The Winds of Change
By Marydee Ojala
Editor • ONLINE
“Game changing” was the way the Serials Solutions publicist described its new Google-like search engine, Summon. It was announced at ALA Midwinter—too early to review for this issue of ONLINE. But we’ll remedy that. Summon has the potential to change how end users perceive the searching of library materials. Since students rarely comprehend the nuances among the types of items in library collections, although they are so obvious to librarians, it’s time to change the necessity of having this knowledge. All digital materials and physical materials represented digitally will be equally discoverable through Summon.
As a proponent of “universal search,” Summon claims it “goes beyond federated search.” This is particularly interesting in light of the University of Wyoming’s experiences in implementing federated search, as told by the school’s reference librarians in their article that starts on page 26.
Change, a ubiquitous word on the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign trail, came to the information world long ago. And the winds of change continue to blow through our world. It’s not just universal search bringing change. Microblogging using Twitter extends the reach of librarians and allows them to become part of the conversation with users. Sarah Milstein’s take on this form of networking begins on page 34. As someone who’s on Twitter (www.twitter.com/marydeeo), with fluctuating regularity I’ll admit, I was entranced to find the District of Columbia Public Library not only following me but also sending me an @ message. This is particularly astonishing in that it’s not my public library. I don’t live in Washington, D.C., and I don’t carry the library’s card.
One new, though probably not game changing, alteration you’ll see in this issue of ONLINE is a column title change. Darlene Fichter’s Intranet Librarian column is now called Control-Shift, and Jeff Wisniewski joins her as co-columnist. Control-Shift will explore new and emerging technologies from a practical standpoint, emphasizing their application and benefit for libraries and library users. For their first topic under the new title, Darlene and Jeff explore visual search.
When thinking of visuals, what could be more appropriate than Corbis, the stock photography website? You’ve likely seen the beautiful photographs provided to various publications by Corbis. But the findability issues associated with describing the pictures require an immense investment in taxonomies. Just think of the differences between a polar bear and a teddy bear, between jaguar the wild animal and Jaguar the automobile, and between violet the color and violet the flower. Corbis has changed the thinking on metadata for visual objects. Do you want to know what a PEBKAC is? The answer is on page 33.
When I think of how I conducted business research when I started my career, I’m amazed at how much I could find, given how few resources were in electronic form at that time. Changes in where to look, how data is presented, and the formats for business news necessitate a rethinking of everything information professionals have taken for granted. The winds of change are strong, but I’m very upbeat about the beneficial aspects of technological changes as they affect our ability to do serious research.
Ojala is the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters
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