Internet Archive visit

Internet Archive glass     I’ve been wanting to take a trip to visit a Friday lunch at the Internet Archive for years since I heard about them. If you haven’t heard of or used it, it might be a shock to learn about its existence–since 1996, they’ve been “capturing” the Internet onto permanent, indexed, searchable hard drives on behalf of the public. The Wayback Machine is probably the most famous arm of this project, and one that I use to reference works I wrote way back when I was a music journalist for the online-only publication, Buzznet.

A year and a half ago, they moved from their old digs in the Presidio to their new digs in the former Christian Scientist building on Funston (at Clement) and done some renovating (along with their logo which now features the Roman columns on the building). It’s a beautiful space, and one that fits many “wings” of the organization that they’ve branched into collecting–sound, video, and, along with Google, a book digitization project which includes open access and a lending library, called Open Library. They are even suggesting the MegaReader app for iPhone/iPad users to access the collection.

Digital desk

Digital desk

As part of the lunch, each person had to describe why they were visiting or, if you work there, interesting progress or events from your project you are working on.  I was visiting for several purposes with one being that my library receives unique items which are often Quaker-related and can be rare. I was particularly interested in seeing how their digitization works after realizing they have quite an amazing collection of Quaker documents already in their library for free viewing (482 as of this writing). One of the key findings, for me, is how this work is being done and shared as a research tool for Quakers, especially those not living near a library that would stock such items. Unfortunately, the cost is around $.10/page to have your document scanned, unless you donate the item to them, so this will most likely be cost-prohibitive at this point but it does bring hope that, should someone have a large bequest, they could probably pay for the scanning of many Quaker documents and have them housed, potentially, forever on open servers and open to the public. Better than a physical library in many ways!

I was particularly engaged by the Director of this project, Richard, who came from a commercial background and now works for this non-profit. He’s a great

Internet Archive server rack

A slice of the Internet

person to head this project as he definitely had a feel for why and how the Open Library will deal with the Googlization of everything in a non-commercial way.

The Open Library project is working toward offering books in many formats compatible with many e-readers out there, and have built their own web-reader which makes it available in this future-compatible format. And, since this past holiday season, it’s getting easier and easier to have access to e-readers. I’ve been an ebook fan/reader since back in 2000 when I started library school using my HP Journada 540 with a black-and-white screen.

While I’m not sure the Internet Archive will truly ever compete with the commercial world, it will continue its efforts to bring free books to the public in many formats and continue the fight for bringing books to people free of charge, so hooray for that. I’m happy to see that this is another answer for libraries as opposed to complicated DRM files and outsourcing to paid-vendors like OverDrive.

Loertscher strikes again!

With his new book, The New Learning Commons: Where Learners Win, David Loertscher strikes yet another 21st Century Learner note: learners need to participate in the common spaces libraries provide to become better learners.
     In the new School Library Journal article, Loertscher compares the “old” model of libraries to what is currently happening to the Microsoft model–it is primarily driven by customer feedback delivered to a central agency that then retools its product and sells it back as what the customer wants.  He states that the Google model, with the user at the center of managing what, how, and when the product (information) is managed by the end user with the tools handed over to them for use in how they see fit. 
     What I love most about Loertscher’s work is that it dreams big.  School is an active, engaging place filled with learners who feel empowered by an active, collaborative instructional staff which feeds-back the energy to students and thereby strengthens and builds a greater learning community of empowered and focused minds.  And theory is truly what keeps the eye on the prize for those working in schools and acts to inspire us to go beyond what we see in front of us.
     Fortunately, he’s go a WordPress blog to keep up with how these ideas are developing.

One for the po-mo business world

I’m digging on Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: the Power of Organizing Without Organizations.  It’s outside my normal range of reading, but I’m interested in what he has to say on how “flat” organizations structures can actually come into fruition in today’s educational and/or Quaker environment (my spin on reading this).  I’m no business management person, but he’s definitely onto something with sections titled “Sharing Anchors Community” and “Everyone is a Media Outlet.”

It’s so interesting, I’m resisting the library’s recall notice (it’s on hold and I can’t renew it–gah!) until I’m finished with it.

Visiting ALA Anaheim

On Thursday, I’m heading to ALA in Anaheim to update my overall knowledge of libraries.  I’m particularly interested in Koha, the open source ILS which has been in development for a while.  It seems to have a pretty cool kid-friendly interface.  I’m also attending the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner pre-conference which I hope is going to come off as progressive, rather than a redux of Web 2.0 stuff or an update to Information Power. I’m hoping for some new research, forward-thinking planning and assessment, and not some milquetoast overview of “what all students should be requeired to know.”

Search engine redux

So, I’ve been feeling like Google has become Yahoo! circa 1999 recently (wow! free email for life!). What’s really all that new, anyway?–lots of results, images, video, news, and other categories. But the interface is just not new at all! This I learned after looking into alternative search engines with a class of students in fourth grade. What about visual learners? Categorization and grouping those massive results? Natural language? Subject-specific?

In fact, since I’ve been asking the question for the past year of many library users, “Which search engine tool do you use?” and received Google 95% of the time (alternatives usually include, surprise, Yahoo!), it’s getting pretty boring to talk about searching. Until I discovered AltSearchEngine’s list of choices and how search engines are getting divvied up in ways that I’d never heard of!

Specific searches tools for specific uses, such as Helia (health), simple facts (FactBites), or charitable donations (Noza) ! New graphical interfaces (SearchMe, Kartoo, Quintura)! Nowadays with search, there are a lot of people out for a piece of the Google pie, but they aren’t really getting much traction. Why not?

According to some, it’s the design interface that’s key, and I’d agree–it has to be simple, clean, and easy to use and many of these new alternatives don’t stick closely enough to this to match Google. Some say it’s the crawling and ranking algorithm that make it work–the “intuitive” feel of the result that is created by the search engine reading your mind and magically returning relevant results (quantity doesn’t matter if the cream rises immediately to the top).Multi-tool

I think the toughest thing to get right is the assortment of tools for the user (which Google offers in its suite: personalized calendar, photo-sharing, blogging, and more) which goes beyond simple results-gathering. Plus you have to incorporate the above items and make your search ubiquitous (think:browser interoperability) and suddenly it’s the Swiss Army pocket knife versus the Swiss Army multi-tool–which would you prefer on a desert island?