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DigiCULT 7
I
n recent years considerable technological
advances have been made in the field of Inter-
net-based access to heritage collections and
other information. Research has focused on the
development of descriptive concepts such as metada-
ta for retrieval purposes, interoperable digital reposi-
tories, and more sophisticated searching and browsing
mechanisms.
Overall, the expansion of the Web has favoured the
emergence of new search applications, usage patterns
and interaction paradigms. At the leading edge there
are, for example, techniques such as interactive infor-
mation retrieval, recommender systems, information
extraction and summarisation, retrieval of multimedia
features and other advanced applications for mining
of specialised collections.
There are still many open research questions as
well as unsolved issues of uptake and implemen-
tation.
1
This position paper will not try to give an
overview of these issues. Rather, it concentrates on
user-focused questions such as: Which users may
want to discover what kinds of cultural and scientif-
ic heritage resources, and in what ways? How do user
needs and expectations match up with available and
potential resource discovery concepts and applications
in the heritage sector?
F
ACING
THE
G
OOGLE
I
MPACT
T
he OCLC Environmental Scan report, issued in
January 2004, reviews global issues affecting the
future of libraries as well as providers of museum and
archival information resources.
2
This extremely inter-
esting report ties its strategic assessments around the
central perspective of service to information consum-
ers at the level of their current needs. It acknowl-
edges that the Web has become the most significant
engine driving changes with respect to information
access, and that there is among librarians and other
`traditional' information professions `a subdued sense
of having lost control of what used to be a tidy, well-
defined universe'.
The report contrasts the library, characterised as a
world of order and rationality, with the anarchy of
the free-associating, unrestricted and disorderly Web.
DigiCULT 7
R
ESOURCE
D
ISCOVERY
- P
OSITION
P
APER
:
P
UTTING
THE
U
SERS
F
IRST
By Guntram Geser
In the latter, it states, `searching is secondary to find-
ing and the process by which things are found is
unimportant. "Collections" are temporary and sub-
jective where a blog entry may be as valuable to the
individual as an "unpublished" paper as are six pages
of a book made available by Amazon. The individual
searches alone without expert help and, not knowing
what is undiscovered, is satisfied.'
As Google becomes synonymous with the word
`search' in the minds of Web surfers, many librarians
worry that people are losing sight of other informa-
tion sources, online as well as within brick and mor-
tar libraries.
3
The OCLC report prominently cites a
content vendor's statement that `Google is disinter-
mediating the library', and makes it clear that libraries
need to work hard - and may even need to re-invent
themselves - in order to convince the `Google gen-
eration' that they can offer a better information serv-
ice. This may mean to strive towards what the report,
paradoxically, suggests as a worthy goal: to achieve
`invisibility' - in the sense that the library communi-
ties' services become ubiquitous and fully integrated
into the infosphere.
4
I
NCREASING
THE
V
ISIBILITY
OF
H
IDDEN
H
ERITAGE
R
ESOURCES
W
hile
libraries,
archives, museums
and other heritage
institutions may
need to become
`invisible' as serv-
ice providers
within the elec-
tronic informa-
tion environment,
at the same time
they need to raise
the public aware-
ness of their infor-
mation resources
more strongly.
1
A good overview of the
state of play in information
retrieval research is given
in: James Allen et al. (2003):
Challenges in Information
Retrieval and Language
Modeling, http://www.
sigir.org/forum/S2003/
ir-challenges2.pdf
2
Online Computer
Library Center: The 2003
OCLC Environmental Scan:
Pattern Recognition. C. De
Rosa, L. Dempsey and
A. Wilson. January 2004,
http://www.
oclc.org/membership/
escan/toc.htm
3
Note that another infor-
mation community is also
hit by Google's innovative
services: News editors. Cf.
Larry Dignan's commen-
tary on the virtues of news.
google.com: `Who needs
editors anyway?' (1 October
2002), http://news.com.
com/2010-1071-960207.
html?tag=nl
4
It may also be necessary
to use every opportunity
to get closer to potential
users and showcase library
services, as, for example, the
reference librarians at the
Simon Fraser University
do with their mobile Ask
Us Here! service. See
Diane Luckow: Help for
Google generation (13
November 2003), http://
www.sfu.ca/mediapr/
sfu_news/archives_2003/
sfunews11130306.htm