Libraries Remain on the Cutting Edge of Technology

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 25, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Libraries Remain on the Cutting Edge of Technology

Byline: Sarah Long

Librarians have always been early adaptors to new technology. For example, I remember the first fax machine I ever saw. It must have been in the mid-1970s. It was a sort of long cylindrical contraption with a needle that transcribed the letters onto a sheet of funny, coated paper. The paper smelled funny and faded after a while. In fact, the whole process took a long time and didn't work too well. But the point is, librarians were experimenting with fax technology well before it became commonplace in the 1980s.

At a recent library meeting, I was introduced to two amazing pieces of software that seem to foreshadow things to come.

The first is called Keyhole. My colleague who was demonstrating began by showing us a picture of the earth on his computer screen. Then he entered the address of the building we were in and we zoomed down and down and down to the very hotel where the demonstration was taking place. He asked someone in the crowd for her home address. Off we zoomed again and we could see the roof of this person's house and even make out her car in the driveway. Someone asked about a recent bombing in Fallujah, so we went to Iraq and saw the smoking crater from that tragedy.

Keyhole is made possible by a combination of satellite images and pictures from aircraft flyovers. Additional information, such as demographics, can be part of the equation to make the software extremely useful to businesses. For example, AMB Property owns over 1,000 buildings all over the world. The company uses Keyhole to show the condition of its properties, as well as the adjacent neighborhood.

You've probably seen Keyhole at work if you watch CNN. Keyhole software is regularly employed for aerial pictures as part of CNN's broadcasts. Go to the Keyhole Web site at and scroll down to the bottom of the first page. Click on the CNN logo for a demonstration or choose one of the Keyhole movies such as "Olympics: Stadium" for a very dramatic demonstration of what Keyhole can do.

The other piece of software is called Grokker, which searches other search engines and displays the results in a picture or diagram.

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Libraries Remain on the Cutting Edge of Technology


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