Friday, April 17, 2015

Special Libraries Association Arabian Gulf Chapter Annual Meeting       


Conference title:  The Internet and the Positive Change to Librarians and Information Professionals:  Creating Real Future Impact

Report from Mary Krautter

On March 2015, I traveled to the Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to present a pre-conference workshop and also a conference presentation with Mary Scanlon and Mary Beth Lock of Wake Forest University Libraries (we have billed ourselves as the 3 Marys).  We were invited to attend based on the book on entrepreneurial librarianship which we co-edited in 2012 and most of our expenses were covered by the Arabian Gulf Chapter.    The Arabian Gulf Chapter includes members from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.  Many of the librarians working there are  expatriates from Canada, Great Britain and the United States or have received a library degree in one of those countries, but there are also many native to the region who are eager for new information and training.  Approximately 300-400 people attended the conference.

One of the particular challenges faced by libraries in this region includes the lack of a strong Arabic catalog that is equivalent to WMS.  Some of the libraries own large ebook packages, but they have challenges with discovery applications.  We particularly enjoyed seeing the library at the Petroleum Institute – which has nearly 2000 undergraduate and graduate students studying engineering and other fields related to the energy industry.  Vanessa Middleton, Head of the Library, is a former colleague of Mary Beth Lock when both were at Wayne State University Library. 

While a few of the presentations were in Arabic, almost all were either translated or were delivered in English.  There were many vendors present that we’re very familiar with – Thomson Reuters, EBSCO, and Springer, among others.  I particularly enjoyed meeting one of the representatives from Press Reader, a company with whom I wasn’t familiar.  They have a news database with strong international coverage. 

The three Marys were all impressed with the connections between our presentation and workshop and the themes in other conference presentations.   Keynote speakers included Dr. Eesa Mohammed Bastaki, President of the University of Dubai, and Professor Sherif Kamel Shaheen of Cairo University.  In both of their presentations the importance of higher education in their region was a central theme.  Dr. Bastaki in particular talked about leadership and innovation and the importance of human capital.   Creating an economy in which knowledge creation is an essential element was another theme that he stressed as critical for the region.  Keynote speaker Paula Kaufman spoke about translating ideas into action and creating an environment in which libraries in higher education collaborate  and build integrated services that support faculty and students.  Dr. Kaufman also participated in a second session on  ROI and assessment of the value of library services.    

One of the speakers whose presentation I attended was Rick Anderson, who was a reference librarian at UNCG even before I came here.  He has been at the University of Utah for many years, and  sent greetings to those he worked with – particularly Mark, Kathy Crowe and Nancy Ryckman.  He discussed PDA ebooks as essential to modern collections, which was a new concept for some at the conference.  He emphasized the need for patron driven acquisition, replacing the concept that libraries exist to preserve physical objects. 
Lisa Hinchcliffe, a very well-known expert on information literacy who has co-published with Amy Harris,  was part of a panel and presented on the Horizon Report on Information Literacy.  

Overall, I found many common themes and concerns among librarians from very different backgrounds and cultures.  The sessions were thought provoking and illuminating,  and the conference gave us plenty of opportunities to interact with others.  We were very grateful to the conference organizers for the opportunity to share our ideas of using entrepreneurial techniques in creating and promoting library services and giving us the chance to learn about librarianship in a different part of the world.  I’m also grateful to UNCG Libraries for encouraging me to pursue this opportunity. 

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