No Luck at All
by Dick Kaser
Discoveries come in many ways. There is the classic instance in Greek legend when Archimedes had his “eureka” moment in a hot bath. Or the time when Newton was informed by a falling apple. And then, of course, the countless instances of serendipity that are said to commonly take place in libraries.
Princeton University’s WordNet lexicon (http://wordnet.princeton.edu), in fact, defines serendipity as “good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries.”
A wise librarian once informed me that such “luck” is more likely to happen in a well-organized collection. These days, some IT magic may also be a prerequisite to producing serendipitous eureka effects.
In this issue, we take a broad look at what’s going on with discovery systems for both libraries and museums.
Today’s discovery interfaces are aimed at surfacing library stuff regardless of format, regardless of collection, regardless of which corner of the library or in what system the material resides … serving it all up Google-style as the answer to a patronsimple query … regardless of where the user is physically located.
It may not be luck, but it sure looks like magic to me.
We’re also featuring discovery of a different kind in this issue—the discovery of facts about libraries. For this month, I am very pleased to be publishing some top line results from a survey of 1,200 libraries, which was conducted recently by our research division Unisphere Research, on library budget and spending priorities for 2011.
The article here tells you how to download the survey’s summary for free. More detailed results will be reported at a special session at Computers in Libraries 2011 later this month. Hope to see you there.
Dick Kaser, Executive Editor