Future Libraries

Greetings Library Scientist

The California Library Association is pretty much like every other regional library association I’ve seen, not least because their most visible presence is their annual conference. It may be the season, but the CLA is more politically active than others I’ve known. At their core, most such associations exist to promote efficient transfer of operational knowledge from […] » about 800 words

eBook User’s Bill of Rights

It’s easy to see the eBook User’s Bill of Rights as a sign of the growing rift between libraries and content producers. Easy if you’re me, anyway. It connects very conveniently with Richard Stallman’s open letter to the Boston Public Library decrying what he summarizes as their complicity with DRM and abdication of their responsibilities […] » about 300 words

Pearls Of Wisdom In Mail List Threads

David Cloutman on Code4Lib:

Don’t forget to look at trends outside of “Libraryland”. A lot of professional library discussion takes place in an echo chamber, and bad ideas often get repeated and gain credibility as a result. Librarians usually overstate the uniqueness of their organizations and professions. When the question, “What are other libraries doing?” arises in addressing a technical problem, don’t be afraid to generalize the question to other types of organizations. Too often, the answer to the question, “What are other libraries doing?” is “Failing.” Emulate for the sake of success, not conformity.

It’s a point I’m always trying to make: look outside your specialization.

College Students Use, Love, Are Aware Of The Limitations Of Wikipedia

How Today’s College Students Use Wikipedia For Course-Related Research: Overall, college students use Wikipedia. But, they do so knowing its limitation. They use Wikipedia just as most of us do — because it is a quick way to get started and it has some, but not deep, credibility. 52% of respondents use Wikipedia frequently or […] » about 200 words

Who Gets To Control The Future Of Libraries?

The following was my email response to a thread on the web4lib mail list: Okay, it must be said: you’re all wrong[1]. I can understand that news of a librarian being fired/furloughed will raise our defenses, but that’s no excuse for giving up the considered and critical thinking that this occasion demands. Consider this: the […] » about 400 words

Wolfram|Alpha’s Missing Feature: Libraries

John Timmer brings up my two biggest complaints about Wolfram|Alpha. The first is that it’s even harder to identify the source of information than it is in Wikipedia, the other is what happens when searches fail:

A bad Web search typically brings up results that help you refine your search terms; a bad Alpha search returns nothing, and it’s not clear that there’s an easy way to fix that.

Here’s a simple way: have Alpha fall back on library data. One example he offers, “global bioethanol production,” is perfect for both library reference and bibliographic collections.

Google Book Search offers a few promising hits for that query, as does Google Scholar. And if we imagine that search in the context of faceted collections, we’d be able to identify subjects the search phrase is associated with and offer additional access points. Add to that some crowdsourcing opportunities for users to expand the knowledge base by identifying an item or piece of text that answers their question and we’ll have a real competitor to Google.

Juice Your OPAC

Richard Wallace’s Juice project (Javascript User Interface Componentised Extensions) is a “simple componentised framework constructed in Javascript to enable the sharing of Ajax Stye extensions to a web interface.”

WordPress or Scriblio users might do well to think about it as a way to put widgets on systems that don’t support widgets, though as Richard points out, “the framework is applicable to any environment which, via identifiers contained within a html page, needs to link to or embed external resources.”

Way Cooler Than A Catalog

I got a little excited when Shirley Lincicum wrote to the NGC4Lib mail list: [O]ne of the most frustrating things for me about Next Generation Catalog systems as they currently exist is that they seem wholly focused on the user interface and can, in fact, actually hold libraries back from designing or implementing improved “back […] » about 500 words