The Onion has “breaking” news on Google in its latest issue. It claims that Google plans to destroy any information it can’t index. Very funny and better than some of its other satirical pieces.
LexisNexis has decided to retire the punny word ECLIPSE (which it’s used for years to describe its electronic clipping service) and replace it with the more staid LexisNexis Alert. It’s also added some new features. You can get your results delivered up to 3 times per day; you can choose to receive de-duped or non de-duped results; your Alerts can run even if you got no results in the first pass; and LN will now tell you if your Alert ran but found nothing.
I popped in and out of the FAIFE sessions on human rights, freedom of expression, and free access to information. Lots of individual reports on what’s happening in various countries. There are commonalities, such as the belief among librarians that information, particularly government information, should be freely available to the citizenry, and a corresponding belief on the part of governments that some (in a few countries almost all) information should not be publicly accessible. Reasons for obscuring information vary. Sometimes it’s to counter the possibility of terrorism, but in other instances, it’s to hide corruption. A great worry is the destruction on information, either inadvertently or on purpose.
As an international organization, IFLA is uniquely positioned to expose policies in various countries, share experiences in freeing up information, and explaining that this is a global issue where a concentrated and coordinated effort can be successful in furthering the goals of the profession.
I tried to go to the session on evidence based librarianship this morning, but it was too full and they wouldn’t let anyone else in. Shows I should have gotten there earlier, obviously.
Instead I went to my second choice, knowledge management. The first speaker, Margaret Paine, gave TFPL’s Angela Abell’s presentation. She was followed by Robert Mason from the University of Washington, Abdus Sattar Chaudry, from Nanyang Technical University in Singapore, and Michael Koenig, Long Island University. Although each approached the topic slightly differently, the takeaways for me were that although there’s general agreement that knowledge management and knowledge sharing is growing in importance and would seem to be a natural fit with the culture of librarianship, it’s not all that easy to create an environment that encourages true team working, real collaboration, and genuine networking. All the speakers pointed to new roles, opportunities and challenges for librarians. A question from the audience, however, highlighted the underlying dilemma for the profession. “Are librarians prepared to fill these new roles?” The answer from the panel was not a resounding Yes. Philosophically, librarians understand and support information sharing and enjoy working in a collegial, collaborative manner. However, when called upon to step out of the confines of the library and be more assertive, they hesitate. Mason suggested a new skill set needs to be developed to extend the present skill set, Abell’s paper listed such new roles as content manager, information coach, and compliance officer. Chaudry said information professionals are unprepared for new roles, even though they think they are prepared.
Now it’s on to more sessions.
There was some confusion yesterday about the IFLA exhibit hall. Although on the page of the program that talked about the exhibit hall, the hours were listed as 12.45 until 6, the page that listed events chronologically said the opening ceremony was at 4. So many delegates believed that the exhibits didn’t open until 4, leaving the hall pretty empty for most of the afternoon. Once food and drink appeared at 4, the hall was very crowded.
Exhibitors would have loved to show off their online wares, but the other problem encountered yesterday was the lack of Internet connectivity. Yes, we’re in a highly developed, technologically-savvy country, but there’s no Internet. Even today I found access a bit sporadic.
The theme of this year’s IFLA Congress is a voyage of discovery. There’s been lots of plays on words about Vikings and voyages, although at this morning’s opening session, Norway’s Minister of Culture and Churches took the theme that we face the challenge of change. She used Einstein as emblematic of the position in which librarians find themselves. The story goes that, when confronted with the fact that he asked the same final exam question one year as he had the last, he replied, “Ah, but the answer is different.” I thought that was a good analogy. If we keep doing things the same way, but get an unacceptable response, why keep doing it in the same way? Find a better answer to the old question, however, is much easier to say than to do.
IFLA president, Kay Rasseroka, in her opening remarks, pointed out that the Vikings are no longer out there on the high seas raiding and pillaging, instead Oslo is now known as a mediation center and a force in the world for peace.
Several themes have already emerged for the conference. Perhaps the most important is freedom of expression, which includes freedom of speech and free access to information. Also high on the list is intellectual property concerns.
A wide ranging address by Norway’s Chairman of the Freedom of Expression Committee, Francis Sejersted, touched on challenges to the freedom he believes is necessary and intrinsic to the democratic system. There’s a new Article in the Norwegian constitution that ensures freedom of expression. He decried the US Patriot Act and noted that Europeans have a utilitarian view towards freedom of speech. The EU has a Declaration on freedom of expression. Sejersted touched on the fact that no society is completely open, but there is recognition of a need for increased transparency in government. He said that libraries fill an important role as meeting places and that public libraries in particular are comfortable places for immigrants. Libraries have a central role when it comes to empowering people to form their own opinions, but they must exploit their opportunities and put themselves in the center of the public debate on freedom of access to information. Librarians should provide guidance in the chaotic world of too much information, helping people to understand and evaluate the quality of information, particularly that obtained through the Internet. Libraries, he concluded, have a foot in two worlds. One foot is in the traditional, book-based collections, while the other is in new information technology.
The opening ceremony was a mixture of high-minded speeches and entertainment. In addition to hearing about the solemn subjects of truth, democracy, and freedom of access to information, we heard a harpist (I did’t know harp music could be so sensual and non-angelic), a recitation from Peer Gynt, and an Irish-Norwegian fusion group called Secret Garden. All in all, it was an extremely stimulating morning. And this is only Sunday!
Most press releases I get are about new (or sort of new) products and they’re all about how cool stuff is. But ProQuest’s latest is cool in a better, more socially conscious, way. It’s from the UK arm of ProQuest, the old Chadwyck-Healey company, which announced it will offer to African libraries and universities its newly launched online edition of the African Writers Series, either for free or heavily discounted. Release One of the African Writers Series contains 65 volumes originally published in 1962 by Heinemann Educational Books. It features fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction works by well known African writers. ProQuest estimates the full series will be online by 2007. This is good news, particularly in light of its timing, right before the IFLA conference next week in Norway, where there will doubtless be many African delegates.
Northern Light now owns Analyst Direct and Analyst Views, which it just acquired from TechTarget. NL is integrating Analyst Direct into its SinglePoint market research portal and Analyst Views into its Business Research Engine. Lots of new content and functionality for NL subscribers!
Congratulations to Chad Boeninger, the Business & Economics Bibliographer at Ohio University, for creating a Biz Wiki for the students there. It reflects the book collection of his university, but it’s a terrific example of using wiki technology for a traditional library activity — pointing students and faculty to relevant resources in the library.
A company, which says it has a new intelligent search solution that will increase precision/recall, use federated search techniques, and runs on a Mac, scheduled a briefing with me earlier this week. Aside from the typo on the slides, the CEO obviously reading from a script rather than having a conversation with me, and his tendency to simply ignore any questions posed to him, we weren’t doing all that badly. It was towards the end of the briefing, when he mentioned the “Dialogs, Elsinores, and LexisNexis’s of the world,” that I came close to laughing out loud. Elsinore (or Helsingor in Danish) is a Kommune and the name of its capital city in Denmark. There’s a wonderful old castle in the city of Helsingor/Elsinore and is the fictional setting for Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” It is not an online search service. I had been chuckling over this “verbal typo,” thinking he must have meant Elsevier, when I talked to a colleague this morning. She had also been briefed by this CEO. He used the same Elsinore phrase on her. It dawned on me. He really thought that was an information industry company name. There’s something rotten in Mountain View, I’m afraid.