Monthly Archives: February 2002

A Library as Big as the World

Business Week: A Library as Big as the World. Kahle's goal to create a huge digital library is shedding light on just how restrictions on the universal access to published works are growing, says Lessig. “He has the technology, he has the money, and he has the business plan,” Lessig says. “All he needs is the permission of the lawyers, and he won't get it.” [Tomalak's Realm]

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Until reading this ZDNet article interviewing Don Box, it had not occurred to me that HTTP isn't everything we could want it to be. No sarcasm. People are jumping all over this story, but sheez, he makes some good points.  

On the other hand, the fear such a bold idea evokes is quite reasonable too. Any change in the way the Web behaves, authored by Microsoft, the owner of the dominant browser, could remove any possibility of competition with them in this vital space.  [Scripting News]

Mark made my day by sending me the following. He was cool enough to send me the entire article, although I don't think I can post the whole thing because I'd be breaking copyright law.  Sigh. Anyway, the cite is below in case you want to find the rest yourself. The gist of it is how humans have recorded knowledge throughout history and the major pitfall of each technique. You don't get the full humor without the first part, but here's a liberal quote:

Why Learn to Use a Library Anyhow?

Mark made my day by sending me the following. He was cool enough to send me the entire article, although I don't think I can post the whole thing because I'd be breaking copyright law.  Sigh. Anyway, the cite is below in case you want to find the rest yourself. The gist of it is how humans have recorded knowledge throughout history and the major pitfall of each technique. You don't get the full humor without the first part, but here's a liberal quote:

Why Learn to Use a Library Anyhow?
By Harold J. Ettelt
Analog, May 1983
The Connecticut Libraries, Volume 17, Number 2, 1975

“So man made his greatest invention: libraries (ask a librarian if you don't believe me).  In libraries he stored the writings, and later, copies of the writings. They got bigger and bigger and more and more complex and gave him a headache.

To solve this problem, man inadvertently invented his greatest headache: the librarian (there are many “greatest” headaches, but this is the right one). The librarian could organize the writings so that they could be found easily; he could protect them against fires and rats and stuff. And he could even help others use them. He could remember where things were written up and what books held what bits of information, and he did it all for a ridiculously small salary. But here we were relying on a man's memory again.

So man made his greatest invention: the index (there are many “greatest” inventions, but this is the right one). Sometimes called an index, bibliography, catalog, or abstracting service, the purpose of any of these is to tell you where the writings you want are to be found. Because the accumulated writing are so enormous, using these indexes is about your only hope man has of being able to find out what has been written up. Without them, much of those writings are as effectively “lost” as if the library had burned down.

That's what libraries are, then: vast accumulations of writings in an orderly arrangement. Using them consists of knowing how they're arranged and how the indexes work.

None of which answers the question this essay is supposed to answer, except that if you don't learn how to use a library, you're effectively back to having a few writings in your hut and hoping it won't burn down.”

Thanks, Mark!

[The Shifted Librarian]

Leddy Weblog

One of the great things about referrer logs is finding cool pages you didn't know existed. Today I found the Leddy Weblog, “an experiment in a local current awareness service” from the University of Windsor's Leddy Library, although perhaps it's a “successful experiment” since they've been doing this since September, 2000. The very first link on today's page is yet another story about When Cheating Becomes a Way of Life.

“Information has become promiscuous. Everyone can have as much of it as they want. People cut, paste, attach, copy, forward, cc, group mail. It's a miracle….

But there are fewer information workers to process all this information. For the past 10 years, all the major media organizations have been stripping down their work forces, even as the urgency to get the product out has accelerated in the wake of ever-fiercer competition, proliferating specialty channels and on-line newsrooms. The magazine and book markets are under similar pressure….

So what is really converging here is exploding information, a shortage of information processors, and the rise of the information star. The students at Piper High claimed they didn't know that all the stuff pouring onto their desktops had to be cited when pasted into a project….

But let's understand what's happening here. Morals are not in general decline. We are all simply trying to come to grips with a sudden excess of information and a shortage of information labourers who, when they read of these public humiliations, think 'there but for the grace . . .' ” [at The Globe and Mail]

As Mita notes, “information worker = librarian?” Which is why we'll always need librarians, whether we realize it or not. I think I will lobby to have my job title changed to “Promiscuous Information Star,” which would surely require a rather large raise.

FYI, I couldn't find a single reference to a library or librarian on the Piper High Web site.

[The Shifted Librarian]