|The 2000 edition of the fourth annual Internet Librarian conference
convened November 5–9 in Monterey, California, the site of the first event.
Monterey is always a pleasant venue and seems to be an attractive destination
for conference goers. This year, the conference center bustled with activity
as the show drew 100 top companies to the exhibit hall, and over 2,100
The three main days of the conference offered four simultaneous tracks
of sessions that covered a range of issues and challenges facing information
professionals who are dealing with Internet technologies. The mixture of
practical tips, case studies, and functional applications, with some visionary
perspectives added in, provided much food for thought and something for
everyone. Once again, Jane Dysart and her organizing committee had a clear
sense of the topics and issues that needed to be covered, and are to be
commended for their organization of the program and their choice of speakers.
There was also a full roster of pre- and post-conference sessions, as well
as a 2-day conference within a conference, Internet@Schools, hosted by
On the Right Track
The four main conference tracks focused on carefully chosen themes,
and, of course, attendees could move freely among the track sessions. The
WebWizards’ Symposium was aimed at Webmasters, managers, and others wishing
to follow the learning track. The broad range of sessions in this area
covered practical site design and implementation issues, cool analysis
and usability tools, virus-protection strategies, data-visualization software,
the use of application service providers (ASPs), systems for delivery of
library services, and more.
Just reviewing the list of speakers for this track, I was struck by
the diversity of job titles, backgrounds, and organizations they represented.
Speakers were from large corporations and small firms; huge universities
and small colleges; public libraries; health-science organizations; and
companies in the information industry, both traditionals and Net newbies.
Some speakers were information brokers and one was the program officer
for Internet services for the Association of Research Libraries. I realized
the speak-ers mirrored the attendees that were there, based on the people
I saw and the conference statistics. As I observed the collaboration and
sharing that occurred among these folks—leaders and learners all looking
to improve their services and learn from each other—I saw they recognized
the commonalities of their problems and goals. It’s great to see the linking
of people that can occur in a forum like this.
The second main track was titled Navigating the Net: Searching and Searchers,
and covered training, search engines, and virtual communities. While all
of the sessions were lively, well-attended, and featured top speakers,
I particularly enjoyed the session titled “My Favorite Search Engine.”
Mary Ellen Bates, a top business “Super Searcher,” discussed a case study
of how she approached a particular business search, using a range of sites,
forums, and search engines, and then the professional online services.
It was solid and logical—just what I’ve come to expect from Bates. Greg
Notess, who does the Search Engine Showdown (http://www.search
engineshowdown.com), gave an entertaining look at the iWon.com
site, but confessed that his favorite search engine right now was “none
Chris Sherman, About.com’s Web Search guide, discussed a new search
engine that’s available as an experimental prototype. Originally known
as CiteSeer and now called ResearchIndex (http://www.research
index.com), it combines a metasearch engine with a computer-science
citation index. The engine locates and fetches Adobe PostScript and PDF
documents (which are usually part of the “invisible Web”), and verifies
that they’re valid research papers. It uses both citation analysis and
semantic measures for its relevance ranking of retrieved documents. ResearchIndex
provides users with bibliographic information, author information, a link
to an author’s page, an abstract of the document, the context of citations
(document cited by and similar documents), and citations within the document
with links to those. For now, the subject is just computer science, but
the engine gives us a glimpse of what’s possible and where new product
development might be headed. The full source code of ResearchIndex is available
at no cost for noncommercial use.
The third main track covered electronic resources, and included sessions
on negotiating and licensing resources, coping with copyright and digital
rights, digital projects, content management, and new roles for information
professionals in dealing with the new technologies and e-resources. In
particular, I found the session with Darlene Fichter and Rebecca Jones
to be both entertaining and inspiring. They looked at some of the shifts
occurring in technologies and our organizations, and provided some clues
on how to make sense of them and take control of our future direction.
Both speakers foresee a positive outlook for the information professional
and urged attendees to be visionary in their goals and communicate directly
with their markets. Fichter discussed Human Click (http://www.humanclick.com),
a live help-desk application that can be added to sites that allows users
to “click here” to talk to a real person.
The fourth track was titled the Intranet Professionals Institute and
covered library portals, knowledge management, and various issues in information
architecture. Whew—this was meaty content. There was also no way I could
cover such a range of sessions, except as personal impressions. So, as
I moved among the session tracks, trying to catch a certain topic or speaker,
I made notes of themes that stood out in my mind and that recurred in a
number of the presentations.
Perhaps the most important point I heard throughout the conference
was, “Don’t reinvent the wheel—share and reuse.” If there’s an application
or a compilation or whatever, that you can link to, acquire, or license,
and that meets the needs of your customers, use it. This was a particular
point of emphasis in the special evening SCOUG (Southern California Online
Users Group) session. Barbara Quint, editor of Searcher, noted that
90 percent of our problems are people problems, and are not based on technology.
“Never do anything twice,” she said. Her advice was to network, share,
use your leverage, connect with colleagues, use consortia, and, most of
all, make a difference. A related point was to take advantage of co-branding
opportunities to minimize your work. Carole Leita urged libraries to work
with the Librarians Index to the Internet (http://www.lii.org)
and provide a free, co-branded product for their patrons.
Many speakers talked about the dramatic transformations their companies
or organizations were going through: changing business models, strategic
shifts, intense competition, mergers, and acquisitions. I heard considerable
frustration on the part of users with their vendors. Though, to be fair,
the vendors seem to be just as challenged by the current business climate.
It’s hard to know who owns whom, what the companies are now, and to keep
up with rapidly evolving products and prices. In some cases, companies
end up paying for content more than once as vendors sell to multiple departments
within an organization.
In such a frenetic environment, it’s critical for information professionals
to get involved in the organization’s core technology evaluation/acquisition
team and be a part of the group making the choices. Many speakers stressed
the vital importance of how we market and sell our services. Customization
features and personalization options were also stressed by a number of
speakers, both from the service-provider perspective as well as the user
New and Evolving Technologies
While I did miss the three keynote presentations that began each day
of last year’s conference, this year offered a closing keynote session
that served to set the tone heading into 2001. Well-known information industry
consultant Steve Arnold talked about some technological developments to
watch and the implications for information and knowledge management.
Arnold discussed how Web OPACs with Z39.50 protocol that tap the unifying
and integrating aspects of the Web will provide for the broad indexing
of disparate sources. He also mentioned how a library district with multiple
library locations can present information to patrons in the order of the
library closest to them. Libraries will be able to offer personalization
features like those found in services such as My Yahoo!, and, by taking
advantage of ASPs, they’ll be able to extend their services and add functions
to their sites without any programming. Arnold believes that we’ll begin
to see the next generation of community service tools become available,
such as those offering real-time text or voice chat with the library reference
desk. He advocated that a library should function more like Amazon.com,
know its users’ preferences, and offer suggestions. We shouldn’t just provide
information, but be in the solutions business.
Arnold also indicated we are likely to see more brand wars, a further
slipping behind in indexing the Web, and more fragmentation and subsequent
confusion on the part of users. However, portal “umbrellas”—in which the
tools are blended with the work task at hand—will be increasingly implemented
by organizations. For example, the portal for a company provides tasks
for its employees laid out on the home page with one-click functions. Workers
are channeled to approved links out on the Net. So, 2001 could be the year
of the “knowledge and information space odyssey.”
A volume of conference proceedings and tapes of the sessions are available
for purchase from Information Today, Inc. (800/300-9868). The company Web
has the conference schedule of sessions, with links to exhibitors and speakers,
and to many of the electronic resources used in speakers’ presentations,
including outlines and PowerPoint slides.
Internet Librarian 2001 will be held November 6–8, 2001, at the Pasadena
Conference Center in Pasadena, California—a new location for the annual
event. For information on participating, attending, or exhibiting, visit
Hope to see you there.
Paula J. Hane, co-editor with Barbara Quint for NewsBreaks, is contributing
editor of Information Today, a former reference librarian, and a
longtime online searcher. Her e-mail address is phane@