Managing Technology

Column for the Journal of Academic Librarianship

Volume 34, 2008

Machine Indexing. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 34. n. 6
With the great increase in documents and other information resources, the creation of indexes can no longer be an artisan activity performed by a few skilled humans. Machine-indexing cannot take the place of human judgment, but it is being used in some environments, including the National Library of Medicine, to help indexers get a quick view of the topics covered in the documents they catalog. Preprint
Managing Sameness. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 34. n. 5
The more that we communicate about bibliographic entities, the more we run into the question: are these two items the same? How do we define "same" anyway? While libraries have attempted to be very precise in their identification of bibliographic items, as we interact more frequently with other communities we find that the question of sameness does not lead to a yes/no answer, but a range of "maybes." Preprint
Technology for Small Libraries. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 34. n. 4
I spent one week in Kosovo in April of 2008, during their annual library celebration sponsored in part by the U.S. Embassy there. I came away hoping that we could find a solution for small, under-funded libraries that need to inventory their collections and share iinformation about their holdings with their public and with other libraries. The solution turns out to be further away than I had hoped. Preprint
Meaning, Technology, and the Semantic Web In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 34. n. 3
Originally designed as a way to link documents over a network, the creators of the World Wide Web envision a new evolutionary step that will allow linking between units of information within those documents. Called the "Semantic Web," this next phase not only could transform the Web, it could provide a new way for libraries to present the bibliographic information that they hold. This potential change is more than superficial; it has within it a new concept of the nature and structure of information. Preprint
E-Reading. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 34. n. 2
Huge numbers of books are being digitized, while an uncountable number of text documents are being born digital and delivered electronically. Yet, we do not seem to have the appropriate technology to make the reading of these documents comfortable, much less pleasurable. Every few years a new technology that comes to the fore that promises to make electronic reading a positive experience. This year that technology is something called "e-ink." Preprint.
Learning to Love Linux. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 34. n. 1
Once purely the realm of programmers, systems admins, and those who love the command line, Linux is working hard to throw off its geek cloak and become acceptable as an every day desktop platform for the rest of us. The visuals are stunning, and you will be amazed at what you can do with free software. That said, don't throw away your PC or MAC yet; there are still moments when you'll be glad you've got some real nerds on staff. Preprint

Volume 33, 2007

Digital Divide. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 33. n. 6
As I sit at my computers in my home office, three screens (at least) available for documents, e-mail program, Web browser, and a host of other applications, I feel totally plugged into to my information resources. When I go to the library and enter the wonder of the five floors of stacks, where I do as much wandering as focused seeking, I find myself often missing the information tools that I am accustomed to. Can't quite remember that author's name? Want to follow a citation to a journal article (which might well be online)? I feel a real divide between the rich digital world and the rich analog world. It's time to try to get them working together. Preprint
Data, Raw and Cooked. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 33, n. 5
One advantage of computerization is that it allows us, at least potentially, to gather statistical data on a wide variety of operations that take place in or through the library. Whether we make use of them or not, our systems do keep counts of actions such as the number of searches against the library catalog or the number of automated holds requested by users. Having this data does not automatically make it useful for library management, however. Fortunately, some vendor initiatives aim to derive the meaning from the numbers. Preprint
Identity Crisis. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 33, n. 4
In this era of remote services to library users, it is essential that libraries be able to identify their users, wherever they are and however they connect to the library's services. It is also essential that users be able to carry their identity with them as they move among information resources. The need to protect user privacy in accordance with state laws and library policy is a significant factor in developing appropriate identification technologies. Various efforts in the commercial web standards environment and in the academic standards around Internet2 are working to solve this thorny problem. Preprint
The Library Catalog: Some Possible Futures. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 33, n. 3
Where is the library catalog going to be in ten or twenty years? Or fifty? No matter what answers are given in this article, I hope that the reality is surprisingly radical, and consisting of possibilities that we couldn't even conceive of in 2007. Preprint
The Library Catalog in a 2.0 World. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 33, n. 2
While libraries were busily curating their databases of bibliographic records, forming consortia, and finding new ways to search across bibliographic databases, the rest of the information world was experimenting with open information sharing on an unprecedented level. By the early part of the new millennium, libraries had become part of the "dark web," and few users thought of them as the first place to go for information. Preprint
The Future of Library Systems, Seen from the Past. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 33, no. 1, pp. 138-140
"There are times that lend themselves to speculation about the future, and this seems to be one of those times." This article looks back at the last great round of library systems futurology in the years from 1949 to 1984. It is amazing how prescient some members of our profession were. At least, if we can get over the predictions of room-sized home computers and the television as a data access device. Preprint

Volume 32, 2006

Mass Digitization of Books. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 32, n. 6, November, 2006, pp. 641-645.
Mass digitization of the bound volumes that we generally call "books" has begun, and, thanks to the interest in Google and all that it does, it is getting widespread media attention even though libraries have been experimenting with digitization of books for at least a decade. What is different today from some earlier digitization of books is not just the scale of these new initiatives, but the quality of "mass." Preprint.
Technology and the Return on Investment. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 32, n. 5, August, 2006, pp. 537-539.
Libraries purchase and use a lot of technology, as do all businesses and organizations today. However, when the time comes to make a major purchase, few librarians approach the purchase in terms of return on investment. There is an assumption that, being non-profit service organizations, ROI does not apply to libraries. It can, but not in the traditional business sense. Preprint DOI
Identifiers: Unique, Persistent, Global. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 32, n. 4, July, 2006, pp. 428-431.
Identifiers are essential elements of any automated system. They make it possible to point to, retrieve, and refer to objects. Without identifiers most of our computer systems would cease to function. It's odd, therefore, that the creation of identifiers is often considered a minor part of a project, with little thought as to the long term ramifications. This article talks about some of the common characteristics of identifiers (uniqueness, persistence, global-ness) and what these mean for the management of technology. Preprint
The Automation of Rights. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 32, n. 3, pp. 326-329.
Copyright law creates legal protection for works in any fixed format, whether analog or digital. But actual protection, that is, the prevention of copying, is much more difficult for digital works than it is for those in physical formats. Digital works can be covered by licenses that mandate certain uses, or they could have actual technical protection measures. This article looks at digital rights in a broad sense, and its effect on libraries. Preprint
One Word: Digital. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 32, n. 2, March, 2006, pp. 205-207.
In 1967, the year of The Graduate, the one word was "plastics." Today our word is "digital." But like 1967's term, ours represents a wide range of different meanings. This article offers some of the different meanings of "digital" based on the intended functions of the format: there are digital formats intended for preservation, for machine-manipulation, for end-user viewing, etc. Clarity of purpose will help us move forward with digitization projects and treatment of our born digital resources. Preprint
Unicode: The Universal Character Set. Part 2: Unicode in Library Systems. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 32, n. 1, pp. 101-103.
Libraries own materials in every language that has produced documents. This means that their catalogs need to record holdings in all of those scripts. Until recently, many of the needed characters were not available for library online catalogs. With Unicode, the possibility exists to have every language and every script represented. There are some details to be worked out, however, like how (or if) to present a single sort order when the languages involved don't use the same alphabet, and how we will provide the appropriate keyboards for our users. Preprint

Volume 31, 2005

Unicode: The Universal Character Set. Part 1: The Computer and Language. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 31, n. 6, pp. 590-592.
We use computers every day to write, and most of us mainly use computers to write, as opposed to doing what would otherwise be thought of as computation. However, getting computers to work with language has been a long struggle, and it is only now that we are reaching a point where computers will be able to represent all writing systems, current and past. That they can do so is because of a standard called Unicode. This article gives some basics on how computers manage to act like writing machines, and what we have gained with a Universal Character Set. Preprint
Managing RFID in Libraries. In: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 31, n. 5, pp. 486-489
This article doesn't have any new information about RFID, perhaps because there isn't anything really new to say at this moment in time. It does give my perspective on the role of RFID in libraries as a fairly efficient inventory management tool. Nutshell: It's not a question of whether RFID is good or is evil; libraries cannot afford to be the Plain People of the information world, hanging on to their buggy whips while others are powered by internal combustion engines. Preprint.
Libraries and Standards in: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 31, n. 4, pp 373-376
A follow-up on my article Standards in a Time of Constant Change, this looks at recent trends in library standards. Libraries no longer occupy a standards space of their own, but share standards with the general information technology world and with the World Wide Web. Even where libraries are consciously creating standards for their information systems, there is no single organization that shepherds these efforts. It's a confusing world, and perhaps we could do better. Preprint
Standards in a Time of Constant Change in: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 31, n. 3, pp 280-283
The term "standard" once implied something that was fixed and would not change. This meaning of the term is no longer viable in an environment where technology is in a state of constant change. The whole standards landscape, and the organizations that support it, is going through a significant change of its own in an attempt to keep up with the world around it. Preprint
Understanding Metadata and Its Purposes, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 31, n. 2, pp 160-163
The main message here is that any particular metadata is useful only in that it solves a specific problem. When you are looking at a metadata format, whether it is MARC21, METS, MODS, Dublin Core, or any one of many dozens of metadata formats that have been developed, you must understand it in its context. And when looking at a metadata format with the idea of making use of it for a project of yours, that context is key to determining if the metadata will indeed work for you.
Catalogs, Card - and Other Anachronisms, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 31, Issue 1 , January 2005, Pages 60-62, doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2004.12.001
This is the first of my columns for the Journal of Academic Librarianship. I had only about two weeks' notice before this one was due, so I decided to write up one of the busier bees in my bonnet: our profession's continued clinging to the catalog card, and all that it means. So I take on main entries, inverted entries, and... well, even entries themselves.