Sunday, June 24, 2007

Some quick notes from ALA

Catalog front-ends are the new kids on the block in the exhibits. You can see Aquabrowser, Endeca, Primo, and others. It's clear that the separation of the user interface from the ILS is well underway. Aquabrowser has a new product for small libraries called Aquabrowser online where they will host a library's front-end for a monthly fee. This might be a great way for libraries to try out a front-end without having to make the full commitment of a purchase. It would also be an excellent way for a library to show its board the possibilities before asking for an allocation of funds.

There's a lot of buzz about RDA which is now looming on the near horizon. Work is going forward to begin training and implementation plans. At the same time, I have yet to speak to a cataloger who thinks that RDA is workable as a set of cataloging rules. I suspect that what has happened is that the JSC, in its desire to define a neutral set of data elements, has created a product that is neither a rigorous set of data elements nor a set of cataloging rules. I can't help but see this in familiar terms: "stay the course." In other words, we've gotten ourselves into an expensive mess that we can't easily get out of. To admit failure is unthinkable after all of this time and expense. At least the RDA process isn't creating actual casualties. I blogged one of the RDA sessions at the ALCTS blog:

And if you think that e-books are dead, you should visit the 20-some booths exhibiting e-book products, as well as audio books. OverDrive is now serving up movies and games along with its e-book products, all mainly used by public libraries.

Google is here with one of the most mistaken campaigns I've ever seen at an ALA. They are holding a "find the info" contest that starts out: "You're an undercover government agent. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: find the info you need, and find it fast." Don't they know the history that libraries have with "undercover government agents?" However, there are prizes, so I assume that librarians are playing along. It's amazing what people will do for a free key ring or a post-it note pad.


arkham said...

I'm amazed at how many people think e-books will never "catch on". Now that I have a PDA and can download e-books, I LOVE them. If I could reasonably check out e-books that would work on my PDA from the library, I would. I have my PDA with me all of the time, so if I'm stuck in a waiting room, or have some time at lunch, it's right there, small and convenient. Way better than carrying a book around, IMO. And, yes, I can curl up with my PDA and read.

Karen Coyle said...

I've talked to some public library folks about e-books, and they have an interesting perspective. One told me that their library gets e-books for those titles that tend to "walk away" (read: get stolen). She mentioned the "Dummies" books, Cliff notes, and computer manuals. An e-book can't be stolen and can't be kept past its due date. Years ago I also heard a librarian say that one of her avid readers of romance novels wanted to be able to change the names of the characters in the books -- to essentially give the heroine her own name as a way of personalizing the story/fantasy. It's not for everyone, but when you think about it -- why not?