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3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive
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From: Jack Kessler
Subject: What interests Europeans?...and some French dial-in opacs (15 Oct 92) October 15, 1992 FYI France : What interests Europeans?...and some French dial-in opacs. by Jack Kessler email@example.com Lyon, October 15 A description of a colloquium held here recently -- at the French national school of "sciences of information and libraries" -- might indicate what's currently on European librarians' minds. This series of meetings was attended by some interesting folks -- librarians from England and from all over France, the librarian who established the BPI library at the Centre Pompidou, people doing work for the Bibliothe`que de France, the head of the giant Staatsbibliothek in West Berlin -- and the discussions went far beyond the stated subject of "opacs". Anyone interested in the "view from the other side of the pond" in libraries and information work might be interested in what was said and done. The official sponsor of the meetings was a professional group called "PARINFO", whose declared purpose is to encourage, in information science, "collaboration among workteams, cooperation with foreign groups, communication with private industry". Formal discussions addressed all three of these themes. There were full sessions on "Opacs", "New approaches and new problems in the economy of information", "Electronic documents", and "The users". Break-out sessions addressed "Research in treatment of information and 'valorisation industrielle'" (sorry, my translation skills founder on this last term -- something like "getting industry to tell us that we're right", altho' industry might say "getting industry to do what we tell them to"). There was more. There were policy sessions devoted to debating the role of users -- a major research interest at the library school, now -- and strategy sessions agonizing over how to overcome the "strategic handicap" of the French language (yes, the French admit -- to each other, at least -- that they have a problem here, at least in information science). The corridor gossip covered all the topics overlooked in this already-broad formal agenda: latest events at the BdeFrance (there's this little lawsuit), the effects of Maastricht, how to put together two 4-million-volume collections and pay for it (the Germans), what IS "the Internet" (nearly everyone)? One theme repeated in a number of contexts was the need for education, and particularly continuing education, which would reflect the latest thinking in information work. Another was a plea for research at least accompanying, if not preceding, innovations in opacs. In a comprehensive description of the opac work done originally at the British Library, Micheline Hancock-Beaulieu described their interest in, 1) system conception, 2) user behavior, 3) user-machine interaction, 4) bibliographic problems, and 5) impact on the organization. She mentioned several ongoing research projects in the UK which are following up each of these topics. One which interested many attendees was a continuous attempt to evaluate opac procedures: the lack of useful methods of evaluation is felt as critically in Europe as it is in the US. The break-out sessions gave general attendees a chance to speak: and they complained, just as they do in the US -- about government intransigence in Paris, about thick-headed private industry types, and, more uniquely (not so unique outside the US), about the predominance of English-language materials in the field. There was a general willingness to tackle these problems. The emphasis was on what to do about them, and ideas ranged from establishing exchange programs to merging separate government ministries. Still, problems exist, and the workshops made them evident. Some very interesting substantive presentations were made. Karl Neubauer presented the approach being taken in Germany to combining the great varieties of electronic information resource now flooding the market. By next year, he said, they hope to have established a national project for unifying search and retrieval in such resources, and they are working on the design of a generic workstation, which will be able to manage all this work for a user. The generic workstation also is a key concept in the work of Bernard Stiegler, for the Bibliothe`que de France. His idea, embodied in his "PLAO -- Poste de Lecture Assiste' par Ordinateur" -- which has received quite a bit of press already in the US -- is to define the conceptual framework of the sophisticated user, to develop a filter which will aid the user in, a) navigating, b) analyzing, and, c) controlling the information flood which she confronts. To this end, Stiegler is undertaking a functional analysis of "the document" -- he has elaborate MAC-window displays to illustrate this -- pointing out how a user has annotations, underlinings, key-words, and other traditional tools which enable her to wade through a given text. These, he hopes, will be provided and manipulated easily by his PLAO workstation. The generic workstation idea appears to have a firm conceptual hold on library systems designers here. I remember that the designers of the new NYPL business library also are shopping for library workstations. It seems to me personally a shame to sacrifice the rich variety of commercially-available techniques already present and still to come in favor of a single library-mandated solution. It also seems a little unrealistic: in hardware alone, users increasingly will be coming to the library with their own little palmtops -- if they come to the library at all, as many of them will be dialing in from home or elsewhere -- making a generic library workstation, for which they must learn both hardware and software routines completely different from those with which they are familiar, a technological dinosaur from the start. The contracts are out already in Paris, though, and it looks as though Paris, Berlin and New York soon will have generic workstations in libraries, for better or for worse. One hopes they at least will provide a telephone line and a power source at the workstation for use by the inevitable laptops and palmtops. (For a flexible approach -- one that doesn't tie the workstation to particular hardware or software -- see Gary Lee Phillips, "Z39.50 and Scholar's Workstation Concept", in _Information Technology and Libraries, 11:3 September, 1993 pp.261-270 ISSN 0730-9295, and numerous publications on the Z39.50 protocol.) The chair's summary of the Lyon colloquium pointed out six fundamental European concerns: 1) education -- both initial and continuing -- is lacking and should be improved in information science areas 2) the users are not well-understood (an anthropologist in attendance criticized the lack of a proper "ethnography" of the user: there is no such thing as a "natural language", he pointed out -- every designer and user has her/his own "language") 3) the humanities and social sciences should be examined more in relation to information science -- there is a general need for more work on the effect on organizations of information, for example 4) economic studies are needed as well -- information-as-resource must be examined more than it has been 5) a great lack of international exchange is felt -- all attendees wished greatly for exchanges and sharing of information with their counterparts in the rest of Europe, in the Third World, and most of all, in the United States -- I suggested to several that they get on the e-conference networks, on EARN, the Internet, and elsewhere, and most liked the idea and wanted to know how to do it 6) finally, the gap between their own work in theory and applications and the work of the commercial marketplace distressed most of this academic/professional group -- there was a need to re- define "research" to include the applications so typical of US research projects, some said, while others called simply for a broadening of relations with private industry in whatever ways possible. (More about this later in a piece on "Technopoles" which I'll be sending out.) The best general observation I can make, as a US observer of this very European event, is to note the great gap which the attendees feel exists between their own work and similar work in the commercial and government worlds around them. One eminent researcher said bluntly that his own efforts over many years to come to terms with private industry had failed miserably: "they don't understand us, we don't understand them, and that's the way it should be", he declared. The corridors were filled, as they are at similar US events, with grumbling about the thick-headedness of government bureaucrats of various stripe. But the interlocking partnerships and research projects which typify hi-tech research in the US seem not to have occurred, or not to have engendered any mutual good will, in Europe. Little good was said among this group in favor of the imagination and creativity of hi-tech private industry here. To this I'll add their general feeling of isolation from events, and a great, anxious feeling of need to become involved. All the attendees at this meeting seemed excited about European prospects for networked information, and most seemed excited about prospects for Europe generally. Lunch and cocktail conversations, which in the US would have revolved around budget and lack of resources, centered here upon burgeoning, massive demand for resources which can be afforded but simply aren't there, yet. The French, particularly, have the example of their own BdeFrance as a demonstration of the government financial commitment which librarians elsewhere would die to get: the problem here in Europe is not so much how to pay for it but what to do. ___________________________________ French Online Opacs note (many thanks to Jacques Faule of the BPI for some of this list) : Latest word is that many more than just the following French library opacs and services may be reached from anywhere via Minitel (free MAC or DOS diskettes for Minitel -- some downloading capacity now is available -- may be obtained in the US/CAN from voice telephone 914-694-6266) -- access to all this is very INexpensive: 3614 TOLBIAC Bibliothe`que de France (info.-- no opac, yet) 3614 BMLYON Bib.Municipale de Lyon (info.+ opac) 3614 BIB Bib.Municipale de Grenoble (info.+ opac) 3615 ABCDOC Archives, Bibliothe`ques, Centres de Documentation (directory) 3615 BPI Bibliothe`que Publique d'Information (Centre Pompidou, Paris) (info.+ opac) 3615 DASTUM Photote`que Dastum (info.+ opac) 3615 MIRADOC Bibliothe`que Universite' de Metz (info.+ opac) 3615 SF SIBIL (national union catalog -- books) 3615 VDP15 Vide'othe`que de Paris (info.+ opac) 3615 VILLETTE Me'diathe`que, Cite' des Sciences et de l'Industrie (info.+ opac) 3617 CCN Catalogue Collectif National des Publications en Se'rie (national union catalog -- serials) 188.8.131.52 Amiens, Bibliothe`que d' (info.+ opac) 184.108.40.206 Arles, Bibliothe`que Municipale d'(info.+ opac) 220.127.116.11 Caen, Bibliothe`que Municipale de (info.+ opac) 18.104.22.168.60.07 Chilly-Mazarin, Bibliothe`que de (info.+ opac) 22.214.171.124.19.16 IRCAM (Centre de Recherche Musicale, Centre Pompidou) (opac) 126.96.36.199 Niort, Bibliothe`que de (info.+ opac) 188.8.131.52 Tourcoing, Me'diathe`que de (info.+ opac) *** ISSN 1071 - 5916 end XXX FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter, | published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal, | experiment, in the creation of large - scale | "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material / \ written by me which appears in FYI France may be ----- copied and used by anyone for any good purpose, so // \\ long as, a) they give me credit and show my e - mail --------- address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if // \\ if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives are at http://infolib.berkeley.edu (search for FYIFrance), or via gopher to infolib.berkeley.edu 72 (path: 3. Electronic Journals (Library-Oriented)/ 6. FYIFrance/ , or http://www.univ-rennes1.fr/LISTESfirstname.lastname@example.org/ (BIBLIO-FR econference archive), or via telnet to a.cni.org , login brsuser (PACS / PACS-L econference archive), or at http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison - pen letters all will be gratefully received at email@example.com . Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.
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