Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 12, no. 5, May 2001

Edited by Roy Tennant

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 - http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2001/cc01.12.5.html

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Margaret Gross, Terry Huwe, Leo Robert Klein, Eric Lease Morgan, Margaret Phillips, Roy Tennant

"At the Library, Cataloguing the Missteps" International Herald Tribune, (May 3, 2001)(http://www.iht.com/articles/18731.html). - Less than flattering appraisal of the new French National Library condemned for everything from being too colossal to being in the wrong part of Paris. "...A library is its collections," says one critic intimating that perhaps French officials got their priorities wrong. A library is also the people it serves and apparently the planners got that wrong as well. - LRK

Baker, Nicholson. Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper New York: Random House, 2001. - Those of you familiar with Nicholson Baker's previous diatribes against libraries jettisoning the card catalog in favor of automated library systems will not be surprised by this book. Only now his jeremiad is about how libraries and archives microfilmed newspapers and then discarded or pulped the originals. We can take Baker to task for some of his conclusions, intimations of conspiracy, and illusions of bad intent, but at their root the facts are difficult to dispute. Libraries did microfilm newspapers, and they did throw away the originals. Libraries must look carefully at the actions of the past and consider their ramifications regarding their collections now and in the future — particularly as digitization takes hold in many institutions. Unfortunately, calm consideration of the issues is difficult when the depictions and descriptions he uses are meant to inflame more than inform, and to advocate rather than enlighten. His audience is the general public, and in trying to hold their attention he tends toward hyperbole and theatrical tricks, when libraries are all just trying to do the best they can for their particular audiences, given the resources they're given to do it. - RT

Black, Alistair and Rodney Brunt, "MI5, 1909-1946: An Information Management Perspective" Journal of Information Science 26(3) (2000): 185-197. (http://www.thenutshell.co.uk/content/secure/E-Journals/PDFs/ji260308.pdf); Newman, Niles C., Alan L. Porter and Julie Yang, "Information Professionals: Changing Tools, Changing Roles" Information Outlook (March 200): 24. - In judging the titles, one could assume that these two articles are disparate, in sharp contrast,  and even contradictory. Black and Brunt of Leeds Metropolitan University, U.K., present the foibles and pitfalls of information management in the slow paced past, while Newman et. al.  attempt to forecast future information management practices, within the context of rapid change. They state that the information professional may become intimidated and feel threatened. The common theme which permeates both articles is the value and importance of effective information management. As such, those managing information must combine several key skills: 1. negotiate exponential growth and increased demand, 2. provide value added interpretation and analysis of data, and 3. communicate these in a timely manner. All of the preceding are pivotal to the decision-making process. As we are in the present, positioned between the past and a rapidly changing future, it is reassuring, validating, and even comforting to know that these challenges are neither novel, nor radical. Information management techniques and practices may be evolving, but are an intrinsic component of the continuum of the intelligent decision process. As technology evolves, we are not reinventing the wheel, just improving it. MI5 is Britain's leading counter-intelligence agency. Shortly after its inception in 1909, it became evident that in order to succeed in its mission, the establishment of an efficient system for information gathering, storage, retrieval, analysis, and interpretation was paramount. Using recently declassified documents in the Public Record Office, Black and Brunt demonstrate that the value of information management was recognized long before the advent of the computer. In tracing the history, they note that despite the critical value of information, there were times when it was allowed to degrade. The hierarchy of priorities was determined largely by the inward focus of MI5's charismatic leaders. Thus the quality and timeliness of intelligence information deteriorated between world wars. Lacking evidence to the contrary, the authors conclude that the degradation resulted from an absence of information management practice based on widely accepted business and library science standards. During the second world war, needs dictated that information management, integral to decision making, be once again accorded primacy. Black and Brunt's article does not read like a cloak and dagger novella. Rather it is a scholarly study of the benefits of systematic information management within an organization, albeit one dealing with espionage. Newman et. al. propose that the convergence of new technologies will radically alter the role of information professionals. The information professional's principle objectives are the management and rapid distillation of information to reinforce the decision making process. Information management will assume a new dimension as new skills are acquired, and new intelligent tools are utilized. The authors present four trends, the drivers behind each trend, as well as how these will impact the information professionals' skills and roles. After reading both articles,  it becomes clear that expert tools, research profiles, scripts and macros are indeed propelled by new technology. The practical aims of information management, however, remain constant. - MG

Brown, Michael, et. al. "Building Large-Format Displays for Digital Libraries", Communications of the ACM 44(5) (May 2001): 57-59. - When considering weak links in the chain of distribution for online media it's rare that 20 inch monitors are singled out as inadequate but that's precisely what the authors in this article do. The problem as they see it is that even a 20 inch monitor will hardly do justice to objects — say, the ceiling-scraping David by Michelangelo — which are far larger. Their solution is to run a string of inexpensive projectors in parallel against a large wall in a vision of "immersive" displays which currently may only be available at planetariums or IMAX cinemas. - LRK

Cattagni, Anne and Elizabeth Farris. Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2000. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education. (May 2001) (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2001071). - This study of internet access in U.S. public schools finds that "almost all" schools now have access to the net. Access has gone from 35% to 98% in the period 1994-2000. Access is not equal for all types of schools — the study points to disparities based on income and race though there are improvements here as well. The study also looks at the type of connection and connection speed, hours of availability and methods used to prevent student access to inappropriate material. - LRK

Cover, Robin. SGML/XML Bibliography (http://www.oasis-open.org/cover/biblio.html). - There's a reason why I don't provide extensive coverage of SGML/XML and related topics in my Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography. I admit it: I don't want to compete with Robin Cover, author of the frequently updated and all-inclusive SGML/XML Bibliography. This annotated bibliography is definitely the place to go if you want in-depth information about these key standards, complete with links to the literature (if available) and related links. Yeah, it would be nice if the newer updates to the bibliography about XML were integrated into the base document, which has references to over 2,000 works as of 1998. But, given the amount of work that has gone into this document, who can really complain? Did I mention that the bibliography is only a part of a much bigger Web site called The XML Cover Pages (http://www.oasis-open.org/cover/sgml-xml.html), edited by Cover? Want news, overviews, archive sites, publications, user groups, event listings, mailing lists, software tools and much more about an alphabet soup of markup language standards? You got it. Give yourself plenty of time to read it. - CB

Cranefield, Stephen. "Networked Knowledge Representation and Exchange using UML and RDF" Journal of Digital Information 1(8) (February 2001) (http://jodi.ecs.soton.ac.uk/Articles/v01/i08/Cranefield/). - This article describes how UML (Universal Modeling Language) can be used to encode the "knowledge" represented by Web pages. It does this by describing the strengths and weaknesses of UML and RDF (Resource Discovery Framework), and then describes an online process for exchanging the two through XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations). Cranefield notes the process is not perfect. The term "knowledge" is used in a philosophically very informal way, but the text demonstrates how information can easily be converted from one format to another for the purposes of extracting and possibly representing meaning. - ELM

Fox, Edward A. and Gary Marchioni, guest editors. "Digital Libraries" Communications of the ACM 44(5) (May 2001): 31-68. - This collection of articles, short pieces, and sidebars continues CACM's tradition of revisiting digital library research on a periodic basis by devoting the bulk of an issue to the topic. As usual, it is a bit of a mixed bag, but nearly all the pieces are devoted to the findings of DL research — research that may never result in actual, functioning digital library services. A stand-out in this crowd is the piece from the Perseus Project ("Drudgery and Deep Thought"), which is not only tackling infrastructure issues but is also a destination that has a large amount of interesting content. A short piece from Christine Borgman reminding everyone that library services from human beings are still needed in this brave new world, and another from the New Zealand Digital Library on their Greenstone software that they are using to provide access to a large collection of content, are worth the few minutes required to read them. Another short piece is cited elsewhere in this issue of Current Cites. - RT

Glanz, James. "The World of Science Becomes a Global Village: Archive Opens a New Realm of Research." The New York Times (May 1, 2001). - Founded more than 10 years ago by physicist Paul Ginsparg, the web-based archive at Los Alamos National Labs (http://arXiv.org/, known variously as the Los Alamos pre-print server, electronic archive or database of physics papers and, quaintly, the Los Alamos electronic bulletin board) no longer qualifies as breaking news in the world of information technology. This article focuses on how the archive has changed physics by encouraging multinational collaboration and erasing geopolitical boundaries. Researchers in resource-poor institutions now have free access to the latest reports in their field. At the same time, a physicist from, say, a small research institute outside of Tehran can engage in scientific dialogue with researchers from major institutions in the US and Europe. - MP

Helton Rennels, Diana, and Fairhurst Taylor, Jill. "Teacher's Palette" First Monday 6(4) (April 2, 2001) (http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue6_4/rennels/). - In 1998, the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) University Library received a grant from the Institute of Museums and Libraries (IMLS) to study the uses of digital technology in art education. As part of the program, twelve teachers became part of a pilot program to integrate digital resources into a classroom teaching environment. This article describes their experience, and the graphic elements the authors include capture the delight of introducing art to children and seeing what they create. It also sounds a promising note for successful implementations of digital technology in the classroom, which is notoriously unforgiving on hardware, software and curriculum planners. - TH

Hunter, Jane. "MetaNet — A Metadata Term Thesaurus to Enable Semantic Interoperability Between Metadata Domains" Journal of Digital Information 1(8) (February 2001) (http://jodi.ecs.soton.ac.uk/Articles/v01/i08/Hunter/). - Mapping terminology and cross-walks are all the rage when it comes to gathering and homogenizing sets of XML data. The problems of mapping (exact matches and semantic mappings) are articulated, and the use of a thesaurus — MetaNet — is posited as an alternative solution. Instead of "hardwiring" ontologies between data, terms looked up in a thesaurus with the usual characteristics in order to build mappings and crosswalks. This is interesting because what is old is new again; take note of how a age-old library tool is being used in a new environment. - ELM

Maly, Kurt and Mohammad Zubair and Xiaoming Liu. "Kepler - An OAI Data/Service Provider for the Individual" D-Lib Magazine 7(4) (April 2001) (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/april01/maly/04maly.html). - This article describes a simple Open Archives Initiative repository tool called Kepler. By using this application individual researchers can participate in the OAI with a minimum of effort. Kepler is a bit different from other OAI repository tools. First, it uses a file system to store its data, not a database. Second, and more importantly, Kepler works in conjunction with a "registration" server. This registration server is modeled on the idea of peer-to-peer networking schemes such as Napster. If used in the way it was designed, Kepler can facilitate wide-scale dissemination of scholarly papers and information. No fuss. No muss. - ELM

Mann, Charles C. "Electronic Paper Turns the Page." Technology Review 104 (March 2001): 42-48 (http://www.technologyreview.com/magazine/mar01/mann.asp) - The problem with current e-book readers is that they are not books. It's hard to read text on those little screens, especially in strong light, and you lose the navigation capabilities, broader context, and mnemonic qualities that flipping pages provides. Sure you can do neat stuff like searching, but what are you going to take to the beach? Enter e-paper—flexible plastic sheets that conduct electricity and are stamped with circuits that control a layer of e-ink to create black-and-white characters and images. In the future, take a few hundred sheets of e-paper and add a hard cover plus an electronic spine crammed with a cpu, a storage device, and a wireless board. Result: an e-book that looks like a book and works like a book, but stores countless works and supports searching, linking, and dynamic updating via the Internet. How far in the future? Maybe a few years, maybe a decade. Still, this is a technology to keep an eye on. - CB

Proceedings of the 10th National ACRL Conference, Denver, CO, March 15-18, 2001 Association of College and Research Libraries, American Library Association, 2001 (http://www.ala.org/acrl/protindex01.html). - These wide-ranging papers touch on a variety of topics relating to academic libraries. If you're an academic librarian, there's probably something of interest to you here. The problem is that you will have a hard time finding it. Since papers are listed alphabetically by title or by author, there is nothing to do but scan the titles from A to Z looking for papers of interest. They are in Adobe Acrobat format only, and no searching is provided. However, there are gems here worth the trouble, so be persistent. - RT

Scigliano, John A. "John A. Scigliano interviews Allan B. Ellis" The Internet and Higher Education 3(1-2) (1st Quarter-2nd Quarter 2000): 125-139. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6W4X-430XMJH-9/1/d33a5ee8a2b0 146f880eeee8b31ba10b). - That old time religion is what seethes through this interview with computer and automation pioneer Allan Ellis as he recalls early efforts while at Harvard in automating various functions of the local school system. Ellis recalls the vision, widely held at the time, that not only was the computer going to speed things up but that it would allow us — nay, require us — to rethink much of what we do. "Thinking about computers in education does not mean thinking about computers," Ellis says quoting himself from an earlier age, "it means thinking about education." - LRK

Wiggins, Richard. "Digital Preservation: Paradox & Promise" NetConnect A supplement to Library Journal and School Library Journal (Spring 2001): 12-15 (http://www.libraryjournal.com/digital_preservation.asp). - In his usual interesting and highly-readable style, Wiggins takes on a familiar topic but brings a new perspective. Citing the overnight disappearance of a large collection of government content during the recent presidential transition (at least some of which may yet become available again, albeit in a different place), Wiggins outlines modes of "digital death" (let me count the ways...), or the ways in which digital information can disappear. There are many, and they lean toward the mundane and trivial (e.g., the information provider loses interest) rather than the dramatic (e.g., disaster). If digital data goes into that dark night, he seems to assert, it will mostly go quietly. A sidebar on the ironic disappearance of an archive that set out to preserve digital serials provides a tragic example of how commitment means almost everything in digital preservation, with any other issue being a far, far distant second. - RT

Wilhelm, Anthony G. "They Threw Me a Computer — But What I Really Needed Was a Life Preserver." First Monday 6(4) (April 2, 2001) (http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue6_4/wilhelm/). - This is the keynote address of "Web-Wise: The Second Annual Conference on Libraries and Museums in the Digital World", and the author uses his pulpit to speak earnestly about the vital roles that information professionals play in bridging the digital divide. He identifies four attributes of the digital divide — literacy, access, content and training — and explores the record of libraries and museums in addressing the ongoing challenge of meeting end users on their own terms. It will not come as a surprise to public service providers that he builds a strong case for the importance of "people" skills-emphasizing human interaction alongside technology. He argues that a personal touch is all the more needed to move the truly disadvantaged into the digital arena. - TH


Current Cites 12(5) (May 2001) ISSN: 1060-2356
Copyright © 2001 by the Regents of the University of California All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2001 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Document maintained at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2001/cc01.12.5.html by Roy Tennant.
Last update May 25, 2001. SunSITE Manager: manager@sunsite.berkeley.edu