Thursday, August 25, 2005

the plot thickens


Some of you will have discovered we've made a change in off-campus access to our databases. Now, rather than making changes in your browser settings, you can access databases through any browser without having to go under the hood. The drawback? Each time you start a search you have to enter your barcode (from your Gustavus ID) and last name. So long as you're searching, it will recognize you no matter how many databases you access. But once you close your browser window it has amnesia and makes you reenter that long string of numbers. For the occasional searcher, this change will probably make life easier, but for those of us who prefer to do our research at home it's going to be more work. Unfortunately, there's no way to provide both options.


The Christian Science Monitor has a piece on the University of Texas's decision to move 90,000 books from their Undergraduate Library and replace them with computers. There is always a Sophie's Choice tone to these pieces - what's it gonna be, books or computers? Scott Carlson's famous "Deserted Libraries" story sparked a lot of controversy when it was first published in 2001, but it's the headline that sets off the alarms. In reality, the piece presents a range of issues and talks about libraries that are anything but deserted.

Both stories are about a changing perception of the library as place. Scott Bennett's report on libraries as learning commons shifts the focus from either/or to both and from information to learning. And that makes a lot of sense.


Friday, August 19, 2005

check it out

We're in the process of changing all the URLs for electronic resources on our Web pages over to fit our new proxy server (so that you can search from home without having to fool around with your browser). It may take a little while to catch them all. You can always let us know if you find one that isn't working.

In the news
, a British paper weighs in on Google's library digitization project. They think an argument can be made for it being not only a good idea, but actually legal. Meanwhile, the American Bar Association seems a tad amazed to learn that librarians can be a little pushy when they have a principle to defend.

And here's a Swedish library with a personal touch: want to find out more about the issues? check out a person at your local library.


Monday, August 15, 2005

can you spare some change?

This Friday, August 19th, we're switching over from one form of off-campus authentication to another. What on earth does that mean? Well, if you've set up your browser to recognize you as an authentic Gustie for the purposes of searching our databases, you can turn it off now. The system will know who you are without fiddling with your browser at all. (Of course, that means if you already fiddled, you'll need to unfiddle. Depending on what browser you use, it's just a matter of clicking a choice in your preferences.) This should make it easier for all of us--students included--to use library resources from off campus. That takes care of one more "dog ate my homework" excuse.

Another project in the works: we are setting up a system to link directly to full text articles in one database from a citation in another (or even, eventually, from Google Scholar). We've found that actually finding the articles that are listed in a database is a huge challenge for many of our students, so we hope this will help.

Of course, libraries aren't the only ones adapting to changing expectations. Publishers, according to The New York Times, are introducing paperbacks that offer more readable pages for an aging audience. They'll be the same width, to fit on bookseller's racks, but they'll be taller. The price will be a bit steeper, too.

Google has backed away from its ambitious plan to digitize libraries - sort of. They're giving publishers an opportunity to opt out. Publishers (at least some of them) are not convinced that making a copy and showing the public snippits is within fair use. This is another example of how the concept of "copy" in a digital world is making it harder than ever to know what's legal. Many lawyers love the Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine;" they can find that embarrassing comment you thought you'd deleted from your site. But naturally, at least some folks suggest the archive itself violates copyright law. The jury is out ...