Current Cites

Volume 13, no. 12, December 2002

Edited by Roy Tennant

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 -

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Terry Huwe, Leo Robert Klein, Roy Tennant

Albanese, Andrew Richard.  "Cyberspace: The Community FrontierLibrary Journal   (15 November 2002) ( - This interview with John Perry Barlow (co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) briefly but intriguingly touches on his thoughts regarding intellectual property ("an oxymoron"), recent moves by the publishing industry to increase copyright protections ("...impoverishing the advancement of human thought"), and what librarians should do about it ("they need to become more politically involved"). If this is enough to titillate you, run, don't walk to The Economy of Ideas and The Next Economy of Ideas, both published in Wired Magazine (the first well over eight years ago now). In those pieces Barlow mounts a frontal assault against the publishing industry's position that information must be tightly controlled in order to retain it's value. Anyone who needs to defend the right of society to access and use information and ideas (and that means you, if you're a librarian) should know what Barlow has to say. - RT

Cheng, Rachel, Steve  Bischof, and Alan J  Nathanson.  "Data collection for user-oriented library services: Wesleyan University Library's experienceOCLC Systems & Services   18(4) p. 195-204 (2002) ( - Assessment seems all the rage nowadays; and rightfully so. The authors here discuss their experience at Wesleyan University Library in making stats "work for us". This means not simply rounding up the usual numbers but acting on them in order to "reflect changing user needs". That said, the kinds of information collected is impressive: for example, the library's subject guides are automated and librarians can tell not merely how many page views they've gotten but what individual links have caught the eye of the public. Other examples are also discussed. - LRK

Cockrell, Barbara J, and Elaine Anderson  Jayne.  "How do I find an article? Insights from a web usability studyJournal of Academic Librarianship   28(3) p. 122-132 (May-June 2002) ( - I can't let the year expire without citing this delightful article by two librarians at WMU (Kalamazoo). The two did usability testing on people's ability to find "periodical articles" using links from their library's web site. They not only tested undergrads, the usual fall-guys for this sort of study, but grads and faculty as well. No matter what their level, significant numbers of each user group had problems completing the tasks. Users had trouble distinguishing between OPAC and article index, between journal title and article title. No one read instructions or help screens. Participants automatically assumed that bibliographic databases behaved just like web-based search engines. They often chose the first thing on a list. Talk about sloppy searchers! To be fair, they behaved just like normal rational human beings, except of course that they were unable to find any research material. "Far from being downhearted," the authors conclude, "we were empowered and energized by knowing what needed to be addressed." - LRK

Coffman, Steve.  "What's Wrong With Collaborative Digital Reference?"  American Libraries   33(11) p. 56-58 (December 2002) - Coffman is well known as a digital reference advocate (and product manager for LSSI's digital reference product), but in this piece he is critical of collaborative reference. For his central argument he turns to statistics for in-person reference referrals, for which there is at least some evidence that it is a rather under-used service. He cites other issues such as variation in reference practice and styles, as well as national differences such as language and copyright. While low statistics for non-digital reference referrals does not necessarily mean digital reference networks will be under-utilized, Coffman raises questions that are best carefully considered before libraries expend a lot of time, effort, and money on building them. - RT

Kapoor, Dave.  "The next 10 years : DV's contributing editors predict and pontificate on how digital video will change over the next decade. "  DV Magazine   11(1) p. 28-34 (January 2003) - Digital Video Magazine ("DV" to aficionados) celebrates its 10th anniversary this month and probably the most fascinating article isn't the obligatory trip down memory lane (though that's not bad) but the editorial round-up on things to come. Throwing all caution to the winds, the editors prognosticate on everything from the death of miniDV tape (victim of cheap hard drives) to the "Holy Grail" of HDTV for everyone. - LRK

Lawal, Ibironke.  "Scholarly Communication: The Use and Non-Use of E-Print Archives for the Dissemination of Scientific InformationIssues in Science and Technology Librarianship   (Fall 2002) ( - This study examines the use of e-print archives by a random sample of 473 U.S. and Canadian scholars in nine scientific fields of study. Only 18% of the respondents used e-prints, but 90.7% of those who did cited them in articles. Physics/Astronomy had the highest rate of use (51.6%) followed by Mathematics/Computer Science (28.8%). The remaining disciplines ranged between 7.4% (Engineering) and 0% (Chemistry). Why such low levels of use? Leaving aside the "no answer" category, the most frequent reply was "not relevant" with one exception--"against the policy of publishers" was the most frequent answer in Chemistry. The paper also presents interesting data about the use of specific archives, the potential change in archive use if barriers were removed, and when the e-print was made available in the traditional publication cycle. The author discusses the differences in e-print use by discipline in some detail and concludes: "Not all the disciplines are up to speed with using e-print archives partly due to the culture of information use in the various disciplines and partly due to low awareness level." - CB

Levitt, Jason.  "PHP5: Ready For The Enterprise?The Open Enterprise   (4 December 2002) ( - Jason Levitt waxes lyrical about an upcoming version of PHP due out in the summer of 2003. PHP is not just a scripting language, he emotes, it's a Web scripting language. While not quite as easy as he makes out, the PHP-mySQL combination is a popular solution for small- to mid-level sized sites. The next question is whether it can compete with the scripting heavies, .Net (ne ASP) and JSP. No doubt about it, reads the article. PHP is "up to the task of big-iron Web applications." Big Iron! - LRK

Lynch, Beverly P. "The Digital Divide or the Digital Connection: A U.S. PerspectiveFirst Monday   7(10) ( - First Monday is exploring many aspects of the "digital divide", and Lynch's contribution goes a long ways toward slicing the conundrum into smaller social issues. She argues that the term "becomes a shorthand for every conceivable disparity relating to online access". But she cites researcher Pippa Norris's delineation of the problem into three distinct aspects: a global divide between the developed and undeveloped worlds; a social divide between the information rich and the information poor; and a democratic divide between technology users and technophobes. She pays close attention to the historical and contemporary roles that U.S. libraries play in tackling the demand for assistance, and limits her analysis to the American experience. She notes in conclusion that the technological revolution in communications media is relatively new, and most economic research about the social impact of the digital divide remain inconclusive. - TH

Neal, James G..  "Copyright is Dead...Long Live Copyright"  American Libraries   33(11) p. 48-51 (December 2002) - The no-holds-barred nature of this piece is evident from the first sentence: "The American library community is confronted by a copyright axis of evil." This bold and unfortunately accurate statement is just the beginning of a succinct, hard-hitting, and accurate assessment of where we are now regarding copyright in the United States and why we're in more intellectual property trouble than we've ever been in this nation. Neal's increasingly depressing litany of egregious laws sets the stage for his call for action that lists seven specific ways librarians can fight back. If this brief, easy to digest piece doesn't move many of the 50,000 plus American Library Association members to action, frankly I don't know what will. A sidebar by an ALA Washington Office staffer previews what we may be able to expect from the 108th Congress, which begins in January 2003. - RT

O'Reilly, Tim.  "Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online   (11 December 2002) ( - Tim O'Reilly of the publisher O'Reilly and Associates (well known among the geek crowd for their good technical books) shares a few lessons from the print industry that he thinks may help inform those in the entertainment industry who fear and loathe online copying. His "lessons" are: 1) Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy, 2) Piracy is progressive taxation, 3) Customers want to do the right thing, if they can, 4) Shoplifting is a bigger threat than piracy, 5) File sharing networks don't threaten book, music, or film publishing. They threaten existing publishers, 6) "Free" is eventually replaced by a higher-quality paid service, and 7) There's more than one way to do it. Although one could argue that O'Reilly is defending his own turf by defending peer-to-peer networking (O'Reilly publishes books and sponsors conferences on the technology), at least some of his points have been made by others with no financial interest in the equation. - RT

Rajagopal, Indhu, and Nis  Bojin.  "Digital representation: Racism on the World Wide WebFirst Monday   7(10) (7 October 2002) ( - The authors approach the very loaded topic of hate speech online at a rhetorical level, which enables the reader to take a step back from the intensity of the dialogue. The Web, they claim, is essentially unregulated, and it fosters worldwide dissemination of both 'actionable' and 'non-actionable' hate messages. They point out that actionable messages are not restricted by international regulations, even if they are intense and may trigger violent actions. The power to restrict this kind of speech lies at a national level, leaving a semblance of open space for this type of speech. Moreover, the "felt" experience of sending hate speech via the Web is a new personal interaction, and it tempts perpetrators to test the boundaries of society and the law. The authors pose several questions, such as: Does the Internet and the Web facilitate the spreading of hate messages? Should Internet hate materials be regulated? If so, how might that be done? As you might guess, we need more information and time to answer such questions conclusively. But they make a pretty good stab at it. First, the Internet is a "pull" technology; to find hate speech that was not sent directly to you, you have to search for it. Second, "there are few obstacles to hate online". The illusion of anonymity on the Internet encourages greater disclosure, as anyone who's been flamed can attest to. Third, "hate sites" on the Internet are astonishingly blatant, more so than any other media to date. Therefore it is likely that hate online will carry a very powerful effect on both the perpetrator and recipient. - TH

Vegh, Sando.  "Hacktivists or Cyberterrorists? The Changing Media Discourse on HackingFirst Monday   7(10) (7 October 2002) ( - Vegh studies the language of government reports and news media sources to test whether they play an excessively active role in forming a negative image of hackers. He breaks hacking into two broad areas, politically motivated hacking, online political activism. This delineation enables him to explore whether fear of the former is stamping out the latter. The mass media's portrayal of hacking serves the political and corporate elites as they create a popular consensus that is anti-hacker, he argues. In essence, is there a PR campaign at work here, that has a chilling effect on bona fide, online political dialogue? He stops short of saying "Yes" unequivocally, but finds plenty of puzzling evidence. It will come as no surprise that he is concerned with copyright and "copyleft," peer-to-peer file sharing as pioneered by music lovers, and open source computing. But his principal point is that public opinion, once swayed, is a juggernaut that empowers politicians to move quickly and decisively, and in that rush to action, political discourse and promising technological ideas may suffer. - TH

Current Cites - ISSN: 1060-2356
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