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University archive to produce journals
The University of California plans to use its eScholarship repository (http://repositories.cdlib.org/escholarship/) to create new open-access, peer-reviewed journals. Materials from the repository will be available for publication in the journals. Editors will set journal policies and schedules, and the repository will provide software to handle peer review for the journals. The repository site already offers an open-access journal, Dermatology Online Journal, (http://escholarship.cdlib.org/journals.html), which has been published since 1995 and has been moved to the eScholarship Web site.
University open publication funded in UK
Starting in July 2003, processing charges will be waived for authors from 180 universities in the UK who want their articles to appear in journals published by BioMed Central (www.biomedcentral.org). Over 90 biology and medicine journals are involved, and all are open for reading and downloading by the public. BioMed membership for the universities has been arranged by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), a group set up by further and higher education funding bodies in the UK. JISC will fund BioMed processing charges for a period of 15 months as a means to encourage a major shift towards open publication. BioMed Central views the arrangement as an indication that unrestricted access to most of the biomedical research output in the UK has become a very real possibility.
Google rivals library reference services
Google Answers is staffed by hundreds of free-lance researchers. Users register at the Web site (http://answers.google.com), and pay 50 cents to ask a question. They also indicate how much they are prepared to pay, and how long they are willing to wait, for a researched answer. In addition to these paid answers, the user may get free comments from other registered Google Answers users. Fees paid by users are divided, 75 per cent to the researcher and 25 per cent to Google. If not satisfied with a Google answer, users can ask for clarification, can reject the answer and allow the question to be offered to other researchers, or can simply request a refund. Researchers whose results are frequently rejected may be dropped by Google. The Answers service provides users with a list of frequently-asked questions (FAQ). There is also an open database of previous questions with commentaries and answers.
Compared with existing library reference services, how good is the Google service? In an attempt to at least partially answer that question and to learn more about the service, Cornell University Library performed a comparison of their own e-mail reference service with Google Answers. During the study, a set of 24 questions was directed to Google Answers and also to the Cornell e-mail reference staff. A review of paired answers to the questions was then made by other reference college reference personnel. In each case, the sources of the answers were not identified. The evaluations found that there was no clear winner. Although Cornell reference librarians scored somewhat higher overall than the researchers working for Google, the scores were not significantly different. Both groups were rated overall in the same "good" category. Google researchers' answers tended to be taken from freely available network resources, while the reference librarians accessed the entire array of resources at Cornell. Although the study reviewers complimented reference librarian answers on their use of non-Web materials, this did not seem to produce any significantly better ratings for these answers. Incidentally, Google researchers declined to bid on two of the more difficult questions at the $10.00 fee offered by Cornell study personnel. The two questions were ultimately accepted when they were resubmitted to Google with offers of $50.00 and $100.00 for the answers. The Cornell study is described in more detail in D-Lib Magazine (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/june03/kenney/06kenney.html)
Virtual reference in The Netherlands
More than 50 public libraries in The Netherlands are now using QuestionPoint, a collaborative virtual reference service developed by the Library of Congress and OCLC. QuestionPoint is designed to track and manage questions through a worldwide network of reference librarians. Library patrons can submit their questions day or night through their own library Web site. The answers may come online from the patron's library or from another participating library. QuestionPoint has been customized to serve Dutch libraries. The Dutch version, called Al@din, enables librarians throughout The Netherlands to share resources and expertise. During the next three years, 600 public libraries in The Netherlands are expected to use Al@din.
Book location by wireless
Oulu University library patrons in Finland can now use wireless hand-held devices to locate books and other material in the library. A system called SmartLibrary displays maps that guide the patrons to the bookshelves that contain the items they seek. The system was produced by Ekahau (www.ekahau.com), a provider of wireless location technology. Patrons who look up the items they seek in the library online catalog can receive mapped directions to the location of the items they seek. The software for the system takes account of the current physical location of the patron as well as the shelf locations of library catalog items. It is designed to work with hardware that provides wireless Internet access within the library.
Wireless for Maryland library patrons
The Howard County Public Library's Central Branch is the first public library in Maryland to offer its patrons wireless access to library databases and to the Internet. Before users with laptops and hand-held devices can access the wireless facilities, they must have a library card and go through a registration process that allows the system to recognize their computers. They can then sit anywhere in the library building, or even outside near the windows, to access the library online facilities. For the library, wireless access provides a low-cost (just $3,000) way to expand online access without having to run cables and buy additional desktop computers. Howard County plans to expand the service to five other library branches and other libraries in Maryland are planning to install similar systems.
Online manuscript displays
A new online display technique called Turning the Pages 3D, lets users zoom in on digital images of books and manuscripts, while listening to music and commentary. The technique can be used to present entire books on Web pages. A version of the eighth century Lindisfarne Gospels, now on display at the British Library Web site (www.bl.uk) demonstrates the capabilities of the new technique. Forty of the pages from the Gospels can be turned and viewed. Users can zoom in on details and listen to audio commentary.
The Auchinleck Manuscript, which gives viewers a look at English literary texts that Chaucer may have read as he began his literary career, can now be viewed on the Web site of the National Library of Scotland (www.nls.uk/auchinleck). The Manuscript provides a sample of the kind of books that were produced in London in the fourteenth century. It contains versions of over 44 secular texts, including an early history of England, crusader stories, and romances with English heroes.
Eighteenth century digital collection
A digital collection of 150,000 works published in Great Britain during the eighteenth century is now available from Gale. A free trial view of the collection can be seen at http://trials.galegroup.com/ecco/ Columbia University is the first academic research institution to purchase the entire collection, which is based on materials identified by the English Short Title Catalogue and on the holdings of the British Library and other leading research libraries in the UK and North America. Users can search more than 33-million pages of materials. Previously, the materials were available only on microfilm. Documents can be located by using "fuzzy search" technology. All pages of the works, including graphics, are viewed as they appeared in their original printed editions. Material in the collection includes items in History and Geography; Social Science and Fine Arts; Medicine, Science and Technology; Literature and Language; Religion and Philosophy; Law; and General Reference.
Some improvements in plans for ERIC
Based on many critical inputs, plans for changing ERIC services have been partially modified. However, one major criticism of the draft plan for changing ERIC was that it eliminated Clearing-house selection expertise and substituted a small group of content advisors, and there has been no significant change in that part of the plan. The ALA (American Library Association) has urged continued participation of Clearing-house experts and the continued use of author indexing.
Constructive changes in plans for ERIC include some broadening of the proposed coverage of the literature. Articles relevant to education that appear in journals outside the education field are now to be included. The advisory board will suggest relevant journal titles. Automatic harvesting will be used to identify individual articles and contractor employees who build the database are now to meet directly with content experts to discuss recommended content. A "customization tool" will allow libraries to link to ERIC holdings and an 800 service number is to be provided for ERIC users. Finally, there are new reliability requirements, including specific operational standards for reliability of the servers and usability of the search interface, along with a provision for third-party evaluation.
Bill for Public Access to Science
Scientific research papers that have been funded by the US government would not be eligible for copyright protection if the Public Access to Science Act introduced by Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN) becomes law. Instead, these papers would be in the public domain. The Sabo bill would ensure that authors would not be able to transfer copyright or grant an exclusive license for their work to a publisher, and that a publisher would not be able to restrict access to the work. This would benefit authors, since their work would get wider attention, and would also benefit the scientific community. Advocates of the legislation point out that, when research is paid for by tax dollars, scientists should have free and unfettered access to the knowledge that is generated, since that is the basis on which scientific and medical progress is built. They also point out that legal protection for scientific authors is provided by laws governing fraud.
Fees at search sites skew results
When Web search sites accept fees for giving advertiser Web pages better placement on search results pages, users of the sites can be deceived and misled. According to Consumer WebWatch, (www.consumerwebwatch.org), users of search sites found it difficult to recognize the difference between fee-paid search results, and ordinary results. A study found that 41 per cent of the search results chosen by participants in the study were fee-paid results.
Free Microsoft Reader e-books
Microsoft is giving away three e-books a week to publicize their Microsoft Reader software and to try to get Pocket PC users to upgrade to the newest version of the Reader. Over the five-month 2003 promotion period, Microsoft Reader users will be able to download e-book bestsellers from the company's Web site (www.microsoft.com/reader) for use with a Pocket PC, a Tablet PC, a laptop or a desktop. Each week three different titles are offered, but the titles are withdrawn at the end of the week and replaced by three new titles during the following week. There is an added complication. To download the ebooks, users must install the latest version of Microsoft Reader, a version with strengthened reader restriction software.
With a technology called the Continuous Media Web (CMWeb) Internet users can browse through audio and video materials as if they were Web pages. Surfers using a CMWeb-enabled search engine can click on links while viewing an audio or video file to open other file, then return to the first file much as they would navigate from one Web page to another. CMWeb tools include a method for indexing and annotating audio-video content. CMWeb browsers are available at no cost. The tools are being developed at, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) (www.cmis.csiro.au/cmweb).
Gemstar leaves e-book business
The organization behind Gemstar e-book devices has decided to get out of the e-book business. They will stop selling their devices, but will maintain private online bookshelves of e-book titles for current users for a period of three years, and will continue to honor warranties on devices already sold, supplying replacement devices when needed from their current inventory so long as existing supplies last.
Henry Yuen, the former chairman and CEO of Gemstar, has been charged in a civil lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission with securities fraud, lying to auditors, and falsifying the company's books.
Amazon.com plans new book look-up
The plan is called "Look inside the Book II". It will allow users to search for a text phrase, get a list of books that contain the desired phrase, examine the text containing the phrase in each listed book, and read pages near the phrase-location. There will be no charge to see the pages, but users will have to register with Amazon.com
Howard Falk(email@example.com) is a Free-lance Journalist based in Bloomfield, New Jersey, USA.