Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 13, no. 3, March 2002

Edited by Roy Tennant

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

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Terry Huwe, Shirl Kennedy, Leo Robert Klein, Margaret Phillips, Roy Tennant

Allen, Maryellen. "A Case Study of the Usability Testing of the University of South Florida's Virtual Library Interface Design" Online Information Review 26(1) (2002): 40-53. - This month's addition to the growing literature on usability in libraries concerns the trials and tribulations of a Web site redesign at University of South Florida Libraries. Both successes and failures are reported as the development team refines their testing procedures. Anyone who's been through the process of reconciling often highly contradictory goals will know how rocky a road a site redesign can be. Hints of differences in the literature not only make for interesting reading but they also helpfully alert us to challenges we too are likely to face when going down the same road. Here the problem was whether to use "plain, straightforward language" or "library jargon". Apparently library jargon won out. - LRK

Anhang, Abe and Steve Coffman. "The Great Reference Debate" American Libraries 33(3) (March 2002): 50-54. - The debate of the title is based on the proposition "Be it reolved that reference librarians are toast." The authors debated this issue at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto in February 2001, of which this article is a summary. Abe Anhang debates for the proposition, while Coffman debates against. As it turns out, they both believe that reference librarians "as we know them — ...who sit behind desks for five or six hours a day...waiting for people to walk up and ask questions" are toast. If you ignore the non-debate, Coffman's part does a good job of identifying six reasons why reference librarians definitely are not toast — as long as we can meet our users where and when they want to be served. - RT

Brennan, Christopher and Eileen O'Hara. "Murphy Was a Librarian: a Case Study in How Not to Handle a Systems Crash" Computers in Libraries 22(3) (March 2002): 10-12,72. - Disaster strikes Drake Library at SUNY Brockport when a system glitch vaporizes all the MARC records from their bib catalog. Backup was faulty and all they had to fall back on was a data-run they had submitted five months earlier to an outside organization for the purposes of producing a union catalog. The public service message coming out of this article is emphasized repeatedly by the authors: communicate with your vendor to make sure that effective backup procedures are in place and back up early and often. - LRK

Carlson, Scott and Andrea L. Foster. "Colleges Fear Anti-Terrorism Law Could Turn Them into Big Brother" Chronicle of Higher Education 48(25) (March 1, 2002): A31-A32. - Let's take a break from topics like the Dublin Core, metadata and XML and consider privacy and anti-terrorism in the information age. In October, the USA Patriot Act was enacted giving law enforcement extra tools to track suspected terrorists including the right to open student computer files or, potentially, to see student library records. This kind of invasion of privacy, some believe, endangers the "climate of free inquiry" traditional to the academic environment. Some universities have instituted guidelines for responding to law enforcement requests made under the new law. At Cornell, if a staff member is asked by a law enforcement agent to disclose information about a student, they should first contact the information technology policy advisor who will consult with the university's lawyers. In resonse to the Patriot Act, the library community with ALA and other library administrators at the healm, remains steadfast in its advocacy of privacy rights. - MP

Ellis, John. "All the News That's Fit to Blog" Fast Company (April 2002) ( - Weblogs are hot, hot, hot. One can only wonder if the enthusiasm for them will wane now that they are becoming a mainstream phenomenon. In this article, Ellis points out the shortcomings of the "boring pundits" who dominate newspaper op-ed pages and political talk shows, and compares them (unfavorably, of course) to the lively new world of weblogs. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of pundits are taking up blogging themselves — i.e., Andrew Sullivan (, Virginia Postrel (, and Mickey Kaus ( There are any number of free tools that allow anyone to set up a weblog and begin publishing immediately, which naturally results in a lot of swill, but also generates a surprising amount of eloquent, dynamic discourse. Bloggers, says Ellis, "assume that their readers are as smart as they are, if not smarter." And rather than trying to keep you at their site by any means necessary, they routinely send you out across the Web by posting links from diverse and often obscure sources. The underlying technology — and philosophy — is peer-to-peer. - SK

Emery, David. "The Nigerian E-Mail Hoax: West African Scammers Take to the Net" SFGate (March 14, 2002) ( erscam.DTL) - Probably you've already gotten one (or more...many more) of these e-mails, ostensibly from some high official in the government of Nigeria, Ghana or another West African country. This individual urgently seeks your help in transferring a large chunk of the national treasury or whatever into a U.S. bank account. All you have to do is send this person your bank account number so he or she can transfer the money, and he or she will reward your kindness with an attractive percentage. Amazingly, people keep falling for variations of this scam; the Secret Service says one percent of the people thus solicited will respond, and the U.S. Postal Service estimates losses to American citizens of more than $100 million annually. Who are these pigeons? "Greed and gullibility obviously figure in," as do personality traits like risk-taking, susceptibility to flattery or intimidation, and lack of interest in news/current events. As you might suspect, the Internet has served as a fertile breeding ground for scams of this nature. According to the website Internet Fraud Watch (, "Nigerian Money Offers" — also called "Nigerian Advance-Fee Fraud" or "419 Scam" ("419" being the relevant section of the country's criminal code) — surged up the charts last year, from seventh to third place, on the list of the most common types of online fraud. Next time you receive one of these e-mails, forward it to the Secret Service for inclusion in their database: - SK

Kling, Rob, Lisa Spector, and Geoff McKim. Locally Controlled Scholarly Publishing via the Internet: The Guild Model. CSI Working Paper No. WP-02-01. ( - Kling et al. suggest that too little attention has been paid to the working papers and technical reports of academic departments (and other research units) as a model of free scholarly publishing. The "Guild Model" relies on the academic reputation of the sponsoring department to establish the reputation of its research manuscript archive. In order to publish papers in the archive, authors must be affiliated with the department. Individual faculty contributions to a department's archive do not undergo peer review; however, their authors have undergone "career review" as part of the hiring and tenure process, and this establishes their scholarly credentials. This interesting and thoughtful paper includes examples of the Guild Model and a consideration of its pros and cons.- CB

Kravchyna, V., and Hastings, S. K. Informational Value of Museum Web Sites First Monday 7(2) (February 4th 2002) ( - This article assesses the behavior of users in using museum Web sites, an interesting subject for librarians because the experience of users with this type of web site charts a truly new application for museums. The authors launched an extensive Internet survey of museum users, and report on their findings. Among the chief news: most people are used to audio and video programs and enjoy these formats on the web, and a high percentage or respondents visited a museum web site before visiting the museum itself. Obviously, an Internet-using population does not tell the whole story of user populations for museum directors, but it's an important segment of that population. The authors frame this paper as part of a larger investigation into the value of museum Web sites, and they make good use of tables and charts to illustrate their findings. The authors conclude that their findings can help guide database design, metadata creation, and retrieval options for museums; indeed, one hopes they're paying attention. - TH

McClure, Charles R., R. David Lankes, Melissa Gross, and Beverly Choltco-Devlin. Statistics, Measures, and Quality Standards for Assessing Digital Reference Library Services: Guidelines and Procedures Field Test Draft: March 8, 2002. Syracuse, NY: Information Institute of Syracuse, 2002. ( - This manual, and its accompanying instructions for field testing ( are still in draft form, and the authors invite anyone who wishes to test them to contact them for more information. Although digital reference service can still be considered to be in its infancy, it's nice to know that as libraries begin to develop these services that there will be a common metric that can be used to measure the effectiveness of those services. - RT

McCord, Alan. "Are You Ready to Discuss IT Outsourcing on Your Campus?" EDUCAUSE Quarterly 25(1): 12-19 ( - If there's any one message to derive from this article, it's that we can't outsource away our IT problems. We have to understand them and their true costs before even thinking about handing them over to an outside agency. Candidates for outsourcing, the author argues, include larger 'infrastructure' services: networking, server management and security. He's pretty even-handed on both the pros and cons of going this route. He argues that while IT is essential to our efforts in the academic world, it isn't one of our 'core competencies'. His urge for IT departments to develop more 'private-sector-like thinking and skills' is something everyone can agree with, though where the private-sector-like financing will come from is chronically unclear. It won't come from outsourcing. Costs there, the author advises, are likely to be a tad higher. - LRK

Pantic, Drazen. "Internet the Globalizer, and the Impossibility of the Impossibility of the Global Dialog." First Monday 7(1) (January 7, 2002) ( - "The world's information pool now truly originates in a multitude of sources", Pantic says, and no event showed this better than the September 11 attacks. In the wake of those days in September, the Internet assumed a powerful new role as a source of independent and diversified news. This article explores that new role and casts the drama of the Internet's as change agent as a battle between ideas of modernity and local culture. There is evidence, he argues, that a "trans-civilizational" dialogue is crying out to be released so much so that it may trump cultural behavior such as centralized control of media. This brief article succinctly argues that the Internet remains surprisingly resilient in the face of censorship efforts, despite the tensions between open systems and centralized governments. - TH

Reilly, Bernard J. "What the Cultural Sector Can Learn From Enron" First Monday 7(2) (February 4, 2002) ( - The very public and messy debacle that engulfed the Enron Corporation is a metaphorical jumping-off point for the author's premise that a similar hall of cards may be lurking in the non-profit information sectors. That's a troubling possibility if there's any weight to it, and Reilly argues his case based on one key similarity: libraries, museums and other cultural repositories now "trade" in "knowledge" assets as much as with the assets themselves. The difference lies in the nature of the asset, if any. He poses the question, is there a material difference between coal and oil deposits and museum collections? Whether you agree or not, this Enron analogy will give you pause. "Artistic and cultural products are no longer objects, like books, paintings, sculpture...nor are they discrete, self-contained events in time, like musical performances, dance performances, and so forth," he asserts. The new infrastructure for cultural resources is built out of the licenses and contractual agreements protecting them. This "matrix" of conditions enables preservation, and even if bits of that matrix unravel, preservation strategies may be threatened. After an interesting exploration of this theory, he argues for better safeguards ("underwriting"): namely, a call for "best practices" in contract negotiation and licensing. The message to librarians is, once again, that libraries are no longer just places; they are also "processes" and matrices of relationships. - TH

Salkever, Alex. "Guard Copyrights, Don't Jail Innovation" BusinessWeek Online (27 March 2002) ( - Imagine a parallel universe where every piece of electronic equipment that could utilize or record digital information had built-in copy-protection features that allowed content owners to completely control how their information was used on that device. Want to live there? You will if the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, which was recently introduced by Senator Ernest F. Hollings, becomes law. Alex Salkever, the BusinessWeek Online Technology Editor, doesn't want to live there, and in this insightful article he tells us why. - CB

Tedeschi, Bob. "Is Weblog Technology Here to Stay or Just Another Fad?" The New York Times (February 25, 2002) ( en=9876919c1afb6ed7&ex=1015304400) - Is the weblog phenomenon breaking ground as "a truly new media species," or is it just the latest Information Age fad? It depends on who you ask...but there's no denying the popularity of these often very personal online journals. This article cites a statistic putting the current number of bloggers at approximately 500,000. What's fueling this boom are the advances in blog technology that make it easy to post short bursts of text frequently rather than having to update an entire Web page. Some companies see an opportunity in offering and supporting these technologies, notably and Userland Software, which hint that the next wave of interest in blogging may come from the corporate sector. Yet some Webheads remain skeptical, feeling it will ultimately prove futile expecting users to return to your weblog site day after day to keep up with your latest postings. According to this article, one Net consultancy in New York stopped posting to its weblog and simply started e-mailing the updated information to interested parties. - SK

Zieger, Anne. "Bust the Spam Brigade" IBM developerWorks (February 2002) ( - That your e-mail inbox is clogged with swill is bad enough. Alas, this article predicts an impending boom in wireless spam — "Wherever there are large groups of networked users, marketing messages are sure to follow." But don't rush to toss that cell phone or PDA off the nearest bridge just yet. The Good Guys are working on technologies that could ameliorate the problem. "Unsolicited commercial messages" of the wireless kind have already become a problem in Japan, where carrier NTT DoCoMo serves some 30 million subscribers. The "mobile marketing" types are chomping at the bit to offer you wireless coupons and other come-ons, ultimately based on your geographic location. The official party line of this industry's trade group — yes, they have one; it's called the Mobile Marketing Association (formerly the Wireless Advertising Association — — is that commercial wireless messages should only be sent to consumers who wish to receive them. But, as with e-mail spam, "it's not the upstanding members of professional associations" who are causing the problem; rather, "it's the rogues with the willingness to flout professional conventions." The article briefly describes some potential technology solutions — Brightmail's Mthree application, which lets users set rules for messages forwarded through wired e-mail gateways; "mobile messaging controls" written in Java 2, Micro Edition; and Qualcomm's Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW), "another option for those who need to roll their own spam-filtering solution." Links to related resources are offered at the end of the article. - SK

Current Cites 13(3) (March 2002) ISSN: 1060-2356
Copyright © 2002 by the Regents of the University of California All rights reserved.

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