Thursday, December 30, 2004

It's not all good

What does one say in the face of such widespread devastation and suffering? Not much. If you can afford to donate money to any of the various NGOs and relief agencies operating in South East Asia, please do. And please check to see if your organization matches such donations.

At OCLC, we sponsor the IFLA/OCLC Fellows, a program that brings librarians to Dublin, to OCLC, for six weeks each year. For the most part, the Fellows are from what we call here in the West "developing economies". Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mauritius, Rwanda, Kenya, India. You'll have heard most of these country names this week. George, who oversees the progam, reports that our Fellows from Mauritius, India and Sri Lanka are OK, although Nayana in Sri Lanka lost friends. We haven't heard yet from Ferry and Zarina who live in Indonesia and Malyasia.

Nothing like a real, large scale tragedy to put things in perspective... "doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little [OCLC] people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now... Here's looking at you kid."

Monday, December 27, 2004


I'm in New Orleans now, watching "Good Morning America." They're describing a game people are playing with Google, called Google Whack. Apparently it's been around for awhile...

Anyway, the game is to put 2 terms in the Google search box and get one result returned. Examples of successful GoogleWhacking include:
braggadocoious illuminator
hippopotami plethora
lambating scallopini

Try it yourself!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Geoffrey Nunberg on Google, text and libraries

You may recall, if you've read the Environmental Scan, that we quote a poem by Geoffrey Nunberg called "We're Coming Unwired" at the front of the Social Landscape. And he edited a book called The Future of the Book, published in 1996, that still is worth a read. He is a professor of linguistics at Stanford University, and is, on many levels, a good person to comment on Google's plans to digitize books owned by his university. Read the December 19 LA Times article here.

What next?

From the "keep an eye on this" files...

The summary is from Hot Bytes newsletter, put out by the e-Content Institute. The whole article from (linked below) is worth reading.

"Google magazine search?

Writer Susan Kuchinskas notes that Google may have found a way to make money from its still-in-beta News service without alienating publishers, as indicated by a patent application on file with the USPTO. She writes: If Google could pull off what it outlines in that broad patent application, it may open new revenue streams to publishers of print, CD and DVD media, while broadening its own revenue base. U.S. Patent Application No. 20040122811, filed by Google co-founder Larry Page, has a deceptively simple name: "Method for searching media." But the application illuminates possible plans by the Mountain View, Calif.-based search leader to enable search of printed material, offer pay-per-view documents, scanned documents with clickable ads and even the ability for print publishers to swap out ads in digital copies of their printed pages. There are two key elements of the patent: a method for executing a permission protocol so that the publisher could authorize Google to display more text from the relevant publication; and storing scanned versions of printed documents along with data sets representing the ads that went with them. Source: "

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Indexing Uncooperative Cats

Art Rhyno is a funny guy (despite the fact that he lives in that Honduras-of-the-North, land of my citizenship). After the Google news yesterday flooded the web and the blogosphere, Art posted 4 funny, completely fake (please note this, Google legal staff) press releases.
Here's the first one.

Google to Index Dog Droppings
Press snippet: In a major initiative, Google will index the geometric properties of dog droppings around the world. Searchers will be able to upload pictures of the offending materials and be matched instantly with the dog that created them. "We are limiting this to dogs in the first phase" said a spokesperson from Google, "the cats are too uncooperative at this point".

Go to Art's blog, LibraryCog, to read the other equally amusing three. Thanks, Art, for a laugh.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Google and Lots of Books

This isn't really news considering more than 120 news sources (according to, what else, Google) have picked up the story from the AP source last night. Here's one version but this story isn't hard to find. This version is CNet posting a New York Times article which is handy as the NYT requires registration.

"It may be only a step on a long road toward the long-predicted global virtual library. But the collaboration of Google and research institutions that also include Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the New York Public Library is a major stride in an ambitious Internet effort by various parties. The goal is to expand the Web beyond its current valuable, if eclectic, body of material and create a digital card catalog and searchable library for the world's books, scholarly papers and special collections."

This is all good, isn't it?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Griefers, griefers everywhere

Here's an interesting article about people who deliberately spoil the game experience in MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming) like EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies and Sims Online. They are known as "griefers" and are "a small but seemingly irradicable set of players who want nothing more than to murder, loot and otherwise frustrate the heck out of everyone else."

The article points to the strong social rules that govern games and their communities. But I found myself thinking about the "griefers" I have worked with in libraries that didn't commit cardinal sins but who definitely inflicted pain on their colleagues and people using the libraries, and frustrated the heck out of people.

There was Negative Naomi who was impatient and sarcastic with students, and who sucked all the life out of committee work (which flickers with a weak spark anyway) because nothing would ever make librarianship as good as it used to be when she was young.

There was Jaded Janet who used every coffee break, every lunch conversation to decry the sorry state of professionalism and management abilities among absent colleagues.

And there was Peeved Pete who would have been much happier if "technology" had never been invented.

Griefers, all of them. Seems to me our workplaces have things to learn from the gamer communities in managing real social misfits.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

ACS sues Google Scholar

Just saw this story on slashdot...

American Chemical Society suing Google over the use of "Scholar" on Google Scholar.

!! Truth? I did a cursory check and didn't see anything on the ACS Web site about it. Anyone heard anything about it?

Friday, December 10, 2004

"We fought him all the way to his promised land."

Apparently the title is what the presenter of the 1978 Melvil Dewey Award said of that year's recipient, Frederick G. Kilgour. If you are but a casual reader of this blog, you may not know that Fred is OCLC's founder--the inventor, really. He was born in 1914 and is still writing and being a serious birdwatcher.

I have been thinking about Fred today because I am reading and musing for a couple of pieces I am working on. And, as usual, when I read "Fred quotes" I am struck by the vision of the guy, as well as what a hard-nose he was (probably still is) in terms of his conviction that libraries needed to move on from what he termed "nineteenth century" practices. Here's the title quote in context:

"OCLC would not have come into being if it had not been for a quadripartite skein of skills and qualities possessed, perhaps uniquely, by Fred Kilgour. First, he was a thoroughly competent librarian. Second, he had a high degree of technical acumen. Third, he was a consummate politician. And fourth, he had skin a foot thick, which was fortunate indeed because we fought him every step of the way en route to his Promised Land"
(Anne Marie Allison and Ann Allen. OCLC, A National Library Network. Short Hills, N.J.: Enslow, 1979. p. 12)

And I have to think his skin must have been a foot thick because in a May, 1976 article by Art Plotnick in American Libraries he said:

"We do things to libraries, not for them. We want to make resources more available to users of libraries, and to reduce the unit costs. We are not essentially a catalog card-producing agency. We want to put the card catalog out of business. we've made a new kind of catalog--the on-line- totally different from the book catalog of the 17th century and the card catalog of the 19th. The library has become dehumanized. We have to bend ourselves to the demands and limitations of the catalog; but a computer can produce a miniature, custom made catalog just for the user--a special gathering of data that may never be put out again."

Many librarians reading that first sentence must have been most put-out by that opinion. And yet, I see a strong parallel between Fred's belief that OCLC led libraries--and should lead libraries-- into new territories in the 70s, and the OCLC of today, leading libraries out of the building, out of the OPAC, onto the open Web, with Open WorldCat being the first step towards the "promised land".

"New applications of technology will enable libraries to shift from their traditional packages of data to furnishing information for decsions and action. Hence, the new technology will provide librarians with the opportunity of developing new concepts of librarianship, having as their main emphasis the provision of information to individuals when and where they need it."

Are these words from Jay Jordan, announcing the Open WorldCat program? No, this is Fred Kilgour in 1981.

Movie Reviewers

Just came across (I know, I'm so behind these days) the call for movie reviews of The Librarian.
I heard the film was not living up to its full potential...though I have not yet seen it and do admire Dr. Carter's character evolution on ER through the years.

It's on TNT again tonight at 11:45 pm. Post your comments on ref:blog:spot.

Carrot for the idea. Stick for the execution?

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Call me Alane

Hey gang. Alane has been filling in for me, as I slog through a lot of advertising deadlines and chasing imagery all over the world. It's been great fun--and it's not over yet.

I just wanted to stick my nose out of the water quickly and pop you a couple of cool links:

Article on libraries in NYT
We love good library exposure. An article in the New York Times today, "Libraries Reach Out, Online". Disclaimer: yes, it mentions OCLC. Also touches on gaming, audiobooks, eBooks and many of the trends near and dear to our "It's all good" readers.

Software company I applaud
A company called Hyperion will give any employee who buys/owns a car that makes more than 45 mpg a $5,000 check. How cool is that? Hear the whole story on Marketplace (NPR). Get the clip from the SF Chronicle.

I heard WorldCat might be the largest text database in Oracle. Oracle sources said they didn't actually keep lists--but that WorldCat was "definitely in the top 10." Way to go, OCLC Cooperative!

ALA-APA contest
Last week Alane and I met (virtually met) with Jennifer Grady of the ALA-APA office. She's got a lot of cool things going on, including a video: "Working@your library: for love or money." And there's a contest to write the accompanying print guide that goes with it. There's also a PDF toolkit on better salaries and pay equity (beware: 72 pages).

The title spoke to me about why we're putting together the Advocacy advertising program, geared for nonlibrarians. It's to explain that libraries (and librarians) cannot live on love alone. To get the cool technology described in the NYTimes article, you have to fund it.

Have the ALA MW 2005 Conference Program Guide ad due tomorrow.

Back to swimming.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Just Call Me Alice

Alice is very busy making webby things for ALA and also putting the finishing touches on material for the library advocacy advertising campaign we are weeks away from launching (more on that soon), so I will be Alice and tell you that the OCLC web site listing of all the OCLC hosted events at ALA Midwinter 2005 is now up here. The Symposium is listed first and not surprisingly (to me) I got 2 major pieces of information wrong in my previous posting about the Symposium location. It's at the Westin Copley Place, America South Room.

The book signing by John Beck, co-author of Got Game, will be at the OCLC booth (#2526) beginning at 5:30pm on Friday, January 14 (after the Symposium). This is during the Grand Opening of the Exhibits so with any luck there will be libations and snacks.

As I said earlier, registration is not required at OCLC events but it's kind of like an RSVP to a dinner party. We can make sure we have enough chairs.

"Learning is a Community-Wide Responsibility"

Robert Martin, the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, has a short piece in C&RL News, December 2004 (thanks to ResourceShelf for pointing to it on Dec. 4) titled "Libraries and librarians in the 21st century: Fostering a learning society." As usual, Bob is worth reading. He always seems able to say important things succinctly and clearly.

And happily, he quotes several passages from the Scan. It's all good when someone we respect does so. Of course, we quoted Bob several times in the Scan....perhaps I am indulging in blogrolling?

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Greatest Show on Earth

I just logged in to read "Go Ask Alice," and realized it's been three weeks since my last post. In that three weeks, we celebrated Thanksgiving in the US, my long-suffering wife and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary, and we took our five year old grandson Jake to the circus.

I don't know if you've been to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus recently (or ever, for that matter) but they now have a special event one hour before show time. You can go down on the arena floor and meet the performers, see the jugglers and the acrobats close up, shake hands with the clowns (and get free red plastic noses), and examine close up some of the incredible costumes that the performers wear. This last was of special interest to my wife, who does theatrical and special event costume design and creation.

So what does this have to do with the Scan? Just this---the owners of the circus have realized that people expect more in entertainment today. They don't just want to come into a 20,000-seat mega-arena to be entertained from 200 feet away. They want to get close to the action. They want to see the performers as human beings. They want to see for themselves that the animals are not being mistreated, PETA notwithstanding. The lesson is that even with amazing amounts of spectacle, human scale is important.

As we design our services and our facilities, we need to mix the personal with the awesome. Ol' Phineas T. Barnum would still recognize his namesake, but he'd also understand that you have to put it all into context.

Next week, it's off to Cleveland State University to do my last Scan program of the year. Since my last presentation, we've seen the announcement of the Google Scholar program (do you really need a hyperlink to THAT one?) and an AC Neilsen survey (sponsored by eBay) that claims that 40% of Americans now participate in online communities. The best part about doing these Scan presentations is that no two are ever the same: as the environment changes, so does the presentation!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Go Ask Alice - Symposium Details

You know, I am just the warm-up act, the scout running ahead of the real posse...the reason I mentioned the upcoming OCLC Symposium is because I am one of several people organizing it. This happens way ahead of getting info up on the official OCLC web site...I mean, does ALA have the Midwinter program up yet? Not on Dec 3rd they didn't.

So, for those of you who need to know now....the OCLC Symposium is always on the Friday of ALA. For this Boston Midwinter meeting, that's January 14th. It begins at 1:30pm and ends at 4:30pm. I can't recall the room it's in....but it'll be at the Marriott Copley (that's where the OCLC staff will be staying), in a large room probably with "Ballroom" in the name. It's not an invitation-only event. In fact, all you really need do is show up although we do like it if you register, at the OCLC web site (but you can't until it's up on the web, can you?) And there's a good chance the whole thing will be captured so people unable to attend will be able to view it afterwards.

We'll be very happy if you do attend and you'll get a small token of our appreciation. In past years, this has been the popular OCLC bags. Don't know what it is this conference.

Here's an aside about the bags. The first edition of these was the green ones. That year we gave them away at the OCLC booth. Well, we didn't really give them away. They were grabbed away...we completely underestimated the desire people had to get not one, not two, but sometimes a dozen of those bags. OCLC booth staff had bruises from being elbowed aside as librarians converged on the middle of the booth where the bags were stacked. OK, I am exaggerating....slightly. In subsequent years, the bags have only been given to people attending OCLC events and those of us working the booth at ALA have heard many interesting stories at the booth from people who are hoping to score a bag. Reference librarians....know how you tell "war stories" about reference interactions? Well, I confess, booth staff do the same.

The "go ask Alice" in the title is because our Alice is one of the talented and overworked people doing webby work at OCLC. So, I'll ask Alice...when will the OCLC-at-ALA-Midwinter info be up on the OCLC web site?

Friday, December 03, 2004

OCLC Symposium - A Reelly Reelly Big Shew

I don't know how I missed mentioning this. George--yes, this blog's George Needham--is going to be the host and moderator of the forthcoming OCLC Symposium at ALA (blogged here a few days ago). See, worth coming just for this, right?

There's another "it's all good" thing, though. Through the efforts of Wendy McGinnis, OCLC's Director of PR, John Beck, the co-author of Got Game (also mentioned here a few days ago) has agreed to participate in the Symposium. Don't worry if you've not read Got Game...there will be an author-signing at the OCLC booth. Details will be posted here and on the OCLC web site closer to ALA.

And this has nothing to do with anything else in this post, but I wanted to note the passing at 84 of a great Canadian personality: author, journalist and broadcaster Pierre Berton. I discovered this late because neither the Columbus Dispatch (the local newspaper), NPR, or my digest of the New York Times noted his death, which is as if Canadian newspapers had ignored the death of someone of the stature of Tom Brokaw. Although it's hard to imagine that Mr Brokaw's last television interview would have been on how to roll a good joint.

Said Pierre, "If people who are of age want to have a smoke, let them have a smoke, I say."

Probably a good thing he decided to remain a big frog in a small pond and not move to the US like Peter Jennings, and John Roberts.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Making It Work

There has been a lot of thinking and work going on among clever people with regard to Google Scholar and Google Desktop.

Art Rhyno, at the University of Windsor Library, and Peter Binkley, at the University of Alberta Libraries, have been tinkering with Google Desktop and Google Scholar with most interesting and promising results.

Art has blogged his Google Desktop tinkerings on his own blog, LibraryCog which is the best place to read the details--and I confess I skim over the techie parts but I am jazzed about the results.

In a nutshell, he started musing on what it would mean to have catalogue searching carried out by "third parties" (say, Google Desktop), and he's come up with a proof of concept, using Google Desktop against the library catalogue at Windsor. I know Art so I emailed him and said, so, if Google Desktop might be able to search against OPACs does this make the Open WordCat program redundant? Why would records need to go to Yahoo! and Google if bib records can be crawled from point of origin? And this is what Art replied to me (posted with his permission).

"I am impressed by the efficiency of Google Desktop though I don't know if what I am doing with our collection will go any further than our public stations. It's a bit like the "teachable moment" that we talk about in Information Literacy, how to make library access seamless at the point of information need. The advantage of Google Desktop over fighting it out with the billions of documents that Google indexes through the web is that it reserves some prime real estate for displaying the results.

But I know that anything that relies on software to be installed locally is going to be problematic. I think OCLC's approach of working with Google is still the best. I would love to see some dialogue on how to inject rights management into this process. Google's business model depends a lot on instant gratification, exposing content that can't be accessed immediately treads on to some tough ground and I am sure the folks at Google understand this. Even going outside of the Google cache is a bit tough because it shakes the fault tolerance of Google's infrastructure, but I am sure many publishers get nervous about caching licensed content.

We are revamping our lookup bookmarklet to augment URLs in Google Scholar which are listed in our proxy tables. The idea is to automatically give patrons some chance to access content that has already been licensed for them, but this is still a pretty weak measure. Even building a toolbar, which some of my colleagues are very keen on, seems to me to be competing in a space where there are powerful forces that can squeeze us out. Still, Google has some facility now for creating profiles, and I think the hooks for an infrastructure for rights management already exist, what's missing is a forum plugging the two together, though maybe this is already happening.

To be honest, at least some of my interest in Google Desktop comes from a game that I worked on with my kids a few years ago. We named it StackQuest and the idea was that creatures chased you around library bookstacks and the lead characters had to find books on certain topics to throw at the creatures in order to escape. I have always been a big fan of Don Norman
and I loved that the Environmental Scan looked at gaming. I think we tend to badly underestimate how powerful the notion of fun can be in learning. Interestingly, I have discovered that games have a long history in [Canadian] indigenous cultures for teaching."

One of the reasons I asked Art if I could post his comments to "It's All Good" is because of the last paragraph--our faithful readers know how interested we are in gaming.

And on to Peter Binkley. What about Google Scholar, rights management, and the appropriate copy problem, Peter? No problem...he's been working on that.

Yesterday, on the Web4Lib listserv, Peter announced that "As a proof-of-concept I've built a Firefox extension that adds OpenURL links to the results lists in Google Scholar. It can be downloaded here: . The functionality is pretty basic but it shows what might be possible."

If you don't belong to the Web4Lib listserv, you might want to join if you're interested in keeping track what Peter, Art and others are doing to develop practical, usable ways of integrating library metadata into the shared space of the web.

This really is All Good.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Not just for Political Conventions any more

Hey blogger fans.
Just heard this tidbit from Mickey, who helps manage the OCLC Web team (and has helped bring about OCLC ordering nirvana with the online service center):

ITI editors are blogging live from the Online Information conference and expo in London. They have 5 editors stationed for live news, views and photos.

How cool!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Third Place Convergence

Your bloggers have been taking a wee break. It was Thanksgiving here in the US and I, for one, didn't even open my work laptop for several days and so I didn't think about the Second Place (work) while I spent time in the First Place (home): ate turkey, read, ordered presents online, did crosswords, talked to my sisters, downloaded music onto my iPod, played Monopoly (I bankrupted my husband twice), and acclimated the outside cat, Willy, to the three inside cats (he loved the change; the other three did not, and the dogs just enjoyed chasing all four of them).

So, the Third Place.

Shore Communications notes a piece from the San Luis Obisbo Tribune called "Libraries Could Use Some Crumbs and Noise." It comments on Howard Shultz's book about his company, Starbucks. Here's an excerpt from the Tribune article:
The only thing wrong with the third place concept is that it's being utterly co-opted by corporate America. The rise of branded third places like the coffee shop and the literary superstores has directly coincided with the fall of libraries.
You don't have to look far to see that. The countywide library system just went to the voters to plea for more money and got smacked down like a bespectacled librarian in a cage match.
Just up Highway 101, the news is even worse. The city of Salinas has announced that it will shut down its entire library system next summer. Take that, John Steinbeck.

And you might recall that some weeks ago George posted about the OCLC Members Council session in which Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire of the University of Wisconsin-Madison spoke to the delegates about gaming (to view their presentation click on the link on this page). Well, we are going to have Constance and Kurt as speakers at the OCLC Symposium at ALA Midwinter in January. They will be joined by Marilyn Mason, the program director for the joint OCLC/Gates Foundation community portal WebJunction, and Migell Acosta, the Principal Librarian for Information Management at Santa Monica Public Library, and who has had success with LAN parties at the library. And what does this have to do with the Third Place? Lots, I hope.

Constance has a paper under review for a journal. The title is "The New Third Space: Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming in American Youth Culture." As this is a draft paper, I won't quote from it but she does have the draft available at her web site under the MMOG research link. She, essentially, is arguing that MMOGs such as Lineage are a new "third space" and uses Ray Oldenburg's (he wrote The Great Good Place) eight defining characteristics of third spaces to support her thesis.

We hope that the Symposium will weave the theoretical with the practical and the possible: games, cognition and learning, community, libraries and the third place. Some people who have listened to George or me or Cathy DeRosa speak about the importance of the culture of gaming think that we are suggesting that libraries purchase and provide access to games in order to provide services to gameplayers...and off they wander down Tangent Lane, wondering how games would be catalogued and circulated.

No, no, no!! That's not it at all! We think that library culture can learn from the gaming culture about, among other things, collaborative workspaces, about peer support for learning, about providing interesting and fun environments in which to find information. Think WebJunction on steroids. And if you doubt that people "playing" games are learning much, read Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever by John Beck and Mitchell Wade. And then go find some people on the staff of your institution who game, and ask them to help out with your strategic planning.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Big Bang - Google Scholar

My antennae are tingling--actually, clanging is more accurate. I think Google Scholar is (to use a really over-used phrase) a paradigm shift. Not that this perception is particularly clever as lots of people in the blogosphere and on listservs are musing along the same lines, right now.

So, what paradigm has shifted? Certainly the one that many librarians like to cling to: that little of any worth is retrieved in a Google search. This has never been absolutely true but being able to do a good search, and then isolate the wheat from the chaff was required, and it is also true that this was difficult for many people.

No more. I came across one blog entry from Dog News that points out the amount of scholarly material identified using Google Scholar on dog studies and animal shelters. This is how scholarly material is going to come to "the people" rather than the people coming to scholarly material which is the current paradigm at work in libraryland, and one that consistently fails to be attractive to searchers.

Google Scholar exposes the many instantiations of scholarly content available on the web, much of it accessible. Content that exists as an article in a subscription-based library-only accessible database often also exists as a pre-publication version on the author's web site, and/or as a conference presentation. For many searchers, these versions will be adequate as few people require the content have the imprimature that publication in a peer-reviewed journal bestows. Scholars may prefer the "real" version but I would bet a substantial amount of money that regular searchers like me will be satisfied, in most cases, with an immediately accessible version.

To someone who had to teach students the intricacies of the various Citation Indexes, I can only gaze in awe at the little link in each record "Cited by..." So easy, so integrated, so many person hours of bibliographic instruction no longer necessary. As Google explains, "Google Scholar also automatically analyzes and extracts citations and presents them as separate results, even if the documents they refer to are not online. This means your search results may include citations of older works and seminal articles that appear only in books or other offline publications."

In the FAQs, libraries are mentioned several times as Google makes sure people understand that much of the content identified will be in libraries, and that discovery of that content may need to be done through a library interface. And OCLC gets a mention too, for providing the service behind the "Library Search" link. I'd like to think that the Open WorldCat program has been instrumental in Google's decision to release Google Scholar.

For a good detailed look at Google Scholar, go read Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy on it, at ResourceShelf

The harbingers of our collective future have been for a long time, many, overt and often ignored. But there's nothing quite so salutory as a Big Bang to get reluctant wishful thinkers to pay attention. Pay attention. Google Scholar is a Big Bang, and others will follow. No doubt Yahoo will provide some way very soon of scoping their substantial amount of scholarly content.

So, is this The End of The World As We Know It? It just might be. And actually, I do feel fine.

Google Scholar

In the scan, we talk a lot about how research and the scholarly environment are changing, and here's an example of something that could make a huge difference. Google is introducing a new service, Google Scholar, that will allow users "to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research."

Yes, this will include results from the Open WorldCat program, which is particularly important since much of this material isn't available in electronic format yet. It will be even more useful after Google has harvested all 57 million WorldCat records, instead of the 2 million records in the pilot subset.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Being Blue and Seeing Red

As a Canadian with a green card that allows me to work in the US, I have two things to contribute to the larger debate about being in the US or being in Canada, post election.

Number one: Americans know that many people left the US during the Vietnam war rather than be conscripted....and Canada was a place that many "draft dodgers" went.

What many Americans don't know is that in the 70s there was a significant migration from the US to Canada of people who disagreed with national politics, not just the draft dodgers. My English department at the U of Waterloo, in Ontario, had perhaps 2/3 of its faculty--male and female--come from the US. And at the U of Calgary where I worked for years, most departments--including the library-- had a significant number of faculty with US citizenship. So, if there is a migration from the US as a result of this most recent election, it's nothing new.

Number two: Librarians are covered by the NAFTA agreement. We are on the list of professions that are allowed to cross borders based on a job offer. This is how I got my job in Alaska. In my opinion, it's all good! Cross pollination is healthy and the profession benefits.

We do not, as a rule, remark on politics here at "It's All Good" but I did want to remind librarians that we are one of the blessed professions that have official sanction to cross borders...the NAFTA borders at least.

RFID: Libraries on the Fast Track?

CNet News.Com had a very interesting story last month on what RFID will mean for the libraries, stores, and other customer service outlets. The article discussed the civil liberties implications of RFID tagging, and the concept that someday RFID could replace traditional cataloging.

But for all of us who spend long nights wringing our hands over the glacial pace of change in libraries, this quote is a tonic:

"Libraries are much further along with using RFID in a consumer environment than anybody else," said Jim Lichtenberg, an IT consultant to libraries. "They represent a wonderful test-bed in which to work through the issues of RFID because they have such a profound concern about the rights of their patrons."

Less thrilling, especially for those of us around OCLC, was this concept, which was not directly quoted but was attributed to Vinod Chachra, chief executive officer of Visionary Technology in Library Solutions (VTLS):

He envisions a day when libraries completely do away with the time-tested Dewey Decimal classification system, opting instead for a sort of organized chaos governed by the vigilant and unblinking eye of RFID ... With all corners of a library constantly monitored by a network of RFID readers, librarians could just toss a book on any old shelf. Finding it again would just require querying a computer that's linked to the RFID system and knows where everything is. The most popular books would end up in the front of the library while the less used get pushed to the back and reshelving would be a breeze.

So much for the serendipity of finding another book on the same topic that you weren't expecting, eh?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Find It in a Nearby Library

George, Alane and I have agreed to share our soapbox today with Andy Boyer, one of the creative minds behind the Open WorldCat program.

A bit of context about Open WorldCat
As you may have heard, OCLC and Yahoo! are working together to raise the visibility of libraries with a co-branded Web browser toolbar. The news release from one of our most faithful blog readers, Bob Murphy, explains the project.

Andy's guest posting

Want a quick way to find library resources online?

We [OCLC] have teamed up with the Yahoo! Toolbar folks to make it easier for you to access two million of the most popular records found in WorldCat, a central catalog of library holdings. The Yahoo!/OCLC toolbar is a project associated with Open WorldCat, a new OCLC initiative designed to increase the online visibility of libraries and their collections.

The toolbar lets you restrict your search to just the WorldCat database and locate libraries in your area that house materials you'd expect to find in libraries: books, movies, and historical archives.

To find WorldCat records, enter a search term in the toolbar's search box, and click
either the WorldCat logo or select "Libraries" from the drop-down menu next to
the "Search Web" button.

See the visual here.

The WorldCat bibliographic database was built by thousands of librarians over several decades, and maintained by OCLC. It has 57 million catalog records for items in nearly 1 billion locations.

We're busy making the rest of the WorldCat database available to crawl and if you're
interested in watching it grow (every 12 seconds, a new record is added to
WorldCat), check out:

Also, if you're attending the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey this week, stop by the Yahoo! Search-sponsored Internet Café where the Yahoo!/OCLC toolbar will be on every computer.

--Andy Boyer
Open WorldCat Product Manager

The OCLC "Top 1000 in WorldCat" List

OCLC Research released this list a few days ago. It's visually pleasing and has a lot more features than just a flat list of titles. You can look at lists by predetermined subject, banned books, books that have been turned into films, and so on. You can also vote on your own "top titles."
What struck me, though, is the non-stuffy, light-hearted way in which the text was written, as well as the quotes chosen to accompany each of my favourite Groucho Marx quotes heads the main page, "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
So, I'd like to say thanks to Shirley Hyatt, the OCLC Research staffer responsible for the "voice", for making this new space a "sticky" place to spend some time. Because, remember, the "experience society" prefers learning that is fun.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Inviting money-changers into the temple of knowledge?

A great article from Beth Dempsey that puts the library as third place idea squarely in dialogue with how we (libraries) survive monetarily.

Get behind me, satan
Interestingly enough, she notes that a lot of the pushback for service enhancements do not come from mayors, city councils or users--but from the librarians themselves.

Passports with periodicals
Coolest thing from the article was reading about how Ferguson Public Library in Stamford, CT took on the overflow from the passport agency next door--and soon realized that people like coming to the library much more than they do a cold and boring passport office. And they'll pay for the convenience. I expect they'll continue to return to the library, long after their passport arrives.

And then there's Starbucks
They'll also return to the Ferguson Public Library because they've had a Starbucks since 1999. Love it or hate it, Starbucks is the Wal-Mart of coffee shops. Even my neighborhood grocery store has a Starbucks in it. And I see people trudging around--cart full, latte in hand. In fact, there are 14 "urban coffee opportunities" in my zip code radius.

"Cashing in on Service" from 11/1 on the Library Journal Web site.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Google results to my mobile phone

Okay this isn't a service I would expect to be provided by libraries YET--but it does fit in the "This is cool and I can see it in a couple of years" category:

Google can now send localized information to your mobile phone. You just text message what you're looking for and your zip code. I did pizza 43017 [the ZIP/postal code for OCLC in Dublin, OH] and sent it to 46645. I got back 4 results in about 15 seconds. They even filtered out my most un-favorite pizza place in Dublin, which will not be named. Is this Sheer Genius on Google's part or what?

It's a short step from finding the closest pizza place to finding the closest library. And then from finding the closest library to the closest book/CD/content available from the closest library.

So when can Open WorldCat move to my mobile phone? With Google's SMS, it looks like it's pretty soon!

E-Scan and Virtual Reference

As I blog today, I'm sitting at the registration desk at the 6th Annual Virtual Reference Desk Conference, which OCLC Member Services co-sponsors with the Information Institute at Syracuse University and ALA's RUSA (Reference and User Services Association). The conference opened this morning with a rousing oration by "Virtual Dave" Lankes on what reference wants to be when it grows up, and by Eva Miller from the Multnomah County Library who addressed the "Improvisational Librarian." I don't want to spoil this for you in case you ever have the great good fortune of hearing Eva, but suffice it to say she had the whole audience of 250 or so people riffing lyrics and music to the results of a survey she'd done. Dave Lankes has been one of the driving forces behind Virtual Reference Desk for the better part of a decade now. Dave, as I said in my introduction this morning, has the uncanny ability to be intense without being creepy. He is passionately committed to the future of reference, whatever that might be, but he doesn't make your skin crawl when he's talking about it.

The point I made during my very brief opening remarks is that virtual reference is a sterling example of what is driving the landscape at the moment. (OK, full disclosure moment: my portfolio at OCLC also includes responsibility for QuestionPoint and 24/7 Reference.) Virtual reference allows us to offer our services at the point of need (or, as I heard Lorcan Dempsey quote someone the other day, "the point of inspiration.") It allows us to disaggregate collections, making service available across a wide geographic area without necessarily having a large collection of materials close at hand. It allows us to collaborate in new and interesting and even challenging ways.

We have about 350 or 375 people here in Cincinnati (at the amazingly beautiful Hilton Netherland Hotel) for the conference, attendees, speakers, staff, and exhibitors included. There is a lively exchange of ideas happening in the meetings, the corridors, and (inevitably at a library conference) in the bar. If you want to know what we're doing, check out the previous conference proceedings on the Syracuse site, and Neal-Schuman will be publishing the proceedings in hardcover form next year.


I think we might have had a bit of a post-election funk. There didn't seem to be much to say.

But, this essay on "communicontent" from a fellow I've never come across before, Russell Beattie, is most thought-provoking, and really fits well with the "Content, Not Containers" report we released not long ago. Russ has a pretty strong copyright statement on his site that I'll honour by not quoting directly from his posting. But, go read it. He has some very interesting thoughts on blogging, the web, mobile devices, content and communication. I am going to quote one sentence because it should tempt librarians to read the whole thing.

"In order to create communicontent, pure content needs meta-data, and pure communication needs organization."

Monday, November 01, 2004

"If Things Seem Under Control, You're Not Going Fast Enough"

Apparently, Mario Andretti made the remark that is today's title. Makes sense that a race car driver would say this. I have driven on a racing oval once and at about 70mph, going around a tight curve, the instructor grabbed my steering wheel and yanked it hard to the right to make my cornering much, much tighter. To that fellow, 70mph was slow. It's all relative.

As a kid, I knew who Mario was, as well as Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Sterling Moss and Jack Brabham. My brother Andrew had a pedal car designed like a racing car, with a number on the side. And if you look at the photo at this link, I sat with my dad sometime in the early 60s on the crest of the ridge watching cars come up the hill in an event called the "Rest and Be Thankful" hill climb. So, perhaps my penchant for speed, both in cars and in the pace of change is something I absorbed young.

OK, enough time in the past!

We've not been here much lately. We've been busy in the real world. As George mentioned, our Members Council delegates got to hear from 2 real gamers who are also real academics. I found Kurt and Constance's presentations fascinating as did many other attendees. I think it might be the first time I've heard "semiotic" said at an OCLC meeting. The video of their presentation will be up on the public OCLC web site soon as will the minutes of the other meetings and sessions. We'll let you know when they are.

Lorcan Dempsey, VP Research, passed this along over the weekend: "Computer games should be taught in schools because they are good for children's development, researchers said today. " The whole article is in TES (The Times Education Supplement), October 26.

Lorcan's until-now-internal-to-OCLC-only blog was released to the world on Friday. He's been posting to it for about one year so there's a lot of content there. It has the utilitarian name "Lorcan Dempsey's weblog" and you'll note immediately that he's much better than we are at the mechanics. And he's much more research oriented--no suprise there, he's supposed to be.

And I wanted to write a cogent little paragraph about manga and other graphic novels but have run out of time, so I am just going to link to a bunch of things that I think are interesting in and of themselves, and that all together make me wonder what this trend means.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Rock the Burrito

This has nothing to do with the scan, libraries or OCLC.
But if you like Mexican food, read on:

Chipotle is giving away free burritos, to encourage Americans to vote. How cool!

Of course, I could speculate on the demise of democracy, about how our corporations must bribe people with marketing gimmicks to remind them to exercise their rights of representation...

Instead I'll just say, Rock on Chipotle!

Check it out.

Friday, October 22, 2004

A Friday Grab Bag

Finally, today I can take a breath and look about me. I have been working on a report due to our Members Council delegates this weekend and it's been a lot of work, but we're printing it right now.

My visit to Connecticut seems like really old news now. I was there on October 7 speaking to the attendees at the annual Connecticut Library Leadership Conference. It's sponsored by the Association of Connecticut Library Boards, (it represents public library boards in the state) the Connecticut State Library and The Connecticut Library Association. I was there at the invitation of Ken Wiggin, the state librarian.

The composition of this audience was at the opposite end of the age spectrum from my British Columbia visit. As is often the case with Board members, many were elderly. I ate lunch with two trustees of a medium sized town's public library who were pleasant company, and who clearly cared a great deal about their library and for whom most of the trends I was going to be speaking about were terra incognito. But they took lots of notes. And one fellow who is overseeing the building of a new library in his area told me he was going to have to rethink having permanently fixed desks in the main area of the library. He thought they may want more flexibility in how the space was used and set up.

And then there was the gentleman who wanted to have an animated exchange with me about the numbers we published in the Scan on how money was allocated to public institutions. In the scan, we have a graph of the aggregated worldwide total for expenditures in sectors such as health, social welfare, education, with military spending added for comparison. He suggested we had skewed the data by not presenting US spending separately. I pointed out that we normally get criticized for doing exactly that, and that we had aimed for a broader view than a strictly US one. He wasn't happy and repeated that we had skewed data. Not sure what part of the political spectrum he represented but there was some political point he wanted to make.

Lorcan Dempsey, VP Research and Chief Strategist at OCLC, and also co-author of the Scan is a guest columnist for CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) in the U.K. In his latest article he discusses "Three Stages of Library Search" in the CILIP Update Magazine.
"Hardly a day goes by without another arrangement between an information provider and Google or Yahoo to expose its collections for search on the web. Everybody wants to be ‘on web’. Google and Yahoo, in turn, are eager to find as many ways as possible of connecting their users to valuable material currently hidden in ‘off-web’ database silos. Most of the digital resources that libraries manage are currently off web: they do not offer themselves up to the Google user. Increasingly, ‘on web’ means available in Google."

And I noted this on Rafat Ali's PaidContent site: "What Amazon is creating, ultimately, is "pull" media -- entertainment as marketing. This is the kind of messaging that's going to succeed in today's niche-focused, consumer controlled environment. " What he's talking about is a blurring of commerce, content and entertainment. Go to the Amazon main page (at least, here in the U.S. it's the first page) and there's a little screen for a video clip of Jon Stewart talking about his latest book, America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. I watched it immediately--it's funny and short. And perhaps it's no coincidence that the book is Amazon's best seller right now.

Could libraries add some of this "pull" media to their web sites?

And noted in "Above the Fold" from NewsScan Daily (here's their web site and subscription info--it's free): The Washington Post item being noted requires registration and as I haven't registered, I've not looked at the source.

Google is reporting that sales and profit more than doubled in the third quarter, despite a one-time expense of more than $200 million. Explaining the company's success, co-founder Larry Page says: "We have the world's greatest engineering talent. Google has the means to innovate rapidly. This infrastructure is a competitive advantage to Google across all of our existing products." He says the company's business strategy "is about solving problems that matter to many people on a global scale. We have only begun work on our mission to organize the world's information to make it more accessible." ( ">Washington Post 21 Oct 2004)

Holy Hegemony, Batperson...doesn't this sound an awful lot like another organization's mission? Like OCLC's? OCLC exists to further access to the world’s information and reduce library costs by offering services for libraries and their users.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Bonjour from Boulder

Greetings from Boulder, CO--home of OCLC's NetLibrary eBooks and eContent development. A group of us from Dublin has been out here, learning about the intricacies of how to create audiobooks, eBooks and more.

It's been a steep learning curve, for sure. 77,635 eBook titles and counting. They load about 1200 new titles every month. And audiobooks come soon. The NetLibrary technology team has tested something like 40 different portable devices for the .wma playback for audiobooks through the Windows MediaPlayer, which has DRM capabilities built-in.

Non-English content is going to start happening in a big way in 2005, I hear--especially for Latin American Spanish.

As Jay Jordan, our CEO, likes to say, "It's a great time for libraries!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Gaming the Members Council

This weekend, OCLC's Members Council will meet here in Dublin. One of the topics on the agenda is gaming. Kurt Squire and Constance Steinkueler from the University of Wisconsin - Madison will discuss "The Anatomy of a Gamer" on Sunday night, and three gamers on the OCLC staff will give a real-life demo on Monday morning.

As part of the preparation for this meeting, delegates and guests were assigned several readings. My personal favorite was "Gaming the System: What Higher Education Can Learn from Multiplayer Online Worlds," written by JC Herz. Here is a quote from that essay that seems particularly relevant to the Scan:

If a gamer doesn't understand something, there is a continuously updated, distributed knowledge base maintained by a sprawling community of players from whom he can learn. "Newbies" are schooled by more skilled and experienced players. Far from being every man for himself, multiplayer online games actively foster the formation of teams, clans, guilds, and other self-organizing groups. The constructive capabilities built into games allow players to stretch the experience in new and unexpected directions, to extend the play value of the game, and in so doing garner status (custom maps, levels, characters, and game modifications are all forms of social currency that accrue to the creators of custom content, as they are shared among players.) ... Of course, not all players roll up their sleeves and write plug-ins. But if even 1% contribute to the innovation of the product, even if they are only making minor, incremental improvements or subtle tweaks, that's ten thousand people in research and development.
This is the most fascinating thing about the whole gamer gestalt to me. The idea of creating new universes with their own social, cultural, and financial systems, just blows me away. A few years ago, someone who created his own universe was shuffled off to the laughing academy. Now, he is celebrated as a citizen of a "persistent multiplayer online world."

And, I suddenly realize in one of those Homer Simpson moments, therein lies the difference. The person who created his own universe in the olden days (say, before 1992) was the only inhabitant of that universe. Now, there are score of thousands of people living right there with him!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Catching Up, Period.

George has shamed me into doing a better job of recording where I've been, although I doubt I'll be as good at describing my travels. One reason is I've let too much time go by and although I still like to think my memory is as good as it once was...the truth is, it isn't and I should take a lot more notes than I do. And the other reason is I am not as good a raconteur as George.

I too went to talk to library school students--mentioned as an upcoming trip in this space a while ago. At the end of September, I spoke to about 35 masters and doctoral students, and some faculty, at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, which is where I received my own MLIS in 1986. The coordinator of my visit was Heather McNeil, once a student in the archival program at the same time I was in the library program, and now, a professor of archival studies. Truly, though, except for a drastic hair colour change (that was flattering), Dr. Heather looked, to me, much as she had 20 years ago.

This was my youngest audience yet....I am usually speaking to people who sometimes find the trends we focus on in the Scan terra incognito, but this crowd was one with the Borg. There were a lot of nodding heads when I spoke about seamlessness and gaming, and the clash of cultures in libraries. I did a pretty strong pitch for research by library school students on gaming and its relevance to information literacy acquisition, and I think a few eyes lit up.

I was travelling with Wendy McGinnis, the OCLC Director of Public Relations and Communications. We left Vancouver to travel to Victoria, capital of British Columbia, and on Vancouver Island, and did so in style on a very large BC ferry, Spirit of British Columbia. The ferry ride is about 90 minutes and these big ferries can hold hundreds of vehicles. Wendy and I wrapped up (it was sunny but windy) and found a good spot at the front of the ferry. This turned out to be a very good decision because as the ferry came into Active Pass (quite narrow and full of conflicting sea currents) the captain announced that the sister ferry coming through the pass from the sea side had spotted killer whales. I've seen orcas only once before, later in the year when they swim lower in the water, fins barely breaking the surface. They are big and I was truly glad I did not see any when I was kayacking off the west coast of Vancouver Island years ago. My friend Doug was almost drowned by a large salmon as he kayacked in a river once--imagine what a killer whale might do....I imagine me as an hors d'oeuvre.

Wendy and I had a premier spot for this sighting. As the ferry came abreast of the point of an island, around the point we spotted the spray of whales blowing as they skirted the edge of the island, heading for Active Pass where clearly there were a lot of fish, if the clouds of seagulls were any evidence. Five? Six? It was hard to tell because they swim in unison, three or four together, and you never quite know if you're seeing the same ones come up or different ones. We decided there were at least eight of different sizes in this group. As they passed the ferry, one came up out of the water and flopped back in on its back. Ooohs and aahs resulted.

But as this group passed by, all the watchers realized that there was another group coming around the point--another 6-8 whales were in this group and as they moved through the water, every now and then the black and white markings could be clearly seen below their tall, sometimes floppy dorsal fins. Well! At this point there were no blase observers. The woman beside us said "I've been riding the ferries for 20 years and I've never seen this many killer whales."

But wait! There were more! A third group came around the point with as many whales in it as the previous two. So, in all, we probably saw an entire pod of various ages, maybe 24 whales in all. It was an amazing event. Wendy, a talented photographer, managed to get some good pictures that she showed her three kids when she got home. They were much more impressed with the moose teeth she brought home. Another story for another day.

In Victoria, at the invitation of my colleague from the University of Calgary days, Marnie Swanson who is now the head honcho of the U Victoria Libraries, I did a scan presentation and then facilitated a strategic planning day. I was able to use some exercises I had done in 2 pre-conference sessions I took on futures planning at the World Future Society conference and they worked really well. No credit to me but to Peter Bishop and Wendy Schultz, faculty at the U of Houston-Clear Lake who taught the 2 sessions.

Wendy and I celebrated a successful day with martinis at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress Hotel. It hardly gets any better. And as I've run out of steam for today, the next post will cover Connecticut and the trip to Pennsylvania that didn't happen.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Catching Up with Friends, Old and New

Long time, no blog!

Anyway, this month I am fully engaged in doing presentations on the Scan, including three for different groups right here in Ohio. I love doing presentations in any location to which I can drive. Air travel is just such a hassle any more; my flight back from Tampa last Sunday was canceled, and I ended up being six hours late getting back to sweet home Columbus. I fared better than the poor guy who got rebooked the next day, though!

As I mentioned, I was in Tampa last weekend to do a program at the University of South Florida's School of Library and Information Science. I was part of a program with Greg Carlson and Courtney Deines-Jones on the role of futuring in planning library services. We used the Scan as one example of a way to think about what the future might offer (or, I guess, threaten). It was a special pleasure working with the faculty and students at USF. One excellent question came from a student, who noted that we had shown Google and the other search engines as potential replacements for library reference services, and at the same time, OCLC is working with those same outlets to get WorldCat broadcast. I said that I don't know much about martial arts, but the one thing I do know is that when confronted with momentum from an opponent, you don't resist it, but rather use it for your own purpose. Similarly, we can't beat Google; the best we can do is use the momentum the search engines have developed to further our own aims.

By the way, this was the first time I'd worked with Greg and Courtney. Greg said that the futuring program we did at Tampa was a test drive for one they are working on for a possible 2006 ASCLA preconference at the ALA conference. Keep an eye out for that, because Greg and Courtney really did a good job here, and it will only get better!

Today (Friday, October 15) I was at the 26th annual staff development day for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library. (Isn’t amazing that anyone has been doing staff development days for 26 years?)

The director at CH-UH is Steve Wood. Steve and I have been friends for nearly 20 years. He was on the first committee I ever worked with for the Ohio Library Association, and he’s an inspiration in a lot of ways, most notably in that he is constitutionally unable to take himself too seriously. If he were cast as a Hans Christian Anderson character, he would be the one pointing out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

30 CH-UH staffers attended my program. They represented lots of different areas within the library, and ranged in position from pages to circ desk staff to children's librarians to Steve, who ditched the program he told me he was going to attend so that he could heckle me.

First, I have to say that this group had to have the youngest average age of any library group with which I've discussed the Scan. There were several gamers in the group, and they validated what the Scan pointed out about how online gamers compete, collaborate, and create. CH-UH is going into self-serve circulation in a big way, and we talked a lot about the social interaction that the library must offer. This led us into a discussion of the need of the library (especially the public library?) to continue to offer services that appeal both to their traditional, albeit aging, clientele, and to newer, albeit more fickle, potential clientele. When you have to go to the voters for an operating levy, you can't afford to alienate large blocs of potential supporters, right?

The discussion about how digital rights management will shape what services libraries will be able to offer in the future was quite spirited. I think library staff are gaining a deeper understanding of how the shift from copyright law to contract law in acquiring materials will come back to haunt them.

One of the CH-UH staffers asked a wonderful question about how libraries can know which formats or technologies are going to be dominant in the future. I said if we knew this, we could be investors in, rather than consumers of, these products, and we could all retire early. But it seems to me that the real goal is to do something. If we sit back and wait to see which search engine emerges as the winner, or if the much-rumored Google browser will challenge Internet Explorer's dominance, then we will miss the boat.

Because CH-UH is launching a major construction project shortly and space assignments must be made, Steve asked about the future of various formats. Micro formats continue to appear vulnerable as a widely distributed medium; it's important to have microfilmed versions of journal and newspaper titles, but does every library need to have a full run of, say, The New York Times, or is it more important to know that there are a few copies of this spread out in various collections in case something happens to the online version? There was a lot of discussion about the Open WorldCat program, but Steve pointed up that even though CH-UH gets its records into OCLC though their participation in CLEVNET, their records won't show up in Google or Yahoo until we can expose local data records, too.

The 60 minutes allotted for this program seemed to vanish in a few seconds, but afterwards, Steve and I and one of his staff members (whose name I carelessly mislaid) had a brief but intense (and friendly!) discussion about the future of the book. I think the paper book has a long future, although perhaps in more limited roles than what we have known to date (goodbye reference books, for example). Steve was less sanguine about this than I am, but his staffer was passionate about the long-term viability of dead dinosaurs on dead trees!

Next week, I will be doing a three-hour program with another group of Ohio librarians, this time a mixed group of public, academic, special, and maybe even school librarians brought together by CAMLS, the regional library system in Northeastern Ohio. For this program, I'll do much of the Scan stump speech (with whatever soapboxes I happen to be mounting next week!), but we will also do some work on how we can apply what the Scan suggests to the on-the-ground realities of running a library today. It should be fun. If it is, I'll blog it. If it's not, you won't hear about it from me!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Charging for Online Content

Vin Crosbie (another content pundit I read regularly) writes at ClickZ about the New England Journal of Medicine's model for balancing for-free versus for-fee content. Some interesting points and Jenny the Shifted Librarian would approve of NEJM's embracing of handhelds for acquiring content.

For any organization with content markets outside North America, the ability to deliver content to handheld devices will be crucial, given the preference in many countries for such devices over personal computers.

"Initially, we thought online-only would be most attractive to subscribers overseas. But we soon discovered that U.S. physicians found the online-only subscription option on their own, without any promotion," said Anderson. "So we accepted their choice and began promoting it domestically, overcoming the cannibalization fear."

NEJM recognizes the PDA is taking the place of the "fat little notebook" in the coat pockets of many physicians. A subscriber can use a wired or wireless PDA, or other handheld devices, to access full texts of the current NEJM plus the archive of all articles back to 1996, arranged in 51 topics. A subscriber can also use a PDA to request a PDF of an article (including medical imagery) be e-mailed to his PC.

"I'm very enthused about the future of electronic media in communicating medical research results and educating physicians and trainees," Anderson said. "The rate at which de facto standards like PowerPoint, digital video, and MP3 are propagating themselves hints at new forms of editorial expression emerging and being easily adopted. It's the best way to communicate rapidly with a large and growing audience."

"The habits of trainees show that they will expect completely linked information access for their entire professional lives. It sometimes makes my head spin, but then I get back to taking it step by step. That's the only way to untangle this future we're headed toward, I guess."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Trouble in blogland?

Blogger is acting up.

This is a test of the emergency blogging system.

This is only a test.

CML mi fe

So Monday saw Alane and I down at the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Staff Expo Day.

Alane gave a keynote session about the Environmental Scan, and then Jack Blount of Dynix gave an overview of their new ILS system. CML is in the process of migrating from their homegrown proprietary software system to an open-source, off-the-shelf modular system.

Questions ranged everywhere from people asking Alane about the Open WorldCat Program, "When are the full 56 million records going to be available through Yahoo! Google, MSN?" to broader questions of how we can help our users recognize that the materials they need are in fact on the shelf already.

An "oh yeah" moment
That was an "Oh Yeah..." moment for me. I had forgotten that perspective. Here at OCLC, we tend to think that the information world is your oyster--if materials are out there somewhere, you as a user should be able to get your hands on them.

Sometimes we (I) forget that everyday public library users would usually (maybe?) be just as satisfied with a similar book that is on the shelf right now, as opposed to the exact one they found on WorldCat that is half-way across the country. ILL is fantastic, but there's little need to request Fodor's 2004 Guide to Siena, when the Lonely Planet Tuscany 2003 Guide happily awaits you at 5 paces. For example.

Still, it's always good to hear what's on people's minds, when they have a chance to step back and think about the library profession as a whole and how they serve their particular clientele.

A funny side note
The CML Executive Director, Patrick Losinski, listed off a litany of improvements CML has made in the past year. They've opened a new branch, implemented a new call center with a new phone system, streamlined self-checkout, improved cataloging turnaround to a mere 48 hours...the list goes on. But what, you may ask, got the most applause from a roomful of CML library staffers? New photocopiers in all the branches.

So that just goes to show, all improvements are appreciated. Even seemingly small ones.

Friday I'm heading over to the Otterbein academic library, to learn more about a reference librarian who has teamed up with the MBA curriculum professor and team-teaches the classes. Through Blackboard. Or so I am given to understand. I will let you know what I find out.

Until then, I leave you with one of my favorite Dante quotations, vis a vis Ezra Pound, "Siena mi fe, e disfece mi Maremma." ("Siena made me, the Maremma destroyed me.")

Friday, October 08, 2004

Getting There vs Being There

A rich day for content discussions.

First, I am going to respond to Mr. Tivo Repairman's comments from yesterday. George, you don't smoke anymore, but you do still drink scotch. Take another role model for this problem: Amanda Cross's detecting academic Kate Fansler doesn't ever seem to have had a problem that a few Laphroaigs didn't help with. Or was it Lagavulin? (My favourite scotch, Scapa, from the Orkney Islands, is given a rather ho-hum review at "Scapa is interesting, but has never been considered a front runner." Oh well, that much might be said of many of us)

George and I actually had a lively exchange on email on the topic of Google Print. George had passed on a remark from someone else that WorldCat records better show up in Google Print results (if you're not familiar with why that might be the case, check out the OCLC Open WorldCat pilots with Google and Yahoo! Search here). My flip response was "why the heck would they?
Open WC doesn't link to content directly at the moment, just metadata. People don't want metadata."

At which point George replied:
"So we might as well not bother doing this [Open WorldCat] at all? If people don't want metadata, why bother with anything except book museums? No way all that text is ever going to be converted to digital content, at least not in our lifetimes."

At which point I mounted one of my herd of trusty hobby horses and replied:

"Well, it's all a bit more complex than that, isn't it? People do want metadata--they just don't know they do. They want it because they want a good 'findability' experience and they want relevant content, and we metadata mavens know that good content is enhanced, augmented, enriched etc by metadata. But to ask ordinary people to be excited by finding metadata not content is akin to expecting the traveler to be given a map at the airport and told to find their own way to Peoria.."whaddya mean you're not impressed? We've given you the map!" Not unreasonably, people want someone else to worry about the mechanics and physics of flying planes so they end up in Peoria without having to think too stenuously about wing flaps and fuel weight. The libraryland equivalent of air travel would have the entire crew and passengers crowded in the cockpit attempting to decipher the metadata guiding the trip to the destination--and yet only 2 people out of 157 are actually interested in and qualified to interpret the metadata.

To add to this, metadata dangles the destination in front of the traveller--"Find In a Library" suggest the traveller might be able to sit back and enjoy the flight--thanks for choosing WorldCat, operated by our partner Google--but actually has them change planes in mid-air without benefit of instructions or parachutes. The "Find In A Library" trip currently leaves them on the wingtip of the AeroFlot Library OPAC, expects them to find a way inside, and navigate an alien layout and language until they find the cockpit....and another map to Peoria!

And of course all content will not be digital but if there are 477 ways to Peoria then the easiest, fastest ones will be the most valued. If there's only one, difficult, unknown way to Shangri-la, then a map will be valued for that journey."

End of soapbox and I hasten to add --as my personal self and my OCLC self--I think Open WorldCat is an excellent step towards getting valuable library content out into the world, and it would be an even better step if we could pass searchers seamlessly from the Google and Yahoo interfaces directly into the OPAC but we can't at the moment because the local system vendors aren't exactly queuing up to work with OCLC to make this happen. Given we've seen really spectacular increases in the number of click throughs from Google and Yahoo, perhaps the ILS vendors will soon see there is a lot of interest in getting inside the OPAC from the Web. And many, many people are unabashedly enthusiastic about the results they ARE getting--imagine when we can streamline the "findability" even more!

George then posed good and hard questions:
"So what do we (the library community, that is) *do* with what we have? So if we do not compete with Amazon and Google, what is our niche?"

Well, that's the hard part, isn't it? And when we--you and me, George--do scanny presentations, aren't we pushing these questions into the forefront of librarians' attention? But we at OCLC have to think hard about this too. But I'm not going to today.

Here's some more very relevant food for thought. Over on, Rafat has Patrick Spain, founder (and a past CEO of Hoover's) of HighBeam Research (used to be eLibrary) as a guest blogger for the week, Oct 4-8. All his posts are interesting but today's really resonated given George's and my conversation.

Here's the main points (if you have time, read his other posts too)
  • Users don't care where the information comes from. They just want to know what is out there. So failing to include the free Web with your paid service is a big mistake.
  • Failing to provide premium for pay information on your free search is just as big a mistake. If the answer to a question relates to health or wealth, people will pay.
  • You have to be very clear and honest with users about what is free and what is paid. Don't try to charge for content that is free elsewhere.
  • Users want a fast, intuitive interface to do their searches. Our typical users decide in a couple of seconds whether we are a useful service.
  • Advertising on a for-pay site that does not interfere with the use of the site (as much of the advertising on free sites does) has no deleterious effects on sign up rates or retention. Done right, advertising enhances the attractiveness of a publication. Just ask The Wall Street Journal.
  • Free search and free trials are essential to demonstrate to users that you can be useful to them.
  • Enable the ability to save and repeat searches, store knowledge and convert that knowledgeable to usable form as a report, a contact, a spreadsheet or a presentation.
  • You can't charge just for content. Charge for the convenience and delight of using your service. Why does Starbucks get 2-3 times what McDonald's does for a cup of coffee?

Why indeed?

I am thinking my librarian's skills would make me a natural for this job. Or that the forecasting aspect of my current job may lead me to this.

Happy Thanksgiving to Canadian readers.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Google Print

Well, Google made it official today: they are not going to take Amazon's advance into search engines (see lying down. Google Print will, in the words of a USA Today article this morning, "lets users search through pages of books online."

The mission of OCLC, as originally enunciated by our founder, Fred Kilgour, is to further access to the world's information. According to their website, "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Since a lot of the world's information isn't yet online, we're helping to get it there. Google Print puts the content of books where you can find it most easily; right in Google search results."

So how should we as librarians and library workers and library users feel about this? Should I be happy because this is the dawning of a golden age of information widely disseminated and enjoyed, a flowering of a new renaissance that will see every individual reach his or her greatest potential? Or should I be suspicious that is just another smash and grab job on the part of big business to cut into more market share? Or should I prepare to go to DeVry and learn TiVo repair, because the prospects for my profession have just become about as rosy as being a member of a Milli Vanilli tribute band?

As Sherlock Holmes would say, this is a three pipe problem. I wish I still smoked.

Monday, October 04, 2004

You don't have to love everything

Alane and I had an in-person chat today. Great things happen when I sit face to face with someone. Don't get me wrong--I love e-mail, chat, IM, phone calls--but they are no substitute for the real deal.

Which brings me to my post. As Alane was telling me about her University of Victoria adventures during her British Columbia visit--how the staff was wrestling with how to make changes in their library (she'll blog about the speed dating idea!) I started to realize that not everyone in your library has to love everything.

Now that sounds ridiculous on the face of it, but I personally have been in the "we love all things techno-hip" groove for so long, I had lost sight of the fact that we need all kinds of people in our libraries.

If we all jump to E-scan world where we're gaming with our users and doing micropayments for microcontent and thinking of the library as the 3rd place--then who does the preservation work, or children's storytime, or the myriad of additional activities that your library does and continues to do and will continue to do...?

In short, for the e-scan world to come about, you'll need some champions in your library. Change can be a looooong process. But you'll also need people who appreciate scan world and live fully in it, but prefer to support other activities.

That is to say, not everyone has to love everything. We need as much face-to-face time as we do digital.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Urban Libraries Council

I just finished an audioconference sponsored by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) on the E-Scan. Titled "Thinking Forward: Trends Shaping Public Libraries," the conference also included Martín Gómez, the President of ULC, as the moderator; Ginnie Cooper, the director of Brooklyn Public Library; Mona Carmack, the County Librarian for Johnson County Public Library, just outside of Kansas City; Bob Martin, the Executive Director of the Institute for Museum and Library Services; and Mike Crandall, the soon-to-depart Technology Manager for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and soon-to-arrive educator at the University of Washington's Information School.

First, let me say if you ever get a chance to do an audioconference, do it. There's nothing better than being able to do a talk without putting on a tie or getting on an airplane.

Second, this discussion raised some really good issues about the future of public libraries. For example, Mona Carmack (one of the people we interviewed for the Library section of the Scan, and a former member of our Advisory Committee on Public Libraries) talked about the need to run "dual systems" as libraries morph into what they will become. Ginnie Cooper picked up on this as she talked about staff needs for training and understanding.

Martín Gómez asked Bob Martin if the people inside the Washington Beltway were saying that libraries are not going to be needed since everything is on the web. Bob said that this sort of thinking seems to have peaked several years ago, and as more people have experience with the web, and understand its limitations, the need for libraries becomes even more apparent. He stressed that the web is good for deluging the user with information, but libraries continue to have a role in the transformation of information to knowledge (and who knows, maybe even to wisdom...)

Mike Crandall talked about the various levels at which libraries around the world exist today, and spoke about what the Gates Foundation has learned in its interactions in Chile. Martín said it sounded as if we could learn from libraries outside the US, and Mike strongly agreed with him. Ginnie noted that one thing that we could learn is how to skip generations of unproductive or superseded technology to get right to the heart of what's needed now.

We had a lot of good questions from the 77 sites that participated in the call. One caller asked about how the library community could affect change with its suppliers. My answer was that you have to ask. I said that many of OCLC's new products and services came about because libraries asked for them, in RFPs, in meetings with sales staff, in discussion with network staff, when they stop by our booth at conferences. I also said that the best way to do this is to get state associations, regional cooperatives, and affinity groups to pull together to make these suggestions, to add weight to them. Another question that I wish I could answer dealt with how you can pick the trends from the fads; if I knew that one, I'd own my own blog. I did suggest that if enough of us pick up on a fad, it could become a trend if we reach the critical mass.

I'll be on the road a lot over the next few weeks talking about the scan (and tomorrow, a side trip to the Ohio Library Council conference to talk about WebJunction). I hope the rest of the programs are as interesting and challenging as this one, but without that cast of reactors, it's hard to see how they could be!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Blogging For or From OCLC?

Our esteemed colleague in blogland, Jenny Levine, commented a few days ago about her surprise that more news had not appeared in her mailbox about OCLC's acquisition of 24/7 or the recent deal with Yahoo, either by conventional means or this blog. Well, that caused a fair wee bit of soul searching at OCLC, and the end of the story isn't written.

OCLC has several means of officially disseminating news but we are not yet using an RSS feed to let interested people get product updates, press releases and technical bulletins. We're working on it. (I know, you're thinking, how hard is that?)

And as this blog is a George, Alane and Alice production, (with full approval from our bosses--most days) and not an official OCLC vehicle, we quite deliberately decided not to use it as a platform to, um, flog OCLC services and products. Perhaps we're being too hands' off?

I am in Vancouver, British I have mentioned before, my library degree is from UBC and it is always a great pleasure to come back here. I'll be talking to the students in the library and archival programs at UBC on Thursday. Wendy McGinnis, the OCLC Director of PR, will be with me and we're hoping a Newsletter article will be the result--what are those librarians/archivists-to-be thinking?

I know I am thinking that I'm older now than half of my library school professors were!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A Big Win in the Big Easy

George just pointed out: we got a mention in COOL.

Clearly, we must be doing something right.

And did everyone see the Information Week article last week, Media & Entertainment: From Games To Ads, Self-Service Works ? I admit, it's not exactly the kind of self-service we think of in the library space, but the headline alone caught my eye as being "scanny," as Alane calls it.

So where have I been lately?
Just got back from a weekend in New Orleans. The Big Easy, the Cresent City, NOLA. What other city has so many nicknames?

Ate at a great restaurant, Jacques-Imo's and went to The Maple Leaf, next door. Fantastic, both. Next time ALA is in New Orleans, save up for the cab ride out there. Or perhaps we can go together as one big group? The "It's all good," party of 1,442+3? Your table is ready. (Disclaimer: 1,442 is what reported as our inbound links.

Chaotic casinos
Dropped into Harrah's, in case Lady Luck was with us (assuredly, she was not). What surprised me was the information design (or seeming LACK of it) on the video slot machines. There were rows and rows of loud, blinking, flashing machines--all competing for my attention and all fairly enigmatic to the uninitiated. Each time I would bet my nickel, I would have to renavigate again (which button do I push now? What one makes the fruit spin? Why can I pull the lever or push the button and the same result happens?)

Good information design
Could the library ever be this bewildering? It made me remember once again that even an activity most people take for granted (playing slots, using an OPAC), can be disorientating. Calm, clear pathways of navigation would have helped. As an information consumer, I was happy to figure it out, myself. I just needed the basic clues to get me started. Eventually, of course, I was able to self-serve:

I was able to successfully lose all the money I had fed into the machine.