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Belated BIALL thoughts

So, after a busy few weeks, I'm finally ready to sit down and pull together my thoughts on this years BIALL conference, in Dublin.

Bear in mind, this is all my persoanl impressions, and my opinions will be coloured by how much relevance I can see various sessions / talks having to my professional life. If I didn't like them, that didn't mean that they were actually rubbish!

I hadn't been to a BIALL conference since Harrogate in 2005, (shortly before I changed jobs and moved into a commercial firm from an institutional body), and I was hoping for more talks of relevance to me this time around. Working in a nice old legal body's lovely, but as you're neither academic, or corporate, finding the useful stuff from the conference can be hard.

To be honest, I hadn't thought the provisional programme had looked too interesting, but I had some hopes that the blank spaces would be filled in closer to the time, and as these talks were obviously still in discussion, I thought maybe they'd be more topical. So I booked in the hope of some Web 2.0 stuff, perhaps something on digital copyright (the new CLA electronic licences)...but mainly, it was going to be a chance to meet people in the flesh that I'd only met online, and hopefully attend some interesting seminars.

Well, the meeting people bit happened, and that was great, I had a lot of fun and made some good contacts and friends. But the useful information bit was sometimes a little bit harder to find...

I was a good girl, and attended all (well, almost all) the conference sessions and parallel sessions.

So, how did they go?

The Plenary Sessions on the Friday morning were fine, although Richard Susskind seemed to be presenting a standard paper, which he tweaks slightly depending on the audience he's presenting to. The bulk of it was presented the next week at the Law Society of Scotland conference. And although Lesley Robinsons talk on "Information to Knowledge - the Process" was interesting, and it would be lovely to be involved in all the process she was talking about, it's just not something I'll ever be doing in my current role.

Lunch was an interesting affair...they may not have been quite prepared for 400 or so delegates descending on the 2 food stations!

The afternoon Plenary Session was one I'd really been looking forward to, appealing to my inner geek as it did by being an interactive panel discussion on Web 2.0. I thought it would be a discussion on the ways we can use Web 2.0 to make our jobs easier, and what the pitfalls were...instead, it began with a 20 min musical chairs and Chinese whispers session. I understand that the point was to illustrate that people in widely separated areas can find it difficult to communicate, that misreading of their messages can happen, and that sometimes, the people originating the messages or passing them on may be corrupting them. And that's a good point to make, but could have been done in 5 minutes. Then it was time for each of the speakers to give their presentations. Janice Edwards ran through some of the basics of Web 2.0, and what it may evolve into. Next up was Martin de Saulles, with an interesting presentation (download available here) about Web 2.0 tools and the hype surrounding them. Then Sue Hill was up, discussing how, as someone unfamiliar with Web 2.0 until a few weeks before, she was enjoying exploring the potential uses for her company. Keep an eye on her site for developments!

Overall, an interesting session, although I have to confess, I thought there was a better understanding in the general librarian population of Web 2.0 than became apparent from some of the discussions both in this session, and in chats following it. I'm in shock - that must mean I'm ahead of the game!

I was a bad girl after that, and scampered away into town instead of going to the Members Forum /Have Your Say, mainly because I didn't have anything I wanted to say! Oh, and of course I needed to buy a dress for the Presidents Dinner...

Next morning, I decided sleep was more needed than my first Parallel Session, so I can't tell you what Margaret Flood of Trinity College, Dublin was like, talking about "Legal Deposit - Preserving the Published Record or More? Facing the Challenges of a Digital World". But I can say that Heather Semple of the Law Society of Northern Ireland's talk on "Researching the Law in Northern Ireland" was very interesting - lots of useful information about where to find NI law, where it comes from, what it's called when...sure to come in useful next time we get one of those "I need an amended version of this NI Act now!!" questions. Although being able to say "Actually, they don't have consolidated legislation for NI" probably won't make me any friends!

Another interesting picnic style lunch followed (aka balancing a plate on my knees while sitting on the concrete floor of the conference venue), then back into Parallel Sessions C: "Who's Really Computer Savvy? Web 2.0 Technologies and Your Library". I have to admit to tuning out during this one, as it was sorta preaching to the converted...see, never happy me! But, as far as I could see, it was very well received, and Stephen Weiter was a very good speaker.

And then it was "Federated Search - the Process and the Problems" from Melanie Farquharson. Again, another one I tuned out in slightly, as it's something completely out of my hands, and in my current position, not going to be an area I'm ever likely to be involved in dealing with. Shortsighted? Maybe, but if it turns out that I need to know more in 5 years, I'm pretty sure the technology will have moved on so far that anything I learned now would be outdated. I'm working on the 'information overload minimising' approach at the moment!

And...the final talks on Saturday sort of blur into one! The talk by Lucy Dillon on "The Impact of the Legal Services Act" had only minimal relevance for me, as it only effects English law practitioners, but I kept one ear open. With my employer covering both Scottish and English matters, I need to be aware of the possible impact of this on Scottish law firms. As far as I'm aware without checking, Scotland's a few years behind, but planning on implementing similar legislation within 5 years or so.
"Law, Crime and Punishment in Bloomsday Dublin" was an entertaining explanation of the real-life legal cases referred to in James Joyce's Ulysses...and also included a 4 page synopsis handout of the book itself, which is probably as close as I'll ever get to actually reading it myself!
Victoria Janetta's presentation on "Implementing an Enterprise-Wide Search Tool" was another one I zoned out in - for various reasons relating to our IT, it had no relevance for me.
And finally, Samantha Steer spoke about "Information Managers in the 21st Century". This was basically a talk around the research done earlier this year for Sweet & Maxwell, and released with much fanfare to The Gazette and CILIP. As I'd already requested the slides from them when they were released in February, I zoned out again here...

I'm sure there's probably links to many peoples presentations available, but I can't find them on the BIALL website...hmmm, maybe I should have gone to the Members Forum after all....

And all that's left now wonder when the CD of everything that we ordered will turn up?

And contemplate next years conference...which does actually look a lot more like my sorta thang! In another year, there'll have been more chances to see what Web 2.0 is and isn't doing for us.


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