Joan and I attended the World Library and Information Congress (73rd IFLA General Conference and Council), Durban, South Africa, 17-24 August 2007. In addition to individual meetings with DDC translation teams and other DDC users, we attended a number of committee meetings and conference sessions. The first two days of the conference were devoted to board and committee meetings; the conference program itself started on Sunday, 26 August, with an opening session that explored South African culture through several lenses. The highlight of the opening session was the talk by Justice Albie Sachs of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. We were both in awe of being in the presence of someone who risked so much for the cause of human rights—in addition to being imprisoned in South Africa, Justice Sachs also lost an arm and eye to a bomb planted by South African agents when he was living in exile in Mozambique. Joan was struck by a side comment he made concerning the treatment of customary (traditional) law in libraries. She will have more to say about this when she returns from vacation next week.
There were hundreds of presentations during the conference—we’ve selected a few that might be of interest to readers of this blog. The Web 2.0 / Library 2.0 movement was definitely a hot topic. Patrick Danowski (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin) characterized the movement as linking people and information with interactive and open services that promote user contributions and feedback. He described the linking of personal names in the German Wikipedia with the German name authority file, and challenged the usefulness of existing library classification schemes for Web 2.0 applications (we didn’t agree with him!). He has also started a new special interest group within IFLA to discuss Web 2.0 / Library 2.0 concerns. In "Don’t Turn Off the Lights, Yet!" Caroline Brazier (British Library) discussed the opportunities for libraries in Web 2.0, and gave some examples of how the British Library is taking library services to the users, and harnessing user knowledge and experience to shape library services.
In the session sponsored by the Section on Classification and Indexing, two of the papers were also relevant to the Library 2.0 discussion in that they focused on tagging. Jonathan Furner (UCLA and our former colleague proposed a taxonomy of user tagging systems and a framework for evaluating the impact of tagging. Sarah Hayman (education.au) reviewed experiences with tagging and controlled vocabularies within Education Network Australia (edna.edu.au). She noted that "tags may over-represent the dominant view."
The two other talks in the same session might also be of interest to blog readers. James Turner (Université de Montréal) discussed the use of audio description text for indexing films. L. Sulistyo-Basuki (Universitas Indonesia) made a plea for better representation of Indonesia’s geographic areas, historical periods, and languages in the DDC. He had missed our new development for Indonesia in August 2006; he has agreed to work with us on future improvements.
At the program sponsored by the Division of Bibliographic Control, Ina Fourie (University of Pretoria) discussed bibliographic control in South Africa from an interesting perspective—instead of detailing the current status of use of various standards in South Africa (see here for a review from two years ago by Welna van Eeden on that topic), Dr. Fourie noted the drop off in the journal literature on the topic and wondered if discussions were happening outside of the professional literature and therefore might be undocumented and lost to future researchers.
There were two excellent sessions on national bibliographies. In the one sponsored by the Section on Bibliography, Amadou Békaye Sidibé (Bibliothèque nationale du Mali) outlined the status of national bibliographies across Africa. According to his study, four use the Universal Decimal Classification; the rest are organized using the DDC (see comment below about South Africa). Some issues affecting the production of national bibliographies in Africa include the status as ISBN/ISSN agency, absence or insufficient application of legal deposit laws, acquisitions budgets, equipment, and recruitment and training of staff. Susan Battison (National Library of South Africa) reviewed the history of the South Africa National Bibliography (SANB) from 1993 to the present day. Dewey was used to organize SANB from 1958 through mid-2006, at which time a decision was made to scale back on subject access and discontinue assignment of DDC to records (in a private conversation with Joan, Susan noted that this decision may be reconsidered at a later date). Paul Zulu (National Library of Namibia) described the history of the national bibliography in Namibia and current challenges. He echoed the earlier speakers in noting issues related to qualified staff, legal deposit, and ISBN/ISSN status (the national library is an ISBN agency but not an ISSN agency).
Another program on national bibliographies was sponsored by three IFLA sections: Bibliography, National Libraries, and Classification and Indexing. Ingrid Parent (Library and Archives Canada) discussed the importance of and challenges to national bibliographies in the digital age—the continuing importance of national bibliographies as a permanent record of the publishing output of a country and the challenges of providing authoritative descriptions for the large quantities of digital materials being acquired. Should national bibliographies seek partners in the spirit of Web 2.0? Maja Žumer (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia) spoke of the "Guidelines for National Bibliographies in the Digital Age" (new name) being developed by the Working Group on Guidelines for (Electronic) National Bibliographies (previous name). The working group hopes to have a document available for world-wide review by the end of 2007. Patrice Landry (Swiss National Library) described the complementary Working Group on Guidelines for Subject Access by National Bibliographic Agencies, which is currently considering the elements that should be included in a comprehensive indexing policy and which hopes to have recommendations in 2008.