Monday, May 7

CSI For Corporate Fraud

White collar continues to be America’s fastest growing crime category. Those who steal with a pen face much better odds than those who steal with a gun. Paul Zikmund claims that for every one embezzler who gets caught, at least five go undetected. As the principal of fraud and forensic services at Philadelphia-based SolomanEdwardsGroup (www.solomanedwards.com), Zikmund has caught hundreds.

Corporate fraud, data mining, litigation and computer breakthroughs are among several topics on the agenda at Rider University’s “Forensic Accounting and Technology Conference” on Monday, May 7, at 8:30 a.m. at the Bart Luedeke Center on Rider Campus, Lawrenceville. Cost: $325, but there are discounts for students. Visit www.rider.edu to register. Zikmund’s talk, “A Beginning-to-end Fraud Case Study,” begins at 8:30 a.m.

As corporate fraud has risen, so has Zikmund’s career. A native of Pittsburgh, son of a custodian, Zikmund began law enforcement as a local beat policeman.

“I had always been fascinated by white collar crime,” he says, “and so when a mentor invited me into this investigation field, I jumped at the chance.” Zikmund attended the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in l994 with a dual bachelor’s in accounting and criminal justice. He then earned an MBA from the University of Connecticut, followed by an accounting master’s from Auburn University.

Since then Zikmund has helped several Fortune 500 corporations ferret out the bad guys. He headed up the forensic fraud investigative departments for Union Carbide, Dow Chemical, and then Tyco, with whom he spent three years. Prior to working with the SolomonEdwardsGroup, he served as a consultant with Deloitte and Touche. Zikmund also teaches fraud and forensic accounting as an adjunct professor at Rider University.

The old joke among judges and accountants is that if your company has more than one employee, odds are someone is stealing from it. The very term “forensic accounting” — that is, accounting applied to legal questions — increasingly is heard in the business community. When an employee, consumer, or vendor expects fraud, they may call for a forensic audit to see what shakes out of the company tree.

Forensic technique. A normal financial audit, such as is done periodically from within most companies, or annually by a outside firm, typically uses a sample method. The accountant samples approximately 200 out of every 1,000 entries in each department, looking for deviations. A certain risk of missing something is assumed here, but it is weighed against the audit cost factor.

A forensic audit is performed when something is already suspicious, and so it digs a lot deeper. Out of every 1,000 entries, 700 may be sampled. Beyond hunting for general deviations, the accountant conducts more ratio analyses and compares them with past figures and those from several departments. A whole array of computer-assisted techniques have been developed recently and are now standard.

“Yet one of the most telling techniques,” says Zikmund, “is the personal interview. It is amazing how revealing a simple sit down conversation can be.”

Red flags. Certain embezzlement tracks are common and hard to hide. Easiest to spot are any abnormal account balances. This can be seasonal, or one department compared to the others, or atypical balances that parallel new hirings or new customer acquisitions.

Also, watch for post-quarter close figures that, as Zikmund puts it, “are manual in nature.” It’s an old trick to skim money all quarter, then hastily adjust the ledger at the rush at the end of the quarter. Abnormally high amounts or an abnormally high number of entries paid to a single vendor are often marks of a thief at work.

One of the simplest forms of fraud is to set up a fictitious vendor and periodically pour funds into his account.

Favorite scams. A few fraud schemes are elaborate, involving intricate planning, but in Zikmund’s experience most follow basic patterns, entailing only a couple of steps.

Recently, for example, Zikmund discovered an accounts payable supervisor who on certain selected checks would tape over the original payee’s name. Over the blank space, she would write her own name. Finally, when auditors began wondering about massive debit entries made into accounts payable, they discovered that this employee had amassed over $7.2 million in a few years. She is now in jail for a very long time.

Senior management, through the years, have tended to use a few popular fraud techniques. Until very recently, backdating of stock options was very big. Executives being granted options would have them dated back to an earlier date, when the stock price was at its lowest.

Then when the option to sell came due, they would take their profit from this previous, low-price date, making a much greater (and illegal) gain per share. Recent SEC crackdowns have brought this practice to light, but still, detecting it can be a difficult process.

Probably the most common upper level fraud is misrepresenting financial statements.

“This is usually a downward spiral for the CEO who tries it,” says Zikmund. “They overstate the earnings of one quarter, then come the second quarter, they must make up the hidden loss as well as meet the new expected earnings.” They can’t recover, so they misrepresent again, and on it goes.

Best defenses. “The tone comes from the top,” says Zikmund. “When management exhibits the right behavior, it permeates the organization.” Conversely, in Enron and Worldcom, where the senior executives were expressing an attitude of “loot what you can,” it didn’t take long for the attitude to filter down. There exists an underlying assumption that one thief is unlikely to report another.

Many companies are becoming more proactive in the fight against fraud. The frequency of audits has been stepped up. The accounting process is enhanced with more checks and balances. One of the greatest fraud temptations is to put too much fiscal responsibility in the hands of one person. Not only is the company tempting a thief, it is also tempting fate if a sudden accident takes that individual’s knowledge out of the business.

Broadcast the theft. The very best defense a company may establish, says Zikmund, is to take serious action against any embezzler — and publish it. “The concept that admitting fraud will frighten stockholders and investors is pure myth,” he says. “When stockholders see their company prosecuting, it gives them the feeling that they are safeguarding the business.”

While theft by pen may continue to rise, the forces against it are growing more formidable. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), a division of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has been pressuring accounting firms to delve deeper during their audits.

All CPAs are now required to take ethics courses. The corporate veil for fiscal misdeeds is indeed rent. Finally, public opinion views the embezzler less as a romantic corporate swashbuckler and more as a thieving scoundrel — and that may prove to be one the strongest anti-fraud tools of all.

— Bart Jackson

Tuesday, May 8

Succeed Through Edu-Marketing

The wisdom of how best to teach reading has ebbed and flowed over the last half century between phonics and whole language. But whatever methodology reigns in a particular decade, teachers generally use their own accumulated experience to decide what works in their classrooms. And often the answer is a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Similarly marketing tools have waxed and waned in popularity over the last 40 to 50 years, with the choice the experienced marketer makes largely based on the product or service, the industry, and their own predilections.

Today what holds sway is branding — developing that unique, symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, product, or service. But, according to Dumont-based freelance copywriter Bob Bly (www.bly.com), educational marketing, or “edu-marketing,” is making a comeback. Bly speaks on “The Edu-Marketing Revolution: Marketing with White Papers and Other Free Content Offers” on Tuesday, May 8, at 6 p.m. at Lenfell Hall at Fairleigh Dickinson University at a meeting of the Business Marketing Association. For registration details, go to www.bma-nj.org or call 973-443-8500.

Bly describes himself as a “book person” (not a surprise perhaps from someone who has written over 70). He has been writing since he was 12. He wrote for the high school paper and in the same period sold a short story to a science fiction magazine.

But heading for college at the University of Rochester, he decided to become a chemist, realizing he had always loved science, and, he adds, “I didn’t think I could make a living as a writer.” When he found out after enrolling that to do well as a chemist, he would need a doctorate, he switched midway to chemical engineering.

When Bly graduated, he sent out 300 resumes to newspapers, landed one interview with the Associated Press in Buffalo, but spelled “occurred” incorrectly and wasn’t hired. Bly observes, “If I had gotten that job — I love newspapers and magazines — I would be a newspaper reporter today.”

As he entered the job market, he knew he was more interested in writing than in process engineering and lucked out in the late 1970s when Westinghouse Defense hired him to do the technical writing side of marketing communications. His next position was as advertising manager for Koch Engineering, a manufacturer of process equipment.

In 1982 Bly went out on his own as an independent copywriter and consultant.

Popular in the 1960s and 1970s, edu-marketing, says Bly, is “a method of marketing where instead of selling people with sales hype, you give them useful content about subject matter and convince them to buy from you that way.” The renaissance of this marketing tool may have a lot to do with consumers and businesses getting tired of omnipresent ad hype. In fact, standard advertising is so loathsome to some that technologies have been developed to challenge it.

Edu-marketing often occurs via company websites. An interesting example came up in a search for “educational marketing,” which pulled up the site of Allred Marketing, a business-to-business technology marketing firm. Edu-marketing is placed high on firm’s homepage, with five bullet points describing the process and its results, whereas “corporate image and branding” gets only a single bullet point at the bottom of the page. And of course the site offers a free download, a popular edu-marketing tool labeled “10 Critical Elements for Successful WebSite Lead Generation.”

Bly muses on why edumarketing is still not as popular as branding:

Branding is the craze. “People are obsessed with branding,” says Bly. “Madison Avenue has mandated that a marketer’s goal is to communicate what is unique about your brand. If a mover, for example, offers tips on moving well, any mover could do that, so it doesn’t distinguish you from the crowd.”

Edu-marketing is seen as limited. Yes, says Bly, and no. Some would claim that for a dry cleaner or a pizza store it simply wouldn’t work. After all, observes Bly, “you don’t want to learn to make pizza. You want them to do it for you.” But, regarding the dry cleaner, he flashes on an edu-marketing idea: “You might offer tips on how to store and clean clothes.”

People already suffer from information overload. Bly concedes that people have too much information and too much to read. Ah, but “edumarketing doesn’t offer information,” says Bly, boosting his case. It shares “wisdom, ideas, analysis, and solutions, and people constantly are looking for solutions to their problems.”

The usual approach to edu-marketing is to offer free content either about a product or, more likely, about the problem the product solves. This freebie serves as the bait that draws the prospect customer into the sales cycle. That free content has several positive consequences: it makes the prospect beholden to you, generates more inquiries, establishes you as the expert, educates the market, and, if successful, drives sales.

Bly cites a commercial for an invention company that goes something like, “Do you have an invention or an idea for an invention? Call for our free invention kit. We will help you to get a patent or produce your invention.” Says Bly, “It sounds like something you would want to know.”

Then there’s a Lucinda Bassett commercial, where she asks whether you are stressed, upset, or depressed, or as Bly puts it, “she asks a million questions that everyone will answer ‘yes’ to.” Then she tells her audience that they should send for her tape on how to feel good and be happy. The tape, designed not only to create happy people, but also to sell her program, is her edu-marketing tool.

Finally, Bly cites the website of an online company that sells metals. It might, for example, sell a 30-foot piece of aluminum to a machine shop hired by a shipyard to build a boat. One of the “bait pieces” among the “industry resources” that the site (www.steelforge.com) offers is the world’s largest online glossary of steel terms.

Creating a “bait piece” for an edu-marketing program requires several steps:

Choose a topic. The question to ask yourself, says Bly, is: “What would be useful to your prospect?”

He shares a childhood memory. “I lived across the street from a town garden center that would type up the lawn care schedule every spring,” he recalls. “It was on one page, run off on a mimeograph machine, and people would flock to the store to get the guide.”

The piece of paper reminded customers to put down lime in May, and told them how much to cut the grass and when to seed. As a result they came in to get the sheet and bought all the chemicals and seeds and other supplies necessary to maintain their lawns.

Some generic possibilities for shaping free content, says Bly, are as a “how to,” a survey, a case study, an application, benefits or return on investment, or a consumer awareness guide.

Choose a title. One that won’t work, he says, is a grass seed mail order company’s “Lawn and Grass Seed Guide.” It sounds like a seed catalog, not helpful content for lawn care.

If your bait piece is a white paper, several types of titles work well. One is a “why” title. A consulting firm that does quality control for manufacturing, for example, alludes to problems with another popular approach: “Why Six Sigma Doesn’t Work.” Other generic title types include: the “how to”: “How To Prevent Machine Parts from Failing;” lists: “The Top 7 Security Problems of 802.11 Wireless Networks;” gerunds: “Managing Large UNIX Data Centers;” and judicious use of a colon: “Defending the Remote Office: Which VPN Technology is Best?”

Figure out your audience. If the purpose of a white paper, for example, is to help sell software to a company, you have to decide whether it is being written for the chief executive, a programmer, the information technology manager, or the chief financial officer.

Develop content. The writer gathers material and weaves it into a piece that is clear and interesting. “Don’t throw in everything but the kitchen sink,” advises Bly. “The key to good writing is selectivity.”

On the other hand, all manner of materials may be helpful during the research phase, from competitors’ white papers, ads, and case studies to websites, press kits, and even internal memos. The research process should also include interviewing subject matter experts to glean a detailed understanding of the product, including its features and benefits, and to understand who its buyers are and what motivates them.

Determine the format. In today’s technological world, free content can come in an array of forms: a report, a downloadable pdf, a DVD, a webinar, an audio cassette, or a CD. It may or may not need visuals.

Bly advises businesses always to look at edu-marketing in the context of how to generate leads and sales. Where, for example, is the most likely place for customers to find out about the free content you are offering. Should you send out a postcard or an E-mail? Should you place pieces in banks and on store racks? Should you put an ad in a newspaper or magazine? Should you send out a press release?

The marketer must always be thinking, says Bly, “how do I take the people who request the piece and convert them to qualified leads who eventually will place an order?”

A company also must understand the arc of its own sales cycle to know where and how free content is most likely to have impact.

Bly was speaking to a client who wanted to sell to information technology professionals using a white paper, and he asked him, “What happens next?” The person had to think a minute before responding, “If we can get them to view an online demonstration in a webinar, then half of the people who do so will buy.”

So, they decided to send out E-mails offering the white paper as a bonus for attending the online webinar. “Their sales process,” concludes Bly, “is not sending out the white paper and getting on the phone.” The perennial question is “how can you use free content to accelerate movement along the sales cycle?” — Michele Alperin

Tuesday, May 8

Microsoft Takes Its Show On The Road

Technology training company ONLC (www.onlc.com) is hosting Microsoft’s 42-foot-long interactive demonstration truck on Tuesday May 8, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in ONLC’s parking lot, at 3836 Quakerbridge Road. ONLC spokesperson Patti Williams says that only eight to ten people can board the truck at a time, so registration, at 800-288-8221, is strongly suggested.

Inside the truck Microsoft representatives will answer questions and demonstrate new versions of software, some of which will be given away in raffles. Williams says that the event holds some appeal for individuals, small business owners, and corporate IT people.

Tours of ONLC’s new 16-classroom facility will also be offered. While ONLC does have classrooms, Williams emphasizes that it is not a school. No counseling, job placement assistance, or financial aid packages are in place. ONLC is in the business of training people — most of them sent by their employers — on a huge number of software packages from Microsoft, and also from other vendors, including Citrix and Novell. It offers training in applications, help desk and support, business skills, operational efficiency, networking and connectivity, programming and database, web design, security, and other broad categories of software.

Some individuals do sign up for the training, as do some small business owners, but most of ONLC’s clientele is corporate. Its courses are generally short — often just one or two days, and rarely more than a week. A course leading to a credential as a Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician, for example, requires participants to attend a three-day class and a two-day class. Prerequisites for enrollment in this case include six months of experience working with a desktop operating system. Cost would be about $2,300.

Most students are adults, says Williams, although, she adds, ONLC does get the occasional high school student. “But they generally come from a vo-tech,” she says, “and are already immersed in technology.”

Anyone eager for even a taste of the latest computer technology that Microsoft has to offer is invited to stop by to visit the software giant’s traveling bus.

Wednesday, May 9

Scouring The Net For Free

Sitting at a library reference desk, you get to be an expert on Internet sources. Books may come in handy, but for a quick response a librarian needs to know where to get information fast. It’s not so different from the rest of us, connected as we are to the computer for information on every imaginable subject. But for librarians, it’s part of a career, so they have it down to a science.

Janie Hermann, technology training librarian at the Princeton Public Library, faces surprised questioners on a regular basis when she rapidly pulls information out of her hat. Typically someone who calls the reference desk will say, “I’ve been looking for this forever on Google.” Then when she quickly comes up with what they need, they want to know how she did it.

“People expect Google to produce an answer,” she says, but a search engine can’t find everything. Often the information her patrons seek is in a relational database where information can be accessed only by making a query inside the website. “If the answer is within a database,” Hermann explains, “the pages are created dynamically.” The information couched in these databases comprises what she calls the “hidden deep web.”

As part of Princeton Public Library’s Databytes series, Hermann will talk about “Top Free Reference Resources,” many in this deep web, on Wednesdays, May 9 and 23, at 1 p.m. For information, call 609-924-9529.

With tax season just past, Hermann has received lots of questions on individual charities — their ratings; what they do; how much of their funding goes to programming, administration, and fundraising; and how they compare to other organizations doing similar things. All of this is available at charitynavigator.com. “For people looking to make charitable donations who want to know if they are going to the right place,” says Hermann, “it has really valuable information and it’s free.”

But excellent as the information is, it is not accessible from Google through entry of the charity’s name. “Because it is a relational database,” explains Hermann, “the information will be created dynamically in response to a search query.”

To date, a database (which the Internet is) hasn’t been able to search another database, although recently, says Hermann, search engines have been finding ways of getting into the “deeper” information by crawling into deeper layers during a search.

As interesting as Hermann’s list of reference sites may be, perhaps more interesting is where and how she locates the sites that lead her to the actual websites she uses for her reference work:

Best Free Reference Websites, from the Machine-Assisted Reference Section of the Reference and User Services Association, part of the American Library Association (www.ala.org/ala/rusa/rusaourassoc/rusasections/mars/marspubs/MARSBESTIndex.htm). This site indexes the “best” sites from the combined 1999-2006 annual lists.

“This list is a treasure trove of what are good, reliable reference sources that are freely available on the web,” says Hermann, adding that the sites include “everything from comics to food to government statistics and more.” She will be highlighting the dozen or so of these sites that Princeton Public Library’s reference librarians use regularly or find to be of a consistently high quality.

Librarians’ Internet Index, at http://lii.org, is a reference tool that catalogs over 20,000 databases, is searchable, and only includes sites that have been reviewed by librarians. These sites are organized into 14 main topics and nearly 300 related topics.

Those Dark Hiding Places: The Invisible Web Revealed, by Robert J. Lackie, associate professor-librarian at Rider University, at www.robertlackie.com/invisible/index.html.

Lackie’s site includes several types of websites: those that enable searching for hidden databases, the databases themselves, both generalized and specialized search engines, and directories. Directories are sites that offer a large collection of links organized to enable browsing by subject area. Directory content is prescreened, evaluated, and annotated by human beings — one example is the Librarians’ Internet Index noted above.

As for the sites that Hermann will present at her talk, she says, “I’m trying to go for the whimsical as well as the useful.” Some of them include:

All-Music Guide. Found at www.allmusic.com, this site offers a wealth of information about albums and artists, including descriptive information, reviews, and lists of music.

Acronym Finder: The Acronym and Abbreviation Dictionary. Located at www.acronymfinder.org, this site offers all possible meanings for each of over 500,000 acronyms.

Recalls.gov. Located at www.recalls.gov, this site is useful, says Hermann, “when you read about a recall notice in a newspaper or magazine and get home and can’t find the details you need.”

Or if you’re having a problem with a product, you may want to check whether it is a wider issue that required a recall. One man came into the library, she recalls, and said he was having a problem with his gas tank, and it did indeed turn out that it had been subject to a recall.

Population Reference Bureau. Located at www.prb.org, the Population Reference Bureau and its website informs people around the world about population, health, and the environment, and includes articles as well as government statistics.

The Big Cartoon Database. Located www.bcdb.com, this site includes 70,000 cartoons, reviews, and the history of animation.

National Atlas. Located at www.nationalatlas.gov, the National Atlas includes both printable maps and maps created on the fly about North America, as well as informative articles about the continent’s geography, widely defined.

One area where the same kind of in-depth information is not always available for free is company information and analysis. The library does, however, have some subscription databases, like Factiva and Reference USA, which can only be used inside the library, and Ebsco Host and Business Source Premier, which can be accessed with a library card from home or office.

When Hermann was growing up in Kingston, Ontario, she wanted to be teacher, and she ended up with a teaching degree, which she used for five years in a middle school. She decided to round out her experience with a master’s degree in education, with the intention of returning to the classroom or at least the school system — but she missed the application deadline. The career counselor she was working with was ready with an alternative suggestion, and asked her, “Have you ever considered library science?”

She applied to one library school, the University of Western Ontario. “I decided if I got in it was fate and I had to go,” says Hermann. She did get in, and luckily she really liked library science and received her degree in 1996.

Her first library job was at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, an academic library. She met Jackie Thresher at a meeting, and was offered a job at the Princeton Public Library, expecting to stay only a couple years, but, she says, “Princeton has a way of catching you.”

Recently Hermann was selected by the “Library Journal” as one of 50 mover and shaker librarians from across North America. “It is quite an honor,” she says, “because you are nominated by your peers.”

Hermann attributed her nomination to the technology department she has developed, which includes Tuesday Technology Talks exploring emerging technologies; Databytes, introducing customers to library databases; and 25 different technology training courses — from beginning classes like “Meet the Mouse” and “Introduction to the Internet” to advanced work in RSS feeds, blogging, and new trends. “Our offerings are the most extensive of libraries of almost any size,” she says.

Hermann is also an active blogger at Library Garden, described as an online conversation among New Jersey librarians, and gives talks to colleagues. A recent talk, for the New Jersey Library Association, was “15 Fantastic Freebies in 15 minutes,” a discussion of all the free applications and tools online, including word processors, photo editors, and firewalls.

Not only is Hermann very active in her day job, but she works as a freelance virtual librarian for QandAnj.org, a cooperative that offers answers to questions 24-7. Funded by the New Jersey Library Network, it is staffed by regular librarians between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Princeton Public Library belongs to the cooperative and contributes eight hours of service each week.

So information hounds today have ever-expanding venues for satisfying their curiosity. Sure, books are still important, but sometimes it’s faster to check online yourself. And if that doesn’t work, turn to the experts, by phone, in person, or online.

— Michele Alperin

Thursday, May 10

Information Sharks

No culture has so depended on information since the priests of ancient Egypt learned to predict the annual flooding of the Nile. As America strides boldly across the virtual threshold from Web 1.0 onto Web 2.0 and beyond, it is the managers of information who lead our society. And today’s leadership is coming from the not-so-humble librarian.

As more information, more tools, and more media all coalesce, it will take the professional expertise of a librarian to sort it all out. Exactly just what he or she will be facing is predicted in “A Technology Forecast: Library 2.0 in a Real World” on Thursday, May 10, at 10 a.m. at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton. Cost: $40. Visit www.units.sla.org/chapter/cpt/. Sponsored by the Princeton/Trenton chapter of the Special Library Association (SLA), this talk is presented by Stephen Abram, president-elect of the SLA and vice president of innovation for Huntsville, Alabama-based SirsiDynix.

An odd blend of unabashed librarian and high tech innovator, Abram is a firm believer that every information enhancement should first consider the end user. Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Abram attended the University of Toronto, graduating with a bachelor’s in anthropology.

“It was a perfect grounding for a futurist like myself,” says Abram. “I started out studying the inherent nature of man in the past, and now I predict how he and his society will move on in the next decades.”

He stayed on at the university to earn his master’s of library science, and went on to work in a number of specialized libraries in Canada. Abram is the past president of the Canadian Librarian Association, as well as president-elect of the Special Library Association. He is also active in the International Federation of Library Associations.

Abram’s wife, an author of teen books, holds down the fort in their Toronto home, while he travels some 25 days a month on the lecture circuit.

Compared to the search skills of the average librarian, you couldn’t find a lion in your living room. They are that well trained and they are that good. In the last 20 years the library world has adapted to a revolution that might have swamped lesser professions. They retrain at a rate comparable to physicians. And, as Abram shows, there is a lot more retraining and information revolution left to go.

Web 1.0: transactions. With the web capabilities of 2001 — using pictures, voice, and links — we were conducting four times more conversations than we did in l981. Business collaborators speaking on the phone, while simultaneously switching from website to website to fill in the blanks in their deals, sped up the course of business and research amazingly. E-mail allowed a world of instant posting and immediate response.

Many of us became so good at these transactions that we wondered if these tools would make each person his own librarian. Would librarians become obsolete? Abram replies that this is the same as reading a law book and then deciding to fire your professional tax attorney before an IRS audit. Anyone who calls the reference department of even a small town public library will find greater speed, accuracy, and more quoted sources than provided by any in-house researcher.

At a recent Middlesex County Fair, librarians set up an electronically-connected tent and challenged all comers to “Stump the Librarian.” At the fair’s end, there was only one question they could not accurately answer: how many drops of water are in the world’s oceans?

Further, Google and similar search engines are hiding a dirty little secret that only librarians and a few others know. Searches made on Google and Yahoo! are not entirely driven by popularity. Abram explains that there exists an entire undercurrent of search engine optimizers that push onto the screen websites on which they want you to click.

“Try to seek information on any current political topic,” says Abram, “and Governor Howard Dean’s optimizers make sure that high on the first search page is the Democratic point of view.” Librarians know how to nix the propaganda sites, and tease out unbiased answers.

Even the most experienced Googlers have found the search engine’s limitation. “Search engines are very good at answering who, what, and where questions, but very inadequate at the how and why,” says Abram. If you want to sell your telecommunications software in Mongolia, quick searches can enumerate who might be good trading partners, what are their histories and specialties, and where each is located.

But learning why certain locales are strategic and how one goes about selling to this vastly different culture cannot be found with mouse clicks. Such research demands a librarian who can hone down the 300 volumes on the Amazon.com topic list to a couple of manageable books, journal articles, and reference tools.

Web 2.0: transformation. We are in it now. An estimated 80 percent of Americans under 25 have www.facebook.com accounts. On college campuses, it’s 92 percent. The network of websites comprising Facebook connects individuals with those from the same workplace, religion, or region.

From there, Facebook members, who spend an average of 20 minutes daily onsite, can expand to similar areas, and create circles of friends and mentors. On more performance-directed lines, www.opencroquet.org has established a deeply collaborative, global community dedicated to spreading all opensource software. If any knowledge exists on your topic, your cyber brethren on this site network will pass it along.

“This is social networking on steroids,” says Abram, “and librarians have jumped on board already.” Web 2.0 takes Internet surfers from simple websites to a user-controlled conversational blend of text, graphic visuals, videos, existing media images, and live talk. The traditional classroom lecture goes on, but with discussions between professors and students from across the globe — all in real time.

Abram sees this creation of a virtual world as not a replacement for real life, but rather a parallel life, with a widening of social relationships — online, but very real.

In this new milieu, the librarian becomes not merely a disembodied voice on the phone, but a real person who knows your needs and history. “If you own two companies and your wife brokers real estate out of the home, you don’t go to a strange, new accountant at H & R Block every year. You hire a professional tax accountant who has your situation at his finger tips. So it should be with your information broker — you need an individual librarian who knows what data you need and how fast you need it,” says Abram.

And as we plunge into library 2.0, this is happening.

Web 3.0: life relations. Life’s basics will not change with the advent of the web’s next generation. In about 10 years, when web 3.0 is well established, life will still be that merrily conflicting mix of knowledge and counter-knowledge, opinion and rebuttal, but the human factor will grow ever stronger. Relationships will be forged more immediately, actively, and intensely.

Will this lead to a dwindling of intolerance? Perhaps people will become too busy communicating to maintain old social walls. And perhaps other institutions, like the physical library, will grow ever stronger to maintain human contact.

Abram predicts that libraries will grow in importance in direct relation to an exploding craving for information in our lives. At the same time, the librarian will become an information shark, or at least the information dolphin, who will swiftly and accurately guide us into port.

— Bart Jackson

Health Watch

Who doesn’t have a complaint about the American healthcare system? Access, cost, insurance — there is plenty to inspire griping. But there is a bright spot for anyone living or working in the Princeton area, where several healthcare systems offer a huge range of classes, screenings, and support groups — generally at no cost, or for a small fee.

This month Princeton Healthcare System’s community education menu includes mindful eating, baby care, baby sign language, pediatric heartsaver first aid, prenatal exercise, grandparenting 101, an osteoporosis information session, healthy breakfast advice, balance screenings, car seat safety checks, a breastfeeding support group, pet first aid, caregiver wellbeing advice, diabetes support group, bereavement support group, and more. Full information, and registration, is at www.princtonhcs.org. Here are details on a few of the events:

On Saturday, May 5, at 9 a.m., the healthcare center holds its fourth annual community health fair at the Princeton Fitness & Wellness Center in the Princeton North Shopping Center. There will be free blood pressure, body fat, bone density, cholesterol, glaucoma, glucose, and pulmonary function screenings as well as introductory fitness classes.

On Tuesday, May 8, at 10 a.m., also at the Princeton Fitness and Wellness Center, there is a Family and Friends CPR and First Aid session. Cost: $25.

On Wednesday, May 9, at 11 a.m., at the Hopewell Library on Pennington-Titusville Road, there will be free blood pressure and cholesterol screenings — with results given on the spot.

On Saturday, May 12, at 8 a.m., at the Robbinsville High School, the healthcare center holds a free Head-to-Toe Women’s Expo billed as “a day filled with fun, pampering, and entertainment while learning about good health, food, fashion, finance, home, family, and emotional wellness.” Breakout sessions and demonstrations will take place throughout the day.

On Friday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m., at the Princeton Fitness and Wellness Center, a pet first aid class, designed by the American Safety and Health Institute will teach participants how to give immediate care to an injured or suddenly sick pet until veterinary care is available. Cost: $35.

On Monday, May 21, at 7 p.m., at the Princeton Fitness and Wellness Center, women can learn whether they fall into a group comprised of the 90 percent of all women who are wearing shoes that don’t fit. A podiatrist will be on hand at this free session to offer tips on selecting shoes that actually fit.

Capital Health System also has a full calendar of events for May. It is offering an AARP driver safety program, bone density testing, stroke awareness information, belly dancing, a life insurance workshop, dancekinetics, instruction in first aid, CPR, and AED, vegetarian cuisine, glaucoma awareness, and more. Full information and registration is available at www.capitalhealth.org/events. Here are details on a few of the events:

On Wednesday, May 2, at 5:30 p.m., at Capital Health System in Hamilton, Catherine Fenton, former social secretary to Barbara Bush, speaks on her experiences at the Capital’s Spring Women’s Tea. Also speaking at the free event is Myra Gutin, a professor of communications at Rider University.

On Monday, May 7, and Monday, May 14, at 8 a.m., at Capital Health System in Hamilton, there will be an intensive, two-part program of diabetes treatmant and education. A doctor’s referral is necessary. Call 609-896-5972 to register.

On Monday, May 7, at 5 p.m., at Curves at Quakerbridge, there will be a free holistic health fair featuring massage, therapeutic touch, figure analysis, self-hypnosis, and a yoga class.

On Tuesday, May 22, at 7 p.m., at Capital Health System in Hamilton, a chef from Whole Foods gives a free talk on the benefits of a vegetarian diet — and offers samples.

While Robert Wood Johnson — Hamilton’s May events are not yet set in stone, the healthcare center always has a full calendar of community events. They generally include a review of medications, prostate screenings, a four-week childbirth preparation series, armchair exercise, kidney disease screenings, a laughter workshop, Reiki workshop, spinal screenings, weight loss support, information on cardiac screenings, a “doctor dad” workshop to help fathers learn good home health and safety practices, oral cancer screenings, baby care basics, skin cancer screenings, diabetes support group, effective communication with young adults, infant massage, and more.

Full information and registration is at www.rwjhamilton.org.

Corporate Angels

Korn/Ferry International’s office at 7 Roszel Road raised over $11,400 in the National MS Society, Mid-Jersey Chapter annual MS walk that took place in Belmar on Sunday, April 22.

A small office consisting of about 30 employees, Korn/Ferry’s Princeton branch has now had two colleagues who were forced to retire after contracting multiple sclerosis. This year marked the office’s sixth annual MS Walk to help fight the devastating effects of MS. A total of seven people participated in this year’s MS Walk.

Yardville National Bank has partnered with Junior Achievement of New Jersey to provide financial literacy and economic educational programs to students in central New Jersey. On Wednesday, April 18, as part of a JA In-a-Day program, 20 employee volunteers from YNB went into 10 classrooms at Frederick R. Sayen School in Hamilton, and taught the JA curriculum to about 200 students in grades one through five.

They taught about business, economics and life skills, instilling confidence, and the economic value of a diploma.

JA In-a-Day is a half-day event at the elementary school level that gives community volunteers the opportunity to teach Junior Achievement’s financial literacy and workplace readiness curriculum in a condensed time frame.

JA’s activity-based programs are taught over the course of one school day as opposed to the traditional implementation method over five consecutive weeks. This program is a powerful team-building experience as well as a memorable community service project. The benefit for the school is a free program that meets educational standards, with minimal time taken from the classroom.

For more information on the program, visit http://nj.ja.org.

The Future Business Leaders Council of the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce has announced that it will partner with Isles, a non-profit chamber affiliated organization, to facilitate fundraising efforts for the eco-friendly restoration of a historical industrial building in an effort to revitalize a Hamilton neighborhood.

“It’s truly gratifying that the Isles’ project was selected by the Future Business Leaders Council from so many worthy applications,” said Grace Egan, vice president, resource eevelopment, for Isles. “This fundraising event will aid the start-up of this revitalization project, which upon completion, will be an important resource for the region and a demonstration model of a newly ‘green,’ yet historic building.”

The Future Business Leaders Council will work closely with Isles to plan and execute an event in September with the goal of raising funds and generating awareness for the green project building that highlights Isles’ redevelopment efforts.

This site, at 1 Johnston Avenue in Hamilton, will house the organization’s YouthBuild initiative, which provides a peer-based setting for young adults, ages 16-24, seeking education, training, career counseling, and job and higher education placement. The building will also provide additional administrative offices for Isles and other local nonprofit organizations.

For more information, call 973-222-0305.

Facebook Comments