Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Poetry and philosophy

Although this isn't really about libraries per se, I think you readers in library land might be interested in this news item. Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has vetoed a bill that would have established the post of Minnesota state poet laureate. MPR has more.

His primary objection is ostensibly the slippery slope argument:

"Even though we have a state 'folklorist,' I also have concern this will lead to calls for other similar positions," Pawlenty wrote in letter accompanying the veto. "We could also see requests for a state mime, interpretive dancer or potter."

After I alerted my friends about this, one of them informed me that a Gustavus professor has proposed that communities consider appointing philosophers laureate.

I did some scrounging around in some library databases and discovered that the city of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, appointed a philosopher laureate in 1991!

Friday, May 27, 2005

"What should I take?"

So, you've been accepted into library school. Now what? Since master's programs are typically shorter than undergraduate programs, each and every class you take counts. But if you're unsure what sort of library you would like to work in or simply unsure what courses to take, might I suggest a basic outline from an editorial written by American Library Association President-Elect Michael Gorman. He proposes the following:

Michael Gorman, "What Ails Library Education?" Journal of Academic Librarianship 30(2) (March 2004): 99-101.

One reason why Gorman came up with this list is because he's concerned that there is no national core library science curriculum. Yes, master's degree programs are accredited by the American Library Association, but library students often have great leeway in choosing their entire course schedule. Thus, employers are unsure what their hires know and don't know. Gorman's tentative list is based on his library experience and what he believes defines the professional librarian and what he or she should know.

His list is focused exclusively on libraries and librarians, and their operations and activities. Note that this list does not include things like "Web page design." While technology is important, it is not something that stands on its own. The best library science programs integrate "technology" (how-tos, planning aspects, etc.) into core library coursework.

To translate this list into a course schedule, I have matched it with courses from an actual course catalog (in this case, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign):

Of course, if you do know what sort of library you would like to work in, you would take the relevant courses. For example, if you were interested in being a children's librarian, you would take courses in children's literature and storytelling.

If you're about to enter library school and are wondering what might be involved in some of these courses, I have provided links to the syllabi of some of these courses, all at the University of Illinois:

Monday, May 23, 2005

Where I Work

I work in Central Reference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Here are some photos of the Reference Room:

(These photos are courtesy of some gentleman by the name of Oldtasty.)

The Venerable Readers' Guide

For years, high school and college students have used the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, one of the most well known periodical indexes.

However, as more and more (especially) academic libraries provide access to large article databases, such as Expanded Academic ASAP (InfoTrac) and Academic Search Elite/Premier (EBSCO), they are choosing to cancel their subscriptions to Readers' Guide, whether they be print or electronic. There is some justification for this. Readers' Guide only indexes some several hundred magazines and journals, whereas Expanded Academic and Academic Search Elite provide full text access to several thousand publications, many of those which are indexed by Readers' Guide.

"Opponents" of Readers' Guide will often scoff at defenders of this venerable work, accusing them of not "letting go" of a standard reference work that is now, in their view, past its prime and supplanted by other databases/indexes.

That may be true, but I had a real reference interview in which I, a reference assistant at a major research university, was unable to help the patron because the library had no indexes to the magazines he was searching. Specifically, the patron wanted to find articles in Teen and Seventeen magazines. According to Ulrich's, these two magazines are indexed by Readers' Guide, but not by Expanded Academic or Academic Search Elite. While we do have older Readers' Guides, we cancelled our print and electronic subscriptions last year, so the patron couldn't use them to find more current articles.

Do I have a point in all of this? Well, for one, Readers' Guide is still useful for providing access to more "popular" magazines. And, two, considering replacements for standard reference sources involves some amount of study and comparison. For example, here are the source lists to Readers' Guide (electronic edition), Expanded Academic ASAP, and Academic Search Elite. As you will see, indeed, the latter two resources do not index Teen and Seventeen!
I just returned from a great conference, WILU 2005 - a Canadian version of LOEX. What an alphabet soup, eh? They're both annual conferences on information literacy--or whatever you call that thing we do when we try to help students and faculty make the most of information resources in their college education. (I'm ambivalent about the phrase, as you can tell from the talk I gave there, but it's currently what is most in use. )

One of the great things about the conference--apart from the interesting presentations on everything from media literacy to GIS--was the warmth of the hosts and the interactions of the 150 attendees. And it made for a terrific crossroads. Shiela Webber and Bill Johnston came over from the UK to talk about their take on information literacy. Canada makes for a great mixing-chamber for North American and UK ideas.

I mentioned how great the planning was - librarians even rose early and painted the canon for us! No, it's not a strange giraffe, it's the "Kaliedoscope" conference theme. Students at Guelph use the canon (pointed always at the President's office) as a form of expression. Gee, reminds me of a certain Gustavus tradition . . .


All in all, a great conference and one I'd recommend to anyone interested in Information Literacy. Next year's will be held at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.

One other interesting thing--that relates in a way to the importance of media literacy becoming part of information literacy: during the conference, Canada was going through an amazing political crisis. The Conservative party aligned itself with the separatist Bloc Quebecois and came very close to toppling the goverment. Only the defection of one Convervative member to the Liberal camp and a single tie-breaking vote kept the goverment from falling. Did this make news in the US? A few column inches in the International section of The New York Times, but otherwise barely a peep. Which is, frankly, a sad comment on the state of the news media.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Libraries: Books!

The latest issue of American Libraries (May 2005) features an interview with librarian and readers' advisor Nancy Pearl, author of such books as Book Lust and model for the Librarian Action Figure.

She makes some provocative comments:

The library community is finally getting wise to the fact that libraries, especially public libraries, are not just about information access, but about helping people find good books to read--for their leisure time and for the recreational learning that goes on in many people's lives.


If you kept track of the number of times a librarian is asked how to build a website versus how many times they're asked to recommend a good book, you'd find that many more people ask the latter than the former. Yet we routinely teach master's students [in library science] how to do the former, while for the most part ignoring the latter.

I've selected these quotes because, once again, I want to highlight the fact that librarians need training in readers' advisory and that librarianship isn't about technology--it's about people and information (still mostly books). As I mentioned in a previous post, I have about four years experience in IT and an undergraduate minor in computer science, but when I had fellow students ask me what classes to take in library school, I always discouraged them from taking courses on Web page development and the like. Yes, basic Web publishing skills are almost a necessity these days, but they are not unique to librarianship, and can be learned in community college or in workshops and tutorials. If you are a library school student, avoid these classes and instead spend your time and mental energy on unique skills and knowledge to the profession of librarianship. This includes readers' advisory.

Please read my earlier post about readers' advisory for a definition and a bibliography.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Provocative Quotes

Steven Johnson, in his book, Everything Bad is Good for You, wrote,

Reading books chronically understimulates the senses. Unlike the longstanding tradition of gameplaying--which engages the child in a vivid, three-dimensional world filled with moving images and musical soundscapes, navigated and controlled with complex muscular movements--books are simply a barren string of words on the page. . . .

Books are also tragically isolating. While games have for many years engaged the young in complex social relationships with their peers, building and exploring worlds together, books force the child to sequester him or herself in quiet space, shut off from interaction with other children. . . .

But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can't control their narratives in any fashion--you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you. . . . This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they're powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process; it's a submissive one.

(As quoted in "Brain Candy," by Malcom Gladwell, The New Yorker, May 16, 2005, pgs. 88-89.)

Dr. Arthur Aufderheide of the University of Minnesota Duluth and author of The Scientific Study of Mummies, has said, "All knowledge is connected to all other knowledge. The fun is in making the connections."

(As quoted in "The Mummy Doctor," by Kevin Krajick, The New Yorker, May 16, 2005, pgs. 66-75.)

A Library School Commencement

I graduated on Sunday, May 15, 2005, from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. GSLIS held its own commencement program, separate from the university-wide ceremony. (See the commencement program.) I guess now, officially, in the eyes of the library profession, I am a "real" librarian! The ceremony was held in the University's Smith Memorial Hall. My class's commencement speaker was Mary Dempsey, the commissioner of the Chicago Public Library system. (She is currently serving as Chicago's interim chief procurement officer). Yours truly was awarded the school's Bryce Allen Award for Reference Services. The ceremony was followed by a reception in the University Library's Marshall Gallery. Overall, a pleasant afternoon.

Friday, May 13, 2005

curiosity pays

Before the semester ends I'm trying to wrap up a report on what we've learned this year from our students. Why? So that we can help our students learn.

Each year we do a few things designed to give us some insights into how the library works for students (or doesn't). As all academic departments here do, we have an assessment plan to remind us where we are in the process. Though its important to know what resources we have and how much they get used - and how those things stack up to comparison colleges, we also want to find out whether all those resources and services actually contribute something.

This year we've heard some very interesting things from first years students, interviewed in a focus group by fellow students. (Thank you, Laura and Paul!) The students made lots of good suggestions and underscored the importance of the library as a place (and that we should have couches as comfortable as the ones in Confer Hall!). We also are looking at surveys we distrbuted a couple of weeks after teaching our library sessions. What did students appreciate learning about? RefWorks, a citation management system. The thing that's most confusing? How the books are shelved and how to find a journal article that's in print, not online.

What I love about doing this is having the opportunity to rethink the library from a fresh perspective - the one that counts the most in an undergraduate library. And besides, I'm just nosey.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Top original cataloger

This bit of news is also courtesy of Gary Price's most useful blog, ResourceShelf: Apparently the Center for Research Libraries, for the second year in a row, has contributed the most original cataloging records to the WorldCat union catalog. Read the announcement. I thought that the Library of Congress would have been #1, but I guess I was wrong!

For those entering library school, you'll soon learn about the great cataloging debates. Many libraries have eliminated cataloging librarian positions, choosing instead to outsource their cataloging to vendors (such as the jobbers they acquire books from), rely on copy cataloging, and/or cede cataloging to paraprofessionals.

I have worked in reference and my next position will be in reference and instruction. However, I admire and depend on the work of catalogers. I try to keep up with the latest cataloging developments. For example, I attended a session on the upcoming AACR3 cataloging standard at the ACRL national conference, and, in a recent paper I wrote for my Technical Services class, I wrote about the acquisition and cataloging of e-books. (See Richard Bothmann's excellent article, "Cataloging Electronic Books.")

Not only do I admire catalogers, I also admire libraries that contribute original cataloging records to biblographic utilities. If libraries continue to cut corners and depend on others for their cataloging records, soon there will be no one actually cataloging anymore! (Well, I suppose other than the vendors...) Cataloging is a professional activities of librarians. Let's continue to keep it a part of our repertoire.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Federated searching with Google

Gary Price is reporting that libraries with compatible link resolving software can now provide direct links from article citations in Google Scholar to the full text in libraries' subscription article databases! Sweet! Thank you, Google!

Generally, I cringe when I hear the phrase federated search, but I am excited about this project. Still, I do have some concerns, which Gary expresses succinctly:

However, even as the Google Scholar database continues to grow, we still don't know precisely when or how often it's updated, the lag time (if any) for material to get into the database, and other important facts like what will or will not be included in the database. It would also be great if Google could provide a list of sources to which they are providing access.

If you are a student or faculty and a user of Google Scholar, be sure to set your preferences so that Google Scholar is aware you are affiliated with a participating library. Then, you'll be provided with links to the full text of articles indexed by Google Scholar if your library participates in this program and your library has a paid subscription to the databases(s) that contain the articles.

Librarians, read this page for more information.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Information Literacy and the Media

According to the Association of College and Research Libraries' Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, information literacy is defined as: "a set of abilities requiring individuals to 'recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.'" (This definition is originally from the American Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information Literacy's Final Report.)

We get a lot of our information from the various news media via the Web, TV, newspaper, and radio (e.g., The New York Times, Fox News, the Drudge Report, Google News, Minnesota Public Radio, etc.). As such, we must be able to evaluate this news critically. Is the news biased in any way? What assumptions do the editors, reporters, or journalists make? How might the media's reliance on advertising revenue in turn affect reporting? (Etc., etc., etc.)

I have found two public radio programs that have been helpful to me in analyzing the news media:

1) On the Media: "The weekly, one-hour program [that] is America's only national radio program devoted to media criticism and analysis."

2) Media Matters: Full disclosure: the show's host, Bob McChesney, is a research professor at my school, the University of Illinois.

You can listen to both of these shows online. Both Web sites have podcast feeds.


Reference fun

I found two interesting reference-related pieces today in my news aggregator:

1) Offbeat reference books [via LISnews.com]: This article describes some "wacky" reference books that have been published recently. Perhaps the most interesting fact (to me) mentioned in this article is that, "Isaac Asimov is the only author to have [written] at least one book in every category of the Dewey decimal system." (This fact is found in Mitchell Symon's That Book ... of Perfectly Useless Information.)

2) The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form [via Boing Boing]: The goal of this site is to "to write at least one limerick for each and every word in the English language." Here's a good one for the word apostrophe:

The apostrophe's often abused:
It gets battered, and bruised, and misused.
On a plural, a blight;
For possessives, just right,
Barring "its", which leaves people confused.
(by mino)

speaking of the Library of Congress...

I'm reminded of the time I spent doing a bit of research there. It's not the most user-friendly public library (you have to go to another building to get a card, and every block in DC seems ten times as long as blocks anywhere else - what's up with that?) but it's well worth it to use a phenomenal collection in this glorious reading room. You can't browse the stacks, except virtually through the catalog, but they bring the books straight to your personal desk. Makes you feel special.

Rooms like this - at the New York Public Library, the British Museum, or in the newly-renovated Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington (aka U Dub, which has its very own Red Square!) - are a little intimidating. They're so grand! But once you settle in and begin to feel at home, there's something very exciting about doing research in a public space like that is pretty amazing.


Fun Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

A great link was posted by Library Link of the Day today.

Newsflash! Subject Headings not boring!

I'm now proud to know that, yes, there are books published about odor control in my home state of Minnesota. :) Apparently, there are also works about the grudges of fishes?


Friday, May 06, 2005

landing that first job

Alec, thanks so much for your detailed description of what an academic library job interview is like. Though mine was nearly twenty years ago (gack!) I had a similar experience: a packed, exhausting couple of days that left me totally energized. An interview is a good time for the people hiring you to get to know you - but also for you to get to know them, and the environment you might be working in. So ask questions, not just about the library but the community it serves and the place the library holds in it .

When I first read that Library Journal story I started to post it here - then paused. It's a real downer! So first, I talked it over with some other librarians for a reality check. Is it that tough? It's an interesting conversation that I want to get back to, but here's my take for now:

There's a movement afoot to recruit new librarians. Good! We want you! To establish this as a social issue worth people's attention, a little anxiety is put into the mix. My God!! We'll have a world without librarians!!! They're all doddering ancients who are about to kick off !!! Quick, run to library school and save the world - and of course you'll have your pick of jobs.


The fact is, you can get a good job (well, scratch the Jag XK from your wish list, not that good) but not without effort. A couple things you should bear in mind:

ONE: limiting yourself to a particular locale will make finding the right job difficult. Be adventurous. Look for a place that's right for you, but don't limit yourself by city or state. This isn't a date, folks, it's a commitment.

TWO: Any real-world library experience you can offer (an internship, working as a student employee while an undergraduate, field work that involves you in doing research in a real library, even volunteering) will help. And remember, whatever job you apply for, you're not the only applicant. So putting your best foot forward is key.

I worry the profession has oversold its message a bit. The reality is jobs in libraries are not going to fall in your lap. But if you love the work and use your brains and are willing to make some effort to find the right match - there will be a place at the table for you.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

An academic library job interview, part 2

On Wednesday, April 13, and Thursday, April 14, I had my first "real" academic library job interview. I flew out of Chicago Wednesday early in the afternoon, transferred to another plane in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and then landed in Fargo, ND, late that afternoon.

The chair of the search committee picked me up at the airport. That evening, I had dinner with her and the director of the library. After dinner, the chair dropped me off at the hotel. With respect to practical matters, the college covered the cost of both the airfare and hotel accommodations.

The next day was packed. Here was the formal schedule:

9:00-9:45 Meeting with library director
9:45-10:15 Coffee with the library staff
10:30-11:15 Meeting with the college's Academic Dean
11:15-11:30 Meeting with the reference manager
11:30-12:00 Tour of library
12:00-1:15 Lunch with Search Committee (and students)
1:30-2:45 Teaching demonstration and meeting with Library Faculty
3:00-3:45 Meeting with Search Committee

This schedule may appear a bit intimidating, but the day flew by. I thought I would be exhausted by 3:45pm, but I was energized at the end of the interview.

The library faculty and staff were great. They made me feel welcomed and I felt that they treated me like an "equal." During coffee, for example, we had fun sharing the titles of books we had recently read. These were not people who were trying to trick or stump their candidates; I could tell that they genuinely wanted us to succeed. Indeed, the search committee was particularly interested in finding a good fit for the interviewee and the library. Important to them was finding a candidate who strongly supported information literacy programming and was sympathic with the mission of a liberal arts college (in this case, with a Lutheran liberal arts college).

This all very much relates to an article in Library Journal that was discussed on the collib-l listserv today. In responses to this article, many librarians on the listserv who had served on search committees commented that they sometimes receive 20-100 applications for job openings at their libraries. These applications, they said, are frequently cookie-cutter. That is, many of the applications they receive are not tailored for the particular job or institution.

However, such tailoring is important. Job applicants should remember that libraries spend considerable resources in conducting searches and hiring librarians. They want to hire people who are interested in their particular libraries, not just because they have a job opening. Thus, applications that mention an interest in the library or explain how the applicant's experience or skills relate directly to the job description are important. Yes, experience and education are important, but after all, if you were going to invite people for an interview, you would want to make sure the applicants are interested in working at your library, right? That the person you ultimately hire will want to stay after being hired, happily support the library's causes/mission, and make valuable contributions to the library and the greater institution?

Back to interviewing: In preparing for an interview, it is not only important to prepare for questions you might be asked, but it is also important to prepare questions you want to ask the interviewers (i.e., search committee, etc.) I found this to be a helpful article:

Biggs, D.R., et. al., Proactive interviewing [strategies for the assertive job hunt]. College & Research Libraries News no. 1 (January 1987) p. 13-17.

PS: I got the job! Starting August 15, I'll be one of Concordia College's instruction/reference librarians. I can't wait to start!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Wikipedia

If you don't know what the Wikipedia is, it's time for you to catch up.

Among librarians I work with, there has been some bemused conversation about the Wikipedia. Some flatly reject it as a reference source, since it is not formally reviewed or written by "experts." Others I know believe that it is an authoritative reference, since its entries can be corrected instantaneously by anyone around the world.

What formal library research has been done on the Wikipedia? One might think that several reviews and articles would have been written and published in library research journals, full of interesting analysis about its potential (or not) as a reference source. However, I ran a search this evening in two of the primary library and information science indexes. There hasn't been much discussion, unfortunately:

Library and Information Science Abstracts: 7 articles (2 of those peer-reviewed)
Library Literature: 7 articles (4 of those peer-reviewed)

The Wikipedia itself contains an incomplete list of academic papers and presentations on/about the Wikipedia. Interestingly, it also contains an incomplete list of academic works that use the Wikipedia as a source! (It would be interesting to look at those papers now and compare the Wikipedia articles they cite.)

I haven't made up my mind as to whether I would, at the reference desk, consult or recommend to a person the Wikipedia as a reference work. I think the best bet, as in any research, is to use as many sources as realistically possible to confirm known facts. That is, use two or more works to act as checks on the other(s).

As a final thought, I think reference librarians must remember that "authoritative" reference works have their flaws. The "long-awaited publication of Oxford University Press's updated Dictionary of National Biography," published "after 12 years of research," "contains more than 50,000 biographies and costs £7,500." But as this article in The Observer notes, this reference work contains errors in biographies as basic as those of Florence Nightingale and Jane Austen! Note that, if this had been instead published as a Wiki, the errors would have been corrected, and the library wouldn't have spent £7,500 on a massive work with errors.


Monday, May 02, 2005

iPods and Libraries

Today, I received in the mail the iPod mini that I had ordered as a graduation present for myself. There has been a lot of chat in library land about how iPods (or any portable music device more generally) can be integrated into library services and education more generally.

Perhaps the two most well known iPod experiments in libraries and in higher education are:

1) Duke University last fall give all of its 1,650 incoming first-year students iPods. Duke is currently evaluating its iPod program, but not everyone there is convinced of their value as a teaching and learning tool. According to an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Last month editors of Duke's student newspaper, The Chronicle, urged campus officials to discontinue the iPod program, arguing that the university had not proved that iPods were legitimate classroom tools, and that Duke officials should look for more flexible devices if they want to encourage professors to teach with technology."

2) According to an article in Library Journal, "South Huntington Library, NY, became one of the first public libraries to circulate iPods, specifically the iPod Shuffle. ... Assistant Director Joseph Latini reports that the library purchased ten devices, six 1GB iPod shuffles ($149 each), the equivalent of a 16-hour audiobook, and four 512MB devices ($99 each), with eight-hour capacities. Titles come from the Apple iTunes site via Audible.com."

For South Huntington, the experiment has been a learning experience: "'Because it's so new we had to figure out how to catalog the audiobook on the Shuffle, get it into the public catalog, and allow people to place reserves,' [Director Ken] Weil says. 'There was no bib record to attach to iPods. We had to learn as we went along.' Getting them into the public catalog is important since 'that's how the public finds out what we have.'"

Besides serving as players for audiobooks, how might iPods and other such devices be used in the library? The Library Journal article mentions a couple of possibilities. First, they can be used for audio materials on reserves. Two, they can be used to provide instruction:
The Duke Divinity School Library, Durham, NC, has launched a project that puts audio instructions for using two electronic tools (Bibleworks and the ATLA Religions Database) and for navigating the print exegesis tools (Bible analysis and interpretation) in the Reference Room. "Since the librarians only work eight to five, Monday through Friday, and the library is open additional hours, we decided to record some instructions,"said Andrew Keck, Duke's electronic services librarian. Librarians like the iPod feature that alters playback speed (when saved in audiobook format), so that time-starved students can listen to a lecture at a faster rate. "Conversely, our students who work with English as a second language can slow things down," says Keck.

The Chronicle article ("Seriously, iPods Are Educational," March 18, 2005) offers other instructional possibilities. Some professors have gotten very creative indeed in using them as teaching and learning tools. For further examples, check out Duke's iPod First-Year Experience page for links to academic and course iPod projects.

Reinventing the wheel

Librarians and information scientists have studied various methods of information organization and retrieval for a number of years. Thus, when articles like this are published, I am both discouraged that our work has been ignored and encouraged that the work we do continues to have value today:

'Tags' Ease Sifting of Digital Data

This concept of "tagging," though, is nothing other than indexing. Consider Lancaster's definition of the process of indexing: "...the indexer describes [a document's] contents by using one or several index terms, often selecting them from some form of controlled vocabulary. ...the terms assigned by an indexer serve as access points through which an item can be located and retrieved in a subject search..." (Indexing and Abstracting in Theory and Practice (2003)).

Traditionally, indexing has been in the hands of experts or been automated to a certain degree. So, is user indexing, as described in the "tagging" article, a new concept? No. Lancaster notes the following research: "Fidel (1994) uses the term 'user-centered indexing' to refer to the principle of indexing on the basis of requests expected from a particular audience. Hjorland (2001) agrees that indexing must be tailored to the needs of a particular clientele... writers such as Shatford (1986) and Enser (1995) point out that collections of images can be viewed quite differently by different groups of users. Thus, each group has different indexing needs. This led Brown et al. (1996) to suggest the need for a 'democratic' approach to indexing, with users of the images adding their own terms to a record where necessary and appropriate." Others Lancaster cites include Desser (1997) and Villarroel et al. (2002).

(The vocabularies that emerge from these user indexing systems are known as "folksonomies." This has been a hot topic in the blogging community this past spring.)

Lancaster has written:

"While new faces and new approaches are always welcome, it is unfortunate that many now working the field [of information retrieval] have absolutely no previous background and, thus, no firm foundation upon which to build. ... Many ideas appearing today have obvious antecedents in the literature of 30 or 40 years ago, yet these pioneering works are completely unknown to current investigators."

Perhaps the best examples of this ignorance is the popularity associated with metadata. Many people think this is a new idea, but, metadata, after all, is only structured information used to describe some resouce. Catalogers/librarians have been creating "metadata" for years to describe books. As Milstead and Feldman (1999) write, "...librarians and indexers have been producing and standardizing metadata for centuries."

It is popular to portray librarians as graybeards and the work that they do as outdated in the information age. But if "metadata" and "tagging" and "folksonomies" are any indication, the time-tested prinicples of information organization practiced by librarians and the research into information retrieval are as relevant as ever today.

Might I recommend to everyone Lancaster’s excellent Indexing and Abstracting in Theory and Practice (2003). He is one of my professional heroes. His historical perspective and comprehensive literature reviews are important for the work that librarians, "information architects," information scientists, and indexers do.

[If you want the complete citation information to any of the above references, let me know.]