Fishing in the information lake: the INFORUM Conference

Marydee Ojala joined hundreds of others 'fishing for treasure in the information lake' in Prague.

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Czech library initiatives

Having heard from British, American and Norwegian librarians at the beginning of the conference, many of the talks during the remainder of the conference were from Czech and Slovak information professionals.  What were their interests?  Ebooks and digitisation were high on the list. Petr Žabicka described developments in the creation of a central portal for Czech libraries that used open source Solr and VuFind, with metadata and external indexing feeding into it (  Martin Svoboda, National Library of Technology, outlined what he called a Progress Report for a Czech eLibrary, Getting support from government officials and funding is difficult.

The relationship between search and Big Data was Pavel Kocourek's topic.  A long time presenter at INFORUM, his company, INCAD, was acquired by Search Technologies in January 2015.  His description of Big Data seemed more appropriate to the enterprise search environment.  Libraries are very different: they do not track patron search behaviour or retain borrowing records, so have little opportunity to personalise search.

Web search came in for its fair share of attention. Marydee Ojala gave pointers about determining validity, credibility, and reliability of news found on the internet and warned about websites disappearing that could be of value to future historians.  Sklenák Vilém gave an overview of recent developments in web search that affects researchers, including "Mobilegeddon", the change in Google's algorithm that favours websites optimized for mobile devices in its search results. European alternatives to Google, such as Quaero and Theseus, have failed. Even Bing hasn't gained market share in Europe. He has hopes, however for the Stephen Wolfram project on image identification ( Seznam, the Czech search engine, in an attempt to regain market share, is tweaking its layout.

Digitisation efforts in the Czech Republic include many cultural objects, including film archives, said Alexander Michailidis, Czech Ministry of Culture, who advocated establishing competency centres as well as digitisation centres. He acknowledged the impact of copyright and thinks that multiple channels devoted to preservation through digitization make the process more difficult than absolutely necessary. Other digitization projects described during the INFORUM conference were Serbian doctoral dissertations and old prints digitized within Google Books and made accessible in Manuscriptorium (

Iva Adlerová discussed what she and her colleagues, Lenka Nemecková and Marta Machytková, are doing at the Czech Technical University to help young scientists publish their research in qualified journals, with acceptable formats, and without plagiarising. They teach copyright issues, give workshops on publishing, and provide two open access journals where students can practice publishing.

INFORUM remains an exciting, educational, and invigorating conference. Looking forward to its 22nd year, INFORUM will be held in Prague 24-25 May 2016.

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