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Access Really Is All That and A Bag Of Chips

October 21st, 2007 by

I still have food on the brain … more on that later.

Bill and I spent a heady 5-ish days in Victoria, BC a week ago attending Access 2007, and let me tell you, it was a wonderful experience. It’s the first time I haven’t presented while at a conference I’m attending, and it was amazingly relaxing and stimulating at the same time. I think I’ll try to do that again from time to time.

On a sad note, this was the first Access that Art Rhyno has not attended in 10 years. I have a theory that the real reason Art didn’t come this year is that there’s actually a rule about having all the smart library people in one place, similar to how at least one Cabinet member has to leave town whenever everyone in the executive and legislative branches of the US government gets together for a big party. In other words, Art’s our Secretary of the Veterans Affairs. (Yes, I know that Secretary of Homeland Security is actually last in line, but I won’t compare Art to the current incumbent. This joke only needs to go so far … 😉 )

Now, back to the happy. First we must discuss the really important stuff: food. That was, by far and in any industry, the best conference food I’ve ever had occasion to consume. A colleague of mine was joking that he usually tries to lose some weight at conferences because the food tends to be less than stellar, so, well, why not? Well, not this time.

Now that I’ve got the high priority information out of the way I can discuss a bit of the content. There were several themes that ran through a great many of the hackfest projects, presentations and thunder talks, chief among these being

Mark Leggott moved to UPEI in October of 2006

UVic has tonnes (that’s metric, ’cause it’s in Canada) of rabbits on campus

A surprising number of attendees know about and appreciate the ins and outs of goat farming

A certain Open Source ILS

OK, so the first three of those were jokes (though the audience did vote to name 2007 Year of the Leggott at the close of the conference) but the last one was just as unexpected — at least to me — as the goat farming.

Wednesday — Hackfest

It started at the Hackfest, where the two proposals for Evergreen projects (Evergreen implementation in a day (and a bit) and Evergreen settings tester & fixer-upper (Evergreen STFU), neither of which were proposed by Bill or me) garnered a nearly embarrassing level of support, with the longest lists of interested (though not ultimately participating) parties of any projects proposed. A good amount of useful code came of those projects, but that’s a topic for another day, and perhaps another poster.

That evening we were all treated to a lovely reception at a local brewpub where I ate my fill of some of the most beautifully and gently smoked salmon I’ve ever had. Yeah … the food. Again. We also had the chance to answer many questions about Evergreen and Equinox, as well as catch up with colleagues we haven’t seen in person for quite some time. We met some of the new and growing BC Pines central staff for the first time; they are excited and ready to go.


On the first day of the conference proper there was a talk entitled ILS Options for Academic Libraries which covered both the major proprietary players left in the market as well as Evergreen, its status and progress, and near term viability for use in Canadian academic libraries. There was a good bit of Q&A surrounding the Evergreen portion of this talk, and the crowd seemed very interested.

That evening we had dinner at Los Taquitos, a local Mexican restaurant. I was disappointed to learn that apparently there’s been a run on poblano peppers in BC, but I enjoyed my chorizo con huevo none the less. Ask Brandon Uhlman from BC Pines about the spicy chorizo from Los Taquitos sometime if you need a good laugh.

A little while later, and after giving up on bridged ad-hoc wireless from Brandon’s laptop, Dan Scott, Brandon Uhlman, Bill and I met down in the conference hotel bar to continue hacking on our hackfest projects. There was beer, Pavement and Superchunk; some records were processed and bugs were fixed; and a good time was had by all.

Then … we slept.


The first presentation of the morning was from Ben Hyman of BC Pines and Beth Jefferson of BiblioCommons. Ben focused on the Evergreen implementation that is in progress consortially for libraries in BC. He discussed the causes of urgency (30+ ILSs, many of which have reached EOL already, or are on the home stretch, and some libraries that have yet to be automated), the process by which Evergreen was selected, and the reasons for that selection. Beth then gave a good overview of BiblioCommons and a live demo, which was my first glimpse of BiblioCommons beyond wireframes. BiblioCommons is being offered through the Provincial government as an opt-in add-on for any BC libraries that are interested.

Certainly the biggest new announcement of the day, and probably of the conference, came at around 11:15am from Dan Scott, the most recently added Evergreen commit-team member. He announced the existence of Project Conifer simultaneously during a thunder talk and on his blog, which is a project between Laurentian University, Windsor University and McMaster to build and maintain a shared, consortial Evergreen instance. Dan has been tapped to be the project manager for this endeavor. Go LU, Windsor and McMaster, and go Dan!

Visual interlude — my posse striking a pose by the bay.

The conference day ended with Birds of a Feather sessions proposed and requested by attendees. Again, Evergreen was requested, and again, not by Bill or me. (You really don’t have any idea how great that feels, by the way. 🙂 ) We sat next to the Solr BoF, and although they were louder, we outlasted them. To anyone that missed the Wax Museum tour because the BoF session ran a bit long, please accept my humblest apologies. Kidding aside, and on a personal note, thank you for the chance to put names and mailing-list persona’s to faces. Some of you were exactly as I had expected. Some of you were not. I leave it as an exercise for the reader (and the attendees) to decide who is in which group, but I enjoyed meeting all of you.

Then we had an adventure. Suffice it to say that it involved several sets of nearly identical directions, all of which failed to bring us to our initially chosen destination. So, instead of beer we went for Thai. I had some very excellent medium spicy seafood Pad Thai (or Putt Thai, as it was Romanized in this particular establishment), and if you ever find yourself craving some good rice noodles or curry while killing time in downtown Victoria, I heartily recommend the Thai Bistro.

The Thai and the talk of documentation and acquisitions wore us out, so we called it an early night after that.


Closing day was very laid back. I came downstairs to a beautiful breakfast (yes, I truly am a fan of delicious flavor) and listened to some interesting usability related talks from Peter Binkley (design oriented) and Jane Burke (user behavior research).

Roy Tennant (or as we in the know call him, “Ray”), newly minted OCLC Senior Program Officer, rounded out the conference by talking about OCLC’s new Worldcat Grid initiative, a developing attempt to expose many of OCLC’s internal web services to the outside world. Because it’s Roy pitching this, I’m more than willing to wait and see what comes of this before passing any judgement for or against, but while there are no “explicit revenue goals” (as mentioned by Roy and corroborated by Bess) I’m not going to hold my breath for free beer — see: xISBN.


Thus ended the my first library conference in which I did not actively participate (excepting the hackfest, of course, but that’s kinda the point of hackfest, now isn’t it?). Like I said, I need to make a point of doing that once in a while. Thanks, Victoria and UVic, for a wonderful time. Hopefully I’ll see all of you next year when Access takes over Project Conifer’s own McMaster University.


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One response to “Access Really Is All That and A Bag Of Chips”

  1. art says:

    I love the smart people theory but I fear it won’t match reality. I realized, though, when chiding Dan Chudnov for missing Access this year too that he has a better unbroken record than I do, since I had forgot about missing Access in 2000, when it was in St. John’s, Newfoundland (I totally torpedoed my travel funds that year). So I don’t really have a 10 year track record after all, though I did make the very first one in 1994 (also in St. John’s). Everything I have heard about this year’s conference has confirmed that it continues to set the bar high for technology events, and it totally rocks that Evergreen received so much focus.

I’ve been administering, designing and building software systems for nearly two decades, and half of that has been with libraries.


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