Information landscapes for a learning society

Networking and the future of libraries 3
29 June - 1 July 1998


A glass web spans the globe which is transforming commercial, social and cultural life in ways we do not fully understand. The emergence of new digital information spaces alongside the existing physical places of public life is posing challenges for policy and service developers at all levels. We are seeing the creation and recreation of markets and economic activity; of political and public discourse; of cultural, research and learning work.

These challenges are being addressed in a range of national and other policy initiatives addressing 'Information and learning society' issues, in research and technical development programmes, and in organisational strategic plans. At the same time, practitioners are seeking points of contact and comparison as they work to reduce uncertainty in the planning of future services.

The UK national policy context is provided by significant reports into Higher and Further Education (Dearing and Kennedy), by proposals for a National Grid for Learning, a University for Industry, and imminent proposals about life-long-learning. A range of ambitious millennium projects join other regional and local initiatives in the creation of digital services. The library world has seen the inspirational New Library: the People's Network, the Digital Libraries Programme of the British Library, and the maturation and extension of the Electronic Libraries Programme of JISC.

Libraries and related organisations face particular challenges. How will they construct digital information spaces which enrich the lives of their users? How will they construct services that continue to provide business and research intelligence, nourish the imagination, and preserve the memory and knowledge of new and existing communities? How will they reach into the lives of a fragmented, mobile, and diverse constituency of users? How will they support new patterns of learning and information use? How will they unify access to an intellectual record scattered across physical and digital places? How will they build bridges with other service providers as their roles change in the space of flows, soft city, the network society?

This major conference will address these issues. It takes as its starting point the construction of 'information and learning landscapes'. If emerging network places are to support rich learning experiences they must be designed, organised and supported in ways that make users comfortable there. Libraries and other organisations already provide a range of network services. They must now take those and weave them into a fabric that supports discovery, navigation, and use of diverse information and learning resources; that supports new forms of reading, writing and communication; that turns a series of unconnected opportunities into a library service.

The opening keynote presentation will be given by Richard Heseltine, Director of Academic Services and Librarian, University of Hull. Clifford Lynch, Chief Executive of the Coalition for Networked Information will give the closing keynote address.

There are four other sessions -

Information architectures: constructing the digital library
The Internet provides a pervasive, predictable transport. The Web provides a pervasive predictable presentation and user access medium. However, poor support for organisation and management of network resources creates difficulties for information providers and frustration for information users. It is the need for such support that is driving digital library and information architecture initiatives. This session will explore the technical building blocks and discuss how they will be used to weave information resources into rich information landscapes.
Information landscapes: the accommodation of knowledge
Current information and learning systems exist as functional islands, a series of individual, unconnected opportunities. The information landscapes of the future will weave together electronic services and existing services in ways that join users to the materials and tools that they need, when they need them. How will these landscapes support users and how will they relate to existing places and services? How will library services combine physical places and digital information spaces, the print and the electronic, learning and information?
Information and the public sphere: an informed citizenry
Libraries have existed in the public sphere: they are instruments of learning, of an informed citizenry, of civilisation. How will this mission be maintained in a network society which is increasingly globalised, where the unconnected are increasingly disadvantaged, where new costs are changing patterns of accessibility. How inclusive will the landscapes be? How can libraries ensure that their role is recognised in the emerging policy framework that is driving national and international information society initiatives?
Information exchanges: the library, the network and the future
This session will be more prospective: how will libraries and other information and knowledge exchanges develop as key components of an information and learning society? How will they change themselves to change the lives of their users.

The language of the conference will be English.

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