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Opening Remarks to a Website Talk on American Memory

Opening Remarks to a Website Talk on American Memory

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Published by Gwen Williams
Website talks are compared to book talks. Librarianship: current practices and program planning. Digital libraries and e-government.
Website talks are compared to book talks. Librarianship: current practices and program planning. Digital libraries and e-government.

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Gwen Williams on Apr 27, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/27/2010

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Opening Remarks to a Website Talk on
 American Memory 
by Gwen Williams July 2006Welcome to Hollywood Library’s first Website Talk. I believe this is thefirst time any Broward County Library has presented a Website Talk. Iam Gwen Williams, a Reference Librarian here, at Hollywood Library.I thank you for supporting our Adult Programs at Hollywood byattending this Website Talk tonight. I hope you enjoy our time together.And after you leave here tonight, I hope you will be excited to explorethe website I will talk about this evening,
 American Memory,
a digitallibrary free and on the web, built by The Library of Congress. ForAmerican Memory is a truly extraordinary website.Please allow me to briefly introduce myself and my credentials tospeak on websites. As I said, I am a Reference Librarian. I have workedfor Broward County Library for one year. I am proud to say I receivedmy master’s degree in library and information science from theprestigious library program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During my time at Illinois, I not only worked at thewonderful library at Illinois, I also studied digital libraries andtechnologies extensively, and built a fully-functional digital library witha team partner for a course on digital libraries. If digital libraries seemsan odd phrase for all of us to hear, I would predict that five or ten yearsfrom now, we will all have become rather accustomed to it. After all,as you will see, the website I will talk about tonight is, in fact, a digitallibrary. I say that with great confidence because I also received a ratherclassical schooling in traditional bricks-and-mortar librarianship atIllinois. In essence I see my librarianship training at Illinois asstraddling two centuries—the 20
th
and the 21
st
, which, truth be told, arereally not so different.My traditional bricks-and-mortar librarian training leads me toconclude that my job as a Reference Librarian is essentially to be anauthority on finding the authority. For when a patron has a reference orresearch question, he or she is seeking a relevant answer from anauthoritative source. Which is why it is vital that librarians know howto find the proper authority that can lead to relevant answers. Librariansconsult encyclopedias as authorities on some subjects; dictionaries asauthorities on some subjects; directories as authorities on some
 
subjects; and government publications as authorities on subjectsconcerning government. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories, andgovernment publications are all published in book format—so we havelots of big reference books. But, of course, as we know, encyclopedias,dictionaries, directories, and government publications are all alsopublished in electronic format and can be found via the Internet. Sothe Reference Librarian today, as an authority on finding the authority,needs to go wherever that authority is to be found: whether it is on thebookshelves, or posted on the Web, or available by an Internetsubscription.Have you heard of the term “e-government”? Well, e-governmentis in fact occurring all around us, at the federal, state, and local levels.In order to find the authority on numerous government subjects, aperson can oftentimes consult a government website. For example, theIRS—prodigious producer of paper—has a nicely organized website,which includes all of the appropriate forms in electronic format. Of course, in many instances, we have to print them on paper ourselves,but nevertheless the actions we take to find the authoritative IRS formsare to browse and search the IRS website. Pretty soon, we shallprobably be
forced 
to browse and search the IRS website, as I imaginethe federal government will soon discontinue printing tons and tons of paper.It may seem like that was a long diversion from my Website Talkon
 American Memory 
, but I thought I should begin tonight by offeringsome kind of explanation why I planned this website talk at a library inthe first place. It is primarily because more and more of the serviceslibrarians provide to patrons involve networked machines, the Web,and websites. And I think that many patrons may not be aware thatlibrarians as a professional group—especially early-career librarianssuch as myself—are fairly skilled at finding the authority that is postedon the Web. I believe an important part of my work is to communicateto my patrons the whole range of services I can provide. This range of services includes assistance in exploring the Web, be it for formal orinformal learning, or for pleasure.Public libraries in the United States have long offered Book Talks,or Book Discussions, for their patrons. So I thought, why not offerprograms called Website Talks? A Website Talk would be like a BookTalk, only different. Rather than talking about interesting and
 
memorable books, the librarian giving a Website Talk would talk aboutinteresting and memorable websites.Websites, like books, have persons or organizations responsiblefor creating them, something like an author. Websites, like books,generally have a title-of-a-sort that appears prominently on thehomepages. We should note that the earliest books and manuscriptsfrequently had somewhat ambiguous and lengthy titles, too—bookssuch as this one written by a Mr. Isaac James and printed in 1800Bristol:
Providence displayed: or, The remarkable adventures of  Alexander Selkirk, of Largo, in Scotland; who lived four years and four months by himself, on the island of JuanFernandez; from whence he returned with Capt. WoodesRogers, of Bristol, and on whose adventures was founded the celebrated novel of Robinson Crusoe. With a descriptionof the island, and an account of several other persons left there, particularly William, a Mosquito Indian, and Capt.Davis’s men, including brief memoirs of the famous Capt.Wm. Dampier. To which is added a Supplement containing the history of Peter Serrano, Ephraim How, and others, left insimilar situations.
Websites, like books, generally have targeted audiences and purposes.Our library orders our book collection by audience, thus we separatethe children’s books from the adults: and of course, we try to providebooks on a wide range of topics, from various perspectives, so as tosatisfy many different audiences and their interests. And perhaps mostimportant of all, some websites, like books,
can be
wonderful resourcesfor exploring, learning, and enriching our lives. Not all websites makefor great intellectual encounters—neither do all books, sad to say—butthose kinds of websites serve their purpose: we are able to bank online,shop online, apply for jobs online, blog, and retrieve important taxforms for filing our income tax! But there are some websites that arerich with possibility, and worth spreading the word about: I believethese are the types of websites that make ideal candidates for WebsiteTalks at libraries.I plan to offer more Website Talks in the near future, or otherkinds of programs that bring patrons and librarians together to talkabout the at-times-confusing world of networked computers—so watch

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