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Magazines > Information Today > November 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 11 — December 2003
Taking Nothing for Granted
By Lauree Padgett

When sister Meg laments, "November is the most disagreeable month of the year," Jo March, heroine of Louisa May Alcott's timeless Little Women and my all-time favorite fictional character, replies, "That's the reason I was born in it." Meg is right. With cold, windy, wet weather and disappearing daylight, the 30 days of November can be nasty. But there are also reasons to give thanks during this second-to-last month of the year. Ben Affleck is still a free man, and I have some worthwhile articles to share with you from Computers in Libraries, Searcher, and ONLINE.

Word Warriors

If you're reading this column right now, you have a lot to be grateful for. Not because I'm such a witty, scintillating writer, but because for you, seeing the printed word is not a struggle or an impossibility. In "The Librarians' Quest: Transforming the Printed Word So That All May Read" (Computers in Libraries, November/December 2003, p. 14), authors Lori Bell, Sharon Ruda, and Tom Peters look at how digital talking books (DTBs) have the potential to make all written knowledge accessible to folks with visual or physical disabilities. They discuss the eAudio Pilot Project, begun in January 2003. Its goal was to introduce readers to audiobooks in digital format using digital audio playback devices, thus expanding library services and content to special-needs patrons.

eAudio is the "quest" of the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center (MITBC), a subregional library for the blind and physically handicapped that serves 5,000 print-impaired readers. To test eAudio, MITBC used Otis, a hand-held MP3 device for playing audible e-books, with the hope that it could enhance both sound quality and end-user functionality. Since most patrons were over the age of 40, there was some concern about how the testers would handle the new technology. However, feedback indicated that close to 75 percent of respondents were generally satisfied with their first attempt at using DTBs, and more than half preferred DTB technology over cassette tapes and players.

Now into its second phase, eAudio has expanded into more states with more participating libraries. This glorious quest of bringing the written word to all is looking more and more like a reachable star rather than a foolish attempt at chasing windmills.

Funderful, Funderful

What library wouldn't be grateful to reap a harvest of grant money? If you're nominated to solicit funding, be it from government, corporate, foundation, or individual sources, Bill Becker's article "Library Grant Money on the Web" (Searcher, November/December 2003, p. 8) is a must-read. Although some libraries are not too keen on looking for outside financial aid, because they feel such sponsored money can take the "public" out of public libraries, Becker reports that soliciting library grant money is becoming more and more common, not to mention necessary.

So where to start if you've never had to seek out grant money before? According to Becker, "the chief professional association for fundraisers ... and grant-seeking professionals working across the spectrum of nonprofits is the Association of Fundraising Professionals." The AFP provides lists of the top basic organizations and Web sites that offer money to public, private, and academic institutions. The American Library Association, 60,000 members strong, is a combination resource organization and funder/granter, with both grants and scholarships available. FUNDLIST is an important listserv that covers all aspects of fundraising.

What about government sources? The Institute of Education Sciences offers descriptions of grant programs and their application procedures. The National Endowment for the Humanities Web site provides online grant-application materials and information. The Carnegie Corp. is considered the best-known source for corporate philanthropy that's geared toward municipal and university-based libraries. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a big financial supporter of education and libraries. For all these URLs plus a whole lot more, check out the entire article.

Progress, Pilgrims?

The "L"-word dilemma just won't go away. As George Plosker notes in "The Information Industry Revolution: Implications for Librarians" (ONLINE, November/December 2003, p. 16), "This debate reflects a profession in transition"—a transition that began 30 years ago when technology first entered the library. At the annual SLA meeting, Plosker joined Gary Price and Stephen Abram, both respected and active members of the library industry, in a panel assembled by SLA past president Jane Dysart. Their assignment was to gear up conference attendees for battle by giving them a barometer for forecasting the changes taking place at hyperspeed within the industry as well as a guidepost for the user tactics and tools to employ within such a constantly fluctuating environment.

The Open Web proved to be a hot topic. The panel believes that professionals and researchers are falling into the "Google is good enough" mentality and not recognizing the difference in content authority and quality between the Open Web and premium subscription services. Another big issue is the disruptive nature of the Internet and how vendors and publishers "are not playing well with others." Attendees were cautioned against an overdependence on technology and vendor solutions when not peppered with expert management from information professionals.

The discussion also focused on quality and content completeness in a post-Tasini era and how these issues challenge the role of special librarians and info pros. Ultimately, the panel urged those in attendance to be flexible and open to today's user, communicating "the substance of the profession to those outside the profession."

Giving Thanks

Not only were Louisa May Alcott and her alter ego born in November, some of my favorite real-life "characters" also claim November as their birth month. So as I close out this column, it seems appropriate to say a grateful "thank you" to Robin, Heather, Jennifer, Jackie, and Randy for the gift of friendship and for making the good times better and the rough spots bearable. And as you sit around the dining room table on the 27th trying to decide if you can squeeze in one more round of mashed potatoes and gravy, try this Thanksgiving tradition from my pastor (also a November baby) and his family: Have your guests take turns naming something they're thankful for, using each letter of the alphabet in order. Just hope you don't get stuck with the letter X (unless you are thankful for xylophones)!


Lauree Padgett is Information Today, Inc.'s manager of editorial services. Her e-mail address is
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