Thursday, June 17, 2010

SLA 2010 | Special Libraries Association
New Orleans, LA
@ProQuest @DialogLLC#sla2010 and #ala10 next week...

ProQuest, my employer, offers a wide array of services and information resources for libraries of all kinds. K-12 schools? Covered at the website I maintain: Colleges, higher education, public libraries? covers all of the information databases you can tap into from ProQuest.

In the past few very short years, we've also picked up Serials Solutions, (the new Summon service), Dialog, RefWorks-COS, CSA, and more.

These players serve niche information and tools for serious, deep research at special libraries, colleges, Fortune 1000 companies (from financial giants to scientific research firms and on and on.) Some of these brands even offer social websites for grad students and scientific researchers to rub elbows, just like Facebook, only for real work. (Hint, hint.)

This is where my personal knowledge of what we do fell short -- until coming to SLA this week in New Orleans.

I've come to realize just how amazingly deep the bench has become, ably led by Marty Kahn, our CEO. Under one corporate umbrella, ProQuest now touches every aspect of every type of library.

Need to provide a central research tool that links to your catalog, the open Web, other specialized information collections local to your site, plus (of course) your subscription electronic services from CSA, Dialog, ProQuest, Gale, EBSCO... and so forth? Or just one small part of this full equation?

Only ProQuest has you covered.

And in the next two years, every library will hear about and be able to access our new ProQuest (details) and Dialog (details) research platforms. Two leaps to the present and the future that have been years in the making.

ProQuest is poised to become a power house for serious research and serious libraries and institutions of business and learning, globally.

I've never been more excited to be part of this amazing, forward-looking company, and there's mountains of work ahead. I relish the opportunities to meet our customers needs everywhere -- from the iPad to the PC to the command line.

Bring it on, and stay tuned as the evolution continues. It will be televised -- online.

One of the biggest revelations -- the hairs on the back of neck stand up everytime I think about this -- ProQuest is powering the future of libraries and information professionals with the people, technologies, and companies that gave birth to the information age.

Hyperbole? You decide.

The first database anywhere was created by Dialog (which itself was created to meet a need of NASA) spawned by the Space Race and Apollo missions to the Moon. Data coming out of its ears, it tapped Dialog to organize it. While working on this database (which is still online/available today) they rolled out a smaller cousin using the technology -- ERIC, the Education Resources Information Clearinghouse.

Initially searched by dumb terminals linked to mainframes, serious researchers still depend upon Dialog's feature-rich command line interface (think DOS) to search deeply to uncover unique links and new product innovations that can be realized by getting to information and the threads that combine it in unique ways to speed development of new products and services before anyone else.

In 1993, back to Dialog's early history, ERIC was one of the very first "sites" I visited on the "Internet" -- using a tool called Gopher. Think of Gopher (and Veronica and Archie) as precursors to the Web, organizing data into folders, which you could drill through to get to content via your computer hooked to a modem, at 300 or 1200 baud. (Think I still have my acoustic coupler here somewhere...)

ERIC, the service itself, was one of the first most early K-12 school adopters of the Internet accessed back in 1993-1994. And it was one of the sites we reviewed and linked teachers/librarians to via Classroom Connect, the company I helped start with Gregory Giagnocavo and Tim Wentworth at Wentworth Worldwide Media in Lancaster, PA. (Consider my mind BLOWN folks, right there.)

So, Dialog = Space Race/NASA innovation. Our tax dollars and new technology combining to form the first databases, in collaboration.

Next, ProQuest. Started as UMI/University Microfilms in the 1930's by Eugene Powers. His mission? Turn university dissertations into microfilm using special machines. When WWII broke out, he sent one of these machines to Britain to turn as many books as possible into microfilm before the Nazi's destroyed them.

So, ProQuest = WWII/government assistance innovation. (Timeline)

And of course, the Internet itself. Fostered as a Cold War/government research network, able to adapt to nuclear attack by not breaking down if large portions were destroyed.

Leading us to today, where the world is linked by this global information network. This super highway, even. Fueled by our darkest hours, to work around the most evil among us, to harness and catalog the power of our minds and the American grit and unique scientific knowledge needed to put humans on our nearest celestial neighbor.

All under one roof, under one name -- ProQuest.

Get it? Excited? For sure.

But first, my first-ever SLA conference, where Dialog is king. Where business, scientific, and other librarians meet to find out how best to serve serious researchers using information to power new breakthroughs (think drug research), products (Apple combining existing technologies to make the iPad and iPhone), and investments (patent databases).

In New Orleans. Enjoy the photos...

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