Skip to content

Another Reason Our Legacy Systems Must Evolve or Die

In a not-so-recent New Yorker that I hadn’t yet read, I ran across this sentence about Google’s emerging advertising markets:

Two vital markets are television, which is ‘easily attainable,’ and mobile phones, which are ‘more personable’ and more ‘targetable’ than most advertising. (Auletta 36)

This resonated with something that John Riedl (keynote speaker extraodinaire) said at the Midwest Library Technology Conference about mobile computing. He said that because screen real estate is so precious in the mobile computing environment, the challenge is to make sure that the content that shows up on those tiny screens is exactly what you care about, exactly what you wanted to see. There’s just no room for false hits.

Up until very recently, I haven’t been too worried about mobile computing in the library world. It’s been a little bleeding edge for me, a little too easily turned into a superficial discussion of Those Millennials and Their Gadgets. But in the last couple year and a half or two, mobile computing has entered the mainstream in my little world. My friends of all ages have cool little devices that keep them online all the time no matter where they are. Our college IT department is pushing the iPhone as the next Palm Pilot. In the near future, even I, in my iPhone-less state, may have a little handheld wireless device.

Meanwhile, the library catalog will fail miserably at any request for targeted responses to one or two-word queries (nobody wants to type long search strings into a mobile device, not even the most dedicated advanced searcher). So here’s the rub: I want it all ways. I want a robust system that’ll let me, my comps students, and my faculty advanced-search the heck out of it. But I want a smart enough and light enough version that’ll work well for mobile searching. Unfortunately, right now I have a system that does neither of these things well, but doesn’t do the second thing at all.

Auletta, Ken. “The Search Party: Google Squares Off with Capitol Hill Critics.” New Yorker. (January 14th, 2008): 30-37. (online version here)

Published inSearch and DiscoveryTools and Technology


  1. Colleen Colleen

    I am laughing, because I just got a sputtering phone call from a history prof pal of mine who searched for the movie “mad max” in our catalog and got the result “timon of athens’ instead. Then again, admittedly, our catalog is The Suck…

  2. Iris Iris

    So funny… so sad…

Comments are closed.