USAIN Annual Conference 1995: A travel log
The United States Agriculture Information Network (USAIN) held its 1995 Annual Meeting in Lexington, KY, April 26-29. While I was not able to attend the entire conference, this travel log documents the events I was able to attend.
Wednesday, April 26
The conference began with a number of pre-conference Internet workshops, but things did not really begin to happen though until the attendees were treated to a visit to the Kentucky Horse Park. At the park we got to see the grave of Man o' War and more horses than you could "shake a stick at" including John Henry. In order to see the entire 1000+ acres of farm, some attendees opted for a hay ride. The Farm also had a very nice horse museum. (Of course I was most interested in the Morgan horses.) After a meal of fried chicken and barbecue, we were entertained by clogging-style dancers. The whole event was a good ice breaker.
Thursday, April 27
The Meeting was officially brought to order by Cynthia Via, the current President of USAIN. She made a few housekeeping-type remarks and introduced the first speaker.
Paul Evan Peters , Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) presented "Of Information Highways and Byways: Networked Communication and Publication Strategies for the Rest of the 1990's and Beyond." He began by saying libraries are in the vanguard of the Information Age and we should "get up in the morning and say 'I'm in the vanguard.'" At the same time he believes the language of the "digital library" has not stabilized yet and there are still many aspects of these new technologies that need to be explored. In many ways, libraries are like canaries in a cage being sent into hazardous areas to see how we survive. To strengthen our position we need to develop a theory of digital libraries. Understand its causes and effects. Predict how people will use the resources and scholarly communication. Build a relationship between libraries and users. Look for ways to become more theoretical. Paul's Special Theory or guidelines for such a theory include:
- The need for basic guideposts (networking and electromagnetic formats in general like CDROMs as well as the Internet)
- The need to focus on social constructions (the way people conceive of the things, economic developments, and enhancements to research)
- Take into account the things that are changing and how they are rendered or formatted, packaged keeping in mind the real cost of all these materials is in the authors and readers and not the librarians and publishers
- Take into account the things that are emerging like digital documents and knowledge as the property of the user rather than the author
The future of libraries includes many challenges:
- Confusion of libraries with collections (we offer more than books)
- Linkage of libraries with the young and the economically disadvantaged, and intellectual property policies and procedures (libraries are not about catching the downwardly mobile but rather the upwardly mobile
- Putting data in context (subject analysis)
His final remarks were "Demo or die. Cheap stunts are okay, and leadership is our only choice. Ask not what the internet can do for you, but you can do for the internet."
Eric Lease Morgan of the North Carolina State University Libraries then presented " Using the World Wide Web and WAIS Technologies to Create Electronic Information Systems ".
"Property Rights in Cyperspace: Copyright Law in the Internet Era" was then delivered by David Shipley of the University of Kentucky College of Law. This presentation offered more questions than answers and tried, in a small way, to predict a bit of the future when it comes to copyright. Some of those questions included:
- What will be the status of "fair use" after revision of the any copyright law?
- Are authors going to want to get involved in electronic publishing?
- Will we see "pay as you go, built-in meters" from things like the Copyright Clearinghouse Center?
Shipley then alluded to the possibility of publishers skirting the copyright issues and fair use issues through the use of licenses. These licenses will provide restrictions that fair use would normally accommodate, but since the licenses are binding contracts, the issues of fair use which libraries have enjoyed will be eliminated.
Shipley then mentioned a number of issues being discussed by the NII (?) working group and how their recommendations may effect copyright and libraries.
In summary, Shipley said there are no clear cut answers to these problems and "everything is constantly changing."
Janet Poley of A*DEC Corporation gave an articulate presentation "Connected We Can Learn - Distance Education of the Agriculture Community". Poley began by stating that people are looking to the information highway as a vehicle for education. She then discussed how can we, as librarians, can be players in this new environment. The traditional learning method is not as effective as it could. We need a national learning infrastructure including:
- Distance education
Globalization, demographics, technology, and disintegration of higher education's "ivory tower" are all part of this change. Three factors, according to the PEW Roundtable, for change include:
- Technological change
We must figure out to sustain the information we create when, at the same time, we want to give it away. How do we put a value on the information? She then enumerated a number of ways we can handle change ranging from entrepreneurship to expense reduction. There are four cultures in higher education:
Changes in higher education will have to include these various cultures. She then enumerated a number of issues involving change ranging from accreditation, external forces, reduction of public funding, no monopolies of information, being producers of information as opposed to only being a consumer.
The last session I attended on Thursday was given by Jan Olsen of the Mann Library, Cornell University. The title of her presentation was "Preservation Through Electronic Means: Updates on the Core Agricultural Literature Project at Mann Library and the National Preservation Program". This presentation outlined and described a national effort for the preservation of agricultural information. She began by giving use a history of the plan from its inception in 1991 resulting in the "Purple Plan" in 1993. This plan listed the pivotal types of agricultural literature genres including:
- Land-grant publications
- State/county documents
- Pre-1862 institutes (informal publications)
- Unique collections in library institutions significance of local level
- Federal documents
- Core popular and trade journals
- Scholarly books and journals
The plan then suggested the appointment of a national coordinator for a 3 year term who would create momentum for the plan. Technologies for preservation purposes were to be hybrid in form: microfilm and electronic. Pieces of the information would be used to create a bibliography of these materials and provide mechanisms for delivering the information (quite possibly over the Internet). Mann Library of Cornell University was then selected as one of the libraries to being doing some of this preservation from the 9 states that were qualified for participation. They began by creating a universe of documents through lists of subjects from numerous New York collections. Items from this list were then prioritized using the expertise drawn from scholars. This aspect of her work was very interesting. To date the preservation work of the Mann Library includes 577 monographs and 633 serial volumes. Many had been micrfiched. Forty-seven percent (47%) of the documents have been preserved. Twenty percent (20%) of the items are copyrighten and the difficulties in trying to get the rights to copy were then enumerated. This part of the project was also notable and could easily be used as a model for other copyrighted materials.
That evening I had the opportunity to visit with my niece and nephew (Deb and Robert) who are both 10 years older than myself. We had a nice dinner at a local steak house.
Friday, April 28
The day began with a number of contributed papers in the form of concurrent sessions. I went to Session I: Improving Access to Published and Unpublished Resources: Librarian' Perspectives where the first paper was given by Barbara Hutchinson of the Arid Lands Information Center (ALIC) entitled "Building an Arid Lands Information Network on the Internet". Hutchinson began by listing the tools and the things they needed used to create their World Wide Web service: purpose, people, computers, internet connection, server software, production software, browsers, cataloging/indexing software, search/retrieval software. She then went on to list the sorts of things they put on their Web server (newsletters, a Biodiversity Project and their Linkages Project) and then compared and contrasted the electronic versions of their newsletters with their printed versions. She believes ALIC has improved upon their primary communications methods with the use of the Web. Future goals include the creation of more focused collection of materials for researchers to studying arid regions.
Kenneth Sochats of the School of Library and Information Science Laboratories, University of Pittsburgh then presented "Promenade: An Internet Database Server for a Virtual Botanical Library". Essentially, Sochts presented the developments of a research grant from National Agriculture Library (NAL) to make available image collections over the Internet including the Curtis Botanical prints and an image collection of plant pests and diseases. When they began th project the WWW was not available and they initially intended to compare the use of the Internet with the use of CDROM to distribute their collection. When the development of HTML+ (forms-capible HTML) they focused on the creation of a database server.
Susan G. Schram of the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) outlined what her organization is doing to disseminate information in "USDA Global Change Data Assessment and Integration Project". The purpose of CIESIN is to make data and information available to people who need it in areas of agriculture and the environment. One of their goals has been to locate the variety of data sets available from the various departments of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Once located, the are developing/have developed a search engine enabling the researcher to search these multiple database through the Internet with a single query. They are also involved in putting as much of their organization's information on the Web as possible, as well as, looking into doing "data rescue" for data sets "at risk". These datasets include things like paper-based records of environmental statistics dating from as far back as 1915. Their developmental server is located at <URL: http://forte.poly.edu:3333/ >.
The last session I went to was entitled "Document Delivery in the Electronic Environment" presented by John Ulmschneider of the North Carolina State University Libraries. Instead of describing the Triangle Research Library Network's Document Delivery Project , Ulmschnieder outline qualities of document deliver and what document delivery systems need to incorporate in order to be effective. Ulmschnieder listed aspects of a document delivery including: conceiving or the desire for an item, ordering the item at the point of desire, processing the order automatically, delivering the item, providing the item in an appropriate format, billing for the item. He then listed who was doing document delivery and described how these services worked. He went on to describe our present interlibrary loan departments as third-party intermediaries doing document delivery but one of the more differentiating because they provide things other than articles (like books and videotapes) and they lend to other services. He then outlined the ideal picture for document delivery from the libraries and users perspective. Some of these things are happening already like automatic verification, location of items using unique identifiers, automatic transmission and monitoring, automatically delivering of requested items. Finally, he diagramed the document delivery process is being implemented as a part of the TRLN Document Delivery Project. Ulmschieder predicted the increase of cost in document delivery services and the real possible risk that document delivery may drastically change the face of librarianship.
The conference was well planned and small enough to get acquainted with the fellow attendees. While many of the attendees did not seem to be presently exploiting the networked environment to its fullest degree, everybody was genuinely interested in the topic.
Everybody enjoyed Paul Evan Peters' Einstein jokes.
I think that if copyright issues are to be determined by licenses, and if the information environment of the future will be driven by market forces, the us librarians should just say, "No" to licenses and consequently we can control the marketplace.
Remember to include the qualities of readability, browsability, and searchability into your information systems.
The preservation program of the Mann Library seems like an excellent model.
Finally, libraries, as institutions must adapt with the times and the technologies. This conference exemplified the realization of the need to adapt.
Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Source: This document was never formally published, unless it was by the folks at Haworth Press.
Date created: 1995-04-26
Date updated: 2004-11-21
Subject(s): Lexington, KY; USAIN (United States Agriculture Information Network); travel log;