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Polaris Version 3.3 is In Production

Polaris Library Systems announced that its new version 3.3 of the Polaris Integrated Library System is in production and the company is working with several beta test libraries, including Pierce County Library System, Washington, and Fayetteville Public Library, Arkansas. John Richardson, director, library partnerships at Polaris kindly provided a demo for me of some of the new features—at their booth #118. He claims the new engine addresses many of the issues raised by Karen Schneider’s “OPACs Suck” posts. 
He said the company worked for more than 2 years on developing a brand new search engine. In fact, they rewrote the entire engine using Microsoft .NET architecture. New features include a “did you mean?” functionality (using an open source dictionary), relevancy ranking (using tag weighting), and faceted search capabilities (similar to what Endeca offers) for helping users to narrow and refine searches. It also uses AJAX technology to eliminate pop-up windows.  
There’s lots more to tell, so stop by the booth if you’d like to see it. Also, Mike McKenney, the ILS software engineer of Pierce County is giving a Cybertour presentation 11:30-11:45 AM on Wed. He’ll discuss how the library integrated the new Polaris engine into an existing content management system. Polaris also plans to offer some Webinars in early May—check their Web site.  
News Bureau Chief, ITI

The First InfoTubey Award Ceremony

A new innovation at CIL–the InfoTubey Awards!  They are given to libraries which used YouTube to market their library or its services or enhance the standing of the library in the community.  Tonight’s award ceremony was a gala affair, with lots of laughs and a look at the winning videos.

The distinguished panel of judges included (L-R) Aaron Schmidt (North Plains Public Library), Kathy Dempsey (Information Today), Darlene Fichter (University of Saskatchewan), Bill Spence (ITI, Chair of the Judging Panel), Rebecca Jones (Dysart & Jones Associates), and Marshall Breeding (Vanderbilt University).  Alson on the panel but unable to attend were D. Scott Brandt (Purdue University), and Stephen Abram (Sirsi-Dynix).

Here is the award given to each recipient.

The award winners are (Click on the name of the library to see its winning entry):

Click here to see the complete slide presentation at the award ceremony.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator

Book Signings in the Exhibit Hall

The Information Today booth featured book signings by authors of books recently published by ITI.  Shown here are (seated, L-R) Meredith Farkas with her book Social Software in Libraries, Laura Savastinuk and Michael Casey with their book Library 2.0, and (standing, rear) Rachel Singer Gordon, author of The NextGen Librarian’s Survival Guide and several other books.


Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator

Help for Dealing With Conference Frustrations

Attending–and organizing–a conference like CIL 2007, with its myriad of details, calls for lots of fortitude and stamina.  But there are sometimes when the frustrations just seem overwhelming.  There have been reports of raised voices (by persons who shall remain nameless), and there have been crowded rooms and hallways, lines to stand in, decisions about which of several concurrent sessions to attend, computer and network problems, and more. 

It’s nothing serious and out of the ordinary.  But never fear–help is at hand!  The hotel staff has thoughtfully provided a selection of teas for every situation.

Are you frustrated and overwhelmed?  Try this.

Or are you at the point of exhaustion?  Maybe this would be appropriate.


Keeping Tabs on CIL2007

Lots of ways to check on what’s happening at Computers in Libraries 2007
at the Crystal City Hyatt in Arlington VA.  Information Today staff are covering the show here. 

Subscribe to feeds, view photos and sketches and blog posts:

* Madkinkbeard’s sketches of CIL speakers
* Flickr conference photos
* LibWorm search: +(CIL2007 “computers in libraries”)
Feed for this search  (LibWorm feed harvester & library blog search engine)
* CiL OPML file  (importable list of RSS feeds of conference bloggers)
* the conference twitter feed
Jane Dysart, Conference Program Chair

The Company Formerly Known as Weiss

I fondly remember Weiss Ratings and am having trouble remembering that Jim Cramer, of Mad Money Fame, bought the company and it’s now The The company remains in Florida, although is in New York City. Under development is a library portal that libaries can customize based on their individual information needs. Want industry reports on specific industries? can deliver. They expect the portal to go live the end of May and should be on display at the SLA conference in Denver.

Marydee Ojala

Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

Ruminations on Search

I stopped by the Access Innovations/Data Harmony booth (920) and had a great chat about the search industry with CEO Jay Ven Eman and founder and president Marjorie Hlava. The two are giving a postconference taxonomy workshop on switching from a thesaurus to an ontology. Most of the time these two leave me in the dust with these detailed topics, but we had a great chat about their thoughts on the two different aspects of search, based on very different user requirements.  
One kind of search is the discovery phase of information seeking. It involves browsing, and some serendipity—rather like browsing in the stacks of a library. For this, on-the-fly clustering of sources can help in the identification of what a user might like. The other kind of search requires precision and consistent retrieval of the information. It’s the stage when users know what they want and have a defined topic area. A hierarchical (taxonomic) view of the information will ensure that users can retrieve the desired content—it’s all about “persistence” of content. Ven Eman estimates that the typical knowledge worker wants precise retrieval about 90 percent of the time, and is in discovery phase only for 10 percent of the time. Users in the general population would likely spend more time in the discovery phase.  
There’s been increased interest of late in taxonomies in order to increase search precision. An ideal search system would incorporate the best aspects of both types of searching—plus include the added benefits of social tagging and search log analysis. Interesting food for thought.
News Bureau Chief, ITI

What’s Hot With RSS

Memo to Jane Dysart and the conference organizers:  Anytime you have a session entitled “What’s Hot…”, prepare for an overflow crowd.  Steve Cohen’s talk on RSS was no exception, and even the overflow room overflowed! At first, Steve cowered before the onslaught…

but he soon recovered.

RSS is hitting the big time:  Firefox, Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7 all come with built-in RSS readers.  And it will continue to be hot because more and more content has been enabled; in fact, it’s getting difficult to find a site that is not RSS-enabled! 

So what’s the latest on RSS?  What’s the best reader?  How do you keep up with all the feeds?  A crowd of CIL attendees came to hear Steve Cohen tell how RSS has changed his life and the way how he views and accesses content.  He got right to the bottom line in no uncertain terms:  he loves Google Reader and feels like it makes him smarter and lets him assimilate more information.  Google Reader is easy to use and easy to understand.  You can share your feeds and subscribe to other users’ feeds.  Steve doesn’t go out to sites any more—they come to him.  The first thing he opens in the morning is his RSS reader, then Twitter, and then his e-mail. 

There are many tools and add-ons that provide interesting capabilities to RSS.  See Steve’s wiki site for more information and links to them. 

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator

Thomson Gale to Leverage Groxis’ Technology for PowerSearch

The press release about a partnership between Thomson Gale and Groxis hit my email yesterday, so I quickly sent off a query to Nader Qaimari, Thomson Gale’s senior director of PowerSearch Programs, InfoTrac, and Gale Virtual Reference Library. Luckily, he was available this morning to chat and provide some details.  
Groxis, known for its visual search and discovery technology, and Thomson Gale announced that they have teamed up to provide enhanced search capabilities to Thomson Gale’s users of its PowerSearch products—K-12 schools and public and academic libraries. But Qaimari said that Gale was interested in more than just the visual search technology of Groxis’ Grokker tool. “We’ve been talking to Groxis for a long time and were really interested in its federated search capabilities.”  
Thomson Gale will incorporate several of Grokker’s key features into PowerSearch, including the ability to run a search on a collection of databases not currently on the PowerSearch platform—library catalogs, other vendor’s reference databases, and Web sites. A beta version is planned for May, with a group of about 20 institutions participating. Thomson Gale hopes to have “something to show at SLA” in June and hopes to have as much done as possible by the ALA meeting. “It will launch this summer for sure,” said Qaimari.
He said that adding the Grokker technologies was part of a larger plan for upgrades to the PowerSearch platform. Other new features coming to the platform include search alerts, a “Did You Mean?” feature, and improved usability enhancements. Workflow tools—like cite it, translate it, download, email, etc.—would be more obvious in the interface. This summer, the company will launch the literature databases on the platform. Business, health, and bio products will be moved over the next year. All Thomson Gale databases will eventually be available on the PowerSearch platform.
News Bureau Chief, ITI

How Do You Manage Projects?

When a new project starts in your organization, what do you do?  The typical way has been to call a meeting of everyone concerned, set a calendar and assign tasks, then create a document summarizing the meeting and send it to the participants.  But what if another person joins the project later on, or you have forgotten to include someone?  The whole process must be repeated, and the complexity grows rapidly.  And what happens a year later, when you need to refer back to one of the project documents.  Will you be able to find it?

Blogs and wikis have opened up new and attractive ways of managing projects, as described by Nicole Engard (shown above at right with Jill Hurst-Wahl, session moderator), who described how her organization, Jenkins Law Library, solved these problems.  Blogs and wikis dramatically improve communication on projects, reduce e-mails, and because they can be made visible to everyone in the organization, ensure that nobody is left out.

Although Nicole and her team developed their own software platform, new open source colntent management platforms are now available.  One example is Joomla; others can be found by searching for "open source content management" on Google.

Visit Nicole’s blog, What I Learned Today, to view her presentation.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator