Toronto Welcomes Access Conference

Access is an annual Canadian library technology conference that typically takes place in late September or early October and is hosted in various cities across the country. The conference draws an international crowd of 100-200 librarians, technicians, programmers, students, managers, and more. Although the conference has roots that date back to an almost-forgotten inaugural gathering in Winnipeg in 1993, 2015 marks the first time it has been hosted in Toronto, where it was held from September 8th to 11th at the Toronto Reference Library.

The single stream of topics covers a range of subjects from “how-we-did-it”-style presentations on improved workflows and user experience testing, to talks on innovative spaces and online collections, digital humanities, linked open data, and information policy. Participants come together to create a welcoming atmosphere for sharing ideas, controversial thoughts, challenges and solutions, with ample room for jokes, music, and beer.

In keeping with the traditional format, the pre-conference hackfest kicked off the four-day event. This year, organizers added a twist: two hackfests. In addition to the more problem-oriented marathon session, there was a parallel “sonification” hackfest in Ryerson’s Digital Media Experience Lab, where participants were invited to turn datasets into sound or music. These surprisingly enjoyable works were presented during the conference later in the week, and several participants uploaded their work to SoundCloud (scroll to the bottom of the page).

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Hackfest at this year’s Access Conference Photo by Mike Ridley

There were over 20 presentations this year and several posters. Access has shared archived presentations and speaking notes, and if you would like to dive even deeper, be sure to check out Dale Askey’s Wednesday notes and Thursday/Friday notes, which he has generously shared on his blog.

The evening reception was held on Wednesday night at Loft 404, an unusual labyrinth of creatively furnished rooms, including special areas for both the trivia and karaoke events.

Organizing a conference at this scale is no small task and, at the end of the week, this year’s organizers announced that they will begin looking into establishing Access as a registered non-profit, in order to ease some of the challenges associated with hosting the event.

Next year, Access is returning to New Brunswick for the first time since 1995 and being hosted by the University of New Brunswick Libraries. Hope to see you there!

Michel Castagné is the Web Initiatives Librarian at the University of Ottawa, and Junior Editor of InsideOCULA. He can be found atwitter @michelcastagne or via the comforting familiarity of email michel.castagne [at] uOttawa.ca.