As I write these lines in late February, the first hints of spring on the Alberta prairie are manifest. Alternatively, perhaps it's just that the longer and warmer days are causing me to "think spring." There are no signs yet of early bulbs--at least, none that I can detect with around a foot of snow in most places--but the sun is now rising at 7:30 a.m. and not setting until 6 p.m., a dramatic change from the barely seven hours of daylight typical of December and January. And while none but the hardiest souls are yet outside in shorts and shirt-sleeves, somehow, daytime highs that hover around freezing seem downright pleasant in comparison with the minus thirties (not counting the wind chill) we were experiencing even a couple of weeks ago. Yes, spring is in the air, even if the calendar says it is still nearly a month away....
So what, you may fairly ask, does the weather in Edmonton have to do with ITAL? This is my first issue of ITAL as editor, and it may not surprise you to hear that I've been thinking quite a bit about what might be the right theme and tone for my first column. While I've been associated with the journal for quite awhile--first as a board member, and more recently as managing editor--my role has always been comfortably limited to background tasks such as refereeing papers and production issues. Now, that is about to change; I am stepping a bit out of my comfort zone. It's about beginnings.
I follow with some awe in the footsteps of a long line of editors of ITAL (and JOLA, its predecessor). I've been honored to serve--and to learn a great deal--from the last two, Dan Marmion and John Webb. You, the readers of ITAL, and I are fortunate to have as returning managing editor Judith Carter, who preceded me and taught me the skills required for that post; I hasten to emphasize that she is definitely not responsible for the things I did not do right in the job! Regular readers of ITAL will recall that John Webb often referred humorously and admiringly to the members of the ITAL editorial board as his "junkyard dogs;" he claimed that they kept him honest. With the addition of a couple of fine new members, I'm confident that they will continue to do so in my case!
Okay, with that as preface, enough about me ... let's talk about ITAL.
What's inside this issue
ITAL content has traditionally represented an eclectic blend of the best mainstream and leading/bleeding edge of library technology. We strive to be reflective of the broad, major issues of concern to all librarians, as well as alert to interesting applications that may be little more than a blip at the edge of our collective professional radar screen. Our audience is not limited to those actively working in library technology, although they certainly form ITAL's core readership; rather, we seek to identify and publish content that will be relevant to all with an interest in or need to know about how technology is affecting our profession. Thus, some articles will resonate with staff seeking new ways to use Web 2.0 technologies to engage our readers, while other articles will be of interest to those interested in better exploiting the four decades' worth of bibliographic metadata that forms the backbone of our integrated library systems.
The current issue of ITAL is no exception in this regard. We lead off with two papers that reflect the renewed interest of the past several years in the role and improvement of the library online catalog. Jia Mi and Cathy Weng review OPAC interfaces, searching functionality, and results displays to address the question of why the current OPAC is ineffective and what we can do to revitalize it. Timothy Dickey, in a contribution that received the 2007 LITA/ ExLibris Student Writing Award, (1) summarizes the challenges and benefits of a FRBR approach to current and "next-gen" library catalogs. Interestingly, as will become clear at the end of this column, Dickey's is not the first prize-winning FRBR study to appear in the pages of ITAL. …