liam Earley had made the point that many libraries relied on publishers to keep details of their licensing and subscription and were not proactive in ensuring they were getting what they paid for. Instead they relied on trust. Brian’s presentation was very timely as it emphasised that changing technologies mean changing security issues. For new technologies security is not a priority, if we want security we must be proactive in engaging with developers. We can no longer rely on trust.

Overall what I took from the seminar was:
  • Collaboration is good and technology makes it easier to collaborate on a national and international basis.
  • Cloud computing is not “new” anyone using a gmail, hotmail, yahoo mail account, facebook or dropbox is using cloud computing.
  • Libraries can use cloud computing technology to provide services they previously lacked the expertise or budget to attempt before.
  • We need to be proactive about security and seek Confidentiality, Integrity and Accessibility for our systems. 

Slides and videos of the seminar are available to view in full online here.

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