Karen Bonanno of Australia called them "lollies," James Herring of Scotland called them "sweeties," and the North Americans called them "candies" - three different terms for the sustenance we shared to keep starvation at bay during the final session of the joint conference of the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) in Birmingham, Alabama, in November 1999. The linguistic confusion was not limited to snacks; it also occurred in relation to information technology. To take a very basic and perhaps surprising example, the British and the Australians use a "mousemat" while the North Americans use a "mousepad." Even when the words were the same, the spelling and the pronunciation were often different. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, it sometimes seemed that we were a community divided by a common language.
Nevertheless, whether they were concerned with "school libraries," "school media centers," "school library resource centers," or "school information services," the delegates from some 40 countries had more in common than might have been apparent at first, and this was reflected in the themes of the conference and in the accompanying exhibition.
The conference theme, "Unleash the Power -- Knowledge, Technology, Diversity," suggested that information technology would be important throughout. A count of the papers (not including the film and video festival, the author breakfasts, the storytelling festival, and the full-day workshops) reveals 68 presentations on technology-related topics against 155 presentations on other topics. Of the papers presented as part of IASL's Third International Forum on Research in School Librarianship, six were on technology-related topics while 20 were on other topics. The technology-related topics included the use of the Internet and the World Wide Web, evaluation of Internet resources, library automation, client-server technology, multimedia, WANs and LANs in the school setting, and copyright in a networked environment. At the exhibition, information technology had a high profile, with library automation systems, online information services, CD-ROMs, hardware and software of various kinds, plus technology-related books and magazines on display.
This article and the next will together provide an overview of the information technology resources at the conference; evenly spread over two issues of Teacher Librarian, space limitations mean that it is selective rather than exhaustive. The library automation systems are dealt with in this issue; the "InfoTech" column in the next issue will feature online information services, CD-ROMs and other aspects of information technology, including some resources for technology-based information skills work in schools.
The Library Automation Systems
Amongst the automated library system vendors at the exhibition, there were some who were present at IASL or AASL for the first time, including vendors from Korea and Australia (all with North American offices). Systems from these countries and Canada had some exciting features; however, vendors from the United States were also showing systems that had been further developed since the last conference. In fact, each year the leading systems are becoming more sophisticated and increasing their range of features. Web-based interfaces for OPACs are now the norm, as is the capability to catalog web sites and to provide "hot links" from the OPAC to Internet resources. Some library catalogs now have the capability to incorporate images and even sound and motion files as part of the record. Some teacher-librarians are now looking for library automation systems that can become part of a school-wide intranet managed through the school library resource center, and this has been implemented in different ways by several system vendors. The term "knowledge management" has entered the vocabulary of teacher-librarianship, particularly in Australia, and Concord Australia's system reflected this. …