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Catalyst crosses the ditch for VALA!

2022-08-02

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by Aleisha Amohia

In June 2022, VALA returned for its first-ever hybrid in-person and online conference, with the theme 'Bring It On!'. The Catalyst Koha team was excited to be able to send Aleisha Amohia (Koha Development Lead) and Chris Cormack (Koha Technical Lead and Kaihuawaere Matihiko) to attend VALA in Melbourne.

Day 1 of VALA2022 was all about open access and research management. We heard about projects being implemented during the pandemic and how organisations responded to increased requirements for accessibility, openness, and creativity. Aleisha and Chris were joined by Dr Ben Chadwick from Education Services Australia SCIS to present about implementing Koha for SCIS, a cataloguing agency, across international borders, during a global pandemic. Read the paper and watch the session recording here.

Aleisha Amohia, Dr Ben Chadwick, and Chris Cormack presenting together on Day 1 at VALA2022

(From left to right) Aleisha Amohia, Dr Ben Chadwick, and Chris Cormack presenting together on Day 1 at VALA2022

The VALA2022 Day 2 program held presentations about the applications and responsibilities regarding artificial intelligence and machine learning. There were conversations about our data and the impacts of how it has been collected and used. The key messages included that data collection has hugely increased due to the heightened use of technology during COVID-19, putting our information in the hands of large tech corporations. We need to be aware of the privacy risks from those who profit off our data, as well as the health, economic, environmental and political risks of them using modelling and predictions of our data to make decisions.

The final day of VALA2022 was all about the people in our library communities, and crisis management through a pandemic. The message came through loud and clear - tech is people, must not be without humanity, and solutions should be people-centric. We are stronger through collaboration. Aleisha presented again, this time sharing the similarities between libraries and open source software, and the advantage of the Koha community. Read the paper and watch the session recording here.

Aleisha Amohia presenting at VALA2022 on Day 3.

Aleisha Amohia presenting at VALA2022 on Day 3.

On Day 3, we were also given reminders to look after our ourselves and to make it easy for those around us to look after themselves, because we work better when we are happy and healthy. The speakers also shared tips for developing ourselves, including to be consistent, and access our creativity by getting outside of our comfort zones. Finally, we heard from a fantastic panel about leadership, and ended the day feeling connected and uplifted.

VALA2022: Bring It On! was a great success, at a lovely venue with delicious catering and a dedicated team keeping everything running smoothly. While the conference itself was interesting and inspiring, everyone agreed that the highlight was being face-to-face with friends and colleagues we hadn't seen in years.

Carmel O’Sullivan, Nicole Kearney, Kim Tairi, Hugh Rundle, and Sae Ra Germaine, sharing the stage to discuss leadership to close out Day 3 of VALA2022.

(From left to right) Carmel O’Sullivan, Nicole Kearney, Kim Tairi, Hugh Rundle, and Sae Ra Germaine, sharing the stage to discuss leadership to close out Day 3 of VALA2022.

Aleisha and Chris would also like to acknowledge the VALA Committee. The Catalyst Koha team can appreciate the immense amount of effort that goes into organising an in-person and online event after hosting Kohacon 2020 in Wellington, and the VALA Committee did an excellent job.