Magazine article American Libraries

Writing 2007 to Memory: Where We Are and Where We're Headed

Magazine article American Libraries

Writing 2007 to Memory: Where We Are and Where We're Headed

Article excerpt

As I look over a year's worth of stories and topics in this column and on the Hectic Pace blog, I can tell it's been a busy year, both for libraries and their vendors. Closing out the year is this mixture of the top stories, trends, and products to hit the scene in 2007.

It's either selfish or self-observing, but I can't help but start out with the story that led off the year for American Libraries: the redesign. First of all, this very column moved from the series of columns toward the back of the magazine to a technology department up in the front. News was expanded. Meredith Farkas joined Joe Janes and me in recognition of technology's pervasive place in the world of libraries.

Next-generation catalog

I'm on record for starting to loathe the moniker "next-generation" to describe anything that libraries and vendors are doing with integrated library systems. Basing the length of a generation on how long the Israelites wandered in the wilderness makes a generation too long. Basing it on the gap in years between parent and child isn't much better relative to technological generations. The fact that libraries, vendors, and IT entrepreneurs have done in the last two years what was envisioned by researchers 15-20 years ago is hardly cause for the library profession to jump up and down screaming, "We're next-gen!"

Nevertheless, ranting aside, we are catching up to the next generation of patrons with better relevance-ranked results, faceted browsing, tagging, and integrated social networking tools--Aqua-browser, Encore, Endeca, Primo, Solr, Vivisimo, and others are the current-generation standards for search and discovery.

Moon shots

Speaking of next-generation, what happens to the catalog of surrogate records when digital surrogates of entire monographs are easily available through the search engine with the biggest market share? You didn't think I was going to be able to get through this review without mentioning Google, did you?

The February 5 New Yorker called it "Google's Moon Shot." The search engine--giant's Marissa Mayer claimed that Google could scan at least as many books as were represented in OCLC's WorldCat at that time (32 million) within 10 years. As the number of Google Book Search library partners approaches 20, the March 22 Economist estimated that Google is scanning 10 million books per year, or 27,000 books per day. Compare that to the number of catalog records produced each year.

Not to be outdone by the "commercial" sector, Brewster Kahle, famous for establishing the Internet Archive, among other things, started an initiative this year to create both a freely available union catalog and digital books to go along with it (AL. Sept., p. 44). I remain skeptical that a primarily volunteer, user-generated cooperative can challenge both OCLC and Google, but the effort itself is raising a lot of interesting topics and questions.

Expansion of open source software alternatives from Equinox, LibLime, Index Data, and Care Affiliates also made news in 2007. …

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