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A city of transparency

I am reporting on LIBER and on Helsinki again. So it better be good. A few days of both is a good way to pass your time. At LIBER 2016 “opening paths to knowledge” (45th edition) there were the usual topics on the agenda. The best short speech of day 1 for me was the speech during the conference dinner, by the deputy mayor. He referred to the Helsinki open data site, and called Helsinki a city of transparency. In times where populism rules, it is necessary to know your facts, and to advocate for the better argument. This is why it is so important to share your data and your knowledge. It had been a long day, and I could not make notes, so the quotes are not perfect, but I thought it was a very good dinner speech. Copying from the website: “Imagine a city where public decision-making is easy for all to follow and comment on using any digital channel. A solution to this challenge is being sought in Helsinki, which has long been working to unlock the data reserves related to municipal decision-making.”

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The first day also started with data. The topic of the pre-workshop I attended was “skills for supporting research data”. There were a lot of examples of libraries starting training for staff, for researchers (at different levels), a lot of variety in topics, in forms (flipped classroom, MOOCs, offline and online mixes) and experiences. The conclusion Wolfram Horstmann made at the end was that our role regarding research data skills training is established, what remains is at what level and detail we can or want to do this. Useful links (besides of course of our own training Essentials 4 Data Support) are the overview of existing education-models by DataOne, and the MOOC developed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and The University of Edinburgh.

Another topic of LIBER was Libraries in publishing (or should we say releasing results, as was suggested during the conference). I liked the presentation from Göttingen. Margo Bargheer and Birgit Schmidt found a few answers when preparing their paper. Research libraries are on a mission: they work on more transparency, more participation, open access and more accuracy. Libraries can help researchers to “be good, and avoid the bad”. I liked their references to the Open Science peer reviewer oath, the Singapore statement on research integrity and the answer to the question we asked ourselves in the pre-workshop (when is the right time to start training) by their training for junior scientists. Talking about outreach, on the last day we had a presentation about Altmetrics. Susanna Kirsi Nykyri and Valtteri Reino Vainikka, from Helsinki University Library, shared their experience with Plumx from Ebsco. I really appreciated their reservations and conclusions at the end. Altmetrics are not the answer for everyone, as always it is discipline-related. As a library you may have a lot of extra work, choice of the platform is essential, the success is depending on language, complete metadata, use of identifiers and source lists. ORCID seems to be of great help (though ORCID accounts also need to be updated).

Of course I could not attend every session (however, my colleague Zofia Dzwig also attended LIBER, and went to other presentations), but I was enticed to go to the “user-centred” session on day 2, and good that I did so, because this was a very nice session. The one that I highlight here is from Cambridge University Library. Sue Mehrer and Andy Priestner made an impressive presentation. Bear in mind (quoting Margaret Mead): “What people say, what people do, or say they do are entirely different things”, and try to benchmark yourself against services that people encounter in their daily life. A good idea according to Sue and Andy is tested via a MVP (minimum viable product), which gives you the opportunity to fail forward (learn and improve). Their Futurelib prototypes (70% complete) are often not brought to the final version. When I later spoke to Andy, he mentioned that this is the way it is in a time where things change so rapidly, we are living in beta forever. Their staffing is just 1,5 person. Depending on the topic, they have other employees involved and hire extra resources. All sessions made clear that innovation is dynamic, changes need to be evaluated, and users to be asked for their experiences on a regular basis. However, beware that you check what your users do (not what they say). To give also some credit to the other two presentations in this session: keep on listening, reviewing and challenging (Penny Hicks). And if you go out and ask your users, bring in an outside view, and do not present yourself as a library (Eva Dahlbäck and Martin Wincent).

An example MVP from Cambridge University Library. Spacefinder: helping Cambridge University students find study spaces which match their needs.

And of course open science and open access  were present at the congress. Ralf Schimmer had a keynote, but did not bring a new view or the “how” roadmap on his transformation paper.

A bit before the wrap-up I had to leave, thank you LIBER, organisers and particpants, for yet another conference worth attending!

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