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The 1996 JUGL Annual ConferenceEmma Wright describes the 1996 JUGL (JANET User Group for Libraries) Annual Conference, held in Preston in early July . Emma works for the Netskills eLib project.
Education on the Net
This year’s JUGL Annual Conference and General Meeting was held at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. The theme was one of particular interest to all library and information staff who are involved in raising awareness about the Internet and who provide training on how best to exploit the enormous range of services on the Internet.
The Conference packs included a JUGL 1996 mouse mat and a copy of Issue 3 of Ariadne.
The first session was an Introduction to the Internet which began with a short presentation introducing basic networking skills and tools, mainly the WWW. After the unfortunate delays logging into the system there was a hands on session using Netscape enabling the attendees to become acquainted with the World Wide Web and some of the services available via the Web, such as NISS.
After coffee, with toast and croissants which was very welcome, since there had been no time for breakfast for the trainers, Elaine Blair gave a talk on Mailbase - ‘A Better Way to Communicate’, telling us about the services Mailbase offers and the mailing lists related to library and information services subject area.
Hands on exercises continued until lunch, looking at the different searching facilities available on the Internet for finding quality information.
The first session of the Conference, chaired by Aileen Wade, was opened with a welcoming speech from Brian Booth, the Vice Chancellor of the University. A series of presentations on training for both on and off campus learners, and on a number of funded projects designed to educate users of the Internet then followed.
Grasping the NETtle
Peter Brothy, Librarian at the University of Central Lancashire, spoke about ‘Grasping the NETtle’.
The networked universities enable remote teaching such as surgical procedures, video conferencing, the transfer of large amounts of data etc. Peter acknowledged problems such as non users, costs, copyright, archiving and quality assurance, disabled users, and the need for mass training.
He looked at the concept of the Virtual University: Central Lancashire has many sites, some remote from the main campus. These campuses are networked to bring the sites together. 20,000 students use 1500 PCs internally networked but 20% are off campus. VALNOW is the Virtual Academic Library of the North West which needs appropriate technology such as high speed networking. It allows remote students to reserve books and note references which are faxed or delivered to their remote site. The system is based on the EC funded BIBPEL.
From Surfing to Searching
The second speaker was Jill Foster, The Director of Netskills and Mailbase. Her talk ‘From Surfing to Searching’ gave an introduction to the Netskills project looking at the training the Team is delivering. She discussed how the training is helping staff in Higher Educational institutions use the Internet for their daily work, developing their skills to progress from surfing to searching.
Netskills also makes their materials available to those who have a training role in their work. Jill invited trainers to try out the first set of materials, Kit 1, ‘Introduction to the Internet’, which is now available and feedback their comments to the team. The kit is available from: http://www.netskills.ac.uk/materials/kits/kit1/
Training at a Distance
Ted Smith, Head of Computing Services, University of Central Lancashire ended the first session with a demonstration of ‘Training at a Distance’.
He believes that learning should be fun and that new technologies should be used in HE for education. Ted believes that because of the new technologies by the year 2000 there will be less HE Institutions due to the new ICE age, the change in Information Education and Communication.
Distance learning and Just-in-Time self paced learning change the ways in which we are educated, and collaborative working through email and video-conferencing all change the ways in which we communicate. The technology will change what we teach, how we teach, where students learn, and when students learn.
Ted gave us an example of the way in which new technology is being used now to teach students by way of a live demonstration of a TLTP project. The multimedia CD-ROM self-paced course / tutorial for students studying marketing was modular, had video clips of film footage, graphics, and included self test multiple choice questions at the end of each module.
Ted concluded by saying that due to cuts in funding in HE, the only way to reduce spending was to reduce staff costs by reducing staff numbers. He felt to survive we need to adapt and courses such as this will help reduce the numbers of staff needed to deliver courses.
Tours and Excursions
Before dinner, there was the optional to take a trip around Preston, looking at buildings and hearing about things which you would never have dreamt went on in Preston.
After dinner, for those who felt the need for some sea air another trip was laid on to Blackpool, ‘England’s favourite holiday resort’.
After a long, wet walk through the rain to find breakfast, the morning’s talks, chaired by Graham Jefcoate, looked at some projects which are already up and running.
Two eLib Projects were described to the group, IMPEL and NetLinkS.
Catherine Edwards from the University of Northumbria, told us how the social, organisational and cultural impacts on academic library staff of working in an increasingly electronic environment are being looked into by the IMPEL 2 project. Much of this work builds on the first IMPEL (IMpact on People of Electronic Libraries) project. IMPEL 2 is split into four project areas A through to D, looking at Library and related staff, users, resource based learning and the monitoring of EduLib. A prize, an entire box of smarties, was offered to anyone who could come up with more meaningful names for the project areas.
Phillipa Levy from NetLinkS introduced this eLib project. The key aims are to support local and national development of networked learner support. The Follet and Fielden Reports predicted that there would be a greater involvement of informational professionals in teaching and learning, especially in the support of resource based open learning. The Fielden Report looked at the human resource issues and NetLinkS builds on the vision of the network being exploited for networked based open and distance learning. NetLinkS have just found out that they are to receive funding for a further twenty months.
An EU libraries project, EDUCATE, which began in 1994 is another project that was described by Patricia O’Donnell of The University of Limerick. This multilingual programme, available in Spanish and French as well as English, covers physics and engineering disciplines and is intended for use not only by librarians but also by post- and undergraduates, researchers and industry. As a model for other disciplines, users of the program follow a pathfinder route enabling them to find materials for their level of study and amongst other services can access lists of library and Internet resources for specific subject areas and are told which texts are available in their library. The EDUCATE newsletter on the WWW is at the URL:
Bits Bytes and Bandwidth - Making Information Really Useful
Nicky Gardner’s talk ‘Bits Bytes and Bandwidth - Making Information Really Useful’ was an interpretation about what the Internet is, which included some views on its uses. Questions posed included the usefulness of the information on the Internet: does the network make the information useful? Is any improvement of the network going to make the information better? Is the technology really the knight on the white charger who is going to whisk us away to where the desired information is?
Nicky felt that content will be the key to network success, hence the funding from the HEFCs - the information is only as good as the people who put it there.
Nicky is on the JISC and explained how it is reorganising into 4 groups - the Network Group, the Electronic and Information Group, the Technological Group and a new area to be covered by the Human Cultural and Organisational group. ISSC and FIGIT as we have learned to know and love them will no longer exist.
JUGL Annual General Meeting
The afternoon session opened with the JUGL AGM, which announced the newly elected members of the committee and included the financial statement and a summary of the year’s activities from the Chair. Amendments to the ‘Terms of Reference’ for JUGL were accepted.
Training in PracticeAfter the close of the AGM, the sessions continued with how some members of the community are offering training in practice to their users.
Four speakers representing Oxford University, the British Library, Loughborough University and the Medical Research Council shared their experiences, problems and solutions to training academic staff, students, researchers and other library staff.
Following these talks, delegates were divided into groups and provided with the opportunity to share their views and experiences of approaches to training with others. Each group was then asked to feedback to the whole with their five main points. From all four groups the main points which came out of the sessions were:
- The importance of identifying and understanding the needs of the people you are going to train
- Liaison with other staff, including academics
- Who’s responsibility is the training? the library’s, computing service’s, staff development’s -who is responsible for which elements?
- Training must be timely and relevant - to course work for students and relevant to the daily work of staff.
- A variety of approaches to the training is needed in order to cater for the different starting points in people’s knowledge base.
Many more points were brought up in these sessions. JUGL will summarise and publish the findings on their Web pages.
The venue for the conference dinner was the Harris Hall Conference Centre. It is a former orphanage which was built by a local benefactor and opened in 1888, named the Harris Orphanage after him.
We were greeted by a sherry reception and after a very varied and filling buffet meal, the calories were burnt off by a select few who joined in the Ceidhli, the less energetic using their remaining strength to prop up the bar.
Increasing Access with the Net
This session, chaired by Beth Gabb from the University of Central Lancashire, interpreted throughout with British Sign Language, looked at increasing access to Internet resources for the visually impaired or deaf.
Does the Net Work?
Peter Osborne is visually impaired, and is the Multimedia Publishing Manager for the Royal National Institute for the Blind. He posed the question, ‘Does the Net Work?’. Despite the fact the lecture theatre was fully equipped with equipment for a multimedia presentation, Peter deliberately decided not to use any visual aids.
Peter first heard about the Internet when he was studying at Leeds University. People were saying how good it was and how he would never have to use Braille any more - unfortunately several years on, this is still nowhere near reality.
From his perspective, Peter looked at the pros and cons of the Internet.
Looking at what the net means for him, Peter compared the Internet to Bob Monkhouse’s television game show, where he is given two totally unconnected words, and he then tells a story starting off with the first word and ending up with the second. The Web is like this, following hypertext links takes you from one subject to another.
Thinking about the word ‘Net’ to Peter this could be likened to a fishing net, catching information. However, because there are holes in the fishing net, it is easy for information we need to slip through, and there is always a lot of the catch which we do not want which we sift through and toss back.
Or, it could be looked at as a tennis net, but because the net is continually growing the player keeps clipping the tape. Comparing it to a safety net, we are never quite sure if it is going to be safe and hold us when we need it to.
However, being visually impaired, there are positive sides to the Internet for Peter. Braille takes up lots of shelf space in the library, takes time to emboss and is expensive to produce. The Internet helps with these problems. Also, because the Internet is a trendy medium for communication for everyone and as it is a faceless medium, people do not know if you are visually impaired or not, and communication is on a level playing field. It is easier to be independent using email, as you are not relying on people to emboss or read letters.
However, at the end of the day, Peter said no matter how good the information on the Internet, he will always want access to the real thing, paper copies, and he is sure Braille will not be supplanted by the Internet.
Other problems for the visually impaired trying to gain access to information on the Internet begins with the cost of hardware and software. Braille speak software for the Internet costs around £1700 thus making access elitist. Training is the next problem. Most training up till now for the visually impaired has been on DOS and not Windows which you need for most Internet software. Peter and others like him ‘find it difficult to get their head round Windows’.
Once on the Internet, much of it is inaccessible to the visually impaired, for example graphics. People need to be made to think about their Web pages at the design stage. Careful design and coding of information can alleviate access barriers, for example, every graphical image should have associated text.
To summarise, Peter feels the Internet is of use to the visually impaired, it is accessible but needs to be put in context with other media. It needs to be developed with all members of the community in mind. He was particularly excited by the potential of JAVA which allows developers to embed code into their applications to help the visually impaired - so there is a lot of optimism for the future.
The RNIB home page is at the URL:
A Vision in Future
Peter Kendall, who has been deaf from birth, is from the Cheshire Deaf Society. His presentation ‘A Vision in Future’ was given in sign, which was translated for those of us who did not read sign.
Peter told us about the Video Phone service which is available in Cheshire.
Communication for the deaf can be difficult. One of the early facilities developed about 10 years ago to help the deaf was the Minicom. This basically is a text telephone. The user types text in to the telephone and to receive the call you need the Minicom. There are some 20,000 in use today in the UK, however, not all deaf people have written or spoken English as their second language, which still leaves these people with a communication problem.
Cheshire Deaf Society in conjunction with the British Library and the Government have been looking at Video Phones. All you need is a PCC, a Personal Communication Computer. Peter chose Olivetti machines, as it was thought these best met their needs. They are using ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) and the software package Text Talk. Text Talk allows the user to sign and type text. The text can also be translated into different languages if needs be. With sign, body language is very important, the video phone gives access to this body language, you can see the person you are signing to and vice versa.
In Cheshire, some 52,000 people out of the total population of some 1 million have some degree of deafness. There are now 14 video phones in the county, 8 of which are in the larger public libraries, each of the 3 Cheshire Deaf Society offices have one, and the remaining 3 are located in residential units for the deaf throughout the county.
It has been found that through the use of these video phones it has been more convenient and a lot less time consuming for deaf people to arrange visits and appointments with people such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. They have simply gone to their local public library and used the video phone to make contact with people. This has saved much travelling time and money, especially for Peter, so much so, that already the money saved has covered the cost of the Video Phones themselves.
Peter is aware that these Video Phones are not just for the deaf but for hearing people too. The Video Talk facility has been promoted as a public service throughout the Cheshire public libraries.
Looking more specifically at the Internet, Peter told us that access is fine for deaf people who have written English as their spoken language. As there are many deaf people who are not bilingual access is still very superficial. In contrast to Peter Osbourne, who said graphics can lead to inaccessible areas of the Internet for the visually impaired, Peter Kendall said more graphics make the information on the Internet more meaningful for the deaf who are not bilingual.
Therefore, the use of graphics has to be considered carefully to make the Internet more accessible to a wider range of the community.
The last speaker of this session, and of the conference, was Peter Brothy, a Librarian from the University of Central Lancashire. Here we were told about the REVIEL Project - Resources for Visually Impaired Users of the Electronic Library.
The University of Central Lancashire has provided services to visually impaired staff and students for over 10 years. These services operate alongside the Centre for Research in Library and Information Management (CERLIM) which has a well developed portfolio of research in electronic library services.
The REVIEL project seeks to ensure that when services are provided they are accessible to all potential users. Through appropriate policies and design, visually impaired people should be included as full users of the services, that is they should be able to access and use services independently without additional intermediaries.
One aspect of the project is to look at the feasibility of developing a virtual library of networked resources in formats suitable for persons with a visual impairment. This will be known as VIPIR, Visually Impaired People’s Information Resource.
Peter referred to a couple of resources:
All our Friends Everywhere, http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/aofe/
SIMA (Support Initiative for Multimedia Applications), Sue Cunningham ‘Multimedia and the Disabled’, http://info.mcc.ac.uk/CGU/SIMA/disabled.html
Beth Gabb thanked the speakers, closing the 1996 JUGL Conference with thanks and expressing the hope of seeing everyone again next year at Sheffield Hallam University for the 1997 JUGL Conference.
Material on this page is copyright Ariadne/original authors. This page last updated on July 15th 1996