The Musings of an In-Touch Old-School Information Sciences Person

Sometimes in Silicon Valley we can breathe too much of our own vapors and forget that smart people in other industries have been tackling what we consider “new” problems for a long time and, in the process, forget to learn from them.

The part at which we’re inherently good is bringing new eyes, a fresh approach, and disruptive business models. The part at which we’re inherently bad at is listening to and learning from those “who don’t get it” and who tread before us.

One of the things I like about running Mark Logic is that many of our customers live at the intersection of old-media publishing and new-media web 2.0. This creates an exciting opportunity to help bring web 2.0 thinking to the classical publishing business, as well as a great opportunity to study disruptors and innovation strategies a la The Innovator’s Dilemma.

It also gets me some exposure to librarians and the disciplines of library and information science, and things like abstracting and indexing. It turns out that long before Google decided to organize the world’s information that librarians had been doing it for over 2000 years. I’ve sometimes quipped that “angry librarians” were a target market for Mark Logic and that prior to joining Mark Logic I thought that MLS was a disease, not a degree.

In this post, I wanted to call attention to a series of monthly articles written by someone who I consider an in-touch old-school information sciences professional: Jill O’Neil, director of planning and communications at NFAIS. In particular, I wanted to call attention to her series of monthly missives called Enotes, available either by being an NFAIS member or through this listserver, which offers subscription services and appears open to the public.

I like the Enotes series for a number of reasons:

  • They’re always well written, well researched, and with links to great sources.
  • You can tell that Jill uses the tools she discusses.
  • She unites the perspective of an old-school library scientist with a in-touch web 2.0 user; I find her unique in so doing.

For example, consider the opening hook in this month’s Enotes:

In late March of this year, Anna Kushnir, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, blogged her total exasperation with PubMed as a search tool, calling it “embarrassingly, frustratingly, painfully bad.” The final paragraph of the blog entry asked, “Why is PubMed so behind the times…When is it going to get better?”

Almost immediately there was a flurry of comments on the blog from prominent medical librarians, suggesting how she might go about getting PubMed to spew back the content she sought. Anna’s response to all of the proffered assistance was less than enthusiastic. “I don’t think I should have to be — or enlist the services of — a medical librarian in order to do a simple search on a literature search engine. PubMed should be an *intuitive* search engine such as Google, or others.

I don’t know about you, but that hook makes me want to read the rest of the article.

I’ve wanted to blog about various topics raised in the Enotes series many times, but — and here’s my one gripe — they’re seemingly not accessible via an URL. I receive them as e-mails and until I found the previously mentioned listserver and archive, I couldn’t find them at any URL on the web. Ergo, I couldn’t really blog about them.

Well, the good news is that I found a way to find Enotes on the web and subscribe to the NFAIS list if you so choose. The bad news is (1) that the listserver mangles the formatting, and (2) you have to dig through general NFAIS traffic to find them.

So, if you have the motivation, check out Enotes. And Jill — please make them accessible via an URL!

  • Jill’s blog is here
  • Jill’s delicious bookmarks are here
  • Jill’s Google Reader RSS feed is here

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