Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Information Trapping - IFTF's Summer Book

At the July meeting of the Information and the Future Task Force we will be discussing Tara Calishain's book Information Trapping: Real-Time Research on the Web.

IFTF has been exploring emerging technologies and resources that are available on the web and this book will help us think about how to effectively use these tools to conduct research. The book is full of tips, examples, and reviews of different services with the goal of performing research that is "manageable but complete." I haven't yet read the chapters on organizing email but I hear that alone is "worth the price of the book"

Calishain has published several other books about online research and maintains the ResearchBuzz blog. I believe this book will help us think about the similarities and differences in our approach to research as we move into the digital age.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

New and Improved Google Books

Google announced (and also here) last Thursday that they now are including information on books that they haven't digitized in their book search results. Although I couldn't find hard numbers, the Inside Google Book Search blog claims that it is millions. I have noticed the results when searching Google books. Titles that previously only showed up at the bottom of the results page under "Search Library Catalog" are now integrated with the other results.

The Google library blog mentions that Google is working with 20 different union catalogs and other third party metadata sources. In at least one case the Google books record is more accurate then the Worldcat record (though I've asked for a correction to be made in OCLC). In addition to the usual title, author, publisher, some of the Google records also include summaries (I assumed supplied by the publisher) of the content.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Enhanced OPACS

Next Tuesday the IFTF task force will be giving a presentation on online bibliographic databases. Several of those databases are already being integrated with local library catalogs. Here are some examples of OPACs enhanced with third party data:

Nelsonville Public Library (with Amazon data)

University of Washinton Library (with Worldcat data)

Danbury Library (with Librarything data)

If you haven't had a chance to explore these catalogs, I would encourage you to do so.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Information gluttony

Let us not mince words. For libraries in the 21st century, the situation is dire. The library as we know it was designed to meet the needs of a society whose chief information problem was one of scarcity . . . Libraries did a good job of meeting this need, but the radical changes of the past two decades have left traditional library practices behind. Information is no longer stored primarily in print formats; most published information is created and stored electronically - printing comes later if at all - and a tremendous amount of it is made freely available to the general public through the Internet. The defining characteristic of today's information world is not one of scarcity, but of glut.

Rick Anderson, "The (Uncertain) Future of Libraries in a Google World: Sounding the Alarm," in Libraries and Google, p. 33
This is the quote I've been thinking about as I continue to reflect on David Bade's paper on the future of cataloging. I think that the push to automate or otherwise speed the creation of metadata is in part an attempt to move from the famine to the feast. But as the slow food movement has made clear a efficiency in the production and consumption of food comes at a cost. Namely a loss of the cultural meaning of our food and ultimately a diminished pleasure in eating.

As I think about the future of information, I think it will be important for us to think about to create systems that continue to value the knowledge and wisdom that comes from the contemplative interaction with information. Just as it is important for us to take seriously and respond the incredible growth in the amount and availability of that information. I think Anderson is right that the future of libraries is uncertain. We need to respond - the question is how.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Comparing bibliographic databases

We have begun to compare search results and search options in 4 online bibliographic databases:

As a first step towards systematically comparing these databases, I would like us to compile a list of sample searches to do in each database. Members of this task force can enter names, titles, and keywords they would like us to try in our wiki. If others on this list have ideas or suggestions feel free to add them as comments to this post.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

LC's Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control

I was fortunate enough to attend the Library of Congress' May 9th public meeting in Chicago on the future of bibliographic control. I'm not a great note taker so for a full accounting of the meeting please see the account in Off The Mark.

Here are a few highlights:

  • I thought David Bade's paper was fascinating and am hoping that it becomes public (hopefully with full citations). One of his points was that we should understand cataloging as a form of communication and that good cataloging should meet the same standards as good communication. He argued that the prevailing metaphors for cataloging are too mechanistic (he called them transportation metaphors) and lose sight of the fact that machines on their own communicate nothing. He went on to make the case that the best cataloging is done by people with a stake in the outcome - praising tagging as the re-emergence of user created metadata but ultimately calling for scholarly catalogers situated within and communicating with actual communities of users. I think he underestimates the potential for networked cataloging and ways technology can enhance communication but found his presentation the most thought provoking of the day. I also was thrilled to hear him question the technology hype that one often finds in this field (perhaps in this blog?).
  • Dianne Hillmann discussed the recent announcement that RDA was partnering with the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. I'm still a little shaky on what all of this will mean but the plan is to create an application profile that explains the obligation and constraints of RDA metadata. There was real excitement at the Working Group that this would open up new opportunities for RDA to be adopted as a standard by those outside of the library world and possibly help library applications move beyond MARC.
  • Jennifer Bowen from the University of Rochester shared about many things but what struck me was her call for a new vision of what cataloging should be. She argued that cataloging is undergoing substantial change and that it is not enough to simply assure catalogers that they will continue to have a place in the new world. She used the example of taking a pastry chef out of her bakery and putting them in a cake factory. We need to understand that the skills that made the chef in the bakery may not translate well to the factory even though cake is still being produced. Similarly we need to understand and be honest about the fact that new and different skills may be needed now. Her hope was that a new vision could be articulated that would help us understand what those new skills may be.
That is just a small taste from the meeting. I'm grateful for the chance to attend and look forward to hearing about the third and final public meeting in July on economics and organizations.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Minutes 5/3/07

The minutes from our 5/3/07 meeting are available on the wiki:

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May IFTF Presentation

Later this month the full Information and the Future Task Force will be meeting to investigate Books in Cyberspace. Specifically this meeting will look at four large Internet based bibliographic databases,,,, and

As we compare and contrasts these databases we will also be asking how the local library catalog fits into this landscape? What can we learn from these four different databases? I think this promises to be a very interesting time. I'm tentatively planning on the meeting being Friday, May 25 but that date may change.

If you would like more information please visit our wiki here