Internet Librarian International  brought together librarians and information professionals from 33 countries including China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and Australia as well as Europe and North America, to discuss and debate the latest developments under the conference theme 'value, versatility and viability'. Conference Chair Marydee Ojala emphasised that today's challenge for libraries and librarians lies in maximising the value of the internet for users, while proving the value of services to communities, and the theme of innovation was common to many speakers.
The conference covered a wealth of diverse topics including usability, usefulness and usage data; search as platform; libraries on the move; collaboration and community and eCollections and eBooks. There was also a vibrant networking area which featured 15 sponsoring organisations. This report focuses on the two keynote speakers who set the tone for the conference.
Opening Keynote: Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow is a science fiction writer, blogger and activist perhaps best known for his Guardian column  and as Co-Editor of the Boing Boing blog . He reminded delegates that copyright is not just about controlling access to the products of the big entertainment giants. Now that the Internet is the primary mechanism for disseminating education and providing access to freedom of speech, healthcare and government information, it's more fundamental than that. The public has a legitimate interest in preserving access to these resources and, according to Cary, 'people whose job it is to provide information have to be international copyright experts'. He noted that all over the world there are new rules that are meant to stop people making copies – but 'they have never worked and they never will work'.
Day 2 Keynote: Peter Murray-Rust
University of Cambridge chemist Dr Peter Murray-Rust  avowed his great love of libraries but challenged librarians to innovate with passion, in order to 'change the world', using Ranganathan's five laws of library science  as their mantra for the future. Peter set out 12 actions that in his view every library can do to keep the library as a growing organism. They included publicly campaigning for openness, and actively participating in obtaining science grants and in the scientific publishing process.
More controversially, he suggested that libraries should ignore copyright by posting all academic content publicly, and put second-year students in charge of developing educational and technology resources. Many delegates would have been struck by Murray-Rust's off-the-cuff comment 'if you do not destroy copyright as a force in academic scholarly publishing in the next 10 years then your profession is dead', which occasioned much discussion during the subsequent networking breaks. In many respects, the current economic climate, while restricting library budgets, has engendered a culture of 'guerrilla innovation' in some libraries and information centres where effective projects have been developed under the radar. Peter Murray-Rust exhorted librarians to think of the library as an addictive game and there were plenty of examples, both on the conference platform and amongst delegates, of librarians working with passion and commitment the better to serve their library community.
In a challenging year for many libraries, this was a high-energy and motivating event.
- Internet Librarian International 2009, 15 & 16 October 2009
- Guardian Online: Cory Doctorow's column on DRM
- Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/
- Dr Peter Murray-Rust http://www.ch.cam.ac.uk/staff/pm.html
- Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan