|Fleas on dogs and the impossible drawings of the Dutch artist M. C.
Escher opened the third annual Internet Librarian International (ILI) event
at London's Olympia in late March. These images were summoned up by Stevan
Harnad, professor of cognitive science at the University of Southampton
(U.K.), who delivered the conference's opening keynote. Harnad has a radical
view of the future of refereed journal publishing and he was clearly relishing
the opportunity to tempt his audience with his vision of a future "utopia
of virtual libraries."
Harnad believes that the current "dog" that is the digital corpus is
being worried to distraction by the "flea" of refereed journals. Preaching
to the converted, perhaps, he said that librarians the world over are finding
it increasingly difficult to provide their researchers with access to all
the journals they need. The current situation is leading to new product-development
failures and academic inequalities and is doing nothing for the authors,
whose careers depend on journal citations.
Harnad's Escher-like world was one in which researchers are paid nothing
for the papers they publish, where job applications fail because research
papers haven't been cited, and where authors are threatened with breach
of copyright when they put their papers on their own Web sites so they
can share their findings. "Who is the copyright supposed to protect?" Harnad
Full details of Harnad's elegant way of ridding the dog of the flea
and of providing a real perspective to the Escher world of refereed papers
can be found in his paper "For Whom the Gate Tolls?" which is available
on his department Web site (http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad).
Harnad's concluding image was one of a world where the entire full-text
refereed corpus was available—with full interlinking—on every researcher's
desktop, 24 hours a day, at no cost. It set the hearts of his audience
beating a little faster—a good way to embark on 3 days of intensive learning
and sharing of knowledge.
International, Yet Intimate
Internet Librarian International is a relatively new event in what
some people might say is a well-catered-to market. It's also a relatively
small-scale event, certainly if compared to InfoToday 2001, the Special
Libraries Association's annual conference, or London's Online Information.
So what makes it worth attending?
When Information Today, Inc. president Tom Hogan addressed conference
delegatesat the start of the first day he emphasized the event's internationalism.
He told the audience that 350 delegates had traveled from 41 different
countries—including Finland, Australia, Malaysia, and Hungary—to be there.
Indeed the speakers themselves represented several nations. Meeting international
colleagues is certainly one of the hallmarks of the event.
The other valuable thing about ILI is, maybe surprisingly, its very
smallness. During Hogan's opening address there was an air of intimacy
which carried through to the exhibition floor, where the 50 exhibitors
displayed their targeted wares to a focused audience. At ILI, relevancy
and practicality are the order of the day. (One only had to visit the London
Book Fair in Olympia's larger Main Hall next door to ILI to experience
the daunting nature of a truly huge show.) [Editor's Note: See John Bryans'
on the London Book Fair below.]
This year, ILI comprised three conference tracks in addition to the
exhibition and workshops on the days before and after the main conference.
The three tracks—on intranets, e-resources, and tools and systems—covered
the central concerns of the Internet librarian of the 21st century.
The London Book Fair 2001
by John Bryans
When one considers the British literary tradition, the mind reels. From
Shakespeare to Dickens to Kipling, from Jane Austen and the Brontë
sisters to Mary Shelley, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Conan Doyle, D. H. Lawrence,
Graham Greene, John LeCarré, and beyond, England is a land of words
and wordsmiths without peer. In all the world, what better place for a
book fair than Londontown?
The annual London Book Fair (LBF) is the smallest of the three major,
international book-publishing events, after Germany's Frankfurt Book Fair
(known simply as "Frankfurt" within the book trade) and the U.S.'s Book
Expo America (BEA). Mighty Frankfurt, held in the fall, draws about four
times as many exhibitors and more than 10 times the visitors as LBF, and
is widely viewed as "the" place for the world's book publishers to launch
new titles and conduct their international rights business. BEA, held in
Chicago (usually) each spring, serves the largest English-speaking marketplace
in the world for printed books and bookstore sidelines, and appears to
have established itself as the key event for publishers and booksellers
who are interested in investigating, publishing, and distributing e-books.
Given that LBF is unable to compete with the two bigger shows in any
of these areas (to be fair, the show does provide a good venue for rights
trading, and is striving to keep up with electronic publishing issues),
what is its raison d'être? Well, first of all, should you be tempted
to think for a moment that LBF suffers an inferiority complex—quick, think
Hugh Grant trying to sound Mafioso in Mickey Blue Eyes—forget about it.
This, after all, is the United Kingdom, unrivaled as a wellspring of poets,
playwrights, historians, and novelists. I suspect that herein lies the
key, and that the celebrated English literary tradition itself is what
draws publishing professionals the world over to London for 3 days each
March. After all, you never know what incredible book or writer may emerge
next from England—not to mention Ireland, Scotland, or Wales.
The aisles of Olympia Hall in Hammersmith during LBF are a bibliophile's
delight. Every type of book imaginable is on display from publishers large
and small, old and new, classic and modern, sensible and uncouth, trendy
and scholarly, and those that defy classification. A year or two into our
new millennium, the essence of LBF continues to be a celebration of printed
books—exhibitors of e-books and electronic publishing solutions are few
and far between, though they seem to purchase a disproportionate number
of signs and show program ads. Among them I discovered Microsoft, showing
its Microsoft Reader technology, which is supposed to make text appear
as clear and readable on a computer monitor as it does in a printed book.
From the demo I was given, I think they may have brought along the wrong
monitor. Versaware and Reciprocal were offering e-solutions for publishers
interested in catching the e-book wave (er, ripple). Online trading in
subsidiary rights continues to look like one of the most promising Web
applications for publishers, though a widely accepted model has yet to
emerge. For $200 per title (with a minimum of 10 titles per year), Rightscenter.com
allows publishers and agents to promote their literary properties virtually
to other publishers and agents, in the hopes of licensing translations,
movie deals, and other subsidiary rights.
Seminars and events at LBF reflected a high level of interest in e-book
publishing, print-on-demand (POD) technology, and rights trading. The 2-day
"ePub London" was a heavily promoted event held just prior to LBF that
looked at a wide range of electronic publishing issues. A workshop on "Quality
Digital Content" examined the growing content-syndication market, describing
how publishers can license their content to others and identify reasonably
priced material to enhance their own Web sites. The "PDF to Print" seminar
explored the use of PDF in creating e-books and realizing the economies
of on-demand printing, while a full-day workshop sponsored by Versaware
was this vendor's primer on the art of creating, marketing, and distributing
For the past 3 years, Information Today, Inc.'s Internet Librarian International
(ILI)/Libtech conference has run in conjunction with LBF (organized by The Reed Exposition Group) . This appears to be a very good match. A conference
and exhibit like ILI/Libtech—with its focus on Internet-based sources and
strategies for U.K. and European librarians and info pros—should want to
draw publishing professionals interested in electronic information technology,
while a book show on the scale of LBF naturally needs to attract librarians.
From a librarian's point of view, having these events run concurrently
provides a very clear benefit: the opportunity to learn about new electronic
information products and books in one London visit.
LBF drew 12,795 attendees, 1,593 exhibiting companies, and 2,395 booksellers.
About 514 of the ILI/Libtech attendees—less than one-third of the total
number registered for the Information Today, Inc. event—crossed over to
the book fair. Apparently, scanning their badges was the sole method employed
by LBF to count librarians. To increase the numbers of librarians attending
the book fair, LBF could more actively promote ILI/Libtech in its pre-event
marketing materials, and make a greater effort to recognize and welcome
its librarian visitors. As for traffic in the other direction, if you were
drawn to London for LBF 2001 it would have been quite easy to miss ILI/Libtech.
A more generous use of on-site signage, announcements, and show program
listings at LBF would help here.
Given the obvious value of both ILI/Libtech and LBF to the library community
in Europe and the U.K., I hope to see many more of my librarian friends
in London in 2002. If you fancy a pint of bitter; mind the gap; look right,
look left—I'm your pubmate.
John Bryans is editor in chief of the Book Division of Information
Today, Inc., where he specializes in developing books for librarians and
info pros, educators, indexers, and business users of online information
and the Internet. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
In the first of these tracks, Howard McQueen, CEO of independent consultancy
McQueen Consultants, gave a virtual presentation (by telephone) on content
management for intranets. He made the useful point that, these days, almost
everyone is both a contributor to and user of content. He added that with
almost all content now being created in digital form the boundaries between
intranets, extranets, and the Internet are blurring. To cope with this
expanding world it was vital, he said, to have a robust and scalable content
management (CM) strategy.
McQueen's presentation was aimed at the beginner. It gave a solid overview
of the subject and covered his view of the fundamentals of content management:
a robust information architecture, applications that people really want
to use, effective integration of content from different sources, good security,
McQueen also spoke about the usefulness of thinking not about networks
to link B2E (business-to-employee) but about E2E (employee-to-employee)
networks. "You want to get employees talking to each other to capture information
and create knowledge," he said.
Although the presentation was fairly basic, along the way he made points
that are worth hearing and rehearing. "Professionally retool yourself all
the time," he exhorted. "Prototype and test ... find a sponsor ... take
Information Black Holes
Martin White picked up the intranet management baton with his presentation
on intranets and corporate portals. White, whose habitual style is debonair
and lighthearted, is a familiar voice in the European information world.
"You can do anything with Microsoft FrontPage," he pointed out early in
the session, "except create a good Web site." His presentation was also
practical and usable and was well-received at Olympia with both appreciative
laughter and much note-taking.
Maybe it's something about European speakers, but White was as fond
of imagery as Harnad. He introduced the concepts of Black Hole intranets
(intranets into which more and more information is stuffed until they collapse
in on themselves to form black holes from which not even the smallest scrap
of data escapes) and the Titanic approach to Internet costing (the required
hardware and software costs represent only a fraction of the real cost
as the staff time needed is usually hidden).
White shared with his audience the mostcommon reasons for the failure
of intranets. He went on to ask why, when an intranet did fail, so many
organizations decided that the solution was to put a corporate portal in
place. Make no mistake, he warned, a successful corporate portal depends
on more than fancy software. "I am not loved by corporate portal vendors,"
he said, "but my advice is that if you've got the money for corporate portal
software, spend it on your intranet instead."
He concluded: "Your goal is to get the right pages, doing the right
thing. That's business sense. Otherwise, it's wasted money."
No Silver Bullets
Stephen Arnold, president of Arnold Information Technologies, is another
man not afraid of plain speaking. Arnold gave two presentations at this
year's ILI: a paper on software tools for managing content and a keynote
address. In the former, Arnold told his audience not to look for a "silver
bullet" for their content management problems. "There isn't one," he said.
"Programming has always been tough and there are no quick fixes."
In his keynote address, Arnold awakened his audience to the fact that,
in today's rapidly evolving digital space, people have less and less time
and more and more things to do. No dissent from the audience at this observation.
We are moving into a world of constant interaction and continuous communication,
Arnold explained. In this world, attention is a rare commodity and Web
sites need to work hard. They should be "magnetic" to pull users in and
then quick to engage the visitor's interest. "Did you know," he asked his
audience, "you've only got 20 seconds to do that?"
In an appropriately enthralling and fast-moving presentation,Arnold
spoke about the need first to "bond" your visitors to your site and then
to create an environment that they never want to leave—"nesting," as he
described it. This sort of relationship building—or "R technology"—is the
only way to ensure business success in the wired world.
He gave an exciting description of a world of "always on" devices with
information delivered through voice applications. The resulting environment
will be "orders of magnitude" different to the Internet we know and will
involve "ad hoc real-time networks" that use "radio-based messaging," which
can be responded to either by voice or text messages in real time or later.
In this brave new world, Arnold concluded, image and text data would merge
to deliver information where and when needed.
His parting words were two pieces of advice. The first was to "get smart
about privacy." The second was to pare information down. "Avoid the Dialog
and Lexis-Nexis situation," he said. "You don't want that much information."
Usable and Popular
Giving people what they want and what they can use was the theme of
a well-attended talk given by Frank Cervone, director of the Office of
Instructional Technology Development at DePaul University Libraries. It
was standing-room-only as he shared the secrets of Web site design and
usability. His very accessible talk covered all aspects of the topic, from
why you should undertake a redesign to measuring how successful you've
He had some fascinating insights into the subject. "Discard your biases,"
he warned. Librarians are naturally fond of text and so there is a need
to "replace your text head" in order to think about how users themselves
want to receive information.
What made Cervone's presentation particularly useful was the fact that
while he asserted the tenets of best practice he also recognized the strictures
of daily life. By all means find out what your users want. But then realize
it might not be the best use of your resources—or even possible—to satisfy
In an interesting echo of Arnold's "R technologies," Cervone suggested
that good Web sites carried "a sense of place, a place to be comfortable."
Other highlights of the conference included an engaging and knowledgeable
talk about migrating an online service to a WAP-service from Lars Klarsen
of the Swedish company Sema Group InfoData; a personal view of the technicalities
of running a portal from William Hann, winner of last year's European Special
Libriarian of the Year Award and founder of business information portal
Free Pint; and a masterly overview of both traditional and Web-based content
aggregators from IDC's Susan Funke. Nor would it be right to ignore the
aptly named Web Wizards' Symposium, featuring the magical Mary Ellen Bates,
Greg Notess, Gary Price, and Danny Sullivan.
Over the 3 days, conference delegates were treated to some product puffs
(the usual suspects). But they were also offered fascinating insights from
colleagues over a broad geographical and disciplinary range, along with
the wisdom of some of the biggest names in the information profession.
Not bad for a 3-year-old.
[Copies of the Conference Proceedings are available for $24.95 from
Information Today, Inc. (http://www.infotoday.com).
Papers from the conference can be found at http://www.internet-librarian.com/presentations/.]
Helen Jezzard is editor of Information World Review. Her e-mail
address is firstname.lastname@example.org.