T.S. Eliot ends his poem East Coker with “In the end is my beginning.” That sums up my current feelings. He starts the same poem with “In my beginning is my end.” I can relate to that as well. Online Searcher is finishing up volume 46 with this November/December 2022 issue. My first published article, written during my first year of employment as a professional librarian after graduating from library school, was published in volume 2 of ONLINE, which was Online Searcher’s previous title. That makes 45 years of my involvement with this magazine. Wow.
It’s been a good ride, but now it’s over. This is the last issue of Online Searcher. We didn’t quite make it to 50 years, but we’ve watched a nascent industry, understood by only a handful of people, mature and thrive so that today, it’s become commonplace. That’s been exciting and I continue to be excited about the possibilities that newer search technologies bring to librarians and other information professionals. In the end is my beginning.
When I say “last issue,” I mean last issue as a standalone publication. We’re not going away entirely. Instead, Online Searcher will become a section within its sister publication, Computers in Libraries. We’ll still have a mix of voices representing the many places in which libraries flourish, with a concentration of topics related to online searching and research technologies, tips, and techniques. In the beginning is my end.
Looking back, the magazine documented the changes in search technologies. In the beginning, the search environment consisted of searches performed on dumb terminals accessing highly structured bibliographic databases stored on mainframe computers. In this controlled environment, determining the parameters of recall and precision was relatively easy, and almost every searcher was a librarian. Today, librarians no longer have a lock on searching—everybody searches, and they use a wide variety of devices to conduct those searches. Information is unstructured and structured, stored in the cloud and on servers. Recall and precision are difficult to determine. And search continues to evolve. In the end is my beginning.
“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” as the Grateful Dead sang. We’ve now got a plentiful amount of information and an almost unfathomable number of sources to search. We’ve escalated our concerns about data quality, misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. Funding constraints make access to commercial databases increasingly difficult, and politics interfere with our ability to provide needed information to our users. In the beginning is my end.
As for me personally, I’m taking on the additional responsibility of editing KMWorld magazine (kmworld.com), which is also published by Information Today, Inc., and I’ll still be involved with the library and high-tech conferences produced by Information Today, Inc. I’m very happy to join my friend and sometime information industry co-conspirator Dick Kaser over at Computers in Libraries. I believe in the future of libraries and remain excited about the evolving technologies driving search. In the end is my beginning.