3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

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

Oct 15, 1992 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on October 15, 1992. This particular issue originally was distributed in two parts, as indicated below.
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From: Jack Kessler 
Subject: What interests Europeans?...and some French dial-in opacs (15 Oct 92)

October 15, 1992

	FYI France :  What interests Europeans?...and some French dial-in 

by 	Jack Kessler

Lyon, October 15

A description of a colloquium held here recently -- at the French 
national school of "sciences of information and libraries" -- might
indicate what's currently on European librarians' minds. This
series of meetings was attended by some interesting folks --
librarians from England and from all over France, the librarian who
established the BPI library at the Centre Pompidou, people doing
work for the Bibliothe`que de France, the head of the giant
Staatsbibliothek in West Berlin -- and the discussions went far
beyond the stated subject of "opacs". Anyone interested in the
"view from the other side of the pond" in libraries and information
work might be interested in what was said and done.

The official sponsor of the meetings was a professional group
called "PARINFO", whose declared purpose is to encourage, in
information science, "collaboration among workteams, cooperation
with foreign groups, communication with private industry". Formal
discussions addressed all three of these themes. There were full
sessions on "Opacs", "New approaches and new problems in the
economy of information", "Electronic documents", and "The users".
Break-out sessions addressed "Research in treatment of information
and 'valorisation industrielle'" (sorry, my translation skills
founder on this last term -- something like "getting industry to
tell us that we're right", altho' industry might say "getting
industry to do what we tell them to"). 

There was more. There were policy sessions devoted to debating the
role of users -- a major research interest at the library school,
now -- and strategy sessions agonizing over how to overcome the
"strategic handicap" of the French language (yes, the French admit
-- to each other, at least -- that they have a problem here, at least in 
information science). The corridor gossip covered all the topics overlooked 
in this already-broad formal agenda: latest events at the BdeFrance (there's 
this little lawsuit), the effects of Maastricht, how to put together two 
4-million-volume collections and pay for it (the Germans), what IS "the 
Internet" (nearly everyone)?

One theme repeated in a number of contexts was the need for
education, and particularly continuing education, which would
reflect the latest thinking in information work. Another was a plea
for research at least accompanying, if not preceding, innovations
in opacs. In a comprehensive description of the opac work done
originally at the British Library, Micheline Hancock-Beaulieu
described their interest in, 1) system conception, 2) user
behavior, 3) user-machine interaction, 4) bibliographic problems,
and 5) impact on the organization. She mentioned several ongoing
research projects in the UK which are following up each of these
topics. One which interested many attendees was a continuous
attempt to evaluate opac procedures: the lack of useful methods of
evaluation is felt as critically in Europe as it is in the US.

The break-out sessions gave general attendees a chance to speak:
and they complained, just as they do in the US -- about government
intransigence in Paris, about thick-headed private industry types,
and, more uniquely (not so unique outside the US), about the
predominance of English-language materials in the field. There was
a general willingness to tackle these problems. The emphasis was on
what to do about them, and ideas ranged from establishing exchange
programs to merging separate government ministries. Still, problems
exist, and the workshops made them evident.

Some very interesting substantive presentations were made. Karl
Neubauer presented the approach being taken in Germany to combining
the great varieties of electronic information resource now flooding
the market. By next year, he said, they hope to have established a
national project for unifying search and retrieval in such
resources, and they are working on the design of a generic
workstation, which will be able to manage all this work for a user.
The generic workstation also is a key concept in the work of
Bernard Stiegler, for the Bibliothe`que de France. His idea,
embodied in his "PLAO -- Poste de Lecture Assiste' par Ordinateur"
-- which has received quite a bit of press already in the US -- is
to define the conceptual framework of the sophisticated user, to
develop a filter which will aid the user in, a) navigating, b)
analyzing, and, c) controlling the information flood which she
confronts. To this end, Stiegler is undertaking a functional
analysis of "the document" -- he has elaborate MAC-window displays
to illustrate this -- pointing out how a user has annotations,
underlinings, key-words, and other traditional tools which enable
her to wade through a given text. These, he hopes, will be provided
and manipulated easily by his PLAO workstation. 

The generic workstation idea appears to have a firm conceptual hold
on library systems designers here. I remember that the designers of
the new NYPL business library also are shopping for library
workstations. It seems to me personally a shame to sacrifice the
rich variety of commercially-available techniques already present
and still to come in favor of a single library-mandated solution.
It also seems a little unrealistic: in hardware alone, users
increasingly will be coming to the library with their own little palmtops -- 
if they come to the library at all, as many of them will be dialing in from 
home or elsewhere -- making a generic library workstation, for which 
they must learn both hardware and software routines completely different 
from those with which they are familiar, a technological dinosaur from the 
start. The contracts are out already in Paris, though, and it looks as though 
Paris, Berlin and New York soon will have generic workstations in libraries, 
for better or for worse. One hopes they at least will provide a telephone line 
and a power source at the workstation for use by the inevitable laptops and 
palmtops. (For a flexible approach -- one that doesn't tie the workstation to 
particular hardware or software -- see Gary Lee Phillips, "Z39.50 and Scholar's 
Workstation Concept", in _Information Technology and
Libraries, 11:3 September, 1993 pp.261-270 ISSN 0730-9295, and
numerous publications on the Z39.50 protocol.)

The chair's summary of the Lyon colloquium pointed out six
fundamental European concerns:

1) education -- both initial and continuing -- is lacking and
should be improved in information science areas

2) the users are not well-understood (an anthropologist in
attendance criticized the lack of a proper "ethnography" of the
user: there is no such thing as a "natural language", he pointed
out -- every designer and user has her/his own "language")

3) the humanities and social sciences should be examined more in
relation to information science -- there is a general need for more
work on the effect on organizations of information, for example

4) economic studies are needed as well -- information-as-resource
must be examined more than it has been

5) a great lack of international exchange is felt -- all attendees
wished greatly for exchanges and sharing of information with their
counterparts in the rest of Europe, in the Third World, and most of
all, in the United States -- I suggested to several that they get
on the e-conference networks, on EARN, the Internet, and elsewhere,
and most liked the idea and wanted to know how to do it

6) finally, the gap between their own work in theory and
applications and the work of the commercial marketplace distressed
most of this academic/professional group -- there was a need to re-
define "research" to include the applications so typical of US research 
projects, some said, while others called simply for a broadening of 
relations with private industry in whatever ways possible. (More about 
this later in a piece on "Technopoles" which I'll be sending out.)

The best general observation I can make, as a US observer of this
very European event, is to note the great gap which the attendees
feel exists between their own work and similar work in the
commercial and government worlds around them. One eminent
researcher said bluntly that his own efforts over many years to
come to terms with private industry had failed miserably: "they
don't understand us, we don't understand them, and that's the way
it should be", he declared. The corridors were filled, as they are
at similar US events, with grumbling about the thick-headedness of
government bureaucrats of various stripe. But the interlocking
partnerships and research projects which typify hi-tech research in
the US seem not to have occurred, or not to have engendered any
mutual good will, in Europe. Little good was said among this group
in favor of the imagination and creativity of hi-tech private
industry here. To this I'll add their general feeling of isolation
from events, and a great, anxious feeling of need to become
involved. All the attendees at this meeting seemed excited about
European prospects for networked information, and most seemed
excited about prospects for Europe generally. Lunch and cocktail
conversations, which in the US would have revolved around budget
and lack of resources, centered here upon burgeoning, massive
demand for resources which can be afforded but simply aren't there,
yet. The French, particularly, have the example of their own
BdeFrance as a demonstration of the government financial commitment
which librarians elsewhere would die to get: the problem here in
Europe is not so much how to pay for it but what to do.


French Online Opacs note (many thanks to Jacques Faule of the BPI
for some of this list) :

Latest word is that many more than just the following French library opacs 
and services may be reached from anywhere via Minitel (free MAC or DOS 
diskettes for Minitel -- some downloading capacity now is available -- may be 
obtained in the US/CAN from voice telephone 914-694-6266) -- access to all this 
is very INexpensive:

3614 TOLBIAC        Bibliothe`que de France (info.-- no opac, yet)
3614 BMLYON         Bib.Municipale de Lyon (info.+ opac)
3614 BIB            Bib.Municipale de Grenoble (info.+ opac)
3615 ABCDOC         Archives, Bibliothe`ques, Centres de 		
				Documentation (directory)
3615 BPI            Bibliothe`que Publique d'Information (Centre
             		Pompidou, Paris) (info.+ opac)
3615 DASTUM         Photote`que Dastum (info.+ opac)
3615 MIRADOC        Bibliothe`que Universite' de Metz (info.+ opac)
3615 SF             SIBIL (national union catalog -- books)
3615 VDP15          Vide'othe`que de Paris (info.+ opac)
3615 VILLETTE       Me'diathe`que, Cite' des Sciences et de 	
				l'Industrie (info.+ opac)
3617 CCN            Catalogue Collectif National des Publications en 
				Se'rie (national union catalog -- serials)         Amiens, Bibliothe`que d' (info.+ opac)         Arles, Bibliothe`que Municipale d'(info.+ opac)         Caen, Bibliothe`que Municipale de (info.+ opac)    Chilly-Mazarin, Bibliothe`que de (info.+ opac)    IRCAM (Centre de Recherche Musicale, Centre 	
				Pompidou) (opac)         Niort, Bibliothe`que de (info.+ opac)         Tourcoing, Me'diathe`que de (info.+ opac)


ISSN 1071 - 5916



FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter        ISSN 1071 - 5916

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