Computers in Libraries
Vol. 22, No. 8 • September 2002

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Don't Be Afraid to Dig In
by Kathy Dempsey

I have to say that I learned a lot while reading this month's features. That is, once I put aside my fear of protocols and acronyms and really dug in. And you know what? The topics weren't as complicated as I thought they'd be. So if you've been avoiding them, I urge you to gather your courage and explore the uncomfortable acronyms. C'mon and follow me; I'll walk you through them here to show you how painless they can be.

It was no accident that we decided to open this issue with the "alphabet soup" article from Shirley Kennedy. If you don't already know Shirl's work from places like the Information Today newspaper, then you're in for a real treat. She can make just about anything funny (and fun). I'm glad she volunteered to demystify many of the common acronyms that are floating around these days. So you can begin by seeing various protocol names and reading a quick, concise explanation of each. Try it, you'll like it!

Next comes an article on patron authentication and proxy servers. Peter Webster helps us understand how a proxyserver works like a friendly doorman who only lets in people who really belong inside (although in this case, the "doorman" protects a network, not an apartment building). There are protocols at work here too, and Peter explains them very nicely. Security is always an important issue, and remote authentication is in great demand, so this article is well worth your time.

When you get to page 24 you'll see Marshall Breeding's article on OAI (which, as Shirley will have already told you, means "Open Archives Initiative"). Even if you felt ready for that, tossing in the phrase "Protocol for Metadata Harvesting" might seem intimidating. I'll admit that I'd seen these terms cropping up for a while before I got brave enough to explore them. When I got this article I was really pleased to see that Marshall had explained it so clearly. The concept is not nearly as complicated as it sounds. So come, reap the benefits of this knowledge!

Finally on page 30, we get to the one that everyone's been waiting for: XML. If you've been going to conference sessions on XML and walking out thinking, "I still don't get it!", then this article is for you. Kyle Banerjee does a good job by explaining not only what XML can do, but also what it cannot do. This article really helped the concept to gel in my mind, and I think many of you will benefit from it too.

Then when you're ready to explore a bit more on your own, check out our columnists: Balas' sites, Jacsó's insights, and Pace's pontificating. But if you still want to hide from this topic, don't shelve this magazine just yet. There's always Michael Schuyler, griping about something that we can all relate to. So dig into this issue—I'm sure it'll have something you'll enjoy!

Kathy Dempsey, Editor

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