Reporting from the PNW: Online Northwest Conference

Hello, it’s your Pacific Standard Time/Pacific Northwest resident here reporting on happenings in the Cascadia region. I was fortunate to learn about the Online Northwest conference (someone who attended my KBOO Edit-a-Thon event told me about it!), although last minute. This small, one=day conference was well organized with the majority of the presenters and participants from Oregon and Washington but also from northern California, New York, and Virginia. It was held on Cesar Chavez’s birthday which is a recognized holiday for KBOO. And P.S.: some of our recently digitized open reel audio made it into KBOO’s Cesar Chavez Day Special Programming so check it out!

I learned that Online Northwest (#ONW17) previously had been held in Corvallis, had a hiatus day last year, and was held at PSU for the first time this year. At Online Northwest, there were four tracks: User Experience/Understanding Users, Design, Engagement/Impact, and Working with Data. Presenter slides are here:

First, I was fully engaged with Safiya Umoja Noble’s keynote “Social Justice in LIS: Finding the Imperative to Act” which highlighted the ongoing need for reevaluation and action in our work as information professionals to ensure that information is equitable in online catalogs, cataloging procedures, search algorithms, interface design, and personal interactions.

I attended the Kelley McGrath (University of Oregon) session on metadata where she talked about the potential of linked data and the semantic web, or the brave new metadata world. She talked about algorithms and machines that attempt to self-learn and present users with new information drawn from available linked data sources. Of course the information can be fickle at times since computers are largely unknowing of the data they are fed. End of session questions almost reached a point of interest where people were putting two and two together: one can say that algorithms are neutral but we can’t ignore that humans choose and develop algorithms. Rarely do individuals critique implemented algorithms for human bias. This reminded me of Andreas Orphanides’s keynote at Code4Lib: that a person initially frames the question that is being asked, and that influences the answer, or what is being looked at. Framing to focus on something specific requires excluding many other things. My takeaway from this session, on the heels of Dr. Noble’s keynote, was to be cautious and consider potential bias when using algorithms.

The Design of Library Things: Creating a Cohesive Brand Identity for Your Library (Stacy Taylor & Maureen Rust, Central Washington University) presenters talked about their process of brand identity from start to finish including their challenges and sharing their awesome resources. Considering tone of communication and signage (what is the emotional state of readers when they see your signs?), consistent styling of materials, defining scope of the project, clearly separating standards (requirements) from best practices, and continuously making a case and being firm on the needs for and benefits of branding were important takeaways.

Open Oregon Resources: From Google Form to Interactive Web Apps by Amy Hofer (Linn-Benton Community College) and Tamara Marnell (Central Oregon Community College) was fantastic! They walked through their use of Google forms/sheets and WordPress to share open educational resources in use by professors in Oregon Community Colleges, and ideas for how others could implement something similar, but better, considering that technology advances and old versions age, and considering the time and resource needs of an implemented tool.

Chris Petersen from Oregon State University (OSU) presented on Creating a System for the Online Delivery of Oral History Content. He described ways in which he reused existing OSU resources (Kaltura, XML, TEI, colleague knowledgeable in XSL/XSLT), common in the “poor archivist”’s toolbox. I also thought his reference to the Cascadia Subduction Zone’s impending massive destruction when arguing for the need to ensure multiple collocations of digital materials was uniquely PNW. Like the Open Oregon Resources talk, this session was modeled as here’s what I did, but it clearly can be done better; here’s what we’ll be doing or moving towards in the future. Chris mentioned they’ll be OHMS-ing in the future. Although it is less flexible than their current set-up, it was more viable considering his workload. He also mentioned Express Scribe software (inexpensive) as an in-house transcription tool and XSL-FO for formatting xml to pdf.

My favorite lightning talk was Electronic Marginalia (Lorena O’English, Washington State University): a case for web annotation. Tools I want to check out are (open source) and genius web annotator.

This post was written by Selena Chau, resident at KBOO Community Radio.

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