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October 1995, vol. 27, no. 10
by Huguette Lussier-Tremblay and William Murphy, Interlibrary Loan Division
Calgary was chosen as the site of the 4th International Conference sponsored by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Office for International Lending, the Canadian Library Association (CLA) and the National Library of Canada, and we regarded the event as a unique opportunity to obtain a snapshot view of how document supply is evolving in the electronic world. It was also an opportunity to establish contacts with some of the 200 delegates from Canada, the United States and Europe.
We were received with Calgary's legendary hospitality and plunged into three days of non-stop presentations. Coffee breaks and lunches gave us the chance to initiate the contacts we had hoped to establish. A very well balanced program had been devised by the organizers. The conference opened on Sunday, June 11 with reflections on the role of national libraries in achieving universal availability of publications (UAP) in the document supply environment and the challenges faced by IFLA's Section on Interlending and Document Delivery. The current and upcoming work of some national libraries and descriptions of certain projects in Canada, the United States, Great Britain and Sweden identified trends and provided some national perspectives.
On the second day, the program was geared to the manager's viewpoint, and brought us the user perspective. The focus was on the expectations of users from various types of libraries, their training needs, and library services such as user-initiated requests for journal articles. We also heard of new procedures required by distance education and of new ILL/DD service models being developed to respond to shrinking budgets, perceived weaknesses in traditional ILL services and increased demands from patrons. We were able to learn from the results of surveys and also from the experiences of individual university and special libraries that have experimented with document delivery services. To end the day, the perspectives of the publisher and the commercial document supplier regarding the interlibrary loan of electronic documents were articulated. Prominent issues of concern generally related to copyright and compensation, and will be topics for future discussion. And to finish the day, nothing could have been better than the celebration of Alberta artists hosted at the Calgary Public Library. Red Thunder introduced us to the unique heritage of the Plains Indian background by using song, dance, music and narration. The group had us all on our feet to join in a round of dancing. And the celebration ended on a humorous note, the Stratus musicians having succeeded in helping us to discover our common roots.
The third day, after focussing on the impact of technology developments in the academic environment, exposed us to the Association of Research Libraries' System ARIEL, the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information's IntelliDoc system, the TRLN system, and MARCEL, which is based on the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME). The need for standards was promoted by various advocates, including a developer (DRA), a spokesperson for the European ION project, and the UK member of the Electronic Document Interchange between Libraries (EDIL) Project Management Board. By now, we were all convinced that we need to develop interconnectivity, interoperability and explicit user-friendly interfaces. However, we are unlikely to simplify the issues because we have become more conscious of the multiple barriers to information accessibility and of the numerous tools we need to develop to access the growing number of resources. To end this international conference, the participants enjoyed once more the hospitality of Calgary when we attended the opening of the CLA conference.
Was there time after all to establish contacts? Definitely yes: we had numerous meetings over lunch, at receptions, and even on bus rides to discuss matters with a senior manager from Slovenia, a library director from Western Canada, a cataloguer from Scandinavia or an ILL manager from an American university library. We will not forget their perspectives either.