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Pak-LIS News

January 2002, Vol. 2, No.1




The Internet is a mess...but"

Professional News

Who and Top Publishers Announce Bbreakthrough on Developing Countries' Access to Leading Biomedical Journals.

Personal Announcements




Guest Editorial

The Internet is a mess...but"

Anjum Sheikh, Librarian, Karachi Institute of Information Technology, Karachi.

The most critical strategic issue affecting the future of libraries is the potential impact of the Internet. The library and the Internet provide a variety of information resources and services. As a service for disseminating information, Internet ranks with inventions such as movable type or television and radio. But our ability to post and retrieve information from the `net has far outstripped our ability to find specific content of high quality and relevance. The library in the traditional sense, will continue to exist but its mission in society and its mix of services will change dramatically. Internet brings the world in the library. The Internet will complement the library and for the foreseeable future these two information providers will coexist peacefully. But the days are not for, when Internet will obviate the need for the library and the library will enter a period of decline and eventually cease to exist.

The 75.2% of Internet users also use the library and 60.3% of library users also use the Internet. 40% of the survey population used both the library and the Internet. Use of the library and use of the Internet is positively related to educational attainment of the users. Library users and Internet users are better educated than the nonusers. The Library service characteristics are ease of use, low cost, availability of paper copy (compared to digital copy via Net), accuracy of information, and -helpfulness of librarians (compared to help lines on the Net). Where as Internet service characteristics are ease of getting there, time to get there, availability (hours of access), range of resources, expectation of finding what is sought, ability to act immediately on the information obtained, up-to-dateness of information, ability to work alone(compared to working around other people in the library). The difference between the Internet and the library, both in terms of the service characteristics and in terms of preferred exclusivity of use, are clearly important. The Internet is like a vast un cataloged library. Whether we are using any one of a search engine or meta-search engine, we are not searching the entire Web. Although sites often promise to search everything but they can't deliver what they claim. Moreover, what they do search is not updated daily, weekly, or even monthly, regardless of what's advertised. The Web is no substitute for a full-service library. Libraries are icons of our cultural intellect and symbol of the totality of knowledge. If we make them obsolete, we've signed the death warrant to our collective national conscience, not to mention sentencing what's left of our culture to the waste bin of history. No one knows better than librarians do just how much it costs to run a library. We're always looking for ways to trim expenses while not contracting services. The Internet is marvelous, but to claim, as some now do, that it's making libraries obsolete is as silly as saying shoes have made feet unnecessary.

It is true that there is some fascinating stuff out there: sound clips, live radio broadcasts, telephone hookups and shared whiteboard conferencing, photographs, movies, even 3-D visuals. But for now, at least, most of this technology is painfully slow. Much of the most advanced technology runs so slowly on average computers connected by average modems that it leads to hours of wasted time and frustration on the part of many users. It's no coincidence that the WWW has been nicknamed the World Wide Waste.

Simply say that the Internet is an intellectual playground of vast proportions. The web is just a really diverse place to spend free time using computer just for entertainment. But the use of Internet as an information resource, a goal-directed approach to web surfing, using a powerful search service and some thought in generating queries, and perhaps the advice of friends or reviews of web sites in print publications, can yield a fruitful return of useful information.

Internet must be seen as an investment and not an expense. It requires vision and bold leadership to employ Internet as a tool, but it must be coupled with sincere commitment to good service to the user. For Internet we need computer-costing Rs.30, 000 and an Internet account, but for library, we need eyes and ears only. Which place you prefer to go where 50 million pages or 35 million books with many hundreds of pages each, 10's of thousand of newspapers, million of journals or wish to be shut in a computer, sitting in a darkened room. [Contents]

Professional News

Who and Top Publishers Announce Bbreakthrough on Developing Countries' Access to Leading Biomedical Journals.s

London - The World Health Organization and the world's six biggest medical journal publishers today announce a new initiative which will enable close to 100 developing countries to gain access to vital scientific information that they otherwise could not afford.

The arrangement agreed to by the six publishers would allow almost 1000 of the world's leading medical and scientific journals to become available through the Internet to medical schools and research institutions in developing countries for free or at deeply-reduced rates.

Overseeing the signing of the Statement of Intent by senior executives of the publishers, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO, said:

"As a direct consequence of this arrangement, many thousands of doctors, researchers and health policy-makers among others will be able to use the best-available scientific evidence to an unprecedented degree to help them improve the health of their populations. It is perhaps the biggest step ever taken towards reducing the health information gap between rich and poor countries."

Until now, biomedical journal subscriptions, both electronic and print, have been priced uniformly for medical schools, research centres and similar institutions irrespective of geographical location. Annual subscription prices cost on average several hundred dollars per title. Many key titles cost more than $1500 per year. This has made it all but impossible for the large majority of health and research institutions in the poorest countries to access critical scientific information.

Scheduled to start in January 2002, the initiative is expected to last for at least 3 years while being monitored for progress. It will benefit bona fide academic and research institutions, which depend on timely access to biomedical journals. Between now and the end of this year, these institutions will be identified individually and the process put in place so that they can receive and use access authentication. All parties-the publishers and the participating institutions will learn from this experience. Decisions about how to proceed after the initiative will grow from the precedents it sets, and will be informed by the working relationships which have developed among the partners.

The initiative is an important step in the establishment of the Health InterNetwork, a project introduced by United Nations' Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the UN Millennium Summit last year. Led by WHO, the Health InterNetwork aims to strengthen public health services by providing public health workers, researchers and policy makers access to high-quality, relevant and timely health information through an Internet portal. It further aims to improve communication and networking. As key components, the project will provide training as well as information and communication technology applications for public health.

Working with the British Medical Journal and the Open Society Institute of the Soros foundation network, WHO approached the 6 biggest medical journal publishers, Blackwell, Elsevier Science, the Harcourt Worldwide STM Group, Wolters Kluwer International Health & Science, Springer Verlag and John Wiley, with the aim of bringing them together with the countries concerned to seek a more affordable pricing structure for online access to their international biomedical journals.

The outcome is a tiered-pricing model developed by the publishers that will make nearly 1000 of the 1240 top international biomedical journals available to institutions in the 100 poorest countries free of charge or at significantly reduced rates.

For further information, One can contact Mr Gregory Hartl, WHO Spokesperson, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791 4458; Fax (+41 22) 791 4858; Email: hartlg@who.intAll WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.int/ [Contents]

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May Almighty Allah bless the departed souls in eternal peace, and provide solace to their near and dear ones.

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