Magazine article Information Today

Hole in the Roof

Magazine article Information Today

Hole in the Roof

Article excerpt

Working information professionals have some needs that aren't being met by reference source publishers, database producers, library trade press, et al. The lack of key reference tools in the area of electronic publishing and online sources makes it difficult for information professionals to do their jobs confidently and efficiently. This hurts them and their operations, and it also slows down the progress of electronic sources as well as the service provided to end-user clients.

There's money to be made in satisfying those unmet needs. In fact, maybe I should not write this piece as a column in Information Today. Maybe I should redraft it as a proposal and forward it directly to the publisher at Learned Information. (Are You Listening, Tom Hogan?) But, it's so close to the Christmas shopping season, and I always like to give gifts- to my friends in the information industry at this time of year. What better than a gift that keeps on giving - a shopping list?! So here are some ideas for what publishers, database producers, and search services should buy and build for me and other professional searchers.

First: The InfoPro's Internet

Source List

Everyone and all of their siblings publish guides to Internet sources these days. But where is the source list that works for working librarians setting collection policies for the future, for information brokers preparing service brochures for clients, for professional searchers designing training programs for new end-user searchers? Information professionals need source lists that are current and reliable. In the case of the Internet, that means online and updated daily. They need to know that the editor/compiler of the list never sleeps, or at least, never dies.

No information professional expects, or even wants, the source list to be comprehensive, if that is possible anymore. Instead we need a list of stable, reliable Internet assets, sources we can trust to continue. A few months ago, Online Access published an article written by a friend of mine on the availability of the ERIC (Educational Resource Information Center) database on the Internet. ERIC is an old friend of most online search services. In fact, it holds the unique position of being DIALOG's File 1 and the default entry point for searchers not bright enough to have changed their profile to land in a cheaper file. The article listed four Internet routes to ERIC. I checked all of them out the same month I got that issue of the magazine. As I recall, three of the four were already out of commission, including the one from the university-based ERIC clearinghouse responsible for covering Internet activities. When I called the latter establishment, they assured me that they were not "really" down. The university had decided to re-orient their entire computer network interface and change all the handshakes and menus, not to mention the system's name. The switchover would be completed in a couple of months, just in time for the fall semester.

So would ERIC belong in The InfoPro's Internet Source List? Of course. The key factor here lies in the presence of four routes. Redundancy equals, stability in the Internet milieu. However, the reference source should identify and file all current routes under one ERIC listing. No one wants to spend the rest of their life ARCHIE-ing or VERONICA-ing or GOPHER-ing around looking for listing after listing. In the best of all possible worlds, a publisher would build a sound print reference source that identifies key Internet sources with basic information and possibly some general access routing data. Then a supplementary online source would supply current routing information and even initiate access. The same trip online could also locate updates - preferably by interest/subject category - to the print source.

Publishers would have the advantage of building markets for print orders online. They could also reduce costs while maintaining high quality by saving information that changes frequently for the online environment. …

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