by Pat Boze LTLS Consultant
Chicago was all dressed up for ALA (or is it the Olympics bid process)? Although some of the storefronts and streets are still getting a makeover, that didn't deter the more than 20,000 attendees at last weekend's ALA Annual Conference. The shuttle buses, sponsored by Gale, transported attendees back and forth from multiple hotels to McCormick Convention Center, events were held at the Art Institute and other Chicago popular spots, and Millennium Park and Grant Park were great places to unwind and people-watch at the end of the day.
My stay started with a pre-conference on distance learning focusing on how academic libraries are reaching out and involving distance ed students in using the library's resources through online course integration. University of Maryland, which has almost 90,000 distance education students, conducted the hands-on workshop and offered multiple tips on integrating interactive components into library instructional materials as a way to engage users.
Another area of interest is that of up and coming automation ideas. Andrew Pace, OCLC, presented on web-based and networked automation functionalities that he believes will develop over the next few years. Perhaps servers in libraries won't be needed - we may just use web applications to store, retrieve, and transact data.
Net neutrality continues to be an interesting area - how can we preserve the presence of the non-profit content developers (such as libraries) in increasingly-commercial search engines? Will libraries eventually have to pay to have their content accessible? Is the presence of cable as an internet provider driving the move toward fee-based requirements for access? The American Library Association continues to lobby and monitor these issues at the federal level as policies continue to evolve.
Tom Blanton, head of the National Security Archives, George Washington University, spoke about the incredible growth in classified material at the federal level - now at 23 million items per year. His organization is responsible for archiving de-classified items and also submits FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests when groups are trying to retrieve documents from the federal government that have been classified.
In the Exhibits Hall, one of the more interesting products I saw was the new World Digital Library, just released by the Library of Congress. The purpose of this site is to make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. Many countries' national archives are participating in this project with the LOC. Most interesting is the graphical search interface and the option of limiting results by eras in a timeline that stretches from 8000 BC to 2009 AD. Visit the site at www.wdl.org