Magazine article Computers in Libraries

New Laws, New Tools, New Needs: Making Sense of Things at IL 2001. (Newsline Reports)

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

New Laws, New Tools, New Needs: Making Sense of Things at IL 2001. (Newsline Reports)

Article excerpt

The 5th annual Internet Librarian conference, which took place November 6-8, 2001, was held in Pasadena, California, this year. The conference offered a varied program that appealed to the 1,899 people who attended--a good thing, since it had to compete with Pasadena's sunny 70-degree weather and ample downtown shopping. Attendees flocked to the 52 sessions, organized into 4 concurrent tracks: Content Management, Navigating the Net, Webwizards' Symposium, and Digital Reality.

Many of the sessions focused on users' changing expectations, and on different ways libraries are evolving to meet new demands and competition. Tuesday's opening keynote, delivered by Hope Tillman, president of the Special Libraries Association, summarized this trend by telling attendees that librarian intermediation needs to be more visible. "The days of information on our shelves speaking for itself are over--if they ever existed," she said, stressing a need for flexibility and the ability to change while holding onto library fundamentals, such as communication, cataloging, and the evaluation of content's quality, electronic or otherwise.

One way libraries add value is through Web interfaces that are customized to meet their specific users' needs. An entire Content Management track on Tuesday, Intranets & Portals, was devoted to this topic. One session in particular, From Library to Web Portal, addressed the need to separate content from design in order to serve on-site and remote patrons. Terence K. Huwe, director of library and information resources for the Institute of Industrial Relations at the University of California--Berkeley, spoke about using databases to make Web content dynamic. He stressed that databases provide reusable content that is more efficient to manage than static (HTML) content. Lillian Woon Gassie, senior systems librarian at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, then gave a demonstration of a free Web development tool, Zope. She showed attendees several prepared templates for the program, available at http://www.zope.org, which they could use to design dynamic intranet and portal sites without spending thousands of dollars for a commercial development tool.

Another interesting session on Tuesday was The Information Center Model: A Brave New World Without Books, part of the Strategies & Services section of the Digital Reality track. Here, Stephanie R. Davis and Linda C. Weber, of the University of Southern California (USC), talked about how in 1998 their specialized libraries were closed and their resources placed with the university's main collection, in storage, or online. Today, Davis and Weber have offices in the department buildings whose libraries they used to oversee, and they conduct all their reference work from outside the main library building, with no onsite collections. Their story demonstrated for me that remote access can be used for more than distance learning or letting people avoid the building--at USC, it is a way to get reference librarians into the departmental buildings, where their patrons are.

Virtual Reference Becomes More of a Reality

Between sessions, attendees had a chance to explore the exhibit hall, where they talked with vendors and tried out demos of new products ranging from databases to automation tools and virtual reference. At the Information Today, Inc. booth, Cyber-Age Books authors Gary Price and Chris Sherman talked with readers and signed copies of their recent release, The In visible Web, which had been reviewed in The New York Times, USA TODAY. and Time Europe. Another popular site in the hall was the LSSI booth, where convention-goers saw demonstrations of its Virtual Reference software. Throughout the conference to the final moments of the Grand Hall Finale, groups stood around LSSI's two monitors, watching as questions were answered and Web pages "pushed" between the computers in real time.

The same curiosity that led people to the LSSI booth also filled the Wednesday afternoon session titled Virtual Reference at the Reference Desk: Making E-Reference EZ. …

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