Information Retrieval

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 (openlibrary.org), 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 1936 Modern Mechanix article, 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. When desired for reading, it is inserted in a small cabinet, the light turned on, and the copy is projected upon a screen, enlarged to comfortable reading size and unaccompanied by glare."

Best Reference Question Ever?

Here's a really wonderful thread over on PUBLIB. It started with this: "Some pre holiday humor for y'all. I just had a patron ask me for a list of all our informational books. I giggled."

My personal favorite: "Patron rolling up a shirtsleeve and showing me her arm, "is this herpes?""

Google Is Taking Questions (Spoken, via iPhone)

Pushing ahead in the decades-long effort to get computers to understand human speech, Google researchers have added sophisticated voice recognition technology to the company’s search software for the Apple iPhone.

Greenstone 2.81 Released

David Bainbridge from the Greenstone team posted a release noting that a new version of the package was released. Greenstone originates from New Zealand at the University of Waikato. Relative to the changes in the new release, Bainbridge wrote:

The main focus has been on multilingual support. Improvements include handling filenames that include non-ASCII characters, accent folding switched on by default for Lucene, and character based segmentation for CJK languages.

This release also features our new installer, which is 100% open source. Previously we had relied on a commercial program for this, which incurred a significant cost in keeping up to date; consequently we decided to develop our own installer, based on the excellent open source installer toolkits already available.

There are many other significant additions in this release, such as the Fedora Librarian Interface (analogous to GLI, but working with a Fedora repository). See the release notes for the complete details.

The post gives details on downloading the release as well as daily builds.

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