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Libraries Enter Second Life

Libraries have entered the virtual world of Second Life (SL)!  The Alliance Library System (ALS) in Illinois and the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (PLCMC) in North Carolina have established a library on the "Alliance Info Archipelago" in the adult area of SL and the "Eye4You Alliance Island" in the teen’s area.  They have been extremely successful, the Info Archipelago receives about 5,000 visitors a day, and Eye4You receives between 2,000 and 3,000 daily visitors.   Services provided include reference, programs, exhibits, collections (web resources, EBs, audio books), book and genre discussions, and training.

One of the questions that the ALS and PLCMC developers had was whether the SL avatars would want or need library services.  The answer was a resounding YES.  Over 400 librarians from around the world are therefore volunteering their services and bringing their expertise to the Info Archipelago.  They see the following advantages:

  • SL is a new professional frontier and it’s where many users and non-users are.
  • Attract new users to the traditional library through referral.
  • They can investigate library services in virtual worlds and provide services 24/7.
  • SL is an opportunity to meet and work w/librarians worldwide.
  • They can learn and use the 3D web, emerging web interaction interface.

Surprisingly, even in SL, one of the more frequent requests is for books.

A major challenge in SL is that it is highly addictive and time-intensive, so the rate of burnout for the volunteers is high.  Another challenge is that colleagues or managers of the volunteers may be skeptical that they are actually working in SL.  Other lessons learned include:

  • Virtual world residents DO want a library—they are coming in droves!
  • Collaboration is very important
  • The exhibits are very popular and the events draw crowds.
  • SL is fun and is a catalyst for amazing growth.  The speed at which it is growing is unbelieveable.

As a result of their involvement with SL, ALS and PLCMC have received huge national and international attention and have become recognized as key innovators and leaders in the library community.

For further information, see the following two blogs:  www.infoisland.org, and eye4youalliance.youthtech.info.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator

Final Thoughts on CIL 2007

What a buzz this week at the Crystal City Hyatt for the Computers in Libraries 2007 conference and exhibition!  Check the bloggers coverage (here’s an interesting feed of blog posts about CIL on PageFlakes).  Things are winding down today with a number of post-conference workshops.

Many people were overwhelmed by the facilities this year — yes, there definitely were issues here at the Hyatt.  Last year I posted the reason we were coming to the Hyatt  and yes, we are committed to a second year at the Hyatt – CIL 2008 April 7-9, Crystal City Hyatt.  We have many ideas of how to improve the experience for our conference attendees.  BTW the final attendance this year was 2612.

Bottom line, most people really enjoyed their experience here at CIL 2007 and are energized and excited about the future.  That’s what we value and work towards.  It is wonderful to hear from you and to start reading the feedback forms; thank you all for your comments and suggestions.  Thank you all for coming and we hope to see you next year.  Watch for the call for speakers for CIL 2008 in July of this year. 
Jane Dysart, CIL 2007 Conference Program Chair

Searching, Finding and the Info Pro

My talk yesterday on Searching, Finding and the Information Professional was surprisingly crowded, given the other very strong sessions happening concurrently with mine. If I could have cloned myself, I would have been in multiple rooms that afternoon. My basic points were that our clients think about searchability and findability differently than we info pros do, which is good, because it keeps us employed. I also talked about newer developments in web search, such as personalization, optimization, semantic clustering, automatic indexing, metadata, and the "invisible" web. I ended up with some thoughts about nontextual, nontraditional information. And I showed some photos I took at the InfoTubey award ceremonies.

Somewhere in there I mentioned the traditional search strategies of pearl growing, successive fractions, and building blocks. One attendee asked me for the exact citation of the seminal article in ONLINE that introduced those concepts. I didn’t know it off the top of my head, but now I’ve looked it up. Here’s the citation: "Online Bibliographic Search Strategy Development," by Donald Hawkins (yes, that’s one of my fellow bloggers here at the InfoTodayBlog!!) and Robert Wagers, ONLINE, v. 6, n. 3, May 1982. It’s old enough that I don’t think the full text is available electronically. Sorry bout that.

Marydee Ojala

Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

Clicking Ahead of the Pack with Gary

Keeping up with our fast-changing online information world is what Gary Price does possibly better than anyone (possibly because he doesn’t sleep?). He’s the founder and publisher of the popular ResourceShelf. While I’ve heard him speak many times, I always manage to pick up several items of interest. Today he provided some of his latest favorite top sources and search tips. Here’s just a few of the highlights that I noted.

He showed a wonderful site called SkylineGlobe.com. It’s a “realistic 3D model of the earth online where you can explore, collaborate and interact with people, objects and the world around you.” It provides aerial images and links to traffics cams provided by TrafficLand.com (an aggregator).
He pointed out that NewspaperARCHIVE.com offers free access to K-12 schools and to public libraries. Also, many special collections are available to all.  
One I was very happy to learn about is Market Research from U.S. Commercial Service. “An example of our tax dollars at work,” said Gary.
While he mentioned some cool Web 2.0 tools, like Meebo and Zoho, he thinks that many of the Web 2.0 companies will be gone within the year. He showed a Reuters article that highlights the results of a study showing weaker than expected participation on Web 2.0 sites.
All the links from his presentation are available here:
 
News Bureau Chief, ITI

Can the OPAC Be Fun?

On Wednesday afternoon, Tim Spalding of LibraryThing said that today’s OPACs focus on three things: usability, searchability, and findability. But what about "funability"? Why can’t it be fun to use the OPAC? Tim mentioned a number of things librarians could do to help change that… But is it just wishful thinking?

Then copresenter Roy Tennant took the podium and started his talk by saying that he refused to use "the O word" (OPAC). So he’d titled his portion of the presentation "Catalogs for the Future" and followed it with a slide that exclaimed, "Future? What future? Catalogs ain’t got no stinking future!" He feels that today’s OPA–oops, I mean, catalogs–belong in libraries’ back rooms, not out front for "live human beings" to use. For the patrons out front, Roy would rather have something that does better faceted browsing and delivers better search results that include all formats of information that the library has. He’s into "exposing the richness of records we’ve created painfully over the last 40 years." Georgia PINES is the best thing yet in that regard, Roy said.

For more discussion on this topic, keep an eye on CIL magazine this fall for the theme issue on the Next Generation of OPACs and ILSs.

~Kathy Dempsey, CIL Editor in Chief

A Whirlwind Tour of Mobile Tools

The audience members were warned to fasten their seat belts—this was going to be a fast-paced tour through the world of mobile tools and applications for libraries. More of our patrons are relying on handheld tools for all kinds of needs, so it’s only natural they would want to use them for their information needs. It is the responsibility of librarians to be able to assist patrons with using their devices for accessing content. Megan Fox of Simmons College knows her mobile gadgets—I’ve had the pleasure of hearing her speak before.  
She looked at the mobile market, the latest devices, the variety of content available, tools for library staff, and much more. She said that 75 percent of all U.S. adults have cell phones—surpassing land lines; 90 percent of college students have cell phones; 95 percent of active U.S. mobile phones support text messaging and 62 percent subscribe to the service. 
She showed the m300 watch, which is also a cell phone. Multimedia is very hot on most of the new devices. On some multifunction cell devices the sound quality is so good that they can replace the need for an MP3 player. Some new devices have motion-activated scrolling of a Web page—cool! 
Here’s just a quick summary of what she covered.
Sites specifically optimized for mobile content are now using the .mobi designation. A public library is Illinois has activated a new .mobi site for its users.
OPAC vendors have been developing new interfaces for mobile access.
Answers.com has released a mobile interface for patrons needing answers on the go.
The medical, health, and legal vendors were among the first content providers to provide mobile versions. This has been followed by news providers.
More and more content is available via SMS/Texting.
Some libraries have bought iPods, loaded them with ebooks, and allow users to borrow them.
LibriVox offers free downloads of audio books.
A company called Guide by Cell provides audio guided tours via cell phone for exhibits, displays, tours, etc.
We’ve had time-shifted TV; well now there’s place-shifted TV—with viewing on your mobile device.
Library staff are also using handheld devices to make their behind-the-scenes work more efficient.
But, look out, new business models may provide advertising on your cell phone in exchange for a discount on your bill. 
Her slides and links will be available at: http://web.simmons.edu/~fox/mobile.
Paula J. Hane

News Bureau Chief, ITI

Cutting Through the Institutional Repository Chaos

Institutional repositories (IRs) are all the rage in academic institutions, but they are not all created equal, and there are a significant number of issues that must be considered when creating one.  Frank Cervone, Information Technology Librarian at Northwestern University, helpfully tried to bring order out of the chaos in his presentation.

Libraries are moving into new roles related to information collection and must deal with a wealth of non-traditional materials.  Because of changes in the nature of scholarly communication and electronic publishing, they also have new roles in information dissemination.  Their role is no longer focused on just what happens in the library, but it has expanded to encompass the entire organization.  These trends have propelled libraries into the forefront of creating and managing IRs. 

A major concern of IRs is long-term access; consequently, each item in a repository must have a unique and persistent identifier to accommodate platform migrations.  Unfortunately, access is usually not a concern for the original creator.  However, good digital stewardship requires one to consider access right from informaiton creation.  And in transferring data to a repository, it is not sufficient to just transfer the bit stream; one must also preserve the internal structure and content layout.  Fortunately standards are available to help; one of the most relevant is the OAIS Reference Model.  There are also a number of software solutions and "toolkits", for example, LOCKSS, DSpace, E-Prints, and dPubs.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Informaton Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator

The World Digital Library Initiative

At the Library of Congress’s World Digital Library (WDL) initiative, they have a vision—to create a digital library from the world’s major cultures.  Keynoter John Van Oudenaren stressed that this is NOT a mass book digitization project, but one to promote international and intercultural understanding and awareness, provide resources for educators to match the needs of a globalized wireless world, acquire rare and unique content of interest to scholars and the general public.  Its partners are UNESCO, national libraries and other cultural institutions, and the technology community.  

Expecting to launch in September 2008, the WDL has an ambitious plan for acquiring content and constructing a sustainable international network.  The website will be designed to appeal to the new generation of Internet users, and it will feature multilingual content and searching capabilities, which is a highly complex undertaking.  Some other features include:

  • A high quality, fast, and seamless user experience
  • The ability to search and browse a large volume of content
  • Content in multiple formats
  • Educational content for teachers and students
  • Social networking features
  • Adjustments for developing-country conditions with low bandwidth infrastructures
  • Mobile device solutions

 See Jane Dysart’s post below for a link to the great video that John showed at the conclusion of his talk.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator

World Digital Libraries

I just blogged about the morning keynote,  John Van Oudenaren,
and here is where you can view the video he showed.  Great to see a concrete example of the World Digital Library vision.  And don’t you love the sketch of John done by one of the CIL2007 attendees, Derek Badman?