3.00 FYI France: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

November 15, 2000 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on November 15, 2000.

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us


FYI France: Biblio-Fr -- the list, and the archive


* Yes, the BnF / Bibliothèque Nationale de France is back up and running, both virtually and really... The fire, system outage, faulty air conditioner, strike (latest), and other disasters all appear now to have been resolved, and the BnF -- including Gallica (online digital images and texts) and the CCFR (the French national union catalog, discussed in FYI France of September 15, 2000) -- once again is open for business...

* And no it is not yet clear just who has won the US presidential election -- now Fidel Castro is offering the US advice on how to run a democracy, and he is suggesting that Cuba send some elections inspectors to Florida, just to ensure that the vote counting there is honest... and so are the Russians...


* In troubled and uncertain times it is nice to have something dependable to rely on. In things librarianly, French, and bookish, I have relied on the French librarians' econference, Biblio-Fr, since its 1993 inception.

So I thought I would tell FYI France readers, here in this issue, a little more about Biblio-Fr -- both because it is such a useful information resource and because, among the many resources which I use myself for French information, Biblio-Fr over time has proven to be one of the most consistent and reliable, consistency and reliability being so much at risk these days in other arenas.


1) The Biblio-Fr Archive --

Biblio-Fr is run entirely in French, which makes things hard on francophiles -- or francophobes -- whose command of the language may be imperfect.

But the econference offers an excellent online archive. And over time this online archive has grown enormously, so that it now provides an outstanding resource -- one easily accessible online to students and others just learning the language, and to people reluctant to exhibit linguistic ignorance to the fastidious French -- for news and debate, in - depth discussions, and extensive job listings, conference announcements, and contact information.

The Web interface for the Biblio-Fr archive includes a sophisticated search engine. I wish that it offered "conversation thread" searching, and global searching of its entire database -- I can't seem to make either of these work, myself -- but at least a user can enter a term and find a string, without having to cull through acres of archival ascii.

So for a writer or student, anywhere, interested for example in the history of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France project -- the Trés Grande Bibliothèque -- and in the record of the many controversies which have surrounded & still surround that, I can think of few better resources to suggest than this archive: the user just selects the year and month, plugs in "bibliotheque de france", and up pops the historical record of French librarians' nearly - live discussions of the project, as - it - occurred.


2) The Biblio-Fr list -- the Econference --

In addition to its archive, the Biblio-Fr online email - based econference itself is an ongoing and very useful resource:

Biblio-Fr now has nearly 7,000 current subscribers, many hundreds of whom participate actively in the daily discussions. Biblio-Fr postings come in from all over the globe. There are active French librarians, or at least people with active interests in library and information happenings in France, scattered all over Africa and the Americas, and in Australia and New Zealand, with a few even in South and East Asia. Some of the most interesting Biblio-Fr postings, for example, I myself think, come from the Maghreb -- countries which are represented very little in my own US "general" and certainly US "professional" media.

Disciplining all of this, so that it does not become merely one of the Internet's undifferentiated floods of bits and bytes, is the task of Biblio-Fr's very able Hervé Le Crosnier, at the Université of Caen, who founded the list and has stuck with its increasingly - heavy workload throughout its development.

Hervé edits submissions, contributes his own clarifying and edifying comments, and even goes to the trouble of grouping messages with similar content, all to minimize any Biblio-Fr contribution to a user's information overload. The result is that I receive only about a dozen Biblio-Fr email messages each day, always well - disciplined and presented, nearly always thoughtful, and -- rare for the Internet -- each unfailingly relevant to the declared purposes of the econference.

The Biblio-Fr message groupings include [English tr. JK, see http://listes.cru.fr/wws/info/biblio-fr] --

And from Biblio-Fr there now are, in addition, Jobilise -- the "jobs offered" announcements -- and Infosite, announcing and describing new online sites of interest, and Synthese, in which members summarize private communications which they have received to questions which they posed originally on the general list.

A well - moderated and well - organized econference is the answer of the Digital Age to "information overload", I always have found myself. There now are thousands of econferences online, but few of them are well - moderated and well - organized: for anyone interested in its declared topics, of French library and documentation and general "information" affairs and news -- or for that matter to consider the question of online econferencing generally -- Biblio-Fr is one of the best.


3) The Biblio-Fr list -- a "foreign" view --

And there is a third resource offered by Biblio-Fr -- in addition to, 1) the Archive and 2) the Econference -- which is very useful to people who are online. This is the "foreign" view offered by the Biblio-Fr discussions: even if you are not particularly interested in France and the French, Biblio-Fr offers a sophisticated and thoughtful "foreign" view to developments in a technology which still -- numerous and increasing exceptions notwithstanding -- overwhelmingly is Anglo - American in origin and flavor.

So with a little French -- more common and easier, for many, than other foreign languages -- a student can find on Biblio-Fr some very strange / non - Anglo - American approaches to problems which might otherwise be taken for granted, and in a digital information setting every bit as advanced as the original Anglo - American one is. There are plenty of other "non - Anglo - Americans" out there rapidly getting introduced to all of this now -- it might be nice / useful to consider, in advance, what they are thinking about it...


4) The Biblio-Fr list -- a "long" view... history...

Finally, there is a fourth Biblio-Fr consideration: the Internet has been with us, as a commercial - uses - acceptable and general - public - available resource, for nearly a decade now, and personal computers and digital information have been around even longer. Herman Hollerith's punchcard machine -- "chads" and all(!) -- and the original Jobs / Wozniak Macintosh, both now occupy pedestals in the Smithsonian, and a few books have been written. But really very little has been done, so far, to document the history of the digital information revolution.

In the meantime, though, much is disappearing: in one of history's greater ironies, the historical records of two of the eras most devoted to the propagation and dissemination of information now are in greatest danger of destruction -- the 19th and 20th centuries' "printed paper" records are decaying now from neglect plus acid paper depredations, and the 21st century's nascent digital record is being destroyed daily now by the sheer pace of change within the information industries, as legacy data and programming and machines recede further and further from any possibility of compatability with the latest platforms.

There is much need for history, and for historians, in this. A resource such as the Biblio-Fr archive provides an historian's goldmine -- for any researcher or student, in France or elsewhere, interested in documenting the development of the digital information era. Hopefully the archive will be mined for this purpose before the platform changes again... or some electrical fire takes place and no backup can be found... or someone presses a wrong button and massively deletes something.


So, Writers!, take up your pens / keyboards; Researchers! get that mouse - wrist working; Professors!, turn your students loose... onto Biblio-Fr...

Certainly time better spent than watching CNN, trying to figure out who will win the "banana republican" lawsuits in Florida...




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Document maintained by: Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us
Last update: November 20, 2000