Magazine article American Libraries

Technically Speaking: Everything Was Bigger-Except the News

Magazine article American Libraries

Technically Speaking: Everything Was Bigger-Except the News

Article excerpt

Everything is bigger in Texas--except, it seems, for the library automation news. The floor at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Antonio seemed big and busy, and all the vendor wares that conference attendees are used to seeing were in play. But the bigness of the space seemed to turn the usual buzz into whispers, and even what seemed like major announcements and product releases were swallowed up in the wide-open conference center hallways that could easily have doubled for football fields.

So I had to settle for what seemed like business as usual this year. Still, there were some things worth noting and some new trends to spot.

Listless ILS-ness

For those who follow the library automation marketplace, Midwinter almost always starts with the tradition of the RMG panel, which features a slew of library automation CEOs looking dapper and trying to display sparks of innovation and distinction without revealing their business plans to the competitors sitting next to them. This year's panel, hosted by panel founder Rob McGee, included Paul Cope, Auto-Graphics; Roland Dietz, Endeavor; Matti Shem Tov, Ex Libris; Eric van Lubeek, Geac; Ronald Brisebois, Isacsoft; Jerry Kline, Innovative Interfaces; Bill Schickling, Polaris; Pat Sommers, SirsiDynix; Annette Murphy, TLC; and Vinod Chachra, VTLS.

In a theater built to hold several hundred, only about 70 people turned out--most of them in the employ of panelists. If they came looking for gems from the competition or slipups from their own bosses, they were sorely disappointed. It can be daunting to be the sixth panelist to attempt a nondisclosing answer to a question about which few in the audience were interested (e.g., "What are your plans for marketing the ILS in China?").


If the legacy ILS has become unexciting to Libraryland, then talking about it for three hours is a battle for enlightenment. My hat is off to the intrepid company leaders who looked only slightly less bored than I am sure they were. And actually, my hat is still off to Rob McGee for keeping the panel going for so long. This year, things just fell a little flat. Like Texas, that room was just too big.

Library what?

Despite the lack of buzz on the vendor floor, there were some buzzwords that vendors and libraries could both latch onto and apply to their markets. "Library 2.0" made the rounds as an extension of last year's "Web 2.0." Put simply, the 2.0 moniker denotes a next generation of web technology. Here are a few simplistic 2.0 juxtapositions (for which I will probably incur the wrath of technology mavens): Britannica Online is Web 1.0, Wikipedia is 2.0; Mapquest is 1.0, the new interactive Google and Yahoo maps are 2.0. More than just new applications, Web 2.0 connotes a platform that improves with usage and personal interaction. For instance, taxonomies are very 1.0; folksonomies--the individual tagging and creation of metadata--is tres 2.0.

Many librarians have branded the Web 2.0 concept as Library 2.0. As with most technology, libraries don't embrace something until they can find a use for it. A few years ago, you would have thought that libraries had invented online chat for all the hype that virtual reference created. Some have gone so far as to suggest that anything new in libraries is Library 2.0 and everything old is anti-2.0. I bristle at this "if you ain't fer it yer agin' it" mentality.

I'll take mine version-less

I find more solace in libraries and vendors just doing new technology. …

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