Magazine article Information Today

'April Showers Bring ...'

Magazine article Information Today

'April Showers Bring ...'

Article excerpt

Not long after my brother-in-law Wayne smugly remarked how well he had predicted a mild local winter, the snow started coming. And coming. And coming. Consequently, here's my advice to Wayne: Don't quit your day job hoping for a post at the National Weather Service. As for you readers whose day jobs focus on some aspect of information retrieval, I have three articles from Computers in Libraries, The CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research, and Searcher that may plant some interesting seeds for later sowing.

SODA: 'Canned' Archives

If you were looking for funding to expand your physical library and were suddenly offered almost a half-million dollars to create a digital library, what would you do? Well, systems librarian Jim Rible and co-workers at Southern Oregon University's Lenn and Dixie Hannon Library took the $470,000 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and shifted gears from bricks and mortar to digital archiving. In the April issue of CIL (pp. 16-18, 20-22), Rible details the "birthing" process of the Southern Oregon Digital Archives (SODA), which features the First Nations/Tribal and Bioregional collections.

Since no one on staff knew much about digital collections, the first real challenge was forming a team and assigning responsibilities. Next, the group checked out existing digital projects. While nothing mirrored what the team wanted to do, talking with others (or, in Jim's case, attending a weeklong workshop on digitizing) was quite helpful. Writes Rible, "I had the time to hang out with people who knew the ins and outs of scanning and to ask them lots of annoying questions." He also discovered the team's first big dilemmas: finding the best way to create digital image files, or masters, for all materials to be part of SODA and choosing the best option for the images' search and retrieval.

After some debate, the team decided that images could be scanned as 300 dpi TIFFs and that Adobe's Acrobat PDF offered the best options for document viewing. The next question became how to make the scanned material available on the Web. For that task, the team chose ArchivalWare from Progressive Technology Federal Systems, Inc. (PTFS), which combines database searching and PDF navigation, allowing users to search by a variety of fields. One of SODA's final ingredients was PrimeOCR, a product that can simultaneously create a PDF and perform optical character recognition at an extremely high level of accuracy.

How long did it take for SODA to go from the research phase to the phase where users could "drink up" all of its archives? A mere 14 months. Currently, the SODA team is hoping to develop cooperative arrangements with agencies to build up its Bioregional collection and is looking into adding its own thesaurus to the full-text searching capabilities of ArchivalWare. You can find out more about all the technical aspects of SODA at http://soda .sou.edu/technical.html.

PC Weather

Do you feel as if the whole issue of political correctness (PC) is hovering like a threatening cloud that could burst into a really stormy mess, if it hasn't already? Then you'll want to check out John Lescher's A Closer Look column in the April issue of The CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research (p. 6).

Lescher presents a brief history of the term, which may have roots going as far back as the late 1700s but began picking up steam in the 1970s. Through quotes and URLs, Lescher attempts to give alternating opinions on a topic that is about as likely to stir up raucous responses as a roomful of Republicans and Democrats debating the Iraqi war or anti-abortionists and pro-choicers squaring off over Roe v. …

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