Technically Speaking

Article excerpt

A few words of introduction: Why did I get (willingly) roped into writing American Libraries' new technology column? One of my favorite aspects of librarianship is learning about what's new in the field. So what better excuse to spend lots of time keeping abreast of new products and services than to take on the responsibility of writing about them?

As for my approach, this successor to Dedicated Line will continue to be essentially descriptive. While readers should not expect critical review - or for that matter, laudatory endorsements - I will often go beyond the press releases and new-product announcements to present additional perspectives.

Occasionally I will devote an entire column to one theme. One upcoming installment will cover new aids for the sight- and hearing-impaired and the physically challenged. Another will deal with new collection-development tools. If you know of valuable new high-tech library products or services in these areas, please get in touch with me. (The submission deadline for the first topic is Oct. 15.)

For the most part, I will rely on you, vendors and librarians, to alert me to what is new and noteworthy. As you will see from this month's column, I will not be confining the entries to commercial products.

Check This Station Out

Another company has joined the short list of firms offering a self-service checkout station. Knogo Express gave the product to a number of public and academic libraries for about a year of beta testing before it began marketing it several months ago. Like the 3M self-service checkout station it follows to market, Knogo's system is fast and easy to use.

According to one of the beta testers, the system's screens are visually pleasing and self-explanatory. If the library I talked to is typical, use of the self-service checkout station will steadily increase as patrons get accustomed to its presence. Patrons especially like the checkout receipts the stations give out.

The system handles blocks quickly and with flexibility, directing patrons to the circulation desk if it has been programmed to refuse a checkout. At the current price of about $20,000 it could be a real cost-saver if heavily used. Knogo North America, 350 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788; 516-232-2100; fax 516-232-2124.

Free - If it's Not in Print

Reed Reference Publishing has decided to make Books Out Of Print freely accessible on the World Wide Web. The service is expected to be available sometime this fall; in fact, it could already be up by the time you read this. Check it out at http:/www.reedref.com.

When Reed put out a press release announcing that Books in Print (BIP) was available on Open DRA Net - the online resource-sharing network used by customers of DRA, DRA Inlex, and DRA MultiLIS - I called the firm to ask how the publishing of BIP has changed since it became available online and in CD-ROM format since the mid-'80s.

It turns out that the number of paper copies of BIP published has decreased modestly, mostly attributable to the falling off of multiple-copy sales. On the other hand, in recent years the number of CD-ROMs published has increased dramatically. BIP is right up there with popular consumer CD-ROM-based games in terms of sales volume.

Beginning in 1992 Reed began selling tapes to customers, who then had to supply the search software to their end-users. In 1994 the firm made its first agreement with a local-systems vendor, NOTIS, making BIP available using NOTIS's search engine. …