Friday, June 27, 2008

ATLA in Ottawa (Day 2/3)

Today is actually Day 3 of ATLA—Day 2 was intense, so I never got back to my computer.

The first thing I attended on Thursday was the new member breakfast. I thought it started at 8, it actually began at 7. I had yet another clock alarm mishap. I set the alarm for 6 and turned it on. When I woke up at 7, it said “alarm off”. I am not alarm-clock-setting impaired, yet this has happened to me in two separate locations over the last two weeks. As though the gremlins think I need more sleep or something.

In any case, I did catch the end of the new member breakfast, and did meet a few folks. I then went over to the Plenary Address given by the University Librarian of the University of Ottawa, Leslie Weir. She discussed Scholar's Portal ( which is a large-scale digital collection of holdings from 72 libraries in Canada. They ingest materials from commercial vendors and open access initiatives. They opted for a uniform e-book interface via Ebrary, and the portal's front end is run through a software called Marklogic. The consortium behind Scholar's Portal does not lease materials; they buy the collections outright, which not only eliminates copyright issues, but allows them to check off the collections on their financial asset sheets as something owned. They do some large scale digitization (that was funded largely by Microsoft, but that funding will unfortunately ending), and everything they output is open access. I was impressed with the way the group started small with e-Journals and worked their way up to all types of materials. They are asking that publishers provide materials in XML format, but they have minimal compliance on that at the moment. Hopefully that will change in the future.

I was pleased that Leslie made a point of noting that print is not dead. Current students tend to look only for the electronic versions of books, journals, and other materials, but the scholar's portal setup helps “put the print version in front of their face” as well as the electronic options. A balance is definitely needed, even if digitization is widespread. Some cool features of Scholar's Portal include RefWorks, which allows Canadian students to retain their citations throughout their entire career in Canada (assuming that they go to all Canadian universities and eventually work in one). ODESI (pronounced “odyssey”) is a portal of social science and statistical data that allows researchers who need meaningful statistics but are not statisticians to actually get the numbers they need. They are also adding something called “Discovery Layer Search Capabilities” as an OPAC replacement. University of Toronto should be unveiling this soon, and I plan to look at it when it's up, to see how well the search technology works. Another interesting tidbit—the OLUC (consortium of Canadian libraries on the project) do not really care whether researchers use their home page or catalog—they are just as happy if the info is accessed through Google Scholar, or some other portal. It is good to see someone getting away from the “must-use-our-homepage” model of access.

After the plenary I attended a roundtable discussion of NACO. It turns out that ATLA has its own NACO funnel, coordinated by Judy Knop. We had an interesting discussion about NACO and how useful it is to be a NACO member, as well as discussions of quality of work from authority control vendors, specific heading-establishment conundrums, and the difficulties of balancing authority work with the rest of the Technical Services workload. Judy mentioned the virtual authority file, which allows access to the authority files of national libraries around the world. (I think I have the correct link posted above, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

I took a lunch break at the Highlander Pub on Rue William Street. I expected to find various varieties of Scotch, I did not expect to see Scotch Malt Liquor ice cream. (They were out of it, unfortunately, so I didn't get to try it). I did, however, try one of the lagers that was brewed locally. I don't drink lagers that often, but this one was pretty good. I think it is called Creemore Springs.
Later, I went to the LAC (Library and Archives of Canada). We all got onto chartered buses, but the driver apparently had the wrong directions. He took us to the Wellington St. facility, which is the National Library of Canada. We were supposed to go to Gatineau in Quebec to the Archives facility. After some random driving around in French Quebec (my favorite sign: Place du Wal-Mart), and after going past some row houses, our coordinator thought she saw a Canadian flag on top of a building, and told the bus driver to head that way. Turns out she was right. Interestingly enough, the LAC is located in front of a Home Depot.

The LAC catalogers were very welcoming, and talked about their cataloging operation. We were given complimentary CD-ROM copies of the National Bibliography of Canada, though it's also easily obtainable online as AMICUS. (I usually consult AMICUS when establishing Canadian authors via NACO). A couple of things highlighted were their bilingual cataloging program (English and French), the Canadian List of Subject Headings (which covers local interest subjects not treated adequately by LCSH), and the difficulties with classifying hymnals using LOC classification in Canada. With regard to the latter, there are apparently multiple class numbers and 57 cuttering variants for American hymnals, and one number for “all of Canada and Mexico” (M2133, I think, but I'd have to look it up to be sure). They outlined 3 proposals to LOC for modifying this without disrupting the schedules too much. I was surprised that we got all of the presentations in, plus had some time to chat with the LAC catalogers before getting on the bus to go back to Ottawa.

Once we returned to Ottawa, we stayed on the bus to get to the riverboat cruise on the Ottawa River. This was a pretty nice event, and it was lovely to see all of the buildings lit up at night near the Rideau Canal, but it was an exhausting event. The boat was full, and we were all sort of crammed in together at dinner. I chatted with some librarians from Toronto and Southern California, but eventually I was getting tired, and really wanted to get back and get to bed. Dinner was just sandwiches and such, so I was glad that I'd eaten a full lunch, as I don't do sandwiches. I felt pretty lousy by the time I got to my hotel room again, but a couple of Advil and a shower took care of that.

Today is Friday, and after some debate, I decided that I'm not going to any sessions today. I'm very tired, and I do want a chance to see some museums and other sites downtown. I also want to check out the one Irish pub I seem to have missed. (There are probably others that I have missed, but these look like the most fun). Tomorrow is another full day of presentations, plus the closing banquet, so I won't be here too much longer. While I've enjoyed the company of the other librarians here at the conference, I do need a little “down time” to myself. (OK, those of you who know me know that I need LOTS of downtime, evidenced by the fact that I disappear for days at a time and don't return calls for weeks).

I'll post about the last leg of the trip tomorrow, or Sunday.

I should note that I was interrupted by a random fire alarm in the hotel while writing this. I went outside as instructed, and ran into Tolonda Henderson from New Brunswick Theological Seminary (I mention her presentation on Alice Walker in my posting on MAAR). We noted with interest that there was no hotel staff outside instructing people NOT to come in, and no one around whatsoever to provide any direction as to what to do. They let us back in within about 10 minutes, so I'm guessing it wasn't that serious. Good thing, too!

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