Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#172, March 21, 2003

Or why you might want to hire me for speaking engagements or workshops. To see outlines for previous presentations I've done, click on Handouts

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Order My Book

Click HEREto place a direct order for my book, The Quintessential Searcher: the Wit and Wisdom of Barbara Quint

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What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine

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E-Mail Subscription?

For a combined subscription to Neat New Stuff and ExLibris, please click HERE, complete the form, and click on "subscribe." To unsubscribe, use the same form but click on "unsubscribe." To change addresses for an existing subscription, unsubscribe from that form and return to the page to enter the new address.

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Highlights from Previous Issues:

My Rules of Information

  1. Go where it is
  2. The answer depends on the question
  3. Research is a multi-stage process
  4. Ask a Librarian
  5. Information is meaningless until queried by human intelligence
  6. Information can be true and still wrong

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Guru Interviews

  1. Tara Calishain
  2. Jenny Levine, part I
  3. Jenny Levine, Part II
  4. Reva Basch
  5. Sue Feldman
  6. Jessamyn West
  7. Debbie Abilock
  8. Kathy Schrock
  9. Greg Notess
  10. William Hann
  11. Chris Sherman
  12. Gary Price
  13. Barbara Quint
  14. Rory Litwin
  15. John Guscott
  16. Brian Smith
  17. Darlene Fichter
  18. Brenda Bailey-Hainer
  19. Walt Crawford
  20. Molly Williams
  21. Genie Tyburski
  22. Patrice McDermott

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Cool Quotes

The collected quotes from all previous issues are at

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When and How To Search the Net

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Wanna See Your Name in Lights?

Or at least on this page, anyway? I'd like to print here your contributions as well as mine. As you've noticed, articles are brief, somewhere between 200 and 500 words -- something to jog people's minds and get their own good ideas flowing. I'd also be happy to run other people's contributions to the regular features like Favorite Sites on _____. I'll pay you the same rate I pay me: nothing.

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Drop me a Line

Want to comment, ask questions, submit articles, or invite me to speak or do some training? Contact me at: marylaine at

Visit My Other Sites

My page on all things book-related.

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How To Find Out of Print Books
Suggested strategies, resources, and finding tools.

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Best Information on the Net
bestinfo/default.htmThe directory I built for O'Keefe Library, St. Ambrose University, still my favorite pit stop on the information highway.

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My Word's Worth
a weekly column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.

Subject Index to My Word's Worth at

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Book Proposal

Land of Why Not: an Appreciation of America. Proposal for an anthology of some of my best writing. An outline and sample columns are available here.

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My personal page

SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week
Iraq coverage, Google's experiments, a virtual kaleidoscope, and more.

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My resume

NOTE: The Movers and Shakers Supplement to the March 15 Library Journal has just been published; it's also available online at I wrote half the profiles, always a welcome opportunity to remind myself of all the inventive and important work being done by librarians who are NOT significantly involved with the net.


Reviewed by Marylaine Block.
Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest. Google Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools. O'Reilly, 2003. 0-596-00447-8. $24.95.
David Weinberger. Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Perseus, 2002. 0-7382-0543-5. $25.00.

If you're like me, you'll get more than your usual amount of exercise reading Google Hacks. I'd be stretched out comfortably on the daybed in my sunroom, a cat in my lap, reading it while watching birds to the right of me, birds to the left of me, and it seemed that every other page, I'd say, "Ooh, I've got to try that!" and dash to my computer to try out the Google glossary search or change the default settings on my Google toolbar. Then I'd go back to my sunroom, my book, and my seriously ticked-off cats, and the cycle would repeat.

You can use this either as a book to read or a book to consult whenever you say to yourself, "There must be a better way to do this search," because the book is full of suggestions on tailoring highly specific searches, using Google's specialized syntaxes (did you know you could do a direct phonebook search in Google?), special collections (are you familiar with Google's special collections of government documents and Linux documents?), and features on its advanced search page.

The authors show you what preferences you can set, and what the language tools offer. Yes, both of these are clickable from the front page of Google, but did you ever click on them? I didn't think so. They show you how to read the meaning of the elements in the search results URL and use them to narrow your results, and other neat tricks for getting around some of the search limitations (did you know Google won't search more than ten words in a query unless you trick it?).

That's the first half of the book, the part that ordinary searchers, who have never written a line of code and never wish to, will love. The rest of the book is for people who want to use Google's API -- the application programming interface which Google makes available, with conditions, to people who want to be able to modify the results or use them in some unusual way. Among the hacks listed here are:

  • adding a little box of Google results to any web page
  • running a Google popularity contest (which is the more popular word, or the more common spelling, etc.)
  • permuting a query -- automatically run all possible word orders for your search terms (yes, the word order makes a big difference in your results).
  • performing proximity searches
  • instant messaging Google

    The book comes with its own web site, for updates and additions, at The book and the site are wonderful resources for determined searchers and hackers alike.

    Small Pieces Loosely Joined, on the other hand, is an exploration of what the net is, and how it is changing our ideas about what reality is, what space is, what time is, what knowledge is. It is teaching us new ways of being social, and by exposing us to so many people's different ideas, is letting us consider a huge range of new whys and why nots.

    Weinberger talks about our old concept of reality, our default definition of the world that matters as those things which are fixed and static. That definition allows the development of a particular way of knowing: science. Scientists prefer to describe individuals rather than groups, because groups are always in flux. The advantage, he says, is that science allows us to exercise control over our environment. The drawback is that it forces us to ignore the reality of human ideas and human relationships.

    And yet, Weinberger says, those relationships determine who we are and what ideas and realities we can perceive. Deprive us of relationships, and we are not ourselves, cannot become ourselves. Change our relationships, and you change our ideas. And what the web is above all, is the greatest tool for expanding relationships across arbitrary boundaries ever invented, the greatest device for allowing members of a mass society to express themselves as individuals.

    For example, he points out that "the kids who are posting reviews at Amazon...are implicitly seeing the world as a collection of people grouped by what they like to read. This is the opposite of thinking about the world as land masses that group people through the tyranny of distance." And this is bound to have consequences for their view of nations and nationalities.

    I'm not at all sure I've grasped everything Weinberger is saying here. It's as hard to pin down and as evocative as poetry, and like poetry, it requires a lot of thinking, a lot of questioning about whether what he's saying matches our own experiences of the net. But I'm quite sure that it's an exercise well worth doing. I recommend the book.

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    The fact that time spins impossible paradoxes every time we take a look at it, we should take as a hint that something is seriously wrong with our Western thinking on this topic. We break time into moments and then try to stick them back together by stringing them like beads on a necklace. We've even built an economy around uniform moments in which hourly workers sell their time in units of an hour and white-collar workers march to the beat of their Palm computers. Deadlines, schedules, meetings, the workday itself -- all move to the ticking of time's moments. The Web, on the other hand, reminds us that the fundamental unit of time isn't a moment, it's a story, and the string that holds time together isn't the mere proximity of moments but our interest in the story.


    Yet the Web works. It grows without much maintenance. It invents at insane speeds. We can get done what we want, although usually only after clicking down some dead ends. Beyond any reasonable expectation, it works. But it works only bcause it has remained true to its founding decision: remove the controls and we'll have to put up with a lot of broken links and awful information, but in return we'll get a vibrant new world, accessible to everyone and constantly in the throes of self-invention. The Web works because it's broken.

    both from David Weinberger. Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Perseus, 2002

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    Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
    Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2003.

    [Publishers may license the content for a reasonable fee.]

    Please do NOT copy and post my articles to your own web sites, however. Instead, please copy a brief excerpt and link to my site for the remainder of the article.