Thursday, 28 May 2009

Innovation at the National Library of Australia

This is partly to draw your attention to a new resource discovery interface prototype that the NLA have developed and made public (, have a look.

I wouldn't normally blog here about an individual development like this, it looks like a very promising development for libraries or museums who have a lot of resources of different types to display and promote online, but it may not change the world.
It is however, just another example of the great work that the National Library have been doing.
They have been the only national library using VuFind (a great open source resource discovery interface product), when only a few, generally small academic libraries in the US are using it.
They have developed a handful of experimental interfaces for their resources and made them available to everyone to look at and experiment with.
They have also been actively involved in the OLE project (, along with a select group of large North American Academic libraries. This is a very interesting project for anyone interested in library management systems or open source software.
They have also started an amazing newspaper digitisation project, which uses 'the wisdom of the crowd' to help create an archive of fully searchable newspapers (I blogged about this here earlier). I'm sure there is more.

I think we should recognise the excellent leadership that the NLA is showing internationally. A good example of Australians "Punching above our weight".

If you are interested in this, have a look at Warwick Cathro's presentation from the Horizon Libraries meeting held at UTAS earlier this year(

Thursday, 21 May 2009

More on Wolfram Alpha

I've actually been surprised at the lack of blogger opinion that this development has received. For me, once I had used Wolfram Alpha in one of the areas that it works well for I found going back to Google a bit quaint, like going back to your old iPod, the fond memory of an old interface...If I was Nick Hornby I would probably write at length here about ex-Girlfriends, but you get the idea.
Wolfram Alpha is amazing, if you start thinking about the kinds of computing that is going on behind the scenes, it is clearly a real step forward in information retrieval. At launch it is quite limited in terms of the quantity of information that it knows (it does KNOW in a way that Google doesn't), and the sophistication of its recognition of what you want to know, but if the team behind it are smart (hard to imagine they aren't) the queries going in now are informing the development path for this product and when advances are made it will be hard to imagine life without it. I guess what I am saying is that I believe the hype.
Of course the two products are not direct competitors for most of the services that Google Search offers, indexing static content is still extremely important, but I think Wolfram Alpha will carve out a growing niche and deprive google of searches in the same way that Google deprives libraries of basic reference queries (what is the capital of..., how many..., how big is... etc).
William Gibson reportedly said: "The future is here, it's just not widely distributed yet"

Friday, 15 May 2009

Wolfram Alpha hype

This should be live by the time you are reading this, I think.

If it does what it says it is going to do, things will change.

If you're reading this before the launch have a look at the screecast:

Thursday, 14 May 2009

New-fangled technology? Forget blogs, apparently poetry is the way to get connected!

Blogs just aren't the way!
It's Poetry that's here to stay
So let's get rhyming!
(I need to work on my timing...)

Ironically, according to the following blog, we should be dispensing with blogs and connecting with each other via poetry.

Acknowledgement to Felix who pointed me in the direction of this website.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

JISC Report on web 2.0 and Higher education

A new report from JISC in the UK on 'higher education in a web 2.0 world' was released yesterday. A must read for anyone interested in technology and education (us!). From the conclusion:

Web 2.0, the Social Web, has had a profound effect on behaviours, particularly those of young people whose medium and metier it is. They inhabit it with ease and it has led them to a strong sense of communities of interest linked in their own web spaces, and to a disposition to share and participate. It has also led them to impatience – a preference for quick answers – and to a casual approach to evaluating information and attributing it and also to copyright and legal constraints.

The world they encounter in higher education has been constructed on a wholly different set of norms. Characterised broadly, it is hierarchical, substantially introvert, guarded, careful, precise and measured. The two worlds are currently co-existing, with present-day students effectively occupying a position on the cusp of change. They aren’t demanding different approaches; rather they are making such adaptations as are necessary for the time it takes to gain their qualifications. Effectively, they are managing a disjuncture, and the situation is feeding the natural inertia of any established system. It is, however, unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. The next generation is unlikely to be so accommodating and some rapprochement will be necessary if higher education is to continue to provide a learning experience that is recognised as stimulating, challenging and relevant.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Library raves - are you ready?

An article in the American Library Association's e-newsletter piqued my interest for obvious reasons...'Academic Libraries become all the rave"

Apparently students in several US universities have used social networking technologies to organise impromptu gatherings (i.e. dance parties) and the library has been the venue of choice. Some of the quotes in this article are hilarious. I especially like the revolutionary zeal of a mass of students shouting 'take the library!'. Such passion.

It's interesting that the library was chosen over other locations on campus. I wonder if it was because for students 'the library' speaks of all things establishment and so holding a rave there is fun because it is a rebellious and empowering act in a 'stuffy' location? Or because the library really is the heart and soul of the institution?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

There's a humourous little news story on the ABC website about an Irish uni student who posted a fake quote to Wikipedia, attributed to a French composer. This quote was picked up by a multitude of newspapers, websites and blogs etc. There are comments about the incident and, more interestingly, the reliability of Wikipedia on the ABC blog.

Article on ABC Online by former UTAS librarian

Those of us who have been here for a long time may remember Paul Koerbin working with us as a liaison librarian. He's now the National Library's web archiving manager, and has an article on ABC Online today

Hit save before dot-com becomes dot-gone

"If we don't take steps to resource and support the methodical preservation of our public web culture we stand to lose huge slabs of it into the void of time...

Friday, 1 May 2009

Lazy? Want to keep up with professional literature?

Well, I just discovered the journal of Academic Librarianship has a guide to the professional literature in each issue. Snippet sized abstracts and reviews, handy.

Link to the catalogue entry for the journal

You can set up RSS feeds for the table of contents too.