I have rules for visiting exhibit halls at conferences:
These rules have served me well, and I haven't yet left a conference without having walked past every vendor's booth at least once. If something catches my eye, I'll stop to chat. If not, I keep moving. It works well for me, and allows me to see what's being offered at a somewhat leisurely pace.
I tend to be most interested in products for academic libraries (go figure!), especially "cool" technology products. Not necessarily the bells and whistles variety, but technology that is useful, that allows us to do things better or in a different way, or that accommodates other ways of thinking. So, given all this, here are my best picks from the ALA exhibitors in June 2002.
Antarcti.ca Systems, located in Vancouver, B.C., deserves top prize for its Visual Net for Libraries. We know from learning theory that some people are textually oriented, while others learn best through visual stimuli. Visual Net allows users to browse your library catalog using spatial relationships and visual cues to guide their search, but also allows traditional search and display methods. And since it can represent the relative sizes of collections, it doubles as a handy collection development tool.
The National Library of Medicine just keeps adding cool new features to its PubMed database, features that are equal to or better than the ones for which we pay big bucks. One of the latest: LinkOut, a "jumping-off point from PubMed citations to relevant resources on the web, such as full-text articles, library holdings, commentaries, author biographies, practice guidelines, consumer health information, and research tools." (Yeah, I know, there are other products out there, but the point is that this one doesn't force you to mortgage the ranch to pay for it.)
And for a little added value, try Antarcti.ca's visual PubMed interface.
The Association of Research Libraries' (ARL) Scholars Portal project is still in the "vaporware" stage, but shows great promise. Remember reading about the idea of a Scholars' Workstation waaaaaay back in the 1990s? This project updates the idea for the 21st century, using the power of the web portal - a "single point of access on the Web to find high-quality information resources and, to the greatest extent possible, deliver the information and related services directly to the desktop." ARL is hoping to make it happen with the help of Fretwell-Downing Inc.'s ZPORTAL product. (Now if only we can get a really cool interface like the one from Minority Report.)
The following products didn't make it into the top cut, but they still deserve mention here:
So there you have it, folks - five more products with the NewBreed Librarian stamp of approval.
© 2002, colleen bell about
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