Friday, September 26, 2008

SLA Toronto Event Report - Partners In Technology

On September 18, SLA Toronto hosted the “Partners in Technology” talk. Eric Bergeron of CEDROM-SNi and Todd Peterson of XPI enlightened the crowd with glimpses of the near future of information searching and delivery.

Just as we were getting comfortable with the Web 2.0 world where boundaries between information consumers and producers were blurred, we are about to enter the universe of Web 3.0, according to Bergeron. New products are being developed that handle the analysis of the millions of results (and information overload) that many searchers experience. This analysis will organize results differently each time a search is performed. Essentially these new platforms will search the full text of each result, derive strings of words that occur repeatedly, and organize results under these derived headings allowing searchers to hopefully find more quickly and efficiently what they are in need of. This is somewhat similar to what ISI’s Web of Knowledge does, although ISI utilizes a controlled vocabulary in organizing its results.

Peterson similarly stressed the importance of creating solutions to better handle the abundance of information searchers are often forced to sift through. Peterson spoke strongly of reinserting human intervention into information to make it far more valuable, although it seemed to me that these new software developments are making human-information interaction less and less necessary. While human analysis will always be necessary, these continual web and software developments make the certain skills of the information professional less valuable, as end users will be able to find what they need more easily without our help. If the Web 3.0 developments are successful, the roles of librarians will quickly evolve. Prepare yourselves for this change and keep your eyes open for ways that information professionals can continue to insert value into the ever shifting world of knowledge!

--Andrea Gagliardi