No Librarians Left Behind: Preparing for Next-Generation
Libraries (Part 1)
by Stephen Abram, M.L.S.
In January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed
into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. As
you know, the Act is the most sweeping reform of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
since ESEA was enacted in 1965. It redefines the
federal role in K-12 education and hopes to help
close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and
minority students and their peers. It is based on
four basic principles: stronger accountability for
results, increased flexibility and local control,
expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on
teaching methods that have been proven to work.
A new and comprehensive report from the Canadian
Coalition for School Libraries shows that students
who attend schools with well-funded, well-stocked
libraries managed by qualified teacher-librarians
have higher achievement, improved literacy, and greater
success at the post-secondary level. The study, entitled "The
Crisis in Canada's School Libraries: The Case for
Reform and Reinvestment," was written by Dr. Ken
Haycock, professor and former director at the Graduate
School of Library, Archival and Information Studies
at the University of British Columbia. "The evidence
is there for all to see," says Dr. Haycock. "That's
why governments in the U.S., Europe, and Asia are
aggressively investing in their school libraries." (Free
copies of this excellent report can be downloaded
What's disturbing is that policymakers are ignoring
the findings of literally decades of international
research that shows why school libraries and qualified
teacher-librarians are essential components in the
academic programming of any school. [Editor's
Note: For more such evidence, see "Proof of the
Power: Quality Library Media Programs Affect Academic
Achievement," by Keith Curry Lance, in the September
2001 issue of MultiMedia Schools; also available
online at http://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools/sep01/lance.htm.]
Sadly, this both neglects the opportunity to lift
up the learner and often ignores the essential impact
that teacher-librarians have on the learner's experience
and learning success.
What do we do? It's time to take the proverbial
bull by the horns and, as library and learning specialists,
anticipate future student and school needs, future
(and current) technologies "in the service of learning." In
this and in a follow-up piece in the next issue of
what in January 2004 will be called MultiMedia & Internet
@ SchoolsDid you see editor David Hoffman's
note on this page?!?I will explore a few key
trends in the technology arena that will have a combined
impact on libraries, our user populations, our students'
futures ... and therefore our services.
The Keys to Success
For No Child Left Behind to be successful, no
librarian or library resource can be left behind,
In our libraries, as librarians, teachers, technicians,
multimedia specialists, and as learners ourselves,
we have adapted fairly well to the changes of the
past 10 yearsthe hardware, the Internet, CD-ROM,
variant e-mail systems, educational software, the
Web, portals, networks, e-books, multiple search
engines and blended approaches to the invisible Web,
the public Web and licensed products, as well as
new book paradigms. At our conferences, association
meetings, and seminars, at work and play, and in
lunches with fellow educators, we talk about our
visions, fears, and hopes of the technological future,
and we explore the relevant role we may play in that
future ecosystem. It's time to recognize that this
is just part of our wonderful professional adaptability
to ongoing change, to see that this core competency
can be positioned to the advantage of our schools,
our libraries, and our learners.
Many of these trends will have a greater impact
than the Web has had on society in the past decade!
The Web stuff was a mere acorn compared to the oak
of change coming down the pipeline. As a futurist,
I have developed a keen eye for identifying those
trends that will make a difference. As librarians
and educators, we can make a difference over the
next 5 years by understanding what's coming, learning
how it works, seeking key benefits for our students,
and becoming the resource in our schools that lifts
our learners up to their full potential.
For the purposes of this two-part article, I see
five key groups of trends in the pipeline in the
coming few years:
What will search and find look like in
the next 3-5 years?
What will the Web look like?
What end-user devices will be popular?
What will our learning and work environments
What are our school library microtrends?
I'll address the first two in this issue, the final
three in my January "Pipeline" column.
Search, Find, and Display
We're about to see the greatest mutation of the
search paradigm ever. Until now, the Web search engines
were pretty much word searchers that searched inverted
indexes and, more recently, applied relevancy algorithms
to their results instead of the less-than-satisfying
alphabetical or chronological results lists of olden
times. These were just ranked lists and pointers
Take a look at some of these recent newcomers and
how they've changed the face of search. Do users
need training anymore? Do they need intermediaries
or search coaches? Yes, they surely dobut we
need to understand it, too.
These search engines have different ways of adding
value to search. Some do it through insights into
the nature of "discovery," and some just display
the results better for quicker access. The focus
of the search engine designer has moved from the
search box and algorithms to making results display
more usefully on a basic learning level.
So, one major trend in search is to create a visual
display that looks like a map or folders or a solar
system or some other metaphor that shows you the
relationships and dimensionality of the information
in the contentderived from the internal taxonomies,
thesauri, or proprietary algorithms. This is very
interesting and has a great deal of potential. Two
of the most interesting are Kartoo.com [http://www.kartoo.com/] and, from TheBrain.com, WebBrain.
com [http://www.webbrain.com/]. Other examples of these sorts of visual search
interfaces are InXight [http://www.inxight.com/], iLOR [http://www.ilor.com/],
Antarctica [http://www.antarctica.net/], and Vivisimo [http://vivisimo.com/].
Playing with these new style search and display services will provide insights
into where and how our current students will be exploring the Web next.
The other major trend is not to just visually map
a search result but to organize the hits ... and
not just public Web hits. These tools can often be
licensed and tuned to our intranets, OPACS, and invisible
Web resources. Sometimes these look like folders
that mirror the metadata in the source, sometimes
they create metadata on the fly through sources they
chooseas minor as a Roget's or as proprietary
and high value as MESH or LCSH headings and metadata
trees. Some just look like editorially (human) organized
links, but they're not. You can see how some of this
works using the tools from Applied Semantics [http://www.appliedsemantics.com/] and WiseNut [http://www.wisenut.com/].
We, as librarians, are also feeling growing pressure
to be more timely and to predict content that students
and other users want before they know that it exists
or even that they need it. We need to keep our eyes
on the tools for proactive and personal alertingtools
like the Google Alerts [http://www.googlealert.com/],
ChangeDetect [http://www.changedetect.com/], Spy-on-it
[http://www.spyonit.com/], and specialized bots for creating seek and find
searches while we sleep.
Our beloved Google had better evolve and adapt,
too. In the search engine world, survival of the
fittest rules. We're already seeing Google offering
a multitude of new services (and ads) that index
and serve up many information formats besides the
traditional HTML, as well as loads of new additions
including some media and beyond-PDF options. Some
of these aren't just texta peek into the multimedia
future. As librarians who train students and others
to search, we have a critical role to teach budding
searchers how to choose the right resource. If search
results are manipulated by advertisers or search
engine optimization specialists with other priorities
than "clean" results, our learners could enter a
world in which they could have their "answers" manipulated
in nefarious ways.
Are we ready for multimedia searching? As more
and more valuable but nontext information is stored
and accessible via the Web, we'd better be. We're
starting to see picture search go on steroidslots
o'muscle. Take a gander at what Google Images (start
at http://www.google.com), AltaVista (start at http://www.altavista.com/],
BayTSP.com [http://www.baytsp.com], and MS Corbis
[http://www.corbis.com/] are doing. In the new music
search enginessome pretty amazing stuff here,
toowe see the potential to tap into words buried
in streaming sound. Are you ready to search full
motion digital video in DVDs? Take look at such neat
stuff as the new video search engines like those
from LTU Technologies [http://www.ltutech.com/] that
allow for the very easy searching, indexing, filtering,
monitoring, and segmenting of streaming media. The
days of the slide-tape shows of my youth are definitely
Are we ready for multilingual searching? How about
being able to easily search other languages when
buried and wrapped in a picture or graphic? A lot
is happening in this space. WiseNut has, among others,
Korean and Japanese options for its visual search.
The majority of fairly decent but not perfect Web-based
language translations can be handled at AltaVista's
Babel Fish [http://babel.altavista.com/] and Babylon.com
[http://www.babylon.com/]. Babylon also offers thousands
of multilingual thesauri along with a new feature
that offers male and female voices giving English
word pronunciation. Kartoo has French, Italian, Spanish,
German, and Portuguese visual thesaural implementation
for search. My children, who do their education in
French immersion schools, can search the Web and
find French native-language-based sites displayed
in a French taxonomy. Imagine a controlled vocabulary
being displayed as a constellation and you can see
how cool Kartoo is.
What's Next for the Web?
First we're entering an era in which the databases
are going to get even more massive. Simple original
source materials, like historical newspapers, are
huge. The Pages of the Past product, which covers
all editions of the Toronto Star newspaper
since 1894, is 2 terabytes of images and 2 million
broadsheet pages of searchable text and images alone. The
New York Times historical database is even bigger.
Learners can now view, easily, the original news
report of topics like the Civil War, slavery, civil
rights, and more. It brings history to life but requires
new yet easily learned searching and database skills.
The role of information literacy training will grow,
not diminish, with the coming generations of learners.
Being computer literate is not information literacy.
The issues of finding (not just searching) both the
visible and the invisible Web will challenge our
schools, our learners, and our society in coming
It's becoming clear that the search "problem" on
the Web may end up being solved by some solutions
that resemble PC games more than what we see today
. . . navigating a three-dimensional space using
such currently crude tools as joysticks, and gloves
and eyeball goggles! Imagine the situation in which
the result of your search is achieved through a very
complex paththe research result is the "Princess" you're
saving at the end of the game. You have to pick up
clues by going through many doors as you seek to
solve the issue at hand. Search and find will happen
like this, and we've trained an entire generation,
the video gamers, to explore information/problem
space this way. It may be that kids who aren't allowed
to play games will be somewhat information disabled
in the future.
The next-generation, but by no means final, architecture
of the Internet and Web is already here. You can
see this in the file sharing (so called P2P or peer-to-peer)
protocols that don't require Web pages or HTML to
share information or any digital objects (images,
documents, whole Web sites, records, learning nuggets,
etc.). Combine this trend with our emerging "why" generation
who so easily shares and retrieves files through
Napster clones like Gnutella, KaZaA, and Morpheus
and we can see that, more than sharing MP3s and DVDs,
the future is likely to embrace sharing any digitizable
Peer architecture is closely related to things
that are near and dear to our library heartsfull-text,
full-image, and full-article delivery. We are seeing
the emergence of industry standard advanced intelligent
linking services that allow us to combine our abstract
and indexing servicesthose services that we
know are necessary for accurate and productive search
and findwith access to our Web-based periodical
subscriptions and collections. The standard is called
OpenURL and you can see this as standard fare in
the products and strategic plans from Ingenta [http://www.ingenta.com/],
Catchwordnow Ingenta Select [http://www.catchword.com/],
Ovid [http://www.ovid.com/], Infotrieve [http://www.infotrieve.com/],
OCLC [http://www.oclc.org/], and ProQuest [http://www.il.proquest.com/].
OpenURL allows us to create Webliographies and pathfinders
that access the rich resources of our Web and licensed
What Devices Are in the Pipeline?
First, I think it's pretty clear that within 5
years the PC will not be the dominant electronic
tool, or even access device. Clearly, laptops outsell
desktops now, and hand-held devices outsell both.
Several things are happening that we need to watch
and adapt to. . . .
Ahh, but, says my editor, that's for next time.
I've reached the limit here, so peer into the "Pipeline" in
the Internet @ Schools section of the January 2004
issue of MultiMedia & Internet @ Schools,
and I'll finish my story. See you there!
Editor's Note: Greetings, MMS readers,
on the occasion of the publication of the last issue
of MultiMedia Schools! ... But I hasten
to say, "last," only because we're making
some changes in your magazine starting with
the next issue, January 2004, including a
modest but significant name change. The next
issue you receive will be entitled MultiMedia & Internet
@ Schools. There will be much of the good
old MMS in MMIS, as well as
quite a bit that will be new, including a
division of the contents into three sections,
Technology @ Schools, Internet @ Schools,
and Products @ Schools.
I'll be writing more about that in our
first 2004 issue. But I thought I'd introduce
one of the upcoming new elements now by having
Stephen Abram give you the first half of
a thoughtful and forward-looking essay he's
written for the K-12 media specialist profession.
Stephen, who was named by Library Journal in
March 2002 as one of the Top 50 people who
are shaping the future of libraries and librarianship,
will be joining us as author of the "Pipeline" column
in the Internet @ Schools section of MultiMedia & Internet
@ Schools. He will be keeping you informed
of technology and applications "in the pipeline" that
you'll want and need to be dealing with,
say, a couple of years ahead.
I hope you enjoy and are informed by this
first part of his two-part series on trends
in the field. Part 2, which will be his first "Pipeline" column,
will finish what he's started here, culminating
in a Top 10 Trends to Watch.
Stephen Abram received his M.L.S. from the University of Toronto
in 1980. He is the immediate past president of the Ontario Library Association,
where he planned and hosted two summitson the Crisis in School Libraries
and on the vision for a province-wide digital library. In June 2003, he was awarded
the highest award of the Special Libraries Association, the John Cotton Dana
Award. Also, in June 2003, he assumed the role of president-elect of the Canadian
Library Association. Stephen's day job is vice president of corporate development
for Micromedia ProQuest (Canada), where he influences print, Web, and microfilm
products such as eLibrary, ProQuest Newsstand, and the Canadian Almanac and Directory.
Contact Stephen with comments or notes about your challenges and successes at