Time for an Anniversary Party
By Marydee Ojala
Editor • ONLINE
This is an exciting year for ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals. It’s our 30th anniversary. Hard as it may be to believe, the information professionals’ use of online technologies and electronic content predates the personal computer and the World Wide Web. We know that librarians were online when online wasn’t cool. We were there and we still are. When online databases appeared in libraries, they originated from mainframe computers, and searchers viewed results on a cathode-ray tube. Now we instant message, search using our phones or laptops, and expect 24/7 online availability.
The online world has changed dramatically in the past 30 years. ONLINE has not only been along for the ride, it’s frequently broken stories about new technologies that affect the lives of information professionals well before any other publication. As a practitioner-written publication, we have the advantage of knowing what affects our readership in the real world. OK, every once in a while, we’ll throw in some blue sky theories, but our whole approach is bringing all that blue sky stuff down to earth.
Some things don’t change. The cover photo on the first issue of ONLINE showed a corporate librarian (Barbara Lawrence of Exxon Research Labs) explaining online searching to a group of executives. The need for training, now widely known as information literacy or information fluency, is ongoing—information professionals continue to struggle with best practices on how to effectively educate their constituencies. Coupled with training is the pressing need to market information departments and libraries within the organization and to external users. It’s not enough to tell each other how important information is; convincing those outside the information profession milieu is critical to our survival and our success.
The first editorial in ONLINE made several predictions, some of which were remarkably prescient: The prevalence of end-user searching, the emergence of full-text storage, the spread of online to a worldwide user group, the rise of cable television, the resistance to high priced databases, the entry of major publishers into the information industry, and the outstripping of bibliographic information by services offering sports data, entertainment information, and consumer pricing comparisons. With 20-20 hindsight, those seem pretty tame as predictions, but in 1977, they were downright radical.
This anniversary issue of ONLINE features articles and reminiscences by previous editors of the magazine, plus contributions from our regular columnists. We’re not just looking back and resting on our laurels, however, as we strive to introduce relevant new technologies and provide suggestions for managing information. The law remains an element of information professionals’ work life, particularly copyright law.
The mission of ONLINE, since its inception 30 years ago, remains to cover new technology as it applies to information professionals, research and review electronic content sources so our readers can make good buying and searching decisions, and help sort through managing dilemmas. Although the details affecting information professionals change rapidly, the overall mission of ONLINE is to help readers cope with the dynamic information environment they live with on a daily basis. Thanks for reading.
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