June 20, 2018

On Being Weeded

It finally happened. Someone confessed on Twitter that they were weeding one of my books. It had to happen at some point, and likely already has but remained unconfessed. I mean, this book is ancient history. It talks about Gopher and WAIS for crying out loud. And the very first edition (finished in 1992) barely mentions the Web.

Those were heady days. Something new was coming along all the time, and the frontiers for learning stretched out to the distant horizon. There were LISTSERVs and Usenet Newsgroups, Archie, Gopher, Veronica, WAIS, and who knows what else. It was the digital wild, wild west and new cowpokes were coming to town at the same time that others were getting gunned down in the streets. You never knew what tomorrow would bring.

That is, until NCSA Mosaic. With the release of the first graphical World Wide Web browser we all knew that everything had changed. It would no longer be the wild west because the Sheriff had pulled into town. Gopher suddenly looked…boring. Colorless. Un-engaging. Dead. Sure, it would take years to completely die, but it was all over except the procession.

And I happened to be there, with my colleagues Anne Lipow and John Ober, to record it for librarians in a way they could learn these new technologies and teach them to others. I remain proud of what we accomplished back then.

But whatever. Today I can no longer deny that I’ve been writing books about library technology long enough to be weeded. Color me old and nostalgic.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Terri Fishel says:

    I will keep my copy on my shelf until I retire. And then I will pass it on to my successor with a note as to why it is important to keep it. I was present when you conducted that first workshop at Berkeley and it was a life-changing event. It has been non-stop change ever since, but that workshop showed me the possibilities. A close friend shared the experience of that session and we returned to share, expand our knowledge when the web went graphic, and helped each other and others to continue to learn and grow and utilize html to advance our library’s presence on our campuses. Yes, we’re all grey haired now, but June 25 & 26, 1992 were the two days that started a movement – librarians learning new technologies to then teach others. And we did. And it was all thanks to you, Ann, John, and Clifford. Thank you for starting a terrific movement for all of us!

  2. Oh gosh, Terri, I don’t know what to say except Thank You!

  3. Steve Watkins says:

    Thanks for the post, Roy, it took me down memory lane this afternoon. While poking around, I ran across the list of attendees at the very first Bay Area SIGWEB meeting I attended in October 1993 that included Cliff Lynch as well as your Berkeley colleagues Bernie Hurley, Robert Wilensky, and John Kunze. I remember huddling with you, Lee Jaffe and others in a room at UCB following the June 1994 SIGWEB meeting looking at an alternate browser that someone there had developed, but that later got lost in the juggernaut of Netscape, gunned down in the streets, as you put it. Heady days, indeed!

  4. And who could forget the awesome InfoSlug Gopher? I even found an OLD page that still points to it: https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/mbarndt/www/tcat.htm

  5. I remember those days too, it was quite an experience from BBSs to the Global Village and all this stuff. In the library world, where we cherish and depends on stuff everybody else’s grandgranddads remember, we still have Z39.50, same protocol and query language WAIS had. We now run it over an HTTP transport and rebranded it as SRU/SRW, but it’s there.

  6. Jackie Dooley says:

    Roy, I remember the moment I first saw Mosaic. It was at a meeting of the RLG Digital Imaging project (aaahh, those 460k images of architectural photos were so stunning) at Stokes Imaging in Austin. Steve Hensen called me over to a desktop and said look at this. I think I said something like “OMG! That’s the answer to everything!”