I got an e-mail tonight from Franziska Marks, Senior Communications Manager at CompuMentor (and home of TechSoup & the TechSoup NetSquared Initiative), about the newly created, promoting sustainable best practices and models of technical support for public libraries. They have just launched their to collect stories on the challenges surrounding keeping public access computers running as well as successes and lessons learned. The information collected will be distilled into a series of how-to guides tailored to the specific technical support needs of different types of public libraries.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It! “Explore History as it Happened: Google News Now Has Archive Search” Extra! Extra!
In my imagination I can see and hear the herald of the newspaper carrier on the street corner barking out this call. Except, Kids These Days would probably decry the use of dead trees to carry stale news and already be reading it on their PDAs and text-messaging each other on their cell phones. As it is, I found out about it through a story on Search Engine Watch (also found in Wall Street Journal and the U.K. Guardian and the New York Times) which itself touted Google’s “200 Year News Archive Search.” It is a nice service; I look at it, though, and have to wonder about the changing — if not outright diminishing — role of libraries as couriers of information. After all, couldn’t links to resources from the user’s local library be included right there next to the commercial article suppliers? If they could, why aren’t they? And what does it mean that they are not?
What of a service existed where the patrons selected an item they needed out of our library catalog and that item was delivered to the patron even when the library did not yet own the item? Would that be useful? With the growth of online bookstores, our users do have the expectation of finding something they need on the web, clicking a few buttons and having it delivered. When such expectations of what is possible exist, where is the first place a patron would go to find recently published items — the online bookstore or their local library catalog? Does your gut tell you it is the online bookstore? Would it be desirable if the patron’s instinct were to be the local library catalog?
I have been heard to remark to other librarians on occasion a comment along the lines of “Don’t fear Google; Don’t Chase Google; Let’s Out-Google Google!” After allowing the confused stare linger for a moment or the hysterical laughter die down, I explain my thesis: we have something Google doesn’t have — no, it isn’t the selective care with which we select “authoritative” material (the PageRank algorithm does a pretty good job at that); and no, it isn’t our warehouses of books (the Google Book Search project will pretty effectively capture that) — we have faceted metadata. And lots of it.
At any point in time, there is a college IT director trying to determine whether to upgrade, migrate away from, or stay the course with some software package that the faculty and students rely on to meet their instructional needs. A campus may have outgrown the basic CMS, and the Enterprise version is now needed to bring system performance back to an acceptable level. The CMS provider may have changed code base, requiring major staff retraining to follow the migration path. Costs could be up, service could be down, and new third party tools may not easily integrate. Yet even faced with all of these potential reasons to change, making the decision to do so is never easy. User communities hate change, hate training, and hate repurposing earlier content to work in a new environment.
Tom Wilson, LITA past president and all-around insightful posted a commentary to the “Where have all the programmers gone?” post that deserves top billing 1. Please read and digest it before coming back here. And it’s not late to the party at all, Tom — I believe it is only now just getting interesting.Trendster,
Has anyone else started seeing what looks to be faceted topical headings at the top of Google searches? This past weekend I was the groomsman at my brother’s wedding and had the unfortunate timing to catch a case of conjunctivitis in both eyes the day before the ceremony. (“Does your camera have red-eye reduction setting?” I asked the photographer. She seemed confused, so I continued: “How about pink-eye reduction?” She looked a little closer at my eyes, laughed, and said “That’s what Photoshop is for.”) Wanting to know more, I did what any self-respecting information-finder would do — I asked Google. And here’s what came up.
What follows is a summary and commentary on the LITA Top Technology Trends meeting at ALA annual conference in New Orleans on 25-Jun-2006. What I’ve tried to do is collate comments from the panel members and add my own commentary (marked off as such from the rest of the summary) where I thought I had something useful to add. It is my hope that this summary is a faithful representation of the statements made by the participants in the panel. If not, please let me know privately or in the comment area here and I will make the appropriate corrections on the body of the blog post.
Last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education Review had an opinion piece by Kate Wittenberg, director of EPIC (Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia) with the title “Beyond Google: What Next for Publishing?” (subscription required). An excerpt from the beginning:
While we have been busy attending conferences, workshops, and seminars on every possible aspect of scholarly communication, information technology, digital libraries, and e-publishing, students have been quietly revolutionizing the discovery and use of information. Their behavior, undertaken without consultation or attendance at formal academic events, urgently forces those of us in scholarly publishing to confront some fundamental questions about our organizations, jobs, and assumptions about our work.
Walt Crawford chided me — rightly so — for yesterday’s Is the Writing on the Wall for the Integrated Library System? post. My choice of language was, admittedly, sloppy. I was fired up last night…distracted, if you will, by what was happening at a really good conference. Please allow me the chance to redeem my argument.
In academic libraries, in my experience, there has been a decline in the use of library catalogs. This experience could be verified in the ARL supplementary statistics for at least that population of libraries (I think those numbers are password-protected, so it might be a challenge to try to use them). When I get back on the ground and have some time, I will either offer confirmation of that supposition or retract it.