A post on LISNews from today lists a few alternatives to Google, all created by librarians. The point of these various alternatives is to provide vetted internet search results to users.

While these searches are certainly interesting and may even be good starting points, the can not begin to cover the scope of Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. Simply searching for “University of Illinois” in Infotopia does not bring up the University’s homepage. However, all of the sites listed provide interesting topical browsing functions.

If you haven’t explored such search engines before, you probably should. I’m not recommending any of these – though if you are in need of a safe-search scholastic internet environment, you can do much, much worse.


It seems to have become conventional wisdom that libraries banish bulky print in favor of ethereal electronic editions whenever possible to both save space and encourage use. The space-saving aspect of e-books and electronic materials can not be seriously questioned. But how appropriate are they for libraries?

D’Agostino hits on some points that I ran in to while working in publishing that make e-books rather unattractive. HTML and PDF e-books were the de facto formats  of the pre-Kindle era. However, many publishers, unwilling to navigate the choppy waters of competing e-reader devices, are clinging to these formats even though they are not favored by the few e-book users who actually exist.

Even those favored formats (Kindle, Sony, etc.) have their problems. Princeton’s  experiment using (free) Kindles for instruction produced lack-luster and disappointing results.  Besides, who wants to take detailed notes though a complicated process that can be erased without notice by some office worker half a continent away?

Cushing Academy has charged ahead into a brave new library world without cumbersome paper books, but who will inhabit it? What is a library without books?

While the administrators and Cushing certainly believed that an all-digital approach was best for their patrons and usage patterns, public libraries are a long way away from that world. All levels of technological literacy and economic status must be served in a public library and the humble book is still the way to do that.

Contrary to some claims, e-readers are not environmentally friendly alternatives to paper books, either. One must consider the energy and material required to create an e-reader, the power to sustain it, and the vast amounts of e-waste generated when it and its cohorts have outlived their perceived usefulness.

The classic paperback, when returned loved-beyond-repair to the library, can simply be recycled.

Will e-books hold a place in my library? At this point, I have to say probably not. I will certainly look to replace out-dated, bulky, and expensive print references materials with their on-line counterparts. You can now purchase the entire run of  National Geographic, a publication my library currently stores back-issues of in a closet, for less than $60 in an easy-to-use electronic edition – something else that I will surely add to the library.

As e-readers form a market and the battle-haze settles a bit, demand will likely rise for e-book availability, at which point we can consider adding them. For now though, books – those dusty lovable icons – will continue to form almost the entirety of my library’s collection.

See today’s article on Slate : “Wait, Who Says My Tweets Belong to Google or the Library of Congress?” by Heidi Moore. Moore seems rather upset that Google is creating a searchable archive of all Tweets. And, in case you missed it, the Library of Congress announced yesterday:

Your 140 characters or less will now be housed in the Library of Congress.

That’s right. Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. That’s a LOT of tweets, by the way: Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions.

Announcement link here.

Moore is not outraged over privacy, she’s outraged over the ownership implications of this move:

Think for a second, not of a zillion little 140-character bursts of history. Think of the “producers” of that history, and of the slippery slope Google and the Library of Congress are creating for personal rights over any work product. The precedent here might be: If it’s on the Internet, we (Google) own it.

She makes a few pointed jabs along this line and is obviously seething about the issue, calling for Twitter to “inform its users clearly what they were getting into.”

The problem for Moore is that they did.

Everyone who signs up to use Twitter agrees to Twitter’s Terms of Service, which states, in plain English (emphasis added):

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

So, while yes, Heidi, you own your Tweets, you did, however, tell Twitter they could do whatever they want to with them with out further consulting or compensating you.

If that keeps you up at night, see Section 11 of Google’s Terms of Service.

Generally speaking, these are the prices we pay for free services. (See Slate write Chris Thompson.) Also, please, please read the Terms of Service of the service you plan to gripe about on national fora before griping (because I’m sure you didn’t before using the service).

Also, as another Slate writer (Chadwick Matlin) points out,

Heidi, when you write a book—and, come to think of it, you should write a book!—does it end up in the Library of Congress? Yes. Is it still your work when it goes in there? Yes. We’re not talking about Google (GOOG) or the LoC “owning” your intellectual property. We’re talking about archiving it.

Much of this conversation – the outrage, the confusion – stems from our misunderstandings and disagreements about the role born-digital content plays in our society. In this case, Twitter is the publisher, Heidi – and ever other Twitter user – is a writer published by them. When examined from this angle, the case becomes quite clear. The publisher is exercising their distribution rights, the Library of Congress is exercising their rights as a library to collection published works, and Google is exercising its right to form a partnership with a publisher.

As creators of born-digital content, this electronic ephemera and grey literature, users must be aware of these concepts and Terms of Service clauses so that they have at least a partial understanding of their rights and roles as content creators.

As GSLIS faculty seem sadistically eager to point out, being a library director is a BIG responsibility with A LOT of things happening at once … it may even be overwhelming! Gee, thanks. I hadn’t thought about that.

Actually, I had already visited the bowels of the stacks looking for a few books on library management and small libraries that haven’t come across before in class. Oh, they needed to be recent too. I have no need to even skim chapters about wether or not this Internet thing is ever going to take off.

Three of the titles I picked up are by GSLIS alum Judith Siess: The Visible Librarian, The Essential OPL, and The OPL Source Book. OPL stands for One Person Library, which Judith is an expert on. However, her books deal mainly with corporate libraries. Besides, I have five paid staff members. I’m not exactly a One Person Library. I also picked up The Thriving Library by Marylain Block, The Small Public Library Survival Guide by Herbert Landau, and Small Libraries by Sally Reed (though it dates from the early 1990s).

Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?