It’s always difficult for conference organizers to predict which topics will be important and/or popular enough to warrant a large room. Sometimes speakers face almost empty rooms, at other times it’s standing room only. This morning I went to an IFLA session on the collaborative efforts being put into place between social science and government libraries. The room was empty, which was particularly unfortunate because the last speaker, Judith Dueck, deserved many more listeners than she had in the room. Her topic was human rights information and she discussed HuriSearch, which is a database covering the topic in 77 languages. Although there was no Internet connection in the room, Judith showed screen shots of the search engine and records from the database. She had some caustic comments for the censorship activities of Google, Yahoo, and MSN in China, citing that as one reason to supplement Web searches with HuriSearch.
In the afternoon, the same room saw an overflow crowd to hear speakers talk about marketing library services. Now, I’m the first to admit that marketing is important and a crucial function for librarians to master, I just have to wonder at the disparity in the sizes of the audiences.
I’m blogging from Seoul, South Korea, this week as I’m at the IFLA conference with a few thousand of my favorite people from all over the world. I do wish Blogger, however, would stop noticing where I am, since all the instructions are in Korean. It’s a good think I remember, spatially, where the commands are on the screen.
One interesting measure of the “internationality” of the IFLA conference is to search for the organization’s acronym in Technorati . Most of the posts are in languages other than English.
There was an interesting discussion this morning about libraries and advocacy. Although I’ve been in similar discussions before, this one was different because of the many nationalities and types of libraries involved in the discussion. Definitely food for thought. We in the developed world tend to take it for granted that having libraries and information available for everybody is a goal understood by and wanted by the world at large. Yet in some parts of the world, that is far from the case. It isn’t just about money, it’s about culture, context, and politics. One story that came out of Africa equated libraries with mothers because they share the same nurturing functions. I confess I’ve never thought of a library as my mother — and I don’t intend to, either!
I just ran across a
YouTube clip of Stephen Colbert’s take on Wikipedia, in which he urges people to change the Wikipedia entry on elephants to indicate their numbers are increasing in Africa and talks about how realilty can reflect a majority opinion rather than true reality. He points out that if you took an astronony course before Galileo and said the earth revolves around the sun, you’d have been considered crazy.
This is one of his Word segments and, as usual, the Word’s comments on Colbert’s rants is funnier than Colbert. It ends with “The revolution will not be verified.” It’s a good segment, not only because it points out an inherent flaw with the Wikipedia model (Can you really trust the wisdom of crowds? Are all crowds equally wise and trustable?), but it looks at a larger problem, which is that if enough people say the same thing often enough, it becomes true. I’d like to think that librarians and online searchers are non-believers in “wikiality,” instead fact-checking and verifying sources, but I’m not always sure this is the case.