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Trip report VALA conference Melbourne

Lorcan 2 min read

I presented the closing keynote [ppt] at the recent VALA conference in Melbourne Australia [VALA2004 Conference Programme and Links to Papers].
(Added 13 March: just came across a trip report for the VALA conference by Steve Thomas, University of Adelaide.)
Here are some brief notes about the meeting …


I had never been to Australia before and was not quite prepared for the time-shift. Melbourne seemed congenial on superficial acquaintance. The conference was in parallel tracks, so although I went to quite a few presentations I also missed a lot. I had to skip some time to finish up the presentation also. Some headlines:
Open access, institutional repositories, support for research …. this proved to be a major emphasis, particularly throughout the keynote addresses. Hal Abelson (MIT), Mackenzie Smith (MIT, Dspace), and Herbert Van De Sompel all spoke about the need to make research results more accessible. There were some Australian presentations here also, one about the implementation of Dspace. This topic was given particular currency by the recent announcement of several nationally funded initiatives to provide support for access to research information. Of particular note may be the Arrow project, led by Australia’s largest Univeesity, Monash. This aims to put in place infrastructure to support institutional management of eprints, theses and e-publishing activities, and provide national discovery services for these. The National Library of Australia is the partner charged with providing the ‘discovery layer’. A paper [pdf] at the conference describes the initiative in the context of overall Monash developments. This model is similar to national initiatives in the UK and elsewhere. All early days.
Pick up a portal ..Quite a bit of discussion about ‘portal’ issues. Aarlin is an ex-libris based cooperative initiative among a group of libraries to develop portal services to licensed resources. Some other papers describe local initiatives to streamline access. The issue of creating service/collection descriptions came up a few times.
There was a presentation about Music Australia [pdf], an initiative to federate access to music resources through some articulation of the national bibliography and other resources distributed thoughout the country. There is a discussion about authority files (‘party’ metadata) and harvest of MARC records. It is interesting in that it is trying to federate a ‘legacy’ resource without doing metasearch.
Collection level description … Given recent discussions here I was particularly interested in a paper [pdf] given by colleagues from the State Library of New South Wales about collection llevel description. They chose to use EAD over the dc-collections/RSLP work. They want to prove a ‘subject’ collection view across their collections which may be organized in other ways.
Other … There were several papers on e-books and virtual reference. I was particularly taken with a paper from Andrew Wells of the University of New South Wales which talked about the need to change the cost structure of his operation to more clearly reflect where he thought he could add most value. At the moment the cost of bringing up services in several physical buildings (reference desk, circulation, shelving, …) is high.
It was good to see the use by several speakers of the Scan and the Collections Grid. Christine Lupovici spoke about national web archiving and drew on the Web Characterization project results.

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