Magazine article Information Today

Internet Librarian International 2001

Magazine article Information Today

Internet Librarian International 2001

Article excerpt

This 3-day event drew some of the biggest names in the information industry

Fleas on dogs and the impossible drawings of the Dutch artist M. C. Escher opened the third annual Internet Librarian International (ILI) event at London's Olympia in late March. These images were summoned up by Stevan Harnad, professor of cognitive science at the University of Southampton (U.K.), who delivered the conference's opening keynote. Harnad has a radical view of the future of refereed journal publishing and he was clearly relishing the opportunity to tempt his audience with his vision of a future "utopia of virtual libraries."

Harnad believes that the current "dog" that is the digital corpus is being worried to distraction by the "flea" of refereed journals. Preaching to the converted, perhaps, he said that librarians the world over are finding it increasingly difficult to provide their researchers with access to all the journals they need. The current situation is leading to new product-development failures and academic inequalities and is doing nothing for the authors, whose careers depend on journal citations.

Harnad's Escher-like world was one in which researchers are paid nothing for the papers they publish, where job applications fail because research papers haven't been cited, and where authors are threatened with breach of copyright when they put their papers on their own Web sites so they can share their findings. "Who is the copyright supposed to protect?" Harnad demanded.

Full details of Harnad's elegant way of ridding the dog of the flea and of providing a real perspective to the Escher world of refereed papers can be found in his paper "For Whom the Gate Tolls?" which is available on his department Web site ([sim]harnad).

Harnad's concluding image was one of a world where the entire full-text refereed corpus was available--with full interlinking--on every researcher's desktop, 24 hours a day, at no cost. It set the hearts of his audience beating a little faster--a good way to embark on 3 days of intensive learning and sharing of knowledge.

International, Yet Intimate

Internet Librarian International is a relatively new event in what some people might say is a well-catered-to market. It's also a relatively small-scale event, certainly if compared to InfoToday 2001, the Special Libraries Association's annual conference, or London's Online Information. So what makes it worth attending?

When Information Today, Inc. president Tom Hogan addressed conference delegates at the start of the first day he emphasized the event's internationalism. He told the audience that 350 delegates had traveled from 41 different countries--including Finland, Australia, Malaysia, and Hungary--to be there. Indeed the speakers themselves represented several nations. Meeting international colleagues is certainly one of the hallmarks of the event.

The other valuable thing about ILI is, maybe surprisingly, its very smallness. During Hogan's opening address there was an air of intimacy which carried through to the exhibition floor, where the 50 exhibitors displayed their targeted wares to a focused audience. At ILL, relevancy and practicality are the order of the day. (One only had to visit the London Book Fair in Olympia's larger Main Hall next door to ILI to experience the daunting nature of a truly huge show.) [Editor's Note: See John Bryans' sidebar on the London Book Fair below.]

This year, ILI comprised three conference tracks in addition to the exhibition and workshops on the days before and after the main conference. The three tracks--on intranets, e-resources, and tools and systems--covered the central concerns of the Internet librarian of the 21st century.

Solid Overview

In the first of these tracks, Howard McQueen, CEO of independent consultancy McQueen Consultants, gave a virtual presentation (by telephone) on content management for intranets. …

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