JCDL 2012, From Behind the Scenes

I was hoping to have more to contribute to an after-the-fact blog post on the 2012 Joint Conference on Digital Libraries , which took place last week here in Washington, DC.

But because I was on the conference organizing team, I spent most of the time either behind the registration desk answering questions, or running around dealing with logistics.  The good side of being directly involved was that I could be a part of this always interesting event.  The down side?  I had to miss many of the conference sessions.  So I didn’t get a chance to hear most of them first-hand.

Hard at work, conference co-chairs Karim Boughida and Barrie Howard (photo by Unmil P. Karadkar )

But fortunately, there are some other good sources of information available.  For one thing, there was a pretty healthy discussion happening on twitter (#jcdl2012) – which meant I could attempt to catch up and fill in the blanks on what I missed, even as it was happening.  So, in using twitter, other related blog posts, and some good old fashioned conversation, what follows is an attempt to piece together the conference highlights.

The annual JCDL gathering is a meeting of the minds for those who are working on all manner of projects relating to digital libraries.  Karim Boughida, of the George Washington University Libraries, and one of this year’s conference co-chairs, says “the overall value of JCDL is in the interdisciplinary research and the engagement of experts in the fields of information science, computer science, engineering, archives, educational technology, digital humanities, and others.”

The conference began with a day-long doctoral consortium.  One of the consortium participants, Justin Brunnelle, wrote a blog post giving a nice overview of the presentations and the associated research of this selected group of PhD students.

The main conference itself kicked off on June 11th, with a rousing keynote speech by Jason Scott (see our previous Signal post about Jason), preservation activist and founder of www.textfiles.com .  His talk inspired many tweets, including this one:

For a closer look at Jason’s talk, see the nice write up in a blog post  by conference attendee Robin Camille Davis.

Keynote speaker George Dyson (photo by Barry Wheeler)

“The keynote speakers were a highlight of this year’s conference”  notes co-chair Barrie Howard, of the Library of Congress. “Each speaker contributed a distinctive and thought-provoking perspective to some of the most salient issues facing the digital library research and development community today.”

The second of the keynotes was given by Carol Goble, of the University of Manchester, and Director of the myGrid project .  Her talk immediately raised the energy level in the room, prompting many reactions on twitter, including:


And the third keynote was presented by George Dyson, technology historian and author of Turing’s Cathedral, who presented a fascinating look at the history of technology, going back to the 1600s:



I did attend the conference poster session, as one of 43 presenters there.  This session was preceded by the traditional “minute madness” where all presenters had 60 seconds to give a preview of their poster for the attendees (some of which were quite creative!)  During the session itself, there was a steady stream of visitors for the whole two hours, and as I looked around I saw many animated discussions happening all around the room. (OK, it probably doesn’t hurt to have a reception with good food and drink!)

There were workshops and tutorials  included in the conference as well, which led to more active discussion on twitter.  Here’s a sample:



And quoting from the workshop “Models for Digital Cost Analysis”:



The major part of the conference, the sessions and panels (full schedule here), was where many presented their accepted papers on the themes of preservation, education, data, bibliographic networks, architecture, metadata, named entities, books and reading, concepts and topics, search, citations and user behavior.  A big “thanks!” here to Hany SalahEldeen, whose very nice blog post provides a comprehensive look at most of these sessions.

Here are some session highlights as tweeted during the conference:

In addition, there was an informal twitter contest each day, compiled by Boughida, noting each days top five tweeters:

When I asked him for any other thoughts on JCDL overall, Boughida had this to say: “It is important for memory organizations (Libraries, Archives, Museums, etc.) and higher education to support this activity.  Memory organizations should dedicate a decent percentage of their budget to research – achievements in the humanities are based on this support.”

So this is just a glimpse of what you missed if you didn’t get to this year’s JCDL.  And to those who  did attend – if you would like to add your thoughts, please feel free to do that in the “comments” section below.

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