What's New in ITI's Other Publications
By Lauree Padgett
By the time you read this, it will be springeven
in New Jersey. March Madness will have been extended
into April Angst as all the crazy college hoops fans
out there (me included)see how well their early-round
bracket picks have held up going into Final Four weekend.
But even if you can't tell a Blue Devil from a Terrapin
or a Cougar from a Wildcat, you're still going to like
the picks I've selected for you this month from Searcher, Computers
in Libraries, ONLINE, and MultiMedia
Schools. Here's the tipoff. The first possession
goes to Searcher. And it's nothing but Net,
The Taxman Cometh
OK, it's true confession time. How many of you haven't
filed your state and federal income taxes yet? In fact,
how many of you haven't even started your taxes? Raise
your hand if you have absolutely no clue where you
stashed the 2002 forms. Well, for all you die-hard
procrastinators (oh, excuse me, I mean those who don't
believe in giving Uncle Sam his "due" until 11:59 p.m.
on April 15), I'm throwing you a lifeline in the "form" of
Irene McDermott's April Internet Express column (Searcher,
p. 14). McDermott has made it easy to locate online
just about anything that's tax-related.
Before you even get out the calculator and all your
receipts, she suggests finding out if you're affected
by the new tax laws. Sites such as the Yahoo! Tax Center (http://taxes.yahoo.com) and
portals with tips and information designed to aid filers
and preparers. For planning, advice, and, yes, calculators,
you can check out Fun with Taxes (as if!), where CPA
Gail Perry provides useful pointers and responds to
tax questions (http://www.funwithtaxes.com).
If you're self-employed, access the "tax withholding
calculator" to make sure you took out enough taxes
According to Albert Einstein, the hardest thing to
figure out is your taxes. If you don't want to take
your chances with a second cousin once removed who
almost passed his correspondence CPA program and thinks
you can deduct your 30-year-old jobless child as a
liability (after all, you did pay $40,000 for
said child's college degree), you can find tax preparers
online, too. TurboTax (http://turbotax.com) lets
you file online or buy and download the do-it-yourself
software. At CCH Complete Tax (http://www.completetax.com/tools.asp),
you can have your taxes done and filed electronically
for a mere $24.95.
If it's 10 p.m. on April 15 and you forgot to go
to the library or post office for that extra 1040 copy,
you can visit the IRS site (http://www.irs.gov/formspub/index.html) and
print out any form, no matter how obscure, in Adobe
So while paying the government may still hurt a bit,
thanks to McDermott the process of filing your returns
should prove to be much less "taxing."
Q and A NJ
Not only will New Jersey be hosting the 2004 Iditarod
(OKApril Fools'!), it's also the home of Q and
A NJ, the state's live, 24/7 virtual reference service.
While getting such a resource up and running sounds
like a daunting task, Peter Bromberg's article in the
April issue of Computers in Libraries ("Managing
a Statewide Virtual Reference Service: How Q and A
NJ Works," p. 26) outlines the whole process from conception
With the aid of a Project Growth Timeline, Bromberg
answers specific task questions. How long did the project
take? (It took 12 months to get from the idea stage
to the point at which the public began using the service.)
How many people and libraries are involved? (The project
began with 10 libraries and 12 staff members. It now
has expanded to include 250 librarians from 33 participating
libraries.) How is such a large project managed? (According
to Bromberg, it takes constant communication, training,
practice, marketing, customer feedback, and more.)
Bromberg also addresses the funding and software issues
inherent in this kind of broad-reaching service, as
well as the role marketing continues to play not only
in maintaining ongoing financial support but in reaching
out to the state's public sector.
In October 2001, Q and A NJ responded to a little
more than 450 questions. Eighteen months later, the
service is fielding more than 4,000 information requests
on a monthly basis. It has also entered into a state-funded
partnership with Tutor.com to offer live homework help
between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m., 7 days a week.
Says Bromberg: "One of the biggest challenges we
now face is continuing to increase our service capacity
to match the ever-growing customer demand. We are still
bringing on new libraries to help staff the service,
but collaborative management becomes more challenging
with each new addition to our team."
If 400-character URLs are driving you nuts, you definitely
need to read Greg Notess' On the Net column (ONLINE,
May/June, p. 54). If you know what you're looking for,
Notess says there are all sorts of URL details that
can be valuable to information professionals.
For instance, a Web server can be configured to look
for a file name as the default extension, not just
the common .index.html. This is particularly
helpful when a Web site goes through a major transformation
or switches to a new content management system that
uses different file extensions. A.php extension
generally indicates that the Web pages are using PHP
scripting language and running on Linux. On the other
hand, .asp pages are probably running on a Microsoft
server and may contain some Visual Basic programming.
Knowing the different extension options can help you
track down an errant Web site or find the new link
of a dead URL.
You can now find a number of free URL-shortening
services on the Net. These literally take a long URL
and convert it to a much shorter one that will send
you to exactly the same location. Why worry about long
URLs? For one thing, they tend to wrap when you send
them in an e-mail. This can result in a line break
inserted somewhere, which makes the link invalid. One
point to keep in mind, however, is that these shortening
or redirection services can often mask the actual domain
name of the site. Domain names are quite useful in
determining the site's authenticity and reliability.
One way to avoid masking is by attempting to default
to a specific file name. It's often possible to drop
thehttp://and the www. from the URL.
Extended URLs do have their advantages. They can
help you track session IDs, search submissions, or
other user information. For instance, a URL with a
redirection prefix can be used to monitor click-through
traffic. Other URLs might have affiliate suffixes.
If you find a URL that consists of all numbers, beware:
It likely belongs to an e-mail spammer who has attempted
to mask the full URLa ploy known as "munging."
Despite the trials and tribulations that can be associated
with long URLs, Notess encourages perseverance: "[A]
quick look at any URL can convey a great deal about
the information I'm viewing. It helps identify satire
sites that may look like the real thing.... It can
expose what kind of server and content management system
or scripting language is used." The main point, Notess
concludes, is to become a URL watcher. "Check them
when evaluating Web content and be careful when citing
The Swiss Army Knife Librarian
If you're a librarian who's feeling more and more
weighed down by the tasks that are being assigned toor,
to put it more succinctly, thrown atyou, Rob
Reilly feelsyour pain. In his May/June Net Works column
(MultiMedia Schools,p. 61) entitled "A 'Librarian'by
Any Other Name ... Probably Means More Work," he examines
the plight of school librarians whose workloads are
doubling and tripling because their administrators
think that with the advent of the Internet, they have less to
Today there is a push to have school libraries be
responsible for teaching students how to do research
as well as assist them in doing the actual research
for their school assignments. These tasks seem to be
different from what we expected librarians to do only
a few short years ago. There also seems to be a push
to have the librarian become a "techie" in many regards....
More and more, it seems that the librarian is expected
to do his or her traditional duties related to the
paper-based bookse.g., catalog them, check them
in and out, re-shelve them, etc.and become the
library-media specialist too!
Part of this problem, Reilly contends, is that there's
not enough understanding of what's involved in having
a school go electronicgetting connected to the
Web and thus moving from a passive teaching environment
to an active learning environment. Too often, those
who oversee the school assume that the librarian can
be all things in all situations: a consultant to the
school staff, a person who provides access to information,
the keeper of the book catalog, the information center
manager, a techie who knows all the ins and outs ofWeb
searching and the Internet in general, and the teacher
who will then share all of his or her "techie" knowledge
with the entire staff.
All of these processes must be carried out to facilitate
a new era oflearning within the country's educational
systems. Reilly adds that a single librarian cannot
accomplish all of this alone within a school district.
The answer is to seek out support by finding the people
within the school (Reilly calls them the "ultra techies")
who can lay cables in classrooms, configure and/or
scavenge computers, teach short classes on Web searching,
volunteer in the library, etc.
These same suggestions and pointers can work in any
type of organization. So if you feel like Reilly's
column is "killing you softly," read the whole thing
and then go about getting yourself out from under the
month, I'm coming in under the wire, rather than under
the covers. I hopeyou have mined some good information
nuggets out of these four articles.As for me, now that
my column's finally done, I have to start working on
my taxes. Oh, and my NCAA brackets. Go Duke!
Lauree Padgett is Information
Today, Inc.'s manager of editorial services. Her e-mail
address is firstname.lastname@example.org.