An American in London; a Report on Online Informtion '94, December 1994

Article excerpt

Online Information in London, sponsored by Learned Information Ltd, has an energy and identity unlike any U.S. online information show. I attended my first conference in this series in 1986, and I felt like a kid in a candy store. (At the time the conference went under the name International Online Information Meeting, and indeed many people still refer to the conference as IOLIM.) There were so many products that I had never seen before and so many different perspectives on the practice of librarianship or the information profession among the European delegates. I still have that feeling seven shows later.

I am not alone. A first time U.S. representative, an old hand at U.S. shows, said that Online Information '94 was totally different from shows in North America. The target audience is not only librarians but also the information publishers and providers as well as local business persons. She was amazed at the genuine curiosity of the exhibition attendees who were asking questions in an attempt to learn more about products and services.

"It's wonderful," enthused a representative of the Russian National Public Library for Science and Technology.

"This is the most productive of the online shows I have attended" stated an Asian colleague who went on to say that he was able to line up new and exciting schemes for the Southeast Asian market.

The show resembles the National Online Meeting in New York, with its extensive exhibits, delivered papers that are often more theoretical than practical, product reviews, satellite events, and a concurrent Electronic Publishing Conference, which is a recent addition. Also included are "Technical Tutorials" and "Library Lectures." The lectures are sponsored by library and information associations, such as ALA, IFLA, and FID and open to delegates, exhibitors, and exhibit attendees

Two things differentiate Online Information from other shows. First, obviously, is the multinational makeup of the delegates and exhibitors. More importantly, this is a trade show for the information industry. Not only do information providers exhibit for information users, but information suppliers exhibit for information providers.

The Exhibition

The heart of the show is the exhibition hall, housing 250 exhibits on three floors. People queue up, waiting for the doors to open. Over 12,480 people attended the 1994 exhibition, a 30 percent increase over last year.

"We never had a busier day than yesterday" stated one veteran Dun & Bradstreet exhibitor. Other vendors ran out of brochures, business cards, and even contracts.

To successfully cover the exhibition hall requires planning and focus. In previous years, I was looking at new international business information tools and felt relatively satisfied in my hunt for information. This year, being set loose to see what was new and interesting to the delegates, I was unable to take in all that was happening. I followed the crowds to the stands popular for their products, such as OCLC and SandPoint, to the stands popular for their give-aways, such as MAID's drinks and dessert stand, and to the stands which had issued press releases concerning "new" products.

Themes in the exhibition hall were information delivery, direct access to information from information providers, filters, and more CD-ROMs. New Windows interfaces continued to predominate at the traditional online stands. U.S.-based companies (whatever that now means) were out in force, but mostly with their European representatives in the stands.

Here are a few of the major announcements made at Online Information '94:

Chemical Abstracts held a press conference to introduce SCIFINDER in Europe. SCIFINDER is due for release in early 1995. This product combines enduser searching (Explore), a Table of Contents Service (Browse), and a current awareness service (Keep Me Posted). You can access it through Windows or on a Mac and via Internet or other high speed connections. …