Summer 2006

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From the Editor's Desk

Sam Patton, Editor, TRUSTEE

Summer 2006 issue of Trustee

This issue is a little late, due to overlapping vacation schedules for the editor and a lot of the contributors.  I am on Cape Cod, enjoying a working vacation with our children and grandchildren, with the beach only a short walk away.  One of the pleasures of travel is getting to visit a lot of libraries, and this time I have found a very welcoming small library in Eastham.  They have wireless access to the internet, and they don’t turn it off when the library closes.  So one often sees people in cars in the parking lot at odd hours, surfing the internet.

The use of the NOVEL data bases is growing, and another story gives more detail.  The budget this year has some good news, as reported by Janet Welch, the State Librarian, and commented on by Senator Farley in his column.

Computer technology seems to be growing almost faster than our ability to absorb and use it.  Just recently I went to a seminar in New York, and heard of a new way of indexing and searching audio collections.  A company has developed a method of analyzing recorded speech, creating a searchable database, and then retrieving information from the files.  Their program identifes the phonemes used by the language, then breaks up the audio files into phonemes, or syllables, in a way that ordinary search engines can use words to search a text file.  Then they showed how this works in an example.  They had several newscasts on file, and asked for search terms, which were then entered into a search box, similar to a Google or other search.  The search entry has to be entered in phonetic spelling if the phrase or word sought is spelled in an unusual way.  In one example, they entered something like, “Alan Greenspan AND George Bush,” and the search returned several example.  Clicking on any item played the audio part of the newscast in which both names were used. They can use the same process in languages other than English, with a list of the phonemes, and the search terms can be entered in the language, as long as the spelling matches the phonemes.

The use of other technologies is expanding in scale, as well.  In the New York Times Magazine for May 14, 2006, Kevin Kelly writes, “For 2000 years, the universal library, together with other perennial longings like invisibility cloaks, antigravity shoes and paperless offices, has been a mythical dream that kept receding further into the infinite future.”  Even the famous library at Alexandria probably held only 30 to 70 percent of all the known written books of the time.  But now there are projects that intend to scan or otherwise create a digital library of unprecedented scope.  According to Kelly, about a million books per year are being scanned, at facilities all over the world.  With current and developing search methods, the otherwise cumbersome arrangement of footnotes and cross-references can be turned into clickable links to integrate a whole chain of references into immediately available information.  To me, there is a possible problem that can arise.  There is an old paradox that asks, “If a person of seventy years sets out to do a very detailed autobiography, and discovers that it takes a month to write up one year of life experience, will the author ever get caught up to current events?”  With our current publishing rate, can we scan material fast enough to get caught up, or even keep even with the rising tide?

Finally, I wish all our readers a pleasant summer, and look forward to seeing many of you at the next Trustee Institute in New York next spring.

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