Free Associations

Article excerpt

Two years ago, I attended what would prove to be a very significant conference in the Bloomsbury section of London. The event was known as the Bloomsbury Conference, jointly sponsored by the Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group of CILIP (the U.K. library association), in cooperation with the venerable European Association of Information Services (EUSIDIC).

The Bloomsbury Conference in 2008 was dubbed Beyond Discovery, recognizing that an information industry that once was entirely focused on search and retrieval of mostly scientific and academic information in databases was moving into the Web 2.0 era. "Things once unthinkable are now part of daily life," quipped the keynoter.

By the end of that year, another unthinkable thing occurred. EUSIDIC itself (which only a decade before boasted of being "the largest association of its kind in Europe," including major users, publishers, and information distributors from every European nation and representing "the widest set of interest in what is prospected to be the 21st century's major industry") simply evaporated upon the untimely death of its then-current executive secretary and champion documentalist Johan van Halm.

So the significance of the 2008 Bloomsbury Conference proved to be that it was the last official meeting of EUSIDIC, a group which dated from the start of online information retrieval.

Then, a few weeks ago, I attended another meeting in Philadelphia. This was a conference for EUSIDIC's American cousin, ASIDIC (The Association for Information and Dissemination Centers), a meeting which I now fear may prove to be as equally significant as the Bloomsbury Conference.

Founded in 1968 and originally known as the Association of Scientific Information Dissemination Centers, ASIDIC first consisted of research organizations that "spun tapes" (i.e., had access to computer-readable databases on their mainframe computers).

As with EUSIDIC (which once also had "information dissemination centers" in its name), ASIDIC evolved and grew into an association for publishers, information service providers, and information professionals.

When I attended ASIDIC's 35th annual spring meeting in March, I thought the most significant thing about the program was that it was focusing on Web 3.0 (semantic web) developments. But no sooner had the event ended than a press release was issued announcing that ASIDIC would soon be dissolved unless it found a backer or a buyer. …