Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Search Engine Optimization

In the mid to late 1990's, I spent a surprising amount of time "optimizing" my organization's ranking on search engines. In essence, I would make sure that when someone typed in our name, or something very close to that name, our website would pop up in the first five "hits". Since then, SEO (search engine optimization) has become an INDUSTRY designed to cut in at the front of the result-line when some unknown stranger blithely types in a keyword search.

An Industry?

There are actually companies who are paid to audit other organizations' sites, recommend strategies for improving result list results and/or manage the optimization on a longer term contract. There are thousands of these consulting companies but most focus on American, Canadian and United Kingdom clientele.

As in the old days, there are strategies that fall in accordance with the policies and guidelines set out by major search engines (like Google) and then there are techniques that ignore these conventions and look for sneakier ways to improve results. Since money is the driving force for the these activities, linking searchers with the BEST information is not really a priority.

So how does this kind of activity affect the information we find on the Web? I wonder what kind of influence it has (and will continue to have) on the quality and accessibility of information. Perhaps, such activities will only further enhance the role of libraries....?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

In the Beginning....

As I venture into the blog scene, I wonder where it will take me. My hope was to create a place where LIBIT alumni and students could share their ideas. There is so much going on in the world of information - so much that most of us are unable to really keep up. However, we wouldn't be library folk if we didn't try!

So, as I sit in the semi-darkness, thinking about my career, my education, and my fantasy of winning the 649, I also wonder about the future of libraries. A colleague that worked for OCLC recently informed me that 69% of people surveyed from around the world picture books when they hear the word "library". Yet, are we not trying to brand ourselves as technologists, computer savvy and web friendly. Hmmmm....

I think we need to look at technology from a new angle. We have let it overtake most aspects of our lives yet we don't really kick back and think about the implications its influence has over our culture, our habits, our work, our environment, and even our education. Most people I talk with (and I don't just mean students) complain that they are "swamped", "run off their feet", "overwhelmed", and just plain "exhausted".

If we are so busy, where do we find time to enjoy a good read? Enjoy a good play? Conversations with friends over a glass of wine? I suspect many of us don't get enough of that richness that makes life something to savour. I know I feel constantly frustrated that I can't keep up, while wishing I could sink my soul into a delicious novel. It is a constant battle. A good friend of mine says that IT people refer to it as "change fatigue". I really like this term. If only I could put it to good use.

Where does this leave libraries, museums and, even, archives? We leave so little time for reflection and exploration. Are these institutions immune to our growing distractions? I fear that I have more questions than answers!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Welcome to the LIBIT Scene

If you would like to join the discussion by adding comments, simply create a Blogger account by clicking on the "Sign in" link on the top toolbar. All you need is a username (as an email address) and a password to get started.

The intention of this blog is to inspire discussion and debate on issues related to the field of information studies. There is a lot to talk about! Everything from education to copyright law.