Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 10, no. 9, September 1999

Edited by Teri Andrews Rinne

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 - http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/1999/cc99.10.9.html

Contributors: Terry Huwe, Margaret Phillips, Jim Ronningen, Roy Tennant, Lisa Yesson

Cheverie, Joan F. "Federal Information in the Networked Environment: A Perspective from the Coalition for Networked Information" Heisser, David C.R. "Federal Depository Program at the Crossroads: The Library Administrator's Perspective" Government Information Quarterly 16(3) (July 1999) - The focus of this pair of articles is nothing less than our system of accountability for the U.S. federal government, in theory and in practice. The first article raises issues regarding future networked access to federal documents, and the second examines the health of the primary conduit for them: the Depository Program, administered by the Government Printing Office. Cheverie ponders the very nature of this type of information, and poses questions about its availability, reliability and use, including aspects of the librarian's function. Heisser surveyed 24 depository libraries and interviewed directors and documents librarians; his findings focus on the stresses placed on the system by the push toward electronic formats. He concludes that, despite the pressure of constant adaptation to change, people who are instrumental in the depository program are dedicated to their mission, and will remain vigilant so that the principle of free public access will not become compromised by privatization, fragmentation or legislative neglect. - JR

Chudnov, Daniel. "Open Source Software: The Future of Library Systems?" American Libraries 124(13) (August 1999): 40-43. - Open source software (software for which the source code is freely distributed) has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the software industry. Apache (an open source web server application) serves up more web pages than any commercial application. Linux (an open source operating system) is thought by some to be capable of competing against Microsoft NT. Meanwhile, open source initiatives in the library world are few and usually of little impact. Chudnov is obviously out to change this, not only by penning this paean to open source, but also by providing some himself (gnujake, mentioned in the piece, is his). As someone involved in my own open source project (SWISH-E, a web site indexing application at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/SWISH-E/) I support Chudnov's plea to "grow the phenomenon." But I also realize that library programmers are hard to find, and managing an open source project is not trivial (anyone can chuck it out there for the taking, but managing the development and refinement of it once it's out there is another thing entirely). That being said, more power to him (and us). As he says, "if you've ever used the Internet, you've used open source software." Perhaps one day we'll be able to say the same about library catalogs or web sites. - RT

Crawford, Walt. Being Analog: Creating Tomorrow's Libraries Chicago: American Library Association, 1999. - In this wide-ranging and no-holds-barred case against "digitopia", Crawford goes after those who predict an all-digital future for the nation's libraries. Who are these people? Well, no one I can think of in the profession of librarianship. So this book, it appears, is ammunition from a technorealist for those needing to persuade their board or administrators that the idea of getting rid of the physical library is...um...premature. But it's more than that as well. Crawford, who frankly sounds a bit ticked off in this book (phrases such as "web crazies" come to mind), is also speaking directly to his readership — librarians. He urges us to think critically about technology (hear! hear!) and implement it thoughtfully and for good reason. He admonishes us to use numeracy and critical thinking skills as shields against pundits, futurists, and doomsayers. He has much to tell us, and in typical style, he does so bluntly and readably. Hang on, since at the very least you're in for an interesting ride, and if you're paying attention you'll be thinking a lot as well. - RT

Crawford, Walt. "Up to Speed on DVD" American Libraries 30(8) (September 1999): 71-74. - Crawford packs a ton of useful and understandable information about a new storage technology into this excellent summary piece. Besides covering all the technical issues, he provides advice to public and academic libraries about how they should regard this new technology (hot) and when they should jump into the game (soon if not now). In summary, he believes DVD to be the most promising technology since CDs, and one that can and should replace technically inferior VHS tapes. If you presently collect material on VHS or CD, you cannot afford to miss this article. - RT

Eakins, John P. and Margaret E. Graham Content-based Image Retrieval: A report to the JISC Technology Applications Programme Newcastle, UK: Institute for Image Data Research, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, January 1999 (http://www.unn.ac.uk/iidr/research/cbir/report.html). - Have you ever wanted to find images based on color, texture, shape, or other image characteristics? I haven't, but read on. This technology, called alternatively Query By Image Content (QBIC) or Content-Based Image Retrieval (CBIR), seeks to provide a method whereby images can be retrieved without first indexing or cataloging them. The idea is that a) indexing or cataloging images is a time-consuming (expensive) undertaking, and b) indexing has it's own problems, such as the difficulty of pre-selecting every aspect of an image by which someone may eventually wish to search. Having the ability to search for images that "look like" a reference image, for example, may be useful in particular instances, such as automatic fingerprint matching and face recognition. If this idea intrigues you, this report should be required reading. Eakins and Graham are relentlessly thorough in their coverage of current CBIR systems and the literature describing such. They conclude that CBIR is exciting but immature, and that it although it is unlikely to completely replace other methods of locating images, it nonetheless will be essential for some applications. - RT

Kelly, Brian. "WebWatch: UK University Search Engines" Ariadne 21 (September 1999) (http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue21/webwatch/). - Making your web site searchable is both easy and very difficult. How so? you say. Well, it's "easy" if you take an existing commercial search engine such as InfoSeek or HotBot and limit their search to your site. What's wrong with that? Well, for starters, you have to put up with their ads on your search results. It gets worse from there. The more difficult route is to install search software on your server, configure it, and maintain it. Sometimes you even need to write code. All the choices are laid out in this overview article masquerading as a survey of UK academic web sites, and the search services they offer. What solution is the most popular? ht://Dig, at over 15% of the sites (but that doesn't necessarily make it the best for your site). Kelly won't get caught recommending any particular solution, rather he lays out important questions web managers should consider in making their selection. - RT

Miller, Paul. "Z39.50 for All" Ariadne 21 (September 1999) (http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue21/z3950/intro.html). - Miller has succeeded in what I have long thought to be impossible — he has explained Z39.50 briefly, simply, and understandably. The text is embellished with screen shots, diagrams, and even its own glossary — an essential element for any explanation of Z39.50. The URLs alone are worth a lot, as Miller has pulled together a lot of pointers to the essential web sites, technical information, and working systems. Anyone interested in Z39.50 should check this out. The rest of us can look (in vain) for the famous Ariadne caption contest; or, better yet, check out the latest Brian Kelly column (see elsewhere in this issue). - RT

Zorn, Peggy et al. "Finding Needles in the Haystack: Mining Meets the Web" Online (23)5 (Sept/Oct 1999):17-28. - In her introduction to this issue of Online, editor Nancy Garman states that since online access tools have become more readily available, there is a growing role for librarians who know how to organize information so that anyone can find it (as opposed to the traditional librarian's role as the intermediary who holds the secret for finding it). For everyone with such aspirations, data mining is an important concept. The ability to analyze data and identify patterns in large databases may seem more relevant to librarians when it's thought of as "text mining" which can be applied to text-rich but insufficiently tagged resources such as Web pages. Mining models fall into three basic categories (classification, clustering, and associations & sequencing) which are clearly explained as tools for handling unstructured networked information. The authors then describe and critique four applications (Dataware II Knowledge Management Suite, SemioMap, Relevance EIC, and Northern Light) which are said to be part of the next wave of interfaces for advanced Web data retrieval and analysis. - JR


Current Cites 10(9) (September 1999) ISSN: 1060-2356
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Editor: Teri Andrews Rinne, trinne@library.berkeley.edu, (510) 642-8173

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Last update October 1, 1999. SunSITE Manager: manager@sunsite.berkeley.edu