Computers in Libraries
Vol. 22, No. 3 • March 2002

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It's All About Automation
by Kathy Dempsey 

Keeping up with library automation technology has got to be one of the biggest parts of your jobs. That's part of why Computers in Libraries magazine is here. And that's also why we've devoted this special issue to Library Automation Today. As systems librarians and others who work with technology every day, is there any topic that you could need more?

Likewise, our Computers in Libraries 2002 conference takes place this month in Washington, D.C., because reading about technology isn't always enough. Sometimes you just have to get outside of your boxes, talk to colleagues, see products in action, and learn tips from real live people. I'll be there doing all those things, and I hope to see many of you at the Washington Hilton and Towers from March 13 to 15.

For those of you who can't make it, you can still get the next-best thing in a couple of formats. Don't forget that we always sell printed proceedings after the fact. We also link the text and graphics from many of the presentations to our Web site. You can get details on both (buying proceedings and seeing presentations) when you go to Click on the Conferences section and it will all be right there for you.

For the moment, though, the issue that's in your hands will have to suffice. And we have packed it with all sorts of automation tales. There's the one about a small special library that went from its old card catalog straight to a wireless system! Very revolutionary (page 32). Then we have two happy tales about improving library instruction with technology. One involves streaming video (page 40), and the second is about using wireless laptops to train all over campus (page 24).

On a different note, we have an article about how you can now access library content, and even sometimes the whole OPAC, with a tiny hand-held computer. This takes library automation to a whole new level. If you haven't heard about it yet, and you're not "one of those people" who uses palmtops, then our primer will explain it all to you.

This is all well and good, you say, all these success stories about automation—but what about reality? Everything is not always so rosy. Well, we've got your reality right here, in the form of this month's cover story. The fact that the title refers to Murphy's Law should give you a hint of what's to come. We all know that you can learn more from mistakes than from doing things right, so I'm grateful to these authors who weren't afraid to share their tale. Live your worst nightmares through them as they explain what happened when their whole system crashed, taking almost 500,000 bibliographic records with it. They survived, and they'll tell you how.

So I hope that all you techies enjoy this automation issue. If you see me at the conference this month, stop me and tell me how you liked it.

Kathy Dempsey, Editor

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