TFPL Connect International – Monday 30 November

I managed to force my flu wracked body along to this Monday evening pre-Online Exhibition discussion organised by TFPL. As well as the impressive panel listed below, I noted the room was full to bursting with 80 of the great and good of the information world. Many had flown in early for the Online show from the United States and Europe to be able to attend this event.

As something of an old stager at these kinds of events, I recognised quite a few faces around the room. These including three previous winners of the SLA Europe Information Professional Award (which was previously called the European Special Librarian of the Year); the current holder Gimena Campos Cervera , Annabel Colley and ex-Surrey Policeman Kevin Miles who I nominated for the award way back in 1999.

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Natalie Ceeney

The panel consisted of Natalie Ceeney (NC) the CEO of The National Archives, Doris Springer (DS), Manager Information Services at Bain & Company in Germany, and Morten Nicholaisen (MN), the Executive Director of Dialog.

Although I enjoyed the evening, somehow it didn’t quite live up to it’s billing. I think part of the problem may have been that it was a Monday night. Also, although Natalie was as controversial as her reputation predicted, the other panellists were not able to match her, and so the sparks did not fly.

The questions for the evening included:

How can we improve Britain’s economy?
NC. By making more effective use of knowledge. We should treat it as the third big asset after money and people. We should encourage mashups and innovation, and allow public access to the data and let them work out what to do with it, and to question its accuracy. She pointed out that the Welsh government already has a policy covering every document and how which element they will make available on the web.
MN. We should encourage better and more creative use of published information.

How can we improve personal use of information as exemplified by the Scandinavian countries?
MN. Recent surveys have shown that part of the reason why Scandinavians are statistically some of the happiest people in the world, is because they are happy to share personal information. The older generations do not understand how the younger generation think and works with online information. For example the fact they don’t look beyond Google when searching for information. He finds showing a product like Dialog to young consumers is difficult. It does not look cool compared to free web products. And this is coming from the boss of Dialog.
NC. Felt the culture was different in Britain and the public would not accept sharing of personal data. We draw the line between private personal data and public access much closer to home in the UK to compared to Scandinavian countries. She thought that UK citizens are coming increasingly concerned about how much personal information is open via social media sites such as Facebook..

Victoria Ginnetta – we have seen much more flexible working as a way of responding to the recession likely. How likely is this approach to carry on in the future?
DS. Full time workers are still key to Bain in Germany.
MN. This recession has been the worst he has seen in forty years. 2010 will be better, but perhaps not by much.
NC. The UK public sector will see a delayed response to recession, they are now heading towards a spending recession. The result will be more outsourcing, the growth of long delivery chains. We won’t be able to rely on long term employees.

Liz Blankson-Hemans – What attributes does the profession need to help break out of traditional roles?
MN. Info pro’s in corporates need to be better at sharing critical information with more people in their organisations. Desk top info does solve this problem as it leads to information overload. An info pro can determine what information is critical.
NC. By being the people who are best at getting the most out of information.
DS. Info pros have not been good at internal marketing.

Steven Philips – Given the pressures on publishers income streams can we expect to see a divergence in Business to Business (B to B) and Business to Consumer (B to C) revenue models. Will the B to B begin to subsidise consumer access?
MN – Not much experience of publishers selling directly to consumers. Currently very protective, but need to be less risk averse.
NC. Admitted she had not successful when at The British Library, but felt it is happening in Government publishers such as in Met Office free public information is used to get people to trade up to charged content.
SP. Publishers may have shot themselves in the foot by giving too much away for free. This makes life difficult when trying to charge corporates.

Is Stephen Fry a social media saint or sinner?
None of the panel are users of Twitter and admitted that they didn’t really get it.
Hazel Hall felt they were missing out on something important and explained how it took her eight weeks to really get Twitter. If Facebook is suburbia then Twitter is the city centre. She reminded the audience that when email first came along we had much more time to get used to it than with these new social media technologies.
Mary Dee Ojala pointed out that even if you don’t Tweet you must be monitoring what people are saying about your organisation on Twitter.

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