Information Retrieval


Linked Data is Blooming: Why You Should Care

Linked Data is Blooming: Why You Should Care: Linked Data: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Linked Data is an official W3C project. An independent community page for Linked Data describes it as "using the Web to connect related data that wasn't previously linked, or using the Web to lower the barriers to linking data currently linked using other methods."

Getting married and having kids: How Librarians Can Really Help

I've really been loving the Command-F blog lately, and "getting married and having kids" is a real standout.

The days of people coming to the American public library for answers, if they ever existed, are long gone. So are the naive days of the humble scholar who seeks the authority and expertise of his betters. People come to reference services to begin or continue on a story in their lives. Public library reference services help people complete their stories, and so help make them better citizens. Academic library reference service help make people better scholars. Or we could say that all libraries help make people better citizen-scholars.

Stat of the Week No. 5 - The Most Popular Search Term at the NYP Library is…

Recently, the Digital Experience Group gave a presentation to the occasional meeting of our Site Managers, the people who run each of our branch libraries. These are the people who work every day with our patrons, help them with their requests, and get them situated on the computers. They know the NYPL patron as well as anyone. We asked this group, “What do you think the most frequently searched word on the NYPL web site is?” We got a lot of good guesses: “Jobs”. “DVD”. “Books”. “Hours”. “Classes”. “Late fees”.

Good guesses all. Many of these searches are definitely in the top 25 or so on a regular basis. But over the past year, one search term has consistently occupied the number one spot, and not by a small margin. I mean, we’re talking a 1996 Chicago Bulls level of dominance. That term is…

Apple Sued Over Touch-Screen Rights

Taiwanese firm Elan Microelectronics has sued Apple Computer alleging infringement of two of its touch-screen patents, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

The suit was filed late Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, said spokesman Dennis Liu, speaking by phone from the chip design firm’s headquarters in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

“We couldn't find a common viewpoint with Apple, so we decided we had to take action,” he said, adding that the companies had been in licensing talks for about two years.

The lawsuit alleges that Apple products including its MacBook computer, iPhone and iPod Touch use technology that infringes on two of Elan’s “multi-touch” patents, the company said in a statement.

Wonder what this will mean for all those Apple products already in use.

Exploring a ‘Deep Web’ That Google Can’t Grasp

One day last summer, Google’s search engine trundled quietly past a milestone. It added the one trillionth address to the list of Web pages it knows about. But as impossibly big as that number may seem, it represents only a fraction of the entire Web.

Beyond those trillion pages lies an even vaster Web of hidden data: financial information, shopping catalogs, flight schedules, medical research and all kinds of other material stored in databases that remain largely invisible to search engines.

The challenges that the major search engines face in penetrating this so-called Deep Web go a long way toward explaining why they still can’t provide satisfying answers to questions like “What’s the best fare from New York to London next Thursday?” or “When will the Yankees play the Red Sox this year?” The answers are readily available — if only the search engines knew how to find them.

Full article in the NYT

In Search of a Better Search Engine

As college sites grow to millions of documents and balloon in complexity, officials turn to Google and other vendors for help

Early this decade, the number of Web-based documents stored on the servers of the University of Florida hovered near 300,000. By the end of 2006, that number had leapt to four million. Now, the university hosts close to eight million Web documents.

"We have approximately 20,000 employees, all producing stuff, and an increasing amount of that goes on the Web," said Christine L. Schoaff, Florida's director of Web administration. "The Web has become the locus of institutional memory."

Full article in the Chronicle of Higher Education

The Library Web Site of the Future

Academic librarians want their Web sites to attract faculty and students the way flowers invite insects for a visit. The urge to plunge into the cornucopia of electronic riches that lies waiting in the library’s highly organized portal should be irresistible. Exclusive research databases, costly electronic journals and digital books and treasures lay in wait for those who need and are willing to seek them out.

Advocating a much needed transformation of the library portal leads to two questions. First, how can libraries more effectively create awareness about their content so users can discover it? Second, what should replace the library portal? The answers are intertwined, but the changes needed depend on faculty recognizing that it is a change they must help to facilitate.

There is a lot to this article. The snippets above provide some flavor of the discussion. Full article here.

Digital Archivists, Now in Demand

WHEN the world entered the digital age, a great majority of human historical records did not immediately make the trip.

Literature, film, scientific journals, newspapers, court records, corporate documents and other material, accumulated over centuries, needed to be adapted for computer databases. Once there, it had to be arranged — along with newer, born-digital material — in a way that would let people find what they needed and keep finding it well into the future.

The people entrusted to find a place for this wealth of information are known as digital asset managers, or sometimes as digital archivists and digital preservation officers. Whatever they are called, demand for them is expanding.

Full story in the New York Times

TED: MIT Students Turn Internet Into a Sixth Human Sense

Students at the MIT Media Lab have developed a wearable computing system that turns any surface into an interactive display screen. The wearer can summon virtual gadgets and internet data at will, then dispel them like smoke when they're done.

Full article at

Thinking about people as reference sources

An anecdote, and thinking about people as reference sources: "But it also got me thinking about how often we do (or don’t) use other people as reference sources. Oh, sure, we refer students to other offices on campus when appropriate, or we call up other offices to find out, for example, whether the dorm beds are regular-twin-sized or XL-twin-sized. But how often do we call someone up or stick our head into someone’s office and say, “hey, do you happen to remember what the capital of Zimbabwe is?”"

A Newspaper? On a PC? That’s Crazy Talk

NYT Bits Blog looks at a 1981 story about putting the newspaper online.
Blog entry here.

EVERYTHING Is Harmful To Your Computer - Google Cites Human Error

Between 6:30 and 7:25 am PST, every single search result on Google was met with their dire warning that "This site may harm your computer!". So what happened? Most programmers will nod and smile when they hear that the value "/" was listed as being a site containing malware. For the uninitiated, a / is basically added to the end of every site's URL and it expands to all URLs. So all those Google links got tagged as bad when they were, in fact, just websites. The Google Blog has the full deal. But really, from the perspective of someone who's done web design and programming, it's nice to see the big guys screw up every now and again. Additional reporting by Cali Lewis of GeekBrief TV:

A Tool to Verify Digital Records, Even as Technology Shifts

Simple-to-use digital technology will make it more difficult to distort history in the future.

On Tuesday a group of researchers at the University of Washington are releasing the initial component of a public system to provide authentication for an archive of video interviews with the prosecutors and other members of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Rwandan genocide. The group will also release the first portion of the Rwandan archive.

This system is intended to be available for future use in digitally preserving and authenticating first-hand accounts of war crimes, atrocities and genocide.

Such tools are of vital importance because it has become possible to alter digital text, video and audio in ways that are virtually undetectable to the unaided human eye and ear.

Full story here.

Got a Question? Ask Kgb Agents for the Answer

It's not quite the Soviet KGB, but a new service called kgb uses human agents to answer texted questions from mobile users for 50 cents a pop.

Full story in the New York Times.

Carmichael’s federated search journey

At the Federated Search blog there is this entry:

Carmichael’s federated search journey

Carmichael does something in her blog that I’d like to see more of — she shares her federated search journey. Over the past year, but especially in recent weeks, Carmichael has written about her experiences exploring federated search.

Full blog post here.

Why you can't find a library book in your search engine

You might expect forward-thinking libraries to put their databases online, to encourage people through their doors. But they can't. Even though they created the data, pay to have records added to the database and pay to download them, they can't.

"It's safe to say that the policy change is a direct response to Open Library," says Aaron Swartz, the founder of Open Library (, a project to give every published book its own Wikipedia-style page. "Since the beginning of Open Library, OCLC has been threatening funders, pressuring libraries not to work with us, and using tricks to try to shut us down. It didn't work - and so now this."

Why libraries must reject the OCLC Policy: A Call To Action

A proposed OCLC Policy got Tim thinking about compiling all the arguments against the Policy. He wants to start with the process and legal ones, which have gotten very short shrift. OCLC spokespeople are persuasive personalities, and OCLC's "Frequently Asked Questions" allay fears, but the Policy itself is a scary piece of legal writing and, as it explictly asserts, the only writing that matters. He finishes with a call to action:
Librarians and interested parties have only a month before the OCLC Policy goes into effect. It is time to put up or shut up.

* The New York Public Library is hosting a moderated discussion with OCLC Vice President Karen Calhoun from 1-4pm on Friday, January 17. Show up and make your displeasure known.
* Visit and link to the Code4Lib page on OCLC Policy change.
* Sign the Internet Archive/Open Library petition to stop the OCLC Policy.
* Sign librarian Elaine Sanchez's petition.

Troubles for Reference Librarians

Troubles for Reference Librarians: Rick Roche:

At the risk of sounding old fashioned and crotchety, let me say that this sounds like the result of having had too much easy success in the past and settling for just enough. I think we as librarians should work to make our tools as easy to use as possible, with the goal of connecting clients and information/content that they seek, but we should convey that the tools are not perfect. I think some of our marketing that says "Hey, use this , it's easy!" backfires on us. Students and other clients believe us and then assume that if the easy search does not find anything, there is nothing to be found. How we can have positive and encouraging promotions that are still realistic is tricky. We need to think about this.

Have Libraries Lost the Search War?

Dave Lankes shares a conversation because, to him, it goes right to the heart of what he has been saying about the need for librarians to be innovators and leaders.

It is a constant drumbeat that we must change and make our libraries relevant. But dammit, we must move beyond bullet points and slogans and translate this drumbeat into real risk, real action, real new thinking.

He closes with a great series of questions:

Why can’t we replace the “Read” posters that portray libraries as places of things with “Ask” posters that show them as places of curiosity? Why do library gaming programs have to be some sort of lost leader to reading when gaming is a literacy unto itself? Who said the catalog has to be the public face of the library on the web? WHY CAN”T LIBRARIES REINVENT SEARCH?

Canned Libraries Open New Vistas To Readers (Aug, 1936)

In this <A href="">1936 Modern Mechanix article</A>, a fantasy about shrinking the Library of Congress to fit "in a few small filing cabinets" on microfiche/film. Once this is done, copies of the great library will be distributed to worthy institutions all over the world. "Each volume so reduced in size is housed in a sealed cartridge not much larger than a 12-gauge shotgun shell.


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