Say Goodnight, Gracie
Editor • ONLINE
When ONLINE started publishing back in 1977, the notion of online searching was new, novel, exciting, exhilarating—and essentially a walled garden. Those of us who were excited and exhilarated, who felt that every step we took into this new and novel world was a journey toward a new frontier, were also very few in number. The internet was the province of the military and a few academics. The World Wide Web didn’t exist. We connected to library-oriented, bibliographic databases over telephone lines—and the whole process was earth-shakingly expensive and excruciatingly slow, particularly by today’s standards.
The thrill of online hasn’t worn off—at least it hasn’t for me. Watching old-line companies such as ProQuest and EBSCO, traditional publishers such as Wiley and Elsevier, and association database producers such as the American Economic Association and IEEE enthusiastically move to create new platforms, adopt internet technologies, and embrace new content formats continues to captivate me.
ONLINE may be entering its 37th year of publication, but we’re still tracking new developments. One of the best things about the maturation of online is that we’ve left that walled garden. Information on the free web rivals, but does not replace, traditional electronic resources. We’re seeing, in the premium content world, consolidation. I notice that our Alliances and Deals section of Industry News is growing, not shrinking.
The number of resources available for researchers is expanding exponentially. Just look at Crystal Sharp’s article about resources for the cosmetics industry. What a wide range of websites she found to be useful. Barbie E. Keiser’s exploration of patient education materials available on the web is equally diverse in its approach. When it comes to new frontiers, it’s probably Nancy K. Herther’s insights into citizen science and Science 2.0 that brings home how internet technology is changing the very basics of research.
The walled garden of the past no longer stands as the ultimate in online information. Searching for information is now viewed as trivial in many circles. However, for the professional researcher, it’s not trivial at all. The nuances of search strategies, hidden features of search engines, obscure sources of data, and undocumented functionalities continue to fascinate and to set us apart.
Into this brave new world of changing resources, technologies, and expectations, we’re embarking on a new phase of publication. We are creating a new magazine, to be called Online Searcher: Information Discovery, Technology, Strategies. It will incorporate our sister publication, Searcher, into ONLINE and be more substantial in length. It’s our next step into the future of online research.
Back in the late 1950s, the signoff for the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show was Burns saying, “Say goodnight, Gracie.” That didn’t mean the end of the entire show, just that episode. I feel the same about ONLINE. It’s not the end of the publication; it’s an opportunity to continue what we’ve been doing, while making it better and more relevant to the readers with many new ideas. “Say goodnight, ONLINE, and good morning, Online Searcher!”