Monday, April 6, 2009

orphan books (blogpost#6)

Google's Plan for Out-of-Print Books is Challenged

This isn't a story that I've been following since its beginning, so my knowledge is pretty limited to what I've heard other people say and this article.  I am kind of curious what other future librarians think... especially since many of us differ in our views of technology and the future of libraries.

I guess I really have mixed feelings about the whole thing.  For those who (like me) haven't been following, Google has intentions of making digitized copies of copyrighted (rights holders unknown or unavailable), yet out-of-print books available to the public.  They will be making money on it, though they did scan them all at their own cost.  Some libraries and publishers have challenged the court settlement, worried that Google then becomes a monopoly and controls access and prices of these books.  In the settlement that is being challenged, Google's profits are limited and their rights to the material aren't exclusive... authors will have the right to claim and withdraw their books if they so choose.

It's probably likely that Google would be a monopoly.. and obviously, to say that they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts and not for money isn't probably entirely accurate.  Google says that nothing prevents a potential rival from doing the same thing (though let's face it... not many "rivals" have the same means of getting this done).  But I guess my thing is.. who else is going to do it?  What happens to the knowledge if its only access remains in whatever library holds the book?  As the article mentions, it would be nice if perhaps Google charged only what it cost them to make the material available.  I just think that the overall result of having the material actually available to a wider audience may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

change (blogpost#5)

Farewell to the Printed Monograph
Within the next two years, University of Michigan Press will shift the majority of its annual scholarly publications from a print format to a digital format. They hope that this will give their books a much broader distribution. While readers will still have the option to pay for print-on-demand physical copies, the new publications will be released in digital format only. Michigan reps believe the business model based on printed monographs is not merely failing, but is broken and doomed.

Coming from the standpoints of both a consumer and a future library professional, I think that Michigan is making a mistake. Granted, a lot of "scholarly" work isn't necessarily read by the masses, but I don't think that Michigan will be doing themselves any favors in making this shift... even with whatever popularity Kindles and other portable e-book readers may carry.

From a personal standpoint: I really don't read e-books. It's not that I'm trying to rebel against anything, it is just that I hate staring at a screen for hours on end. There is absolutely nothing satisfying in doing so. If I am going to spend the time reading a book, I want it in my hand. I want to put it down and pick it up. I want to mark my progress by looking to see how many pages are left. This doesn't even mention that I also don't want to spend money on an e-book reader or carry my computer around. So, in terms of a reaching a broader audience, I can't be the only one that isn't interested.

From a library standpoint: I don't see this as being very beneficial. First of all, libraries won't be ordering the cheap, print-on-demand copy... meaning the only access will have to be electronic. Aside from a change in who will read or even have access to the book, what will have to change for the library? How will the library obtain/maintain a license to all of these books? What will the cost of all of this actually be to the library in the long run?

I really don't have a problem with publishers offering e-books, but I think completely replacing the traditional print publishing is a mistake. I don't believe libraries will benefit and I don't think it will invite new readers... at least enough new readers to replace the ones being left out. While Michigan insists that it isn't about the money, the current economic conditions are probably calling for people to come up with answers. I suppose that a complete change probably entices those who are trying to stay afloat and relevant in a technology driven environment.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

DeepWeb exploration (blogpost#4)

The New York Times recently published an article called " Exploring a 'Deep Web' That Google Can't Grasp ," dealing with new technologies that are attempting to break into the "Web of hidden data."  Last year, Google added its one trillionth Web page, but as NYT points out,  still can't satisfactorily answer questions like "What's the best fare from New York to London next Thursday?"   The Web does contain this kind of data, but search engines often have trouble locating the answers in an efficient way.

Most search engines use spider/crawler type programs to find information, following trails of hyperlinks that link the never-ending Web.   But this leaves an almost infinite amount of data which lies below the surface unexplored.  Deep Websearch start-up companies are trying to develop programs that analyze search terms to then broker the query to relevant databases.  

Google's strategy sends a program to analyze every database's content, "define" its content, then hit it with related search terms to develop a predictive model of what the database contains.  Another start-up company is attempting to index every public database, hitting them with automated search terms to "dislodge" the information.  The goal is interconnected data... a cross-referencing of pre-analyzed information to best answer a specific query.  It's almost as if these Deep Web programs are alive, reasoning, and thinking for themselves.

The article mentions that in the future, Google may have problems implementing a "change."  There is a fear of overcomplication and driving away faithful users.  Also, I wonder if all of this will end up making things more efficient.  When described on paper, it seems very promising.  But, how does a program sift through an infinite amount of information to find, link, and cross-reference reliable and accurate information?  How does it link seemingly unrelated information?  How does it stay up-to-date?  If we are going to be able to answer questions about flight fares, etc.. those are changing minute-by-minute.  

Finally, it is mentioned that the long-term implications for something like this are directed more towards businesses and less towards individual web-surfers.  But, I think that it is also very important for libraries.  The article mentions health sites cross-referencing pharmaceutical companies and medical research, or news sites cross-referencing public records on government databases.  This could have a large impact on the types of information that libraries could provide.

Monday, February 16, 2009

i swear i don't hate technology, but here's my two cents about chacha (blogpost#3)

Besides searching online catalogs, my most common interaction with technology at the library occurs with ChaCha.  Through some sort of contract, IU has a deal with ChaCha where IU related questions are fielded through the libraries here, and at Bloomington.  We at the reference desk have essentially become ChaCha guides.  I work both for University Library and for Herron Art Library.  I've only received one question during my shift at UL... about an IU basketball game, I believe.  However, at Herron, it is a whole different story.  Within the past 2 weeks, I've seen questions about who would win in a fight between Superman and Spiderman, how to make paper claws for your fingers, how much weight the world's strongest toothpick bridge could hold, how to tattoo yourself with a toothbrush, how to time travel, etc.  I'm not sure why I've received those questions... they definitely aren't about IU.

I've been disappointed with the results of this partnership between IU and ChaCha.  Maybe others have, too.  Recently, they've come up with a way to test the system by having students sign up and send questions to ChaCha, putting "IU" before their question so that an IU library would definitely be the guide.  The test is still ongoing, but I've noticed no difference in the type or amount of questions received.  

I'm curious what others think about ChaCha and its place in a library.  When libraries already offer a chat service, phone service, face-to-face service, email service, is ChaCha really necessary?  Is it opening the market to a new audience?  I doubt it.  Especially when we are bound by a 160 character answer (which btw, disappears quicker than you would think), how can we offer the level of service that we need to provide?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

bob loblaw's law blog (blogpost#2)

OK, probably anyone who has ever watched Arrested Development will recognize the title to this blog entry.  (sidenote: am I supposed to cite that?!)  I really only chose it because I'm still coming to terms with blogging.  I feel like I'm talking for the sake of talking, and to my ears, it comes across as "blah blah blah blah blah."  That being said... I've only posted once so far, so my insight may not be fully justified.

I see why blogging can be useful and important.  Obviously, it is a form of communication.  My feeling is that blogging is part of, or a result of, the general public's access to continually advancing technology... it is a place to express oneself, debate with others, or inform the masses about any particular thing.   How does one discern which information is important or useful and which is excessive nonsense?  What if I blogged: "elephant toothpick roller skate truck" 477 times?  Some search engine would inevitably log that entry.  And if by chance, someone were to be looking for a toothpick holder shaped like an elephant, undoubtedly, somewhere within the results, my useless blog would turn up.  

I think that is relevant to today's libraries.  People are in search of information.  I work a reference desk right now... I try to find information.  Excessive nonsense affects the efficiency of my work.  Obviously, technology is not solely to blame for this, but how do we control the use of technology to keep our work accurate and efficient?  Technology has the reputation of making our job easier, and it does.. to some extent.  However, can something be easier and also be less efficient?  

Maybe this will be my last skeptical look at technology... I might be giving myself a bad reputation.  Another sidenote: I found it funny that my computer's automatic spellcheck did not underline "blogged."  I know that it has become a part of everyday vocabulary, but I wonder how long it took.  I checked the word "texting."  Still underlined in red... I'll check back.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

thoughts on technology (blogpost#1)

I don't dislike technology. I tend to use what I'm comfortable with and ignore what I don't care about. I consider myself open to new things, but I don't seek them out.

My main concern with technology is that I feel like it is becoming a distraction and (big generalization) breeding lazy people. Everyone is so focused and concerned with instant information.. myself included. By providing instant information, I think sometimes, that we lose the education and learning process of actually finding the information. I think technology needs to be a compliment to education, not used in place of education. My mother works at a science/technology magnet elementary school in Indianapolis. They (whoever) boast that all 5th graders leave knowing how to create a PowerPoint, but the reality of the situation is, many leave reading below a 5th grade reading level.

I think people may be recognizing that the educational system is failing them. Not too long ago, Dean Lewis sent out a link to a youtube video, an amateur video made by students about the educational system. The one comment/critque sent back about the video complained about the soundtrack, the lack of statement as to who the audience was, the obscure message. Here's the link: ( That critique entirely missed the point. I think the point of the video is that students themselves are recognizing that priorities are misaligned, that they are distracted, and that there is a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed. I'm not blaming it on technology. But, I can't help but think that priorities are in the wrong place.

I am looking forward to learning about and using new technology, actually. Don't let my post mislead you. It just seems inevitable that this problem, if not addressed, won't go away; it might just get worse.