article by Wallace Koehler in this month's issue discusses the seven
new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) names scheduled for addition to the
seven we already have (.com, .gov, .org, .edu, .net, .mil, and .int). The
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, has made
its decision out of dozens and dozens proposed by all sorts of agencies,
e.g., the World Health Organization proposed .health, and all sizes of
companies, e.g., a law firm that wanted .law. Koehler cites a URL that
takes you to a list of all the proposals ICANN looked at and who proposed
Curious, I clicked
my way over to that URL and found — surprise! surprise! — that no one had
apparently proposed .lib. From the list of outfits that did propose new
dot-dot's, one didn't get the impression that becoming an Internet registrar
was exactly like joining an exclusive club, more of a "sign the slip and
here's your room key" sort of attitude, in fact.
So will someone
tell me why none of our beloved library associations, no library consortia,
no major library vendor, no large library, nor — apparently — any individual
librarian proposed a "dot-lib" gTLD? Seems like a logical option to me.
Now, I'm not saying that ICANN would have granted approval, but considering
some of the ones they did approve and the outfits to whom they gave approval,
I think any respectable library-related applicant could have ranked somewhere
in the top third of the candidate list. We may not have taken home the
title, but we sure could have locked up Miss Congeniality. Even competing
for such a goal would have gotten us some valuable publicity to build up
the image of information professionals as players in the Wide Web World.
"There she goes
again," I can hear you thinking, "Nag, Nag, Nag." Maybe you're right. But
let's look at what's happening around us for a minute. With the birth of
the ultimate Answer Machine, the Web, more and more people are becoming
searchers and users of information. Even when they don't succeed in finding
relevant information, even when they don't even try looking, most people
now believe that information exists out there that addresses every problem,
every situation, every opportunity. That's something new in the history
of the world.
Remember when you
became an information professional, maybe way back in library school? Remember
the first two things you learned about information? One, there's a lot
of it. Two, there's too much of it. Well, our clients, our patrons, the
ones who have now become amateur end-user searchers, have learned lesson
one and are well on their way to learning lesson two. They have learned
that there is more information out there than they could ever master or
even corral on any subject you can name. How many "145,385 references"
messages from a Web search engine would it take to teach that lesson?
becomes the critical searcher skill. End-user searchers turn to any simple,
easy-to-perform way of finding quick, on-target information — preferably
true. But the sheer quantity of the information on the Web leaves most
of them making one strategic decision early, namely to stick to Web sources.
After all, they judge, if it takes this long to find information in the
round-the-clock accessible, all-data-for-everyone, user-friendly, comprehensively
informative Web, Lord only knows how long it would take if one headed off
into the limitless limits of a print milieu.
So if we want to
serve those clients, then we had better haul ourselves over to where they
live and work — and that means the Web. But then, we already knew that.
Who would know it better than us, the information professionals?
What we may not
realize is that we have a positive image to sell, a marketing platform
with legs. Librarians are seen as a little dull, but well-intentioned and
authoritative. (Hey! That kind of image was good enough to win Al Gore
the popular vote for president.) People feel they can trust us, but first
they have to find us. We simply lack a strong, visible presence on the
Before we go out
and price check the Pet.com sock dog for an advertising campaign, however,
let's figure what would work best. Our primary problem lies with the breadth
of knowledge areas we cover and the broad range of sources from which we
draw support. What narrows the field down, however, is the critical judgment
we apply to those sources. What we need, more than anything, and what —
if we could design it — our clients could best use is some way of separating
the wheat from the chaff, the vote from the chad so to speak.
How could a "dot-lib"
domain name help?
First, we could
grant it to libraries, identifying those fine, virtuous edifices of information
pre-filtered by information professionals on multiple layers — established
authors, editorial staff, publishers, reviewers, acquisition librarians,
Second, we could
grant it to leading meta-sites created by qualified and dedicated information
professionals and, through them, we could reach the metasites developed
by qualified, committed professionals in other fields.
Third, we could
grant it to top-quality library vendors, the outfits that sell libraries
the goodies they own. Here we might have to insert some qualifications,
e.g., only granting dot-lib status to a selection of sources.
hyperlink foundation of the Internet allows for smooth referrals. If you
enter a URL that does not represent a site's actual name, if the Web owner
has an authentic claim to the original name, the systems can just transfer
people to the correct name automatically. So let's use the ability of the
Web to accommodate aliases to create a way for users to find "the good
stuff," sites carrying the Web's ultimate stamp of approval — recommended
by librarians for librarians, receiver of the dot-lib stamp of approval!!!