- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2008

SEATTLE, Wash. | The modern librarian must be Twitter-savvy and able to manipulate the Web and aggregate RSS feeds as quickly as compile competitive intelligence.

In other words, a librarian must be good at social networking, customizing computer databases, filtering data and getting the facts.

That 21st-century paragon of the information professional was well represented here at the 99th annual Special Library Association’s (SLA) conference last week.

Nearly 5,000 specialized librarians working in such diverse areas as news, energy resources, military, engineering, chemistry and the law descended on the Emerald City to look at how their industry continues to evolve in a world dictated by digital bytes and the immediate access of information.

The opening session’s keynote presentation set the tone for the conference and was led by one of the Internet’s founding fathers.

Vinton G. Cerf, Google vice president and self-professed Geek Orthodox Chief Internet Evangelist for the search leader, looked at the past, present and future of cyberspace.

Mr. Cerf’s early contributions include helping to develop a packet switching network and TCP/IP protocols for ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) back in the 1970s, some of the key pieces of the Internet’s infrastructure.

Prompted by PBS interviewer Charlie Rose, Mr. Cerf offered a prediction that by 2010, 50 percent of the world (more than 3 billion people) will be online thanks to the continued innovations of mobile devices.

Mr. Rose conducted the proceedings in his easygoing style and made an auditorium full of librarians feel as though they were back in their living rooms.

Mr. Cerf primarily came to spread the word about the importance of the continued free sharing of knowledge via the Internet, a key concept familiar to everyone in attendance.

“The openness of the Internet has permitted a cornucopia of creativity and innovation,” he said.

In a cyber world where 10 hours of new video are posted on YouTube every minute, his greatest fear is that the software used to decipher the increasing amount of digital objects (in the form of everything from spreadsheets to videos) won’t be maintained and updated.

He can see a time when future generations have no idea who we were because they cannot decipher our documents or play our games.

Mr. Cerf, a science-fiction fan, was “driven to make fiction real” and concluded by discussing his latest work.

His projects include the Interplanetary Internet initiative with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (a standard to communicate in space and between planets) and solar-powered Internet cafes linked to satellites offering free Web access to anyone in the world.

Story Continues →