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International Report (March 2004)



Following a round-table meeting at last year’s 5th International Online Information & Education Conference in Bangkok, two groups are preparing a feasibility study to examine the need for new-style education for Asian librarians.

During the meeting, participants—who included senior Asian librarians, academics, and a representative from UNESCO—
expressed concern that new ways of defining and managing information, particularly knowledge management methods and philosophy, are failing to find their way into library training curricula in the region. Fears were also raised that technological innovation in techniques for handling and managing information is also passing Asian librarians by.

In response to these concerns, Bangkok-based iGroup, a distributor of databases, e-journals, and library automation systems, has contracted CAVAL Collaborative Solutions, a consortium of Australian universities, to prepare a report on the feasibility of developing a new international certificate and diploma course for Asian librarians and information professionals.

Sue Henczel, CAVAL’s training, cataloging, and consortia manager, says, “LIS programs in Asia generally retain the traditional teachings and ignore KM and also, in many cases, technological developments.” As a consequence, “many information professionals in Asia continue to struggle to understand what KM is and how it relates to the jobs that they are trained to do.”

Clive Wing, chief knowledge officer at iGroup, warns that this poses a considerable threat to librarians, since the increasing adoption of KM is telling organizations that valuable knowledge does not reside in library materials alone but in the heads of employees too. “While libraries are valuable sources of information, management increasingly requires knowledge from its employees—often a synthesis of what is found in library collections, in the heads of employees, and yonder.”

Unless the profession acts quickly, Wing cautions, Asian librarians will be increasingly marginalized. “KM management positions in Asia are being filled by American and European expatriates, usually with M.B.A.’s, at several times the salary of local librarians. While these KM managers are often managing different types of information, librarians, who are in effect already information managers, are being sidelined.”

The feasibility study, which will be published in April, will seek to establish which skills employers are looking for and how knowledge management techniques and new library technologies and standards can be incorporated into a new, more relevant, library curriculum.


The National Library of Malaysia has launched a new Web site to help improve knowledge of Islam and Muslim communities.

Unveiled in December by Malaysian Minister of Education Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Musa Mohamad, the International Islamic Digital Library (IIDL) is a Web-based collection of digital books (including rare books), manuscripts, theses, journal articles, working papers, audio presentations, and 3-D images of Islamic artifacts.

The aim, explains Dato’ Zawiyah Baba, director general of the National Library of Malaysia, is to provide an authoritative, comprehensive, and reliable source of information on Islam in a variety of formats and languages; to act as a referral point to other resources; to promote the sharing and exchange of knowledge among scholars of Islam (and those interested in Islam and the Muslim way of life); and to help the world better understand Islam.

What distinguishes the IIDL, says Dato’ Zawiyah, is that it’s not just a portal, but it also hosts content. “There are numerous Web sites and portals on Islam available but none so far that provide a wide variety of full-text digitized images of the materials held.”

The site currently includes around 120 titles of digitized print materials, a number of Islamic artifacts, and links to a range of other relevant local and international Web sites. There are also interactive tools, including an “Ask the Librarian” service, a date converter that translates from the Gregorian to the Muslim calendar and vice versa, and the ability for visitors to deposit their own material and articles.

To attract additional contributions, IIDL is currently being showcased in cities around the world, most recently in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; and Geneva. “Through these promotional activities, it is envisaged that more institutions will contribute material and so enrich the contents and provide more links to related Web sites,” says Dato’ Zawiyah.

There are, of course, many Islamic countries. Why create the IIDL in Malaysia? “The original proposal came from the International Advisory Panel Meeting of the Multimedia Super Corridor in Putrajaya in 2000,” replies Dato’ Zawiyah. “The ICT infrastructure in Malaysia is well-established, and Malaysia is seen as a moderate and highly respected  Muslim country.”


A new search engine has been launched in Australia that claims to offer more precise and personalized searching. Instead of simply giving users long lists of hits, Mooter presorts the results and then presents the searcher with a number of thematic clusters to choose from.

Clustering, of course, is not new. Other search engines like Vivísimo also cluster. What is new, claims Mooter CEO Liesel Capper, is that Mooter does it better. “We have built a number of ‘humanizing’ algorithms to ensure that our clusters are utterly meaningful. This is important to avoid clusters which may seem important to an algorithm but are nonsense to the average human.”

In addition, Capper adds, Mooter continuously skews the results in response to the user’s actions or (interpreted) underlying intentions, thereby pushing relevant results nearer to the top. “Mooter analyzes the choices you make and then reorders the results based upon what you are actually looking for, without you having to redefine your exact needs. So we cluster, and we also personalize data on a dynamic basis.”

Initial response has certainly been encouraging. A week after Mooter went live, PC World reported that the company was forced to shut down some of its advanced search functionality and boost server capacity because of an overwhelming surge in international traffic.

“We have been getting tremendous interest,” says Capper. “We had planned to quietly test Mooter down under, then grow globally, [but we are now] working hard to expand our ability to service a global audience.”

Internet history, of course, tells us that innovative technology cannot flourish without a viable business model—a point underlined by search engine guru and Search Engine Watch editor Danny Sullivan. “Mooter, if it’s going to be successful, needs more than interesting technology. It needs a source of revenue. Paid listings are the easiest source it can tap into.”

On cue, Capper recently announced that Mooter will offer a paid listings program. This decision brings its own challenge. Following a court ruling in France last year (when two French companies successfully sued Google for selling links to their trademarked words), many fear that the paid listings business could become a legal minefield.

Capper, however, believes that Mooter has a solution to this too. “One of the things we believe our technology can deliver to content managers and other engines is the ability to match advertising and results to the implicit patterns in search, rather than keywords, and in this way deliver more relevant [advertisements] and/or results.” In other words, by avoiding the need to sell links to words, Capper believes it will be possible to stay clear of trademark disputes.

But isn’t Capper daunted by the prospect of entering a market that’s now so thoroughly dominated by Google and Yahoo!? A market, moreover, that Microsoft clearly views as the next big Internet gold mine? “Of course it is risky,” she replies. “Fortunately, some of us have cast-iron stomachs and the ability to ride into battle with joy.”


Creative Commons (CC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a body of creative works that are free to be copied and reused, has announced that it’s in formal discussions to expand its International Commons (iCommons) project to China and Taiwan.

Launched last March, the iCommons initiative is tasked with “porting” the 11 Creative Commons licenses developed in the U.S. to other jurisdictions—a process that involves translating the licenses and adapting them to local copyright laws.

With the expansion to Taiwan and China, CC licenses are currently being localized in nine jurisdictions, including France, Japan, and the U.K. According to iCommons coordinator Christiane Asschenfeldt, there are also potential affiliate institutions in 50 other jurisdictions, including Spain, Germany, Australia, Canada, and Jordan. While no localized licenses have yet been released, Japanese versions are imminent.

The porting task in China is being coordinated by, a group that was founded in 2002 to deploy open collaborative research on the Internet and that sponsors China’s Open Education Project. In Taiwan, the process is being led by the Institute of Information Science Academia Sinica, a government-sponsored academic research institution.

The aim of the iCommons initiative, says Asschenfeldt, is to “create a rich and healthy public domain, accessible throughout the world under the same terms.” That is, by adapting the licenses to local jurisdictions, CC hopes to create a global infrastructure for content creators who are looking to license their material in more flexible ways than is possible with traditional copyright—especially the ability to release it into the public domain without giving up control over how others use it.

“It’s clear there’s a real hunger for a moderate solution to the copyright fight, the rhetoric of which tends to the extremes,” says Creative Commons executive director Glenn Otis Brown. “And it’s clear that people understand that copyright’s current one-size-fits-all approach is not best suited to the wide variety of situations online. People want balance, and they want to calibrate that balance themselves.”

Shunling Chen, co-project lead of the Taiwan project, sees the iCommons initiative as both a practical tool and a potential catalyst for a broader debate about innovation in Taiwan. “With the various indigenous and Chinese legal traditions in Taiwan, the introduction of the CC licenses will induce a re-examination of the culture of knowledge sharing [and stimulate discussion] on the development of copyright law, international IP protection, and the relationship between humans and their creative activities.”

Although it was founded just 2 years ago, Creative Commons estimates that around 1 million Web pages already use CC licenses. Notable among those are the Public Library of Science (, MIT’s OpenCourseWare (, and Rice University’s Connexions Program (

Long-term, says Brown, “Our goals are nothing less than to have the double-C (CC) become as familiar with the public as the standard copyright (©).”


As the economy continues to pick up, the climate for online publishers in the U.K. is becoming more positive. Many, for instance, have been experiencing month-to-month improvement in online advertising.

In January, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising published its latest Bellwether Report. The study reveals that Internet marketing has now outperformed all other categories of marketing spending that have been monitored by the IPA for seven consecutive quarters. And in December, the Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that online advertising reached record levels in the first half of 2003, with a total online ad spend of $281 million and a market share of 2 percent.

“Audiences have switched to online, and marketers are following. The Internet has become a mainstream media channel, and these record-breaking levels are a watershed that cannot be matched by any other media,” said IAB chief executive Danny Meadows-Klue.

To add to the upbeat mood, says Alex Daley, head of the U.K. Association of Online Publishers (AOP UK), more and more people are now willing to pay for content. “Consumers are beginning to realize that if they want the information to be online, publishers have to be able to make it pay.” This, she adds, is encouraging more to start charging subscriptions or to introduce micro-payments for one-off pieces of content.

Making the transition, however, remains difficult. “The decision as to whether to charge is extremely important, and many publishers are still hesitant,” says Daley. “It is very easy to lose people on the Web if you get it wrong. Those that get it right only do so after thoroughly researching their audience.”

One hurdle, Daley adds, is that “many advertisers still think of the Internet audience as being one demographic. They don’t recognize that content sites attract a unique audience.”

What’s needed, therefore, is a more complex picture of Internet users. To help map this complexity, says Daley, AOP UK will shortly publish its first major piece of research.

“This will look in greater depth at the Internet audience and try to introduce some shades of gray.”

This article has been reprinted in its entirety from the March, 2004 issue of Information Today with the permission of Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055. 609/654-6266,

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