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I wrote up this event for my university’s internal newsletter so thought I would also post it here (with minor changes).

On Monday 16th May my colleagues and I went to, “An Afternoon with Stephen Abram” at the Gale Cengage Office in South Melbourne.  My first impression was that it was an intimate gathering! Due to the short notice there were only 11 librarians there, with La Trobe having the greatest presence.

Stephen Abram for those who do not instantly recognise the name is one of Library World’s top 50 people influencing  the future of libraries, and is currently the Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Markets for Gale Cengage.  His blog Stephen’s Lighthouse is at http://stephenslighthouse.com/

Due to the numbers, the presentation that was ready to roll was disbanded and instead he took our thoughts on the challenges we thought we faced and answered them.  Whilst not all questions were answered directly, there was some interesting points made and being the consummate salesman that he is, he promoted his product with good humour, an informal speaking style and insightful comments.

Some of the things that were talked about were: learning common models and are they the right learning model and how we need to look at reintroducing librarians into a different customer relationship model. How do we make use of social technologies such as facebook to capitalise on where the students are, and that we are missing out by not being on facebook as libraries are social institutions and should be on social networks.  On the topic of Google- which does what, when, where questions well but not how and why questions, top results are manipulated by search engine optimisation techniques.  Content is supplied /written by content farms, for example the drug information on google is written by drug companies and just not placed on their websites, highlighting the importance of evaluating your results!

Stephen also talked about learning styles (there are 7 of them) and how, “everyone reads but not as well as librarians” – meaning that we need more non-text based resources to help those that use a non-text learning style be more effective (for example using the speak outloud feature in the gale database at the same time as reading the article to help improve language retention for English as a second language students).

He also talked about how we are not that good at promoting ourselves (as opposed to google) and we have a lot more to offer, so we need to capitalise on these skills and not be all to everyone.  We need to strategically market ourselves to our different stakeholders on what we can offer them.

Other interesting snippets include  the need for online books need to be more interactive for children (like the books in Harry Potter).  Students today are not millenials, they are the post millenials and that they don’t like tabs on webpages, they prefer multiple screen options.  We briefly talked about e-books and how technology shouldn’t dictate what we can or can’t access and I now know he is anti-kindle and not overly fond of Steve Jobs either.

Whilst we never got around to his actual presentation, here are his slides if you wish to look.  http://stephenslighthouse.com/2011/05/16/cengage-melbourne-office-event/

Additional Comments: It was great to meet Stephen in person as he is a very charismatic and extroverted individual.  I look forward to hearing him speak in person again soon.

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