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Magazines > Information Today > October 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 9 — October 2004

In Other Words
Speedy Deliveries
By Lauree Padgett

You know that expression, "Everything old is new again"? When I was a little girl growing up in the 1960s, door-to-door service was the norm. The milkman came and left bottles. A truck brought the best potato chips ever, Charles Chips, in a yellow and brown can. If you ordered something from Montgomery Ward, it would arrive at your house about 6 weeks later. As I got older, these kinds of deliveries stopped. You went to the supermarket for groceries. You didn't wait for weeks for something that you needed. Instead, you went to the mall. Now, thanks to the Internet, we're back to square one. We order food online, and milk, chips, and everything in between is bagged up and dropped off at our door. If you want a CD or a video, you don't hop in the car, you log into your personal Amazon.com account and, a few days later, it's in your mailbox. But the biggest mode of delivery is the Internet itself. This month, articles from Computers in Libraries, CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research, and Searcher each describe Web sites that know how to deliver great products and services.

(Dorm) Room Service

Library personnel at Northern Michigan University know what it's like to deal with patrons who don't want to go further than their computer screen to get information. Krista E. Clumpner, associate professor and head of technical services and systems at the university, tells of the library's quest to satisfy those hungering for desktop satisfaction in "Delivering Access to Library Materials and Services: Our Recipe for Success" (CIL, Oct. 2004). Clumpner explains: "Being very service-oriented, we started a small 'take-out' operation that blossomed into a full-fledged catering business." Clumpner had the job of setting up this new service. It had six main ingredients: a Web-based online catalog, MARC records with holdings, URLs, a Web-based interlibrary loan form, online databases, and authentication software. Getting the authentication software in place is a must because it will enable your students to access databases beyond the library building. Assuming your licensing agreements allow this access, it can still be a bit tricky to get IDs and passwords set up. (For detailed tips, read the article!) Once the ingredients are mixed in, it's just a matter of adding a little spice here and there to accommodate different tastes. Providing a variety of electronic resources, such as electronic journals, adds flavor. Wireless access enables students to get information no matter where they are on campus, and a chat reference service lets students and faculty ask the reference librarians questions without having to come to or call the library. Course-based instruction guides available on the Web accent print and online resources. This has been a win-win situation for students and library staff. Notes Clumpner: "The more we can serve people and tell them about our offerings, the more informed our patrons can be."

See Hunt

OAIster, a project of the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service and the topic of Marylaine Block's Finders Keepers column ("Pearls from an OAIster," CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research, Oct. 2004), has created "a collection of freely available, difficult-to-access, academically created digital resources" with the goal of making these resources easily searchable by anyone. Collections that fall under the radar screens of most standard search engines don't get past OAIster's software. Thanks to OAIster, audio, video, images, and Web sites preserved by the Internet Archive are searchable and come from a wide range of sources, including national libraries, scientific archives, electronic dissertation collections, oral history collections, museum collections, public domain literature collections, and map collections. Block writes, "OAIster will retrieve research-worth results across all disciplinary lines." In the 70 searches she ran on topics in science, architecture/engineering, music, literature, history, librarianship, medicine, and social sciences, Block consistently got many more hits from unexpected sources than she expected. And when she ran the same searches in Google, Yahoo!, and MSN, she verified OAIster's claim: It does dig up unique material, often academic and international, that goes beyond the reach of these engines. And, as Block concludes, "The things you didn't expect to find can be more intriguing than what you were actually looking for."

Strip Tease

Tara Breton makes a bold confession in the October issue of Searcher: She's a stripper. And her mother is a hooker! But before you think that these two need to go on Jerry Springer or get some counseling from Dr. Phil, relax. We're talking a different kind of stripping and hooking here. Breton's mom makes rugs and Tara is a quilter—an addicted one ("Quilting: The Story of an Obsession"). And who better to point all quilters or quilter wannabes to the best Web sites? From learning about stripping, piecing, and appliqué to sewing, there are sites to help. And, of course, you can shop online for any and all quilting needs. If there isn't a quilting class near you, buy a video! When Breton searched on Google for specialty quilting stores, she got over 285,000 hits. Quilting magazines also have niche markets. Do you use big blocks or small? Do you need tips for utilizing scraps? Do you need to do a quilt quickly? There's a magazine out there for almost any quilting scenario. Quilting tip sites also abound. Cottonwood Quilts (http://cottonwoodquilts.com/quilting.htm) has a standard index of terms and each term has its own link, complete with pictures. According to Breton, "If you have specific questions, the absolute best resources are the chat groups and online listservs." And guilds are a close second. Breton gives Quilt Guilds (http://www.quiltguilds.com) the nod as the best Internet guild directory. And, if you can't find a local guild, you can always join Internet ones, which is a good thing for Breton. At the rate she's going, she may soon lose driving privileges, having already had her credit cards repossessed by her husband. (He refuses to be an enabler!) But don't cry for her. With all the Internet help out there, it's hard to keep a good stripper down!

Oz Fest

But I can't come down too hard on Breton, knowing a little something about obsession—and personalized Amazon.com accounts—myself. I recently ordered a CD and three videos featuring Hugh Jackman, this year's Tony Award winner for Best Actor in a Musical. Let me tell you, this "Boy from Oz" can sing and dance like you wouldn't believe. I may even have to break down and buy a DVD player since the 1998 London production of Oklahoma! (in which his portrayal of cowboy Curly was much more than OK!), isn't available on VHS. In the meantime, I'll just keep listening to my Boy from Oz CD and enjoying my prolonged state of "Hugh-phoria," induced by seeing Mr. Jackman and company in the show's final Broadway performance on Sept. 12. It was, in a word, "oz-some."


Lauree Padgett is Information Today, Inc.'s manager of editorial services. Her e-mail address is lpadgett@infotoday.com.
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