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.