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Magazines > MultiMedia Schools > November/December 2003
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Vol. 10 No. 6 — Nov/Dec 2003
DIRECT CONNECT
No Librarians Left Behind: Preparing for Next-Generation Libraries (Part 1)
by Stephen Abram, M.L.S.
Guest Columnist

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 at http://www.peopleforeducation.com/librarycoalition/Report03.pdf.)

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 @ Schools—Did 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, either!

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 years—the 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 be?

• 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 to resources.

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 do—but 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 content—derived 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 choose—as 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 alerting—tools 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 text—a 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 steroids—lots 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 engines—some pretty amazing stuff here, too—we 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 dead!

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 years.

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 path—the 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 object.

Peer architecture is closely related to things that are near and dear to our library hearts—full-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 services—those services that we know are necessary for accurate and productive search and find—with 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/], Catchword—now 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 collections.

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 summits—on 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 sabram@micromedia.ca.
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