Saturday, 14 May 2011


On Tuesday this week I was in Brisbane for the 7th Research Applications in Information and Library Studies (RAILS7) seminar, held at QUT. Monday was the Student Research Consortium, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it to this as well.

The RAILS7 seminar was a full day, with 18 papers to get through, followed by drinks and dinner or a tweet-up for some. The papers covered a broad spectrum of topics and it was enlightening to see innovative research coming from the ILS sector. I can’t cover all 18 presentations so have a look at the program,  available here.

As a UTS Masters student I should declare my possible bias here, but I really enjoyed the presentation by Belinda Tiffen and Ashley England from UTS Library. They won the delegates’ choice award so I wasn’t the only one. Belinda and Ashley’s presentation enforced the notion that libraries should be looking outside the sector for inspiration as they try to engage their clients, drawing on some examples of the wonderful programs and tools being utilised by the UTS Library.

I say clients, rather than users. Anyone who has studied ‘People, Information and Knowledge’ with Michael Olsson at UTS would have felt a sense of nostalgia as Michael took us through some preliminary findings of a study into the information practices of freelance journalists. Brenda Dervin, Foucault, sense-making, knowledge and power, and certainly avoiding the term ‘user’ and its systems-centred connotations. Perhaps unsurprisingly the initial findings suggest that journalists prefer to talk to other people – to leading experts, or those with experience – to create an authenticity discourse.

The committee’s choice award went to Huan Vo-Tram and Sue Reynolds from RMIT. This presentation had me wanting to jump ship to RMIT. A group of both undergraduate and postgraduate LIS students from Australia worked collaboratively with IS students from Vietnam on simulations and then a real-life project at a hospital in DaNang, Vietnam. The project demonstrated the transferability of skills and adaptability of the students to work in a field far outside their experiences, while faced with extensive challenges.

Another paper I was really interested in was Jessie Lymn’s Feeling at home in ‘little library spaces’. Hearing about underground or DIY libraries and archives was fascinating (and made me rather envious). The paper looks at preliminary findings from ethnographic fieldwork, the concept of librarian-as-ethnographer, and also notes the prevalence of professionally trained info professionals who identify with these DIY communities. I was particularly interested following recent discussions at my workplace about our collection (and collecting practices) of zines.

All of the papers were interesting, so I recommend that you have a look at the abstracts. Presentations were recorded where permission was given, and I believe these will be available from Sunday. It was a rewarding but exhausting day, as the theories, methodologies, and acronyms piled up. By 5:15 we were all ready to catch up over drinks and relax. I was part of a group who went to a tweet-up at the Ship Inn. The food was delicious, the wine was great, and the company superb. Sadly by 8 p.m. my apartment beckoned and I headed home. I must be getting old.

- Katrina

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