Information Online Plenary Presentations. (Report from the Field)

By Hawkins, Donald T. | Information Today, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Information Online Plenary Presentations. (Report from the Field)


Hawkins, Donald T., Information Today


Information Online 2003, held Jan. 21-23 in Sydney, attracted 1,200 attendees. This conference is the largest that addresses online information in Australasia. It featured an exhibit shorter presentations (many by international authors), and numerous associated activities. Below are a few plenary session summaries. The complete proceedings are available at http://www.alia.org.au/conferences/online2003.

Opening Session

In his opening keynote speech, Steve Coffman, vice president of Library Systems & Services, Inc., described libraries as an endangered species and discussed how information professionals can ensure their survival. According to Coffman, despite recent statistics that show book circulation is down significantly in many libraries, books are more popular than ever. More than 140,000 titles were published in 2002.

The large book superstores are very bullish on books. A recent report from Borders stated that the company hopes to open an annual average of 40 new stores during the next few years. Obviously, such shops have discovered what people want. Libraries would do well to emulate them by providing access to large collections of books, comfortable surroundings, ambience, long hours of operation, ordering convenience, and self-service (with friendly help available when necessary).

Coffman suggested that libraries should extend their hours, emphasize their collection strengths, develop convenient ways to borrow books online, and make their services easier to use. He recommends that they do not depend entirely on traditional funding sources but should explore ways to save money by examining their processes and using technology to its fullest. They might also consider raising money through securing sponsorship, soliciting gifts, offering premium services on a membership basis, and selling used books. Libraries need to find a better way to serve our enduring quest for knowledge.

Obtaining Content

Corilee Christou, director of online and new media licensing and development for Cahners Business Information, talked about the "content jungle." She noted that with more content available than ever before, needs assessments are important. The Web is the ultimate level playing field, and the universal law of the jungle--survival of the fittest--continues to apply. With entry barriers virtually eliminated (anyone can be a publisher), users must be vigilant and examine content offerings carefully to determine if they meet their needs. According to Christou, you should use the following rules of the game:

* Know usage requirements and understand license terms.

* Have a backup plan if the vendor's content ownership changes.

* Get the right content and don't buy simply on price.

* Address the short-term needs but prepare for the long-term.

Carol Tenopir, a professor at the University of Tennessee--Knoxville, discussed e-journals and two models for obtaining them: directly from the publisher (the journal model) or from aggregators (the article model). She pointed out that a journal is not just a collection of articles. It has an editor, an editorial board, and readers, and thus forms a community. The journal model can substitute for a print subscription, but the article model cannot because it's mainly used for searching. Libraries should consider these two models when they decide to subscribe to e-journals.

Changing Flow of Information

Russ Dawsoa, founder and CEO of Advanced Human Technologies, provided the second day's keynote address with an excellent presentation titled "The Changing Flow of Information." He noted that the amount of information made available in the last 6 years is equal in volume to everything that was previously available. Despite shrinking economies, an explosive connectivity growth has occurred. …

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