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Putting XML to Work in the Library: Tools for Improving Access and Management

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The authors, hoping to stimulate interest in XML (Extensible Markup Language) and explain its value to the library community, offer a fine introduction to the topic. The opening chapter defines XML as "a system for electronically tagging or marking up documents in order to label, organize, and categorize their content" and then goes on to describe its origins and fundamental building blocks. Subsequent chapters address related technologies, schema development, XML-based tools, and current and future library uses. The authors argue persuasively for increased XML use, emphasizing its advantages over HTML in flexibility, interoperability, extensibility, and internationalization. Information is detailed, deftly written, and supported by numerous examples. Readers without a technological bent may find the text daunting, but their perseverance will be richly rewarded. Particularly recommended for webmasters and those working in library information systems and technical services. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Libraries, places of order, reason, and reflection, are often where people go to seek help in finding information beyond their familiar comfort zones. Today the World Wide Web tempts both users and librarians to click their way to unevaluated, disorganized, and often arbitrary results. Quality, coverage, balance, and retrieval limitations concern librarians, but users increasingly follow the path of least resistance to alluring instant information.

Librarians, faced with changing user expectations, are feeling a little uncomfortable. Some are shaken by these seemingly ominous developments and wonder about the role of the library and their careers in the emerging digital environment. Others are concerned about the disorder, lack of control, unbridled competition, impermanence, imprecision, glitzy superficiality, and commercialization of the digital environment. New technologies raise difficult issues and challenge the status quo. Despite the resulting discomfort, this can be constructive.

The emergence of the Web is an upheaval of the type described in the 1962 classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn 1996). However, this particular paradigm shift hits libraries and librarians closer to home because it has fundamentally changed the way that information is perceived and how it can be shared. The Web’s ascendancy has made information a hot commodity. Librarians, more than others, have reason to be excited because these developments meld so well with our traditional interests. Webassociated technologies provide a wealth of opportunities for investigating what ails information management and for finding better ways to address these problems amid the digital turbulence. Librarians, like researchers who would find the cure for AIDS or cancer, would not be put out of business by their success in eliminating problems, but would gain enhanced professional stature and encounter new opportunities and support for tackling future challenges.

About the Author
Dick R. Miller is the head of technical services at the Lane Medical Library at the Stanford University Medical Center. His extensive information systems experience led him to promote using XML in libraries, notably in “XML: Libraries’ Strategic Opportunity,” published in the summer 2000 issue of Library Journal NetConnect. He also led in the development of XOBIS, an experimental schema for bibliographic and authority information, and he has advocated an XML replacement for MARC. Miller was formerly an associate librarian at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. He earned his M.L.S. degree from the University of Oklahoma.
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