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Magazines > Information Today > February 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 2 — February 2003
Online Information 2002
Online Information Offers Strong Program
by Marydee Ojala

There's nothing like presenting two papers at Online Information to keep you focused on the program. In fact, for the first time in many years, I spent more time attending sessions than I did on the exhibit floor. During one session, I was honored to share speaking time with Karen Blakeman, founder of RBA Information Services and winner ofthe Information Professional of the Year Award, as we explored various aspects of Internet research. I talked about the invisible Web as it pertains to business and finance research, while Blakeman concentrated on the number ofWeb sources that are moving to fee-based models. We agreed that a mix of fee and free is necessary to produce good results.

Following our talks, Phil Bradley, Greg Notess, Gary Price, and Chris Sherman joined us to field questions from the audience. People seemed interested in how to help end users find the information they need and avoid erroneous data.

Another concern was how to prove information professionals'worth. One suggestion: Use anecdotes to illustrate the importance of choosing correct sources and performing quality searches. Naturally, the topic of Web search enginescame up. Sherman mentioned the research that he and Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch had done on Web search engine efficacy (SearchDay, Nov. 4, 2002; (The Dollar Sign column in the January/February 2003 issue of ONLINE talks about mistakes that searchers can inadvertently make.)

I was also involved in a program that focused on information literacy. Sheila Webber from the University of Sheffield discussed how she uses mind-mapping techniques to impart information literacy concepts to undergraduates. Mind mapping involves visualizing the search problem and creating reference points for potential search terms, search success, themes, and relationships. Webber shared some examples of mind mapping that were conducted by her students. Their work on the topic of MMR vaccine risks showed how their understanding of the search process affected the final results.

Christina Brage and Agneta Lantz of Sweden's Linköping University presented a case study on curriculum development. It demonstrated how an academic curriculum can be grounded in real-world practices and stressed the importance of both written and verbal communication skills. Basic keys to this learningprocess include formulating search strategies, critically reviewing results, and describing the information found.

My own portion of the program put information literacy in the perspective of the workplace rather than academia.Accurate, timely, and relevant information has long been regarded as a quality issue for businesses. With the advent of extensive end-user searching, there is an increased potential for utilizing bad information when making decisions. Thingsto look out for include viruses, hoaxes, urban legends, erroneous information perpetuated through other articles, deliberate misinformation, twisted facts, outdated information, inaccurate information, deliberate omissions, and the lack of online access to corrections. ModeratorAdrian Dale was particularly adept at summarizing the papers and eliciting comments from the audience.

Overall, the program was exceptionally strong this year. Based on the opening remarks of Martin White as he detailed the yearlong planning process, it's clear that a tremendous amount of thought goes into the creation of the Online Information program.


Marydee Ojala is editor of ONLINE magazine. Her e-mail address is
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