Andrew K. Pace: April 2008 Archives
Abe Lederman, founder of Deep Web Technologies, has launched Federated Search Blog. Sol Lederman (Abe's brother, who has held various positions at DWT) will be doing most of the posting. This is the kind of blog that I wished had existed a couple of years ago when I was working on the NISO Metasearch Inititive. The blog also includes information on various vendors in the federated search space.
Daniel Tunkelang is chief scientist and co-founder of Endeca, a company with which I have obvious familiarity. Daniel has launched The Noisy Channel to "explore the implications of asserting that the main goal of information access is to optimize communication across the noisy channel of human-computer interaction." That is a noisy channel, isn't it?
Good luck, Abe, Sol, and Daniel, I look forward to reading and hope others do as well.
After a (finally) warm weekend in Columbus, I arrived to a snowy morning in Minneapolis. Someone told me that you can tell it's spring in Minnesota when the smaller lakes begin to thaw. It reminded me of an image that I encountered when I first got to OCLC. Outside my window is one of the large ponds that dot the OCLC campus in Dublin. Slightly frozen, I saw several members of Dublin's rather robust goose population crossing the thin ice covering the pond. Mind you, it wasn't quite comical--it was actually done with as much grace as a goose can muster in such an exercise. (I've actually encountered a scared goose--a long story involving college, alcohol, and the near imprisonment of my college roommate--I was but an innocent bystander).
Image care of eniko at wunderground.com
It dawned on me that these geese were not afraid because if the ice breaks, they can swim; and if the water is too cold, they can fly. Well, the metaphor for librarianship is almost too easy here. I would argue that sometimes fear of the cold water makes people forget they can fly.
Back to CNI...in the opening plenary, Daniel Atkins, recipient of the Paul Evan Peters Award, noted that he viewed tenure as an obligation to take chances--an interesting, if not somewhat rare belief. But he also noticed (comically) that it took 20 years for the overhead projector to make it from the bowling alley to the classroom.
What chances are libraries going to take in the next five years? Will it be migrating away from a telnet-based ILS module to a ten-year-old windows or web client? Will it be using open source applications? Is that the thinnest ice on which we are willing to venture?
I say take some chances. Don't worry if the ice breaks--you can always swim. Don't worry if the water's cold--maybe you can fly.
I have proposed that OCLC begin mass production of card-catalog cards, along with due-date cards and pockets. The first ten libraries to adopt this new old solution will get refinished custom made cabinets for the cards, formerly known as "card catalogs."
I'm no Nicholson Baker, but I think it's time we got back to our roots. When you think about it, the old system wasn't really broken--computerizing the library was just a quarter-century long plot toward raking in the bucks to fix the Y2K problem. With 2000 nearly a decade behind us, I think it's time we forgot about that costly and foolish investment and re-invested in some technology that patrons and librarians both understand. Picture if you will drawers labeled alphabetically, for the alphabet is a classification system that the reading populace understands. Drawer pulls that fit fingers large and small, and an easy-to-use "flip-through" system that allows you to browse the the entire collection in a way that 90% of the electronic catalogs out there don't even allow.
Not only will this change remove the costly and ineffective integrated library system from a library's bottom line, but ALA's upcoming "National Shelf-reading Month" would be a great time for libraries to replace flimsy and needlessly anonymizing date stamp slips with sturdy checkout cards that give readers a handy list of other patrons who have enjoyed the book they are enjoying. Face it, those cards and scribbles in the margins were the real first social network for books.
I'm really pretty confident that this idea will spread like wildfire There are hundreds of card catalogs available at consignment stores and on eBay. And once all the books themselves have been shipped off to remote storage, just think of the square footage that could be devoted to a truly workable finding aid for libraries.
I'm taking orders now.