Library Hi Tech News

ISSN: 0741-9058

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



Falk, H. (2004), "E-currents", Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 21 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/lhtn.2004.23921eae.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Library exhibitions Web site

Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web provides links to online exhibitions created by libraries, archives, and historical societies. Museum online exhibitions that focus on library and archival materials are also linked. Exhibition links can be browsed alphabetically by title. A search tool can be used to locate exhibitions by subject keywords, or by words present in their title or institution name. The Web site (www.sil.si.edu/SILPublications/Online-Exhibitions) is maintained by the Smithsonian Institution. Organizations that wish their online exhibitions to be listed should contact Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger (dshaw@si.edu). The exhibitions do not have to be in the English language to be included.

Wireless access in British libraries

A pilot project in the UK is bringing wireless broadband Internet access to ten public libraries. The sites are: Ayton Library (North Yorkshire), Barnard Castle Library (County Durham), Belper Library (Derbyshire), Brewood Library (Staffordshire), Chatburn Library (Lancashire), Launceston Library (Cornwall), Lyndhurst Library (Hampshire), Potton Library (Bedfordshire), Princetown Library (Devon) and Sandwich Library (Kent). The project, a joint effort of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and The Countryside Agency will also make wireless equipment available on loan from libraries.

Copyright licenses save on course packs

Many of the 20,000 electronic journals at Cornell University Library are licensed to allow the college to print articles for student course packs. In the past, Cornell paid about $200,000 per semester for permission to print articles in course packs. Now the college takes advantage of their electronic-version licenses The results? The average course pack that cost $42.92 in Spring 2001 now costs only $27.42 for Spring 2004. The cost of some business school packets went down from $80 to $20. The transition to use of electronic journal files for printing course packs initially involved considerable effort to determine which existing journal licenses permitted printing of articles. The Cornell Library now makes sure that new electronic journal contracts allow the college to print material for course packs.

Scholarly repository items accessible through Yahoo!

The OAIster repository (www.oaister.org) at the University of Michigan provides Internet links to scholarly resources. Repository items are now available through Yahoo! OAIster contains over three million records from 277 institutions. The information resources linked through OAIster are all publicly accessible and have no access restrictions. OAIster provides a direct link to an actual digital object – an image, book, document – not just a catalog or descriptive information. Examples of some of the collections currently available through OAIster include: the arXiv.org Eprint Archive (an archive of physics research); Carnegie Mellon University Informedia Public Domain Video Archive; Ethnologue: Languages of the World; Library of Congress American Memory Project; and Caltech Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory Technical Reports. Many of the items included in OAIster were not previously indexed in popular Web search services. With access through Yahoo! Search these materials are now widely available to an international audience of scholars, students, researchers and enthusiasts.

Library books on MP3

More than 1,600 digital audiobooks are available to library patrons through the ListenIllinois service (www.listenillinois.org). The equipment users need for this service (a special MP3 player) is supplied by their library. Users locate the titles they want in the library catalog then tell a library staff member which items they wish to borrow. Several audiobooks can be stored in one MP3 player. Each player comes with a cassette adapter, and sometimes a wireless transmitter, allowing users to listen to their audiobooks while driving. Although most MP3 files can be played on almost any computer and many portable devices, the books from ListenIllinois are specially encoded to play only on library-owned MP3 players. Audiobooks from ListenIllinois have a two-week loan period. The ListenIllinois service is currently offered by a number of libraries including the Thomas Ford Memorial Library, the Wheaton Public Library and the libraries in the Coal City, Lemont and St Charles Public Library Districts. A similar service called ListenOhio (www.listenohio.org) is available for Ohio library patrons.

Internet citations compiled by scholars

The Infography (www.fieldsof knowledge.com/infography.html) provides lists of citations to books, Internet sites, journal articles, and other information sources provided by subject specialists, 93 percent of whom are college professors. The Web site is designed for use by librarians, teachers and students seeking expert opinion on subjects they are researching. Each Infography subject entry provides the user with six highly-recommended sources of information, and usually includes a longer list of other worthwhile sources for further research. Users enter keywords describing their research target and receive a list of related Infography subjects which can be clicked to display citation lists.

Natural Resource Information Service

Located at the State Library, the Montana Natural Resource Information Service (NRIS) provides about 52,000 user sessions per month to Internet users. Sessions average 13-15 minutes each. Some users search for new places to hike, hunt or fish. Others try to figure out who owns a particular piece of land or research water rights. The latest NRIS tool, the Montana Fishing Guide, provides information on hundreds of lakes, reservoirs and rivers, including what fish species inhabit the water, the location of the nearest public access and local fishing regulations. NRIS files also provide aerial photos of the entire state, plant and animal field guides and a large collection of maps. Some of the maps are interactive. For example, with NRIS users can locate every 10,000ft peak in Montana. Then by drawing a data line on an interactive map, users could determine the distance between each peak. The NRIS Web site is http://nris.state.mt.us

More institutional members for Public Library of Science

Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals carry articles on biological and medical research. PLoS has been able to attract a large number of institutional memberships that pay publication costs in PLoS journals for researchers affiliated with the member institutions. For example, in the USA, 51 liberal arts colleges, members of the Oberlin Group, have became institutional members of the PLoS in early 2004. In April 2004, the University of California libraries announced that their institution had become a PLoS institutional member. The libraries found that traditional scholarly publishing, especially by commercial publishers, was unsustainable for library budgets. The decision to join PLoS was taken to direct scarce dollars away from over-priced journals.

Internationally, the Open Society Institute provides grants that cover the cost of institutional memberships for 50 institutions in developing countries and former communist states in Eastern Europe. These 12-month grants provide new publication channels for authors who may not be able to afford to use traditional scholarly publications. The Open Society Institute gets its funding from Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros.

Links to full free text periodicals

Direct links to over 7,000 scholarly periodicals is provided by www.freefulltext.com. Only periodicals that offer full free text content are listed. All of these publications allow online content to be viewed by Internet access without charge. Some of the publications do require free registration. The site is designed for use by those who seek specific articles. Users are advised to go to bibliographic databases such as PubMed to search for articles by topic or content.

RFID in the Vatican

Now being installed at the Vatican Library in Rome is an electronic cataloguing system that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. The tags allow books to be traced anywhere in the library. In the past incorrectly shelved books could be lost forever, unless happened upon by chance. Now, by waving a wand in front of a stack, librarians can determine exactly which books are out of place. The Vatican Library stacks are about 30 miles long and house some 1.6 million printed volumes. So far, RFID tags have been placed in 50,000 books and periodicals. The Vatican Library is not a lending library. Only the Pope can request books or documents. About 150 researchers use the library each day. Students are not allowed to enter and academics must have several letters of recommendation.

User rights affirmed by Canadian Court

In the past, it appeared that the Canadian Supreme Court viewed the role of copyright law solely as a means to benefit creators of the material. A recent decision has made it clear that the court now places equal importance on users' rights and the need to balance the interests of creators and users. The decision was a unanimous one, allowing the Law Society of Upper Canada to provide their profession with copies of legal materials. The claim, by a publisher of these materials, that this violated copyrights was rejected by the court. The judges viewed "fair dealing" practices (the Canadian equivalent of US "fair use") as user rights which are to be balanced against the rights of copyright owners and creators.

The concept of "authorization" has been used to make it illegal for holders of copyright materials to allow others to access those materials. The Canadian court decided that "a person does not authorize copyright infringement by authorizing the mere use of equipment that could be used to infringe copyright." This decision could directly affect providers of equipment, software and Internet services, protecting them from prosecution for copyright violations by users of their products.

Google tests Gmail

Offering a gigabyte of storage for each user, Google's free new e-mail service, Gmail, is being tested by 1,000 users. Features of the new service include storage of messages by subject, searching stored messages by content, display of replies to a message and powerful spam filtering. Google plans to finance Gmail by attracting advertisers whose ads will appear next to each received message, based on the content of the message. This means that Gmail software will read every message, looking for content that could be meaningful to advertisers. Many observers view this as an invasion of privacy. Some are concerned about personal embarrassment when ads relating to private concerns appear next to messages. Others object to Google's policy, which offers to reveal Gmail information whenever requested by government.

yBook for reading Gutenberg ebooks

For those who want to read ebooks on desktops, laptops and tablet PCs, yBook software provides a fast, convenient and attractive method, particularly for Gutenberg ebooks. The software is free from www.spacejock.com/ybook.html. No registration is required and there are no ads attached (PayPal donations are welcome). The Gutenberg function of yBook allows users to download the entire Gutenberg ebook index. Clicking on an ebook in the index selects it for downloading to the user's computer, where it can then be viewed as desired. Users can work with the US version of the index, which is extensive but not well organized. They can also download and use the Australian version of the Gutenberg index which is cleanly organized but not nearly as complete.

The yBook display shows two pages side-by-side emulating an open book. A single-page display is also available. Features of the software include resizing the displayed text, adjusting margins and setting the color of the paper and text. Users can choose text format details such as underlining vs italics, space between paragraphs, and standard vs left-right quotes. Search for words and phrases in the text is provided as is automatic bookmarking. The display returns to the pages last viewed when a book is closed and then reopened. The software runs on systems using Windows or Linux (with Wine), but it will not work on handheld devices. There is no scrolling. A mouse click on the right-hand page moves the display to the next two pages. A click on the left-hand page moves the view back. yBook provides no panning or zooming.

Low cost ebook device

In April, Japanese ebook users began buying an ebook device, called the Librie, priced at about $375 and half the size of a paperback book. Text quality comparable to newspaper print is claimed by the device manufacturer, the Sony Corporation. The Librie has a black and white electronic ink display and can store about 20 ebooks. The screen can be read at almost any angle and in bright sunlight since it uses tiny charged beads to form letters and images. An expansion memory is available. Ebooks can be downloaded from a desktop computer through a USB cable. The device is powered by four AAA alkaline batteries and can display about 10,000 pages before the batteries need changing.

Howard Falk (howf@hotmail.com) is a freelance journalist in Bloomfield, New Jersey, USA.

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