Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dr Ismail Serageldin's keynote #wlic2013

Catching up with the IFLA Satellite meeting on Information Literacy and reference services , as I had not got my netbook up and running for the introduction and first keynote on Thursday.
Ms Sim Ann, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Information and Ministry of Education, started the conference by stressing the importance of information literacy and talking about what Singapore is doing in this area. She talked about paying attention to a wide spectrum of people that they were reaching out to, including parents, teachers and those outside formal education.
Dr Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, (pictured) gave the first keynote speech of the conference. This was a rich and fast-moving talk, so I did not manage to capture everything!
He talked about the huge changes in the information world, including the idea of the bookless library – though he also reminded us that change is constant (at one point books were a new technology!)
He identified 7 Pillars of the Knowledge Revolution
- knowledge used to be parsed in individual volumes, but now documents are “alive”, so the web page is the new was things are parsed. We are moving towards a “living vibrant interconnected knowledge base
- Images are becoming more important and dominant
- humans and machines working together more: machines becoming integrated into what we do every day
- amazing complexity – in terms of scientific principles and fields of study as well as our everyday lives, with implications for how we handle information
- Computation and research: moving from data collections to connections between data collections, computer research has come more to the fore
- Convergence and transformation, with transformative research (e.g. synthetic biology) changing the paradigm of a research field.
- Pluri-disciplinarity and policy; we need insights, knowledge and wisdom from social sciences, hard sciences and the humanities.
Libraries should be placed as vital supporting institutions for these developments.
Dr Serageldin then talked about the issue of “big data”: huge amounts of information being collected for various purposes e.g. by radio telescopes, by the USA’s National Security Agency, by Google.
So, Information Literacy for the future has to take account of the vast amount of data there is today. The speaker saw the librarians’ function as getting the information “just right” with appropriate filtering: he used the image of a glass of clean, filtered water. This involved developing people’s evaluation skills, and taking account of the way that the information was consumed. He saw three essential dimensions: speed and accuracy (i.e. meet expectations that things happen quickly); quality, and ethics (including being aware of plagiarism and applying the values of science – truth, honour, creativity and imagination, constructive subversiveness, tolerance of engagement, arbitration of disputes). He noted educational changes, with modular lifelong learning and MOOCs. Similarly, libraries need to change. He mentioned the inviting spaces of Apple stores, with the knowledgeable staff as part of the reason they attract customers in.
The speaker identified four kinds of space for libraries: Creative messy spaces, group work space, quiet spaces, and community space. He finished on a stimulating note: “The libraries of tomorrow are being invented in our minds today”

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