Friday, June 5, 2009

There are other geeks like me!!

I adore a good librarian-focused conference like ALA or ACRL, but I often have to explain my position to other attendees—“No, I’m not a metadata cataloger. No, I don’t work in the IT department with servers.” Public service oriented data librarians are becoming a more common breed in smaller libraries and are able to ban together in a professional organization just for them and other data professionals. This organization is IASSIST, the International Association for Social Science Information Service & Technology. IASSIST’s membership is wide-ranging—from data librarians in reference departments to data archivists to data producers. The common interest is data—numeric, spatial and otherwise.

Because IASSIST is an international organization, the site for its annual conference rotates between the United States, Canada, and other countries throughout the world (usually in Europe). The 35th annual conference was held in Tampere, Finland and was hosted by the Finnish Social Science Data Archive, which was celebrating its 10 year anniversary. Tampere is 2 hours north of Helsinki, Finland. I will write a separate post in Jackson Leaks about the trip.

The annual conference always covers a wide range of topics from statistical literacy to different data sources to metadata standards for datasets.Often the sessions will present new projects and projects under development at various libraries and data archives. Below is a sampling of projects and presentations:
  • Ryan Womack at Rutgers University has been using Captivate to create video tutorials on various data sources. Check out his blog for more information. I have been doing a similar thing with a free software called Jing, but the cool thing about Captivate is that it allows for direct export to YouTube. His video on World Development Indicators has had more hits than the official WorldBank videos!
  • Moscow State University unveiled its University Information System that provides access to socioeconomic data from the Russian National Statistics Office. Students can graph, map and create timelines of available data. The site is currently in Russian, but they plan to create an English version in the future.
  • The International Household Survey Network is a network of international organizations including the World Bank that work to improve the quality and use of survey data in developing countries. They currently provide lots of data collection and analysis guides and recommendations. They are creating a Question Bank that will be a repository for questions, indicators and more where users will be able to find sample questions and get assistance. It will hopefully launch in September 2009. I can’t wait to see it!
  • Michael Batty from the University College of London Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) gave our final plenary. He discussed their efforts to present data visually using a wide range of web technologies. A major project is MapTube which allows sharing and mashing of maps and features a new map daily. CASA is doing some really cool stuff. I would check out their website for some visualization fun!
Overall, this was the most useful conference I attended this year. I expect grand things from my IASSIST peeps and they always deliver!

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