Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: The Centrality of Centrality. (Information Technology)

Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: The Centrality of Centrality. (Information Technology)

Article excerpt

Over the last few weeks, I've had the privilege of speaking to several fascinating groups of librarians: the state library associations of Texas and Washington and the Army Library Institute. I always have fun meeting people at conferences, and these were no exceptions. And although the talks I gave were all somewhat different, I found a common theme emerging, based on developments over the last decade.

In that time, we have seen vastly improved access to our collections. Catalog searching has moved from the first few characters of the traditional three access points to keyword searching of those fields and others never before possible, including notes and call numbers and all sorts of other valuable ways. This has also fundamentally changed the nature of searching for these kinds of records, and likely calls into question the pre-coordinate nature of subject headings.

Our users now have a significantly enhanced ability to get at the journal literature. Database searching has become much easier and more ubiquitous, and, of course, the availability of the full text of articles on demand is a huge win. Professionally, that access is wonderful; but concurrently we've lost many of the sophisticated and powerful tools that distinguished the ways we searched and our searching ability. Those of us of a certain age will remember with some wistfulness the raw searching power and precision of command-line Dialog or BRS or Lexis/Nexis, all now largely evaporated.

Most libraries have also developed and maintained original Web resources based on unique holdings or collections, local history, strengths and interests of the community and staff, and so on. These are wonderful, if only to get stuff like that out of the filing cabinets and onto the Web, where a much wider visibility and usefulness awaits.

Accelerated access

Taken together, this all represents a quantum leap in access for our clientele. They have many more ways of getting at information resources we have acquired and built for them, and many if not most of the boundaries of space and time that used to limit that access have fallen away. Searching journal databases and printing articles in the wee small hours of the morning, placing holds on books while out of town, people around the world using local-history and genealogy resources--it's breathtaking how this world has changed for our users. …

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