Libraries and the Internet

Libraries and the Internet.

Kudos to Google and its new university allies — including my alma
mater, the University of Michigan, as well as Harvard, Stanford, and
Oxford — for their exciting project to open the stacks (Wall Street Journal, via Paul Kedrosky).
It's a great day for the dissemination of knowledge! Bloggers from
these institutions are relaying the emails received from their

Via Edward Vilmietti in Ann Arbor, from University of Michigan officials Paul Courant and William Gosling:

>The project will make it possible for a user to locate and
>read the full text of works that are out of copyright, and to
>find snippets of text for copyrighted material, along with
>information about where a work can be found.
>In undertaking this project, we understand and respect the
>copyright issues involved. As an institution we create, use,
>and distribute all sorts of copyrighted works, and we care
>deeply about copyright issues from all aspects.
>This project is consistent with the very purpose of copyright
>law as reflected in the U.S. Constitution, to promote the
>advancement and dissemination of knowledge.
>For more information about the project, go to

Via John Battelle and John Palfrey, et. al, from Harvard's Sid Verba:

Plans call for the eventual development of a link allowing Google users
at Harvard to connect directly to the online HOLLIS (Harvard Online
Library Information System) catalog (
for information on the location and availability at Harvard of works
identified through a Google search. This would merge the search
capacity of the Internet with the deep research collections at Harvard
into one seamless resource — a development especially important for
undergraduates who often see the library and the Internet as
alternative and perhaps rival sources of information.

This is terrific news! But…”eventual development of a link”? Hmm. I visited the HOLLIS system and found it to be an Ex Libris Aleph system. It's of a newer flavor than the one I was already supporting in LibraryLookup, so I added a new variant to the bookmarklet generator. Now you can create bookmarklets that work with Harvard, MIT, and other sites that use this flavor of Aleph system.

Last month, of course, the librarians were also busily exploring the connections among Amazon, Google, and the OCLC's WorldCat.
If you haven't noticed this yet, it's quite remarkable. Here, for
example, is the first result of a search for my

[BOOK] Practical Internet GroupwareLibrary SearchWeb Search
J UdellCited by 11
O'Reilley and Associates, Sebastapol, CA, 1999

Clicking the Library Search link takes you a WorldCat page
where, after you supply your ZIP or other postal code, you'll be linked
to the OPAC systems in your area that hold the book.

Sid Verba's point about library/Internet synergy is worth amplifying. As I first realized when I helped create O'Reilly's Safari Books Online
service, and again later when Amazon's “search inside the book” feature
debuted, it's incredibly useful to be able to search books even when
you can't access their full contents online. I use these services now
in order to locate passages in books that I already own, because it's
usually more effective than looking things up in the index.

More broadly, the Internet can profoundly improve the relationship
between libraries and society. For example, there are two major
libraries in my town — a college library, and a public library. My
library card works in both places. I used to favor the college library,
because there was open WiFi access there — which meant, among other
things, that I could use LibraryLookup from my laptop to find books in
the stacks. Recently, though, the college shut down its open access
point. And from an IT administrator's point of view, I can understand
why. Not long after, the public library installed an open access point.
So now it's my favorite spot, and lately I notice other mobile
professionals congregating there too.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I was visiting the college library to
pick up a book that LibraryLookup had showed me was available there. It
was a Thursday night. After I found my book, I spent some time looking
around in the stacks. When I came downstairs the library was closed,
everyone had left, and the front door was locked. It was 8:05 PM and
the library closes (I now realize) at 8:00 PM. The notion that anyone
would still be in the library at closing time on a Thursday night was,
evidently, unthinkable.

So I walked over to the librarians' desk, called campus security,
and advised them of the situation. They said they'd be right over.
After 15 minutes I got tired of waiting, swiped my books to avoid
triggering the alarm, unlocked the door, and let myself out.

Meanwhile, over at the public library, the scene at 8PM on a Thursday night is lively. As it should be.  [Jon's Radio]

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