Technically Speaking: Taking Library Services around the World. (Information Technology)

Article excerpt

One of the gradual but unmistakable trends in library technology news that has occurred since I began writing this column in 1996 is the increasing amount of international news I receive. Not only have international sales become an ever-greater percentage of the library technology marketplace, but North American librarians are becoming increasingly aware of, and affected by, library trends and events around the world. And libraries in the U.S. are offering both more international information and more multilingual services.

Baltimore County (Md.) Public Library and Montgomery County (Md.) Library recently began using a real-time over-the-phone interpretation and document translation service provided by Language Line Services of Monterey, California. For $50 per month and a per-minute rate that depends on the language being translated and the time of the call, Language Line Services will translate speaking and writing in 148 languages. The libraries are using the service primarily to communicate with patrons who speak a language that is not understood by any library staff on duty. For more information on Language Line Services, go to www.languageline.com or call 800-752-0093, ext. 196.

OCLC, which has made globalization a core strategy, announced that it was providing small public, school, special, and other libraries in Australia with access to WorldCat through the National Library of Australia's Kinetica service on a trial basis. Kinetica is a bibliographic utility that serves as an Australian national union catalog and supports interlibrary loan and document delivery to over 1,400 libraries throughout Australia. For more information on Kinetica, go to www.nla.gov.au/services/serv_libs.html.

Blackwell Publishing and Ebsco Publishing are working with the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to help disseminate scientific and scholarly information to six countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. Blackwell will provide reduced rate online access to 600 journals, and EBSCO will make a number of its full-text and bibliographic databases available both online and via CD-ROM or DVD-ROM.

INASP is a worldwide network of nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies, and individuals, the mission of which is to enhance the flow of information within and between countries, especially those with less-developed systems of publication and dissemination. Access to the journal content is free for the participating libraries and researchers. The information-dissemination program is expected to expand to a wider range of countries in Africa, Asia, and Central America by the end of the year. Major funding for INASP's journal initiative is provided jointly by DANIDA, the Danish International Development Agency, and SIDA, the Swedish International Development Agency.

Endeavor brought together nine of its customers from Europe and the U.S. recently to discuss how Endeavor should implement Unicode support. Unicode is a character-encoding standard that represents all the world's scripts and characters. The company is planning to convert the holdings, bibliographic, and authority records of all its customers to Unicode (the UTF8 version), thereby joining a growing group of ILS vendors that can support library cataloging and resource discovery in a polyglot environment.

Innovative Evaluation

While most ILS vendors have extensive services on their Web sites, to my knowledge only Innovative Interfaces (www.iii.com) has provided inquisitive non-Innovative customers with a demo of the site's design and the major services available. It got me to thinking that Web-based support services are becoming such an important aspect of overall ILS customer support that an evaluation of such services should be an integral part of a library's evaluation of prospective vendors. Comparing customer support areas of ILS-vendor Web sites would be very revealing about both the quality of the software and how it is supported. …