A Brief History of ACQWEB, ACQNET-L and the Internet, and a Call for Participation
ACQWEB and ACQNET-L have been around for, in Internet terms, a long, long time. ACQNET's first post was about 21 years ago! ACQWEB dates back to 1994 and offered a directory of publishers and vendors, and other tools for library acquisitions. Both of these resources greatly facilitated communication among acquisitions librarians. The list put colleagues in touch with one another faster and more broadly than before email lists were in vogue. The website's collocation of job-specific information made it invaluable for one-off orders from distant parts of the world, or for rare and unusual books.
In the early-to-mid '90s, novel uses of Internet technology prompted librarians and others to impose some kind of hierarchical structure on the information that was suddenly available to anyone with a networked connection, when IP addresses and domain names didn't convey the value or nature of the information that could be found in any given place. Books such as The whole Internet: User's Guide and Catalog (1992) and The complete Internet companion for librarians (1995) also tried to organize this strange, ethereal flow of data into a familiar reference format. Early search engines such as Yahoo! provided rudimentary keyword—and later, keyword in context—searching combined with a hierarchy of the broadest subjects (arts, health, news, science, etc.).
In late 1999 or so, I remember a librarian introducing me to this nifty new search engine, with a clean, single-box interface, Google. Its advent may have heralded the end of centralized and hierarchical virtual access to Internet information, at least “good enough” information on the Internet. No longer did we need specialized websites to find specialized information. Later, in the early '00s, a bookseller showed me Wikipedia. Between Google & Wikipedia, Internet users have an amazing gateway to good enough answers to most questions.
Fast forward (such an analog expression!) to a few years ago, when ACQWEB migrated to its current home and we had much wrangling over what the site ought to be. So much of what we had done well was obviated quickly by better generalized metaresources (OK, by Google in particular), which could help us navigate a fluid information environment better than our static links and lists on ACQWEB. Nonetheless, we on the editorial board were certain that we serve a purpose: we have collective specialized knowledge and a need for continuing as a geographically-dispersed community. Is ACQWEB the best expression of and tool for that purpose?
Previous discussions along the lines of “What do you want to see on ACQWEB?” have borne a little fruit, mostly reflecting on the former usefulness of what ACQWEB used to provide. Inherent in that question is a relationship similar to the shopkeeper-customer relationship: We ask you what you want us to provide and we do our best to offer it.
I was asked to take responsibility for managing the blog feature on ACQWEB. Blogs have largely replaced newsgroups with the article-and-comment format: the article author starts a discussion, which continues in the comments. It's less democratic but more effective than the newsgroup format. I thought (and still think) that the conversation format is a good vehicle for conveying information about library acquisitions, which is part of why I think ACQNET-L remains valuable. Looking around--“Googling”--I couldn't find anyone else doing a strictly library acquisitions blog, so I was sure there was room for one on ACQWEB. I wasn't sure how to recruit a few people to commit to writing regularly for the blog, but I took a stab at it. Finally, with the encouragement of my colleagues and boss, I began writing more-or-less weekly here.
I'd like to rephrase the question from a couple of paragraphs ago: Given that ACQWEB is here, How would you like to use it to participate in library acquisitions discussions? Would you like to blog here? Do you have another contribution to offer, maybe a different format or a suggestion for how the website could be improved to meet your needs, or let you help others? Is there a better tool that you would encourage other acquisitions librarians to join you in using?
I look forward to hearing from you!