My top ten FUMSI articles: Part 2

 by Martin Belam, 13 July 2008

I've recently joined the FUMSI team as contributing editor for the 'share' section. The magazine is aimed at Information professionals, and provides ideas, case studies and tips on how to Find, Use, Manage or Share information. FUMSI has a philosophy about information, and it is one that I feel very comfortable being part of:

"Information work is no longer confined to a library, research centre or information unit; everyone has an information role, whether it's to find, use, manage or share information."

Yesterday I started listing my favourite articles from FUMSI and the FUMSI database to date, which included:

And now for the rest of my top ten...

"If Members Won't Come: The Royal Society of Chemistry Builds a Virtual Library" by Nigel Lees

This article looks at how the RSC moved from having an under-used and over-expensive physical library, to a remote access model delivered online. What I think is interesting here is that the library and library users were well ahead of the specialist publishers in wanting to move into this arena.

"Initially, we tried to work with Elsevier and Wiley, two leading chemistry publishers, and discussions started in 2002. However, it wasn't until 2008 that we finally got a result with one of them, Elsevier "

It is also a good example of how having one institution facilitating knowledge sharing can benefit the wider business community in the UK and beyond.

"It rapidly became obvious, as if we didn't know anyway, that chemists were interested in subjects much wider than chemical sciences. Many were running small businesses with little or no access to premium resources, so the full-text and data offered by the RSC Library was a very welcome support for them. Much of the use of these resources seems to come from members in less well-resourced smaller companies/institutions and freelancers."

"Life of the Party: Social Web Browsers" by Stephanie Taylor

Stephanie Taylor looks specifically at how Flock and StumbleUpon can be used by Information Professionals to take advantage of Web 2.0 trends. As she puts it:

"The Internet is not a static database of hyperlinks anymore. It's moved on from the old days when it was a super-efficient, enormous encyclopaedia you read like a book. Now it's a virtual party where you circulate and introduce yourself, talk about your interests and find like-minded people."

Both tools have to work hard to earn their place in Stephanie's favour:

"The feel of both is very casual, and at first, I was a little sceptical of their use for an information professional. My initial reaction was to relegate them to the something I should know about because end users would probably be using them. But on closer examination, I found quite a few features that were either useful or potentially useful in both."

Like all good info-pros, StumbleUpon's user-generated classification is treated with caution:

"Matches are made against user-generated tags. And this is where I start to have a problem. I am wary of user-generated metadata. I know it is one of the foundations of social Web browsing, but for an information professional it can be unnerving! It is inherently inaccurate and that leads to all sorts of complications for the serious searcher."

What the tool lacks in accuracy though, it makes up for in re-introducing Stephanie to the thrill of serendipitous discovery on the web:

"I found some useful sites in StumbleUpon and some interesting sites I would never have encountered in my usual, more conventional and accurate searching. It's not a tool for precise information matching, but the clue is really in the name. It re-awakened my sense of surprise at all the information that is available online and got me out of my comfortable rut of old reliable favourites."

"Non-traditional Careers for Info Pros: Why Consider Alternatives?" by Rachel Singer Gordon

One of the best bits of 'What color is your parachute?' is the explanation that if you want to go from being a 'vulcanium analyst' to a 'sulmidium strategist', you might find the quickest route is to switch from 'vulcanium analyst' to 'sulmidium analyst', or from 'vulcanium analyst' to 'vulcanium strategist' first, as a stepping stone. Rachel Singer Gordon explained in FUMSI in March how these type of dilemmas apply to Information Professionals and librarians thinking of making career changes.

"Many people do choose librarianship with the feeling that this profession feeds something in their soul, that it allows them to make a difference in the world. This makes the decision to leave the field even more wrenching, and more complicated than simply switching one job for another. Take a step back and focus on what, exactly, about library work speaks to your soul. Do you want to make a difference through your work? Do you love books and reading? Do you wish to work in a nonprofit environment? Do you have a commitment to intellectual freedom? Do you have a fascination with the intersections between technology and librarianship?"

"Global Collaborative Search: Watch This Space" by Judith Koren

In her article seeking a global collaborative search system, Judith hits upon one of the conundrum's of the information age:

"I found that everything out there now could be split neatly into two types: on the one hand, services for librarians and Information Professionals, and on the other, services for the end-users. And never the twain shall meet?"

Judith evaluates a whole set of web tools that provide information services, like Yahoo! Answers, Mahalo or Trexy, and comes to the conclusion that:

"All the 'collaboration' tools I found are variants of known remedies such as resource lists, social bookmarking and discussion groups. They tend to address either the community of info pros, or the community of end users. There isn't a place where endusers can interact with search specialists"

She proposes the feature set that her 'global collaborative search' would have to address this gap in the information market - but also asks a very important question of her information professional peers:

"Do librarians and info people want to do this [join in collaborative search], considering our absence from the experts and answers sites? What's stopping us from reaching out to the wider community of information-seekers?"

"Search Trails: Back to the Future" by Nigel Hamilton

Judith Koren's article neatly leads on to this one by Nigel Hamilton, who worked on the Trexy search engine that Judith mentioned. His article looks at how the Internet could be improved if only the human effort in evaluating relevant matches to queries wasn't discarded so cheaply.

"We need a system of Darwinian information selection where the users, not publishers, decide the best answer for a given query. Shouldn't users be given more authority in deciding what is, or isn't relevant?"

He goes back to the astonishingly prescient work of Dr Vannevar Bush in proposing the Memex machine in 1945 - and points out that we have built most of it but over-looked the role of the 'traiblazer'. He believes the key is to evolve systems that act more like human memory.

"The real achievement of human memory is not what we remember but what we forget. Everyday life is full of forgettable factoids and our memory does a great job of filtering them out. Shouldn't search engines do the same? Despite what the publishers say a lot of the pile [of documents that make up the Internet] is worth forgetting, and we need a system that behaves just like human memory on a communal scale."

As you know, everything good on the Internet goes up to 11 - so here is the eleventh of my top ten articles from FUMSI and the FUMSI database:

"Have a beta-test mind - just do it!" by Tim Buckley Owen, Lynne Brindley and Janice Lachance

This Q&A features my FUMSI colleague Tim Buckley Owen putting questions to two esteemed guests - Dame Lynne Brindley from the British Library and Janice R. Lachance of the Special Libraries Association. Both of them are refreshingly excited and open-minded about the possibilities that 'Web 2.0' has opened up for the information industry. It is Lynne who suggests we all need a 'beta test mind'

"It's always going to be in beta test, it's never going to be perfect, and you do learn by just engaging with it. Another point - probably culturally very hard for many information professionals - is acknowledge that the Information Profession doesn't have a monopoly on expertise.


It is no longer acceptable not to be deeply knowledgeable and engaged with the technology. Technology now doesn't just support your services, it actually lets you do wholly and totally new things. We have something called Sounds Familiar on our website that's around dialect in the different regions of the UK. We opened this up to schoolchildren to contribute and to populate the map with their own recordings, and now we've had a great Web 2.0 experience but, more importantly, we have a great new even better research resource."

The whole conversation makes for an interesting read.

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If these sound like the kind of thing that interests you, then there are a couple of ways of subscribing to FUMSI. First of all you can get the PDF edition, which contains additional editorial commentary not published on the website. You can download a couple of sample issues to see what you get for your money.

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