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Newsletter No.172


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                             FreePint
         "Helping 71,000 people use the Web for their work"
                     http://www.freepint.com/

ISSN 1460-7239                              25th November 2004 No.172
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           ALTERNATIVE NEWSLETTER FORMATS AVAILABLE AT:
            <http://www.freepint.com/issues/251104.htm>

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                           IN THIS ISSUE
                           -------------

                             EDITORIAL
                          By William Hann

                       MY FAVOURITE TIPPLES
                        By Carey McIlvenny

                           FREEPINT BAR
                    In Association with Factiva
                   a Dow Jones & Reuters Company

                               JOBS
                            FoI Officer
                 Researcher / Information Analyst
                   Customer Relationship Manager
                   Corporate Finance Researcher

                           TIPS ARTICLE
  "Advanced Search Techniques using Natural Language Processing"
                       Written by Tony Rose

                             BOOKSHELF
                   "Buying Information Systems"
                      Written by David James
                    Reviewed by Veronica Bezear

                          FEATURE ARTICLE
                 "Ephemera: the stuff of history"
                         By Sue Broughton
                           
               EVENTS, GOLD AND FORTHCOMING ARTICLES

                        CONTACT INFORMATION

             ONLINE VERSION WITH ACTIVATED HYPERLINKS
            <http://www.freepint.com/issues/251104.htm>

                      FULLY FORMATTED VERSION
            <http://www.freepint.com/issues/251104.pdf>


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       ** PLANNING YOUR NEXT CAREER MOVE? CILIP CAN HELP **
We can support you all the way through from university to your next
plum job. We're one of the biggest organisations for information
professionals in the world. Here for you and thousands like you.
Helping you stay informed and employable. Want to find out more? Just
email your contact details to findoutmore@cilip.org.uk and add
'FreePint' for a special discount on your first year's subscription.
Or visit <http://www.cilip.org.uk/freepintoffer> for more information.

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    ***  VIP reviews Corpfin's CompanyQuery and BvD's Mint  ***

             As well as two product reviews, VIP No.12
               also has guest comment from anacubis:

                     <http://www.vivavip.com/>

      "As an information professional who spends a lot of time
     finding and collating current awareness material for other
     people, I really appreciate the value of VIP and VIP Eye."

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                     ***  ABOUT FREEPINT  ***

FreePint is an online network of information searchers. Members
receive this free newsletter twice a month: it is packed with tips
on finding quality and reliable business information on the Internet.

Joining is free at <http://www.freepint.com/> and provides access to
a substantial archive of articles, reviews, jobs & events, with
answers to research questions and networking at the FreePint Bar.

Please circulate this newsletter which is best read when printed out.
To receive a fully formatted version as an attachment or a brief
notification when it's online, visit <http://web.freepint.com/>.

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                             EDITORIAL
                          By William Hann

As FreePint passes its seventh birthday this month, it's also the
seventh time we'll be exhibiting at the Online Information conference
and exhibition. The event kicks off here in London next Tuesday, and
it's a busy and exciting time for us exhibitors.

Not only does FreePint have all the preparations for the exhibition
stand and talks to do, but working near the airport means we'll spend
the next few days ferrying around our friends and colleagues from
overseas. It's a pleasure, of course, and a great annual opportunity
to catch up.

Thank you to Katherine Allen, from the event organising team, for
last issue's Guest Editorial. We'll be with Katherine at the
Information Industry Awards gala dinner next Wednesday to announce the
winner of this year's 'Online Information / FreePint Award for Best
Customer Service'. The winner has been chosen from a raft of
nominations, but unfortunately the announcement is embargoed until the
night of the awards ceremony. Consequently, you'll have to wait until
next time to find out who's won.

If you have yet to register for Online Information then visit:

              <http://www.online-information.co.uk/>

It's incredible to think that FreePint is now seven years old, with
its sister publication 'VIP' only just reaching its first birthday.
This month's edition of VIP reviews Corpfin's CompanyQuery and BvD's
Mint <http://www.vivavip.com/>. VIP now has a section in the
just-published FreePint Author Update, with suggestions of ways to
contribute to our publications <http://www.freepint.com/author.htm>.

Getting involved by contributing to FreePint and the wider information
industry is a great way to promote yourself and your organisation --
something espoused by Sue Hill in last week's FreePint Jobs Update
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30614>. To receive the twice-monthly Jobs
Update by email, visit <http://web.freepint.com/jobs/>.

Sue Hill will be joining us and over 200 other exhibitors next week in
London. We do hope you'll consider visiting if you're in the vicinity.
If not, then visit the online event at <http://digbig.com/4cect>.

William Hann

Managing Editor, FreePint
e: william.hann@freepint.com

FreePint is a Registered Trademark of Free Pint Limited (R) 1997-2004

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>>Online Information Exhibition FREE pre-registration ends on Friday<<
             30 Nov - 2 Dec 2004, Olympia, London, UK
   Over 250 exhibitors, case-studies, independent masterclasses,
        networking events, careers talks and panel debates.
               <http://www.online-information.co.uk>
   Plus don't miss co-located Content Management Europe (CME) and
  NEW features - Enterprise Document and Records Management (EDRM),
       ePublishing Solutions and Enterprise Search Solutions

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***  NEW: "Information Auditing: A guide for information managers" ***
                        ISBN: 1-904769-08-X

    This in-depth report is published by FreePint and offers an
  overview and practical insight into information auditing, drawing
        on practical examples and recognised audit methods.
 
                         Find out more at:
              <http://www.freepint.com/shop/report/>

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                       MY FAVOURITE TIPPLES
                        By Carey McIlvenny

* <http://www.theanswerbank.co.uk> - Got a burning question? Find the
  answer here.

* <http://www.vam.ac.uk> - Information about the vast collections at
  London's amazing Victoria and Albert museum.

* <http://www.bbc.co.uk> - Long-established and still excellent. Great
  for a short, sharp burst of news - their news archive is also a good
  research resource.

* <http://www.cntraveller.com> - Daydream about all those glamorous
  destinations.

* <http://www.vogue.com> - I can't resist the shoes, bags and daily
  fashion gossip. It's also very good for planning shopping trips.

Carey McIlvenny undertakes marketing, writing and website evaluation
for various companies. She has 10 years' creative industry experience
and an MA in Journalism Studies. Please contact
<careymcilvenny@yahoo.co.uk>.

Submit YOUR top five favourite Web sites. See the guidelines at
<http://www.freepint.com/author.htm>.

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    Introducing MINT - a fresh approach to company information
            from Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing

 To register for a FREE trial visit <http://www.mintbusinessinfo.com>

    Companies, news, industry research and directors in a single
          easy to use information database for research,
     sales, marketing and business development professionals.

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                 ***  FreePint Author Update  ***

            Find out how you can contribute to FreePint
                by reading the latest Author Update:

                <http://www.freepint.com/author.htm>

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                            FREEPINT BAR
                    In Association with Factiva
                   a Dow Jones & Reuters Company

With only 26% of FreePinters being in the UK, and therefore able to
visit the Online Information show next week, it's the FreePint Bar
which enables all members of our community to get together -- if only
virtually.

The Bar is currently helping people get up-to-speed quickly on the
content and purpose of intranets <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30650>
and on how to run public-facing corporate discussion forums
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30658>.

The new 'Google Scholar' <http://scholar.google.com/> has immediately
been investigated (of course) by ResourceShelf, Search Engine Watch
and others <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30646>. The topic of
classification systems for small collections has made its almost
weekly appearance <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30678> along with a
request for current information on book censorship in the UK
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30626>. Very specifically, do you know of
a supplier of book rests to support delicate books whilst in use?
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30704>.

If you are in the UK and able to visit Online Information next week,
then you might consider joining the European Chapter of the SLA for
breakfast on Wednesday. They're especially keen to welcome European
colleagues <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30636>.

There are a number of current company- and market-related queries at
the Bar. Are there other services like CompanyWatch for identifying
companies who risk financial failure?
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30705>. What about UK court information
for SMEs? <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30624>. Any idea where to find
statistics on UK corporate spend on customer service?
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30709>. Or data on the new US trend for
'Superfoods'? <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30684>. Is there a UK-based
equivalent to PR Newswire with a searchable archive greater than 30
days? <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30683>. Or a site with the digital
equivalent of adbrands.net? <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30632>

Can you help with grant information for a cattle business
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30671> or a way to contact academics in
the LBS (Location Based Services) field?
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30673>. What about information for a
student at the Student Bar writing about disposable mobile phones
<http://www.freepint.com/go/s4291> which hit the headlines a couple
of years back.

On the software front, ingenious advice for an Excel user wanting to
extract only the decimal part of a number
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30657> -- you learn something new every
day! Do you remember software which collated a number of Web pages for
viewing as one page? <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30642>. Are you a
webmaster with experience of payment gateway providers who use credit
scoring (rather than credit checking)?
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b30615>.

Don't forget to sign up for the twice-weekly Bar Digest to keep
abreast of the latest postings <http://www.freepint.com/subs/> or the
VIP Wire Digest with the latest information industry press releases
<http://www.vivavip.com/order/digest/>.

William Hann <william.hann@freepint.com>
Founder and Managing Editor, FreePint

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The FreePint Bar is where you can get free help with your tricky
research questions <http://www.freepint.com/bar>

Help with study for information-related courses is available at the
FreePint Student Bar <http://www.freepint.com/student>.

Twice-weekly email digests of the latest postings can be requested
at <http://web.freepint.com/>.

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              >>> SIGN UP TO FACTIVA'S NEWSLETTER <<<
 
Keep up to date on Factiva and information industry trends by signing
 up for the free InfoPro Alliance newsletter. This monthly email will
 provide you with tips on how to better use Factiva, more information
  about Factiva sources, and link you to other items of interest to
                global information professionals.

 Go to <http://www.factiva.com/infopro/register> and sign up today!

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       ***  Please tell your colleagues about FreePint  ***

  Feel free to forward this issue of FreePint to your colleagues
    and friends who might also find it interesting and useful.

            If you'd like us to send them a brief note
           on your behalf, simply complete the form at:

                <http://www.freepint.com/reco.htm>

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                           FREEPINT JOBS
                   <http://www.freepint.com/jobs>

The FreePint Jobs Update is being circulated widely every two
weeks. This free newsletter now has 2,000 direct subscribers and
is posted at the Bar and in the Bar Digest (circulation 12,000).

To see the Jobs Update No.85 and read the new 'Jobs Advice' section,
visit <http://www.freepint.com/go/b30614>. To subscribe, modify your
account at <http://web.freepint.com>.

Fully-formatted PDF version available at: 
http://web.freepint.com/jobs/FreePint-Jobs-Update-85.pdf

Here are some of the latest featured jobs:

FoI Officer
  Perm FoI Officer role at London university. Challenging &
  interesting post, very good basic salary.
  Recruiter: Sue Hill Recruitment
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j3574>

Researcher / Information Analyst
  Researcher/Analyst who is highly inquisitive and investigative with
  1-2 years' industry or business research experience.
  Recruiter: Glen Recruitment
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j3671>

Customer Relationship Manager
  Co-ordinating product training, seeking out sales opportunities and
  prospecting, whilst maintaining current vendor relationships.
  Recruiter: The IEE
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j3672>
 
Corporate Finance Researcher
  Join one of the happiest information centres in the City and a
  company which really values its staff and promotes their development.
  Recruiter: City Professionals
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j3673>  

NB: There are 40 other jobs in the current edition of the Jobs Update
<http://www.freepint.com/go/30614>.

[The above jobs are paid listings]

FreePint Jobs -- the best place for information vacancies.

*  VACANCY SEARCHING -- Free search and sign up to the Job Update.
*  VACANCY RECRUITING -- Complete the form and advertise a vacancy
   for GBP195 <http://www.freepint.com/jobs/submit/overview.php3>.
   50% discount for registered charities. 10% discount for agencies.

       Find out more today at <http://www.freepint.com/jobs>

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   *** Visualisation tools make sense of information mountain ***

November's issue of VIP features an item by Greg Coyle from anacubis
on transforming information into actionable business intelligence, via
the use of visualisation tools. The issue also contains in-depth
reviews of two new UK company data products - Corpfin's CompanyQuery
and Bureau van Dijk's Mint.

                     <http://www.vivaVIP.com/>

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                ***  FreePint In-depth Reports  ***

    FreePint reports cover topics like freedom of information,
   copyright, marketing yourself, publishing eNewsletters, etc.

           Find out more about the full list of titles at:

              <http://www.freepint.com/shop/report/>

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                            TIPS ARTICLE
         <http://www.freepint.com/issues/251104.htm#tips>
  "Advanced Search Techniques using Natural Language Processing"
                       Written by Tony Rose

Most readers will, no doubt, be familiar with Google and other
Internet search engines: type in a few key words to describe your
information need, hit return and within a second or two you are
presented with a list of links to documents that you hope will be
relevant to your query. Evidently, a proportion of them will indeed be
relevant (we refer to this measure as the 'precision' of the search
engine) and, if you are lucky, you may also find that all the known
relevant documents will be in the list somewhere (we call this measure
'recall'). Of course, on the web we can never really calculate a true
recall figure, as there is simply no way of ever knowing just how many
relevant documents there are out there. But for a fixed collection
such as a library or corporate database, the recall figure can be a
very important measure of a retrieval system's effectiveness.


So how do search engines actually work?
---------------------------------------

Well, if we ignore the part that is concerned with actually creating
the index in the first place (i.e. gathering up all the content,
cataloguing it, etc.) and just focus on what happens when you type in
a query, it is actually quite simple. The objective of most commercial
search engines is to measure the 'conceptual distance' between your
query and each document in the database, and then return those
documents that provide the best match. To do this, it must employ some
kind of model or representation for the documents and queries.
However, most current text retrieval technology is built around
relatively primitive models that represent documents simply as
unordered sets of terms (i.e. character strings) with numeric weights
that determine their relative importance. Moreover, the matching
process is often equally simple, being based around a few basic
statistical formulae that return a measure of how well one set of
terms matches another.

Incidentally, one reason why Google has been so successful compared to
other search engines (apart from its adherence to a minimalist
approach, concentrating on effective search when many other players
were trying to become universal 'portals') is that they make very
effective use of what little structure there is within web pages: the
hyperlinks. By processing the link structure of documents, and
identifying which documents are linked to which other documents, they
can develop a notion of the 'value' of each document, independently of
its relevance to any particular query. Therefore, by combining this
information with the traditional term-based relevance, they can
maximise the probability that only the best, most relevant documents
will be returned to the user. Not surprisingly, Google and other web
search engine companies keep the precise details of their ranking
algorithms confidential, as part of a continual 'arms race' with the
search engine optimisation companies (i.e. companies who try to get
their clients listed high up in the search rankings for particular key
words).


Enter NLP
---------

However, despite the innovations of Google and others, it is clear
that a document is much more than simply a collection of terms: words
can be combined into phrases with specific meanings dependent on their
order (e.g. a "blind venetian" is not the same as a "venetian blind");
and phrases may then combine to form structural or discourse
dependencies, or make co-references to each other, and so on. But as
long as the fundamental unit of representation remains the "bag of
words", then much of this conceptual content will be lost. Inevitably,
the experience for the search engine user is that they are often
presented with a list of irrelevant documents, and they must then
endure the chore of inspecting each one until they find the one that
addresses their information need. Whilst this may be (just) tolerable
for the casual web user, it can often prove unacceptable for corporate
clients or professional information researchers, particularly those in
the legal or financial sectors, where the cost of erroneous or
out-of-date information is especially high.

Consequently, much information retrieval (IR) research effort in
recent years has been directed toward developing more sophisticated
representation models and matching algorithms, often based around
natural language processing (NLP) techniques. NLP technology can
provide many of the basic building blocks for advanced search, such
as:

* Summarisation: the ability to produce a coherent summary or abstract
  of a document (you can obtain an open source summariser from CPAN
  <http://search.cpan.org/~tgrose/HTML-Summary-0.017/>)

* Named entity recognition: the ability to identify key conceptual
  units within a document, such as the names of people, places,
  companies, etc. (you can obtain a royalty-free recogniser from
  LingPipe <http://www.alias-i.com/lingpipe/index.html>)

* Topic detection and tracking: the ability to follow different themes
  in a changing news feed (e.g. see the NIST TDT Project
  <http://www.nist.gov/speech/tests/tdt/> for further detail)

* Word sense disambiguation: the ability to differentiate the
  particular senses <http://digbig.com/4cedn> a word may have, e.g.
  "bank" as in "the edge of a river" and "bank" as in "financial
  institution"

* Information extraction (also known as text mining): a combination of
  the above and other techniques to enable specific patterns or facts
  to be extracted from text or other unstructured data (you can obtain
  an open source information extraction system from Sheffield
  University <http://www.aktors.org/technologies/annie/>)

* Machine translation: the ability to translate one natural language
  to another, e.g. English to Japanese (AltaVista provides a
  convenient service for this <http://world.altavista.com/>)

Yet despite many recent successes in NLP research (and the subsequent
over-inflated claims of many search technology providers), we are
still a long way from the Holy Grail of "understanding" the conceptual
content of a document. Consequently, the many information
professionals who rely on such tools will have to wait a little longer
for an answer to their prayers, and the numerous artificial
intelligence (AI) researchers around the world need not fear for
their jobs just yet. 


Future directions
-----------------

Despite all the efforts and investment put into search technology,
there is one aspect of the IR paradigm that still remains largely
unchallenged: the notion that the objective of most commercial search
engines is to return documents that provide the best match for a
keyword query. But why should this be so? After all, a great many
information needs would be better expressed in the form of a specific
question rather than a general statement of intent expressed as a set
of key words. For example, if my information need is to answer the
question "Who are the major search technology providers in the UK
today?" I would rather ask precisely this and be given a concise list
of company names in return, than issue a keyword query and receive a
set of documents through which I must wade to find the specific pieces
of information I need.

But to support this functionality, the search engine must employ much
more sophisticated content models and matching algorithms from the
most advanced NLP research in 'question answering'. Indeed, some
search engine companies have already established a brand identity or
value proposition in precisely this area: AskJeeves
<http://www.ask.com/> being the most well-known example (although
their service relies on the work of significant numbers of human
editors rather than through the exclusive use of technological
solutions). Perhaps a more modest intermediate goal would be to focus
on passage retrieval, i.e. the ability to return specific sections or
paragraphs, rather than whole documents, so that the user can focus
more immediately on the key sentences.

Another potential challenge for search engine providers is
'multi-linguality'. English may currently be the most popular language
on the Internet, but its dominance is becoming less pronounced, and
other languages (particularly Chinese) are growing rapidly.
Information searchers from these communities will inevitably want to
be able to access English content using queries expressed in their own
native languages, and to accommodate this a search engine needs to
support 'cross-language retrieval'.

And of course, there is the problem of how to access data that isn't
visible to web search engines at all, i.e. the content of numerous
product catalogues, library catalogues, patent filings, flight
schedules, biomedical data, etc. that reside in corporate databases
around the world. For example, Salon.com
<http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2004/03/09/deep_web/index_np.html>
has estimated that the major search engines index as little as 1% of
the known web, and the remaining content, with all its rich structure,
remains inaccessible behind a wall of registration gateways and
dynamically generated links. Evidently the challenge for the next
generation of web search engines is to find ways to mine this 'deep
web' and take advantage of its vast quantities of structured data to
provide meaningful, interactive views onto the search results.

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Tony Rose is an independent consultant specialising in the management
of unstructured data and content, with particular interests in search
engine design & deployment.

In his previous position at Reuters he was responsible for leading
innovation in the area of information search and navigation, and prior
to this led a team at Canon's R&D labs in the development of advanced
information management solutions and technologies. He has published
over 30 scientific papers and holds 3 patents in the area of
information management and retrieval. He is also Vice Chair of the BCS
Information Retrieval Specialist Group, and can be contacted via
<tgr@nxfrontier.com>.

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Related FreePint links:

* 'Internet Searching' articles in the FreePint Portal
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/p185>
* Post a message to the author, Tony Rose, or suggest further
  resources at the FreePint Bar <http://www.freepint.com/bar>
* Read this article online, with activated hyperlinks
  <http://www.freepint.com/issues/251104.htm#tips>
* Access the entire archive of FreePint content
  <http://www.freepint.com/portal/content/>

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    ***  Ratecards and Advertising Presentations at Onopoly  ***

   Onopoly is our one-stop-shop for information about advertising
      across the FreePint network of sites and publications.

         You can download ratecards and presentations, and
        sign up for the quarterly 'Onopoly Update' by email:

                     <http://www.onopoly.com/>

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                         FREEPINT BOOKSHELF
                <http://www.freepint.com/bookshelf>
                   "Buying Information Systems"
                      Written by David James
                    Reviewed by Veronica Bezear

"80-90% of IT investments fail to meet their performance objectives"

This book covers all stages of buying and implementing off-the-shelf
software systems, but particularly majors on the earlier part of the
procurement process, where problems are most likely to have their
root. The author states his intent as helping readers to "reduce the
risks associated with information system procurement".

Types of systems covered are configurable packages which would support
business processes, e.g. enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
The author spends time ensuring we understand the distinction between
the different tasks involved in buying systems such as these and
buying PC packages such as word processors. He states "A configurable
package is really just a toolset that we need to apply to our own
problem and which will involve a number of people and many hours of
work to realise our stakeholders' expectations", and, bearing in mind
the complexity of the task, advises us not to believe anyone who says
they can guarantee success.

Chapters cover an analysis of the problems involved, where to find
advice, who should be involved, how to manage the purchase, how to
decide what you need, which package/supplier to choose, how to manage
the implementation, how to know if the system is successful and a
final overview chapter at the end "putting it all together".

Proformas for key documents such as 'Invitations to Tender' and 'User
Requirements Specifications' are included throughout, as well as
checklists for key parts of the process such as vendor selection, and
managing the implementation. Pointers are also given out to sources of
further information on more specialist aspects of the process.

The examples used are from the manufacturing industry but the book is
clearly intended for a much wider audience - a comprehensive
glossary is included in the back of the book to explain any specialist
terms. This book is fairly obviously aimed at managers involved in
some way in the introduction of new information systems, and
associated process changes for their organisation. They will find
much to assist them in here, but they would be most well advised,
first of all, to heed the authors most important piece of advice to
those considering embarking on such a project: "If you haven't bought
an information system before, hire someone who has".

> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Veronica Bezear works for Surrey County Council's Adults & Community
Care Service as an Information Officer.

> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Related FreePint links:

* Find out more about this book online at the FreePint Bookshelf
  <http://www.freepint.com/bookshelf/buyinfosys.htm>
* Read customer comments and buy this book at Amazon.co.uk
  <http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566085593/freepint0c>
  or Amazon.com
  <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566085593/freepint00>
* "Buying Information Systems" ISBN 0566085593, published by
  Gower Publishing Limited.
* Search for and purchase any book from Amazon via the FreePint
  Bookshelf at <http://www.freepint.com/bookshelf>
* Read about other Internet Strategy books on the FreePint Bookshelf
  <http://www.freepint.com/bookshelf/strategy.htm>

To propose an information-related book for review, send details
to <bookshelf@freepint.com>.

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                           FEATURE ARTICLE
         <http://www.freepint.com/issues/251104.htm#feature>

                 "Ephemera: the stuff of history"
                         By Sue Broughton

During 2001 the Preservation, Conservation, Security and Heritage
subcommittee of the Library Association (now the Chartered Institute
of Library and Information Professionals - CILIP), raised concerns
about the preservation of -- and access to -- ephemera collections
within archives, libraries and museums, as well as collections which
are privately owned.

Ephemera are in many cases essentially mundane everyday items (bus
tickets, theatre posters, advertising flyers) which many people would
dismiss as valueless. Their intrinsic value tends to lie within the
information they provide about social life, the development of a
variety of industries (for example, printing or paper making), the
provision of services, or aspects of cultural change, and other
historical, demographic or sociographic subjects. Those born in the
1950's and 1960's may remember the use of 'Jackdaw' folders which were
essentially collections of copies of relevant ephemera supporting
particular historical subjects. Educational use or research are often
the major reasons for the collection of ephemera, although some
collections are created by chance (comics from the 1950's or 60s for
example, which have simply not been thrown away), or may be relevant
to a specialist interest of the collector.

However, the subcommittee recognised that there were some important
aspects of collecting ephemera which would cause long-term problems,
particularly to the use of the collections, and it put together an
initial discussion paper which looked in more depth at problems of
collection, preservation and access to ephemeral material. From this
paper it was agreed that the best way forward was to organise a
colloquium to bring together representatives from organisations with
an interest in promoting the cause of ephemera within the cultural
community and amongst private collectors.

The Colloquium, held on 18 March 2002 and reported in the Library
Association Record, invited a range of speakers to address the wide
variety of ephemera types and problems. Ephemera turned out to range
from a steam engine (one of the larger items) to bus and train
tickets, via a quite incredible variety of material. However, common
problems became clear: cataloguing and classifying items as well as
labelling them; preserving, conserving and displaying ephemera; and
keeping track of collections where quite varied types of items related
to each other (imagine a dress Jane Austen wore, together with letters
she wrote, and jewellery she owned). There were also problems
associated with the private collector field -- for example,
collections might be broken up when a collector died even if the items
all related to each other and their intrinsic research or cultural
value was greater if the collection was kept together.

Amongst other conclusions, the Colloquium decided to ask the
subcommittee to form a small working party to carry forward the issues
which had been raised and produce a final report suggesting some
recommendations which the archive, museum and library world would then
be able to take forward. Michael Twyman, Director of the Centre for
Ephemera Studies agreed to chair the group, and various attendees from
the Colloquium, members of the subcommittee (now a Panel of CILIP),
and others with a relevant expertise were asked to join. In some cases
the communication and provision of information was entirely by email
or in written format but the group did have a core of members who met
regularly to discuss the information already received, and to take
this forward to the creation of a report and recommendations. In doing
so, the group was aware that they were attempting to represent a very
diverse community of specialists. It is to be hoped that the final
report has done justice to the expertise it summoned.

Some areas were difficult to deal with in any detail - particularly
the subject of electronic ephemera in digital format, existing as
emails or on the internet where the question of content and access is
constantly changing - and where the group felt they could not offer
much expertise the subject was touched on somewhat lightly. However,
on what could be defined as hard copy ephemera - objects existing
within the material world - the problems were much easier to address,
even though solutions might not be easy to find. It was recognised
that many problems stemmed from a lack of funding, since in most cases
ephemera are not seen as 'sexy' items for a budget - although
digitisation and extended use of promotion on websites is helping
here. Or problems came from a lack of knowledge in cases where staff
took over ephemera collections by default, and had no in-depth
knowledge of how to deal with them.

The final report: 'Ephemera: the stuff of history' was approved by
CILIP in May 2003 and published in the September of the same year. It
was made available on the CILIP website and sent in hard copy format
(with an offer of a PDF for websites) to over 70 professional and
specialist organisations around the world. The report is available on
the CILIP website at:

http://www.cilip.org.uk/professionalguidance/preservation/ephemera.htm

Much work still has to be done, although this needs to be taken
forward as much by the archive, library and museum community as by the
members of the working group and the CILIP Panel. The recommendations
contain a number of actionable points which are 'best practice' rather
than budgetary, and which culture change and better awareness would
promote within organisations. Some, too, are suggestions for the wider
community of private collectors, which would enable them to work more
closely with professional organisations in helping to preserve the
myriad transient materials which document our everyday life. However,
some will require better funding for long-term projects to use,
promote and preserve valuable or overlooked collections. This article
is intended to promote a better awareness of this publication, and its
implications in a throwaway culture where much of our minutiae will
not exist in a month, a year, five years or more. If you work within
an archive, library or museum, then you undoubtedly have some contact
with collections which may be valuable and greatly used, but which are
ephemeral in their nature. This report seeks to provide guidance for
those working on defining future policies and plans for their
collections - and ammunition to promote the use and funding of such
collections in the future.


Bibliography
------------

"The digital dark ages" - We are in danger of losing knowledge and
culture because of the way we communicate in the modern world.
Marilyn Deegan and Simon Tanner set out the scale of the problem and
what is being done to try and solve it.
Updated: 04 August 2004 <http://digbig.com/4cede>

"The end of 'print to paper'" - Stephen Harries of the Public Record
Office explores the huge records management challenge faced by the
government in delivering the benefits of electronic services.
Updated: 04 August 2004 <http://digbig.com/4cedf>

"CILIP Preservation and Conservation Panel" - The panel formulates
policy and initiates action on issues of preservation, conservation,
security and heritage whether written visual, printed, spoken or
electronic. Chair: Robin Price MA MCLIP Secretary: Caroline Nolan MA
MCLIP Members: Toby Bainton M..
Updated: 06 October 2004 <http://digbig.com/4cedg> 

> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sue Broughton started her career within public libraries, working with
ephemera in local studies collections as part of her general
professional public library work. In 1995 she went to work as
Information Manager at the Library Association, where she was
administrator for four years to the Preservation, Conservation,
Security and Heritage subcommittee. During this period she also set up
the Library Association Information Centre, which now forms a major
research and reference resource for members. She is currently the
Information Officer dealing with Freedom of Information for West
Berkshire Council.

> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Related FreePint links:

* 'Information and Libraries' articles in the FreePint Portal
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/p69>
* 'Information Auditing: A guide for information managers'
  ISBN 1-904769-08-X <http://www.freepint.com/shop/report/>.
* Post a message to the author, Steve Wood, or suggest
  further resources at the FreePint Bar <http://www.freepint.com/bar>
* Read this article online, with activated hyperlinks
  <http://www.freepint.com/issues/251104.htm#feature>
* Access the entire archive of FreePint content
  <http://www.freepint.com/portal/content/>

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