Opening session: foreword.

Valentina Comba
Biblioteca Centralizzata di Medicina e Chirurgia
Corso A.M. Dogliotti, 14
I-10126 Torino

When we discussed and wrote the text to introduce this conference in the autumn 1999 we would not imagine how fast and can we say that? easily the prediction of a deeply interwined distant and face-to-face communication between our users and us would become a reality.

Therefore what we wrote has helped everybody who is converging in this workshop (Welcome to everybody !) to follow the track, to stay tuned on what is changing in our work and be ready to come here and share the experience.

We are very proud of this workshop. We can dare think that to be here all together is already a success.

Is is a success for a number of reasons I will try to say here:

- we wished to stress that in the age of the "information supermarket/shopping center" the role of the librarian, that is in fact the role of an information manager is much more crucial, central, really needed. This role, despite the invisibility of the information professional (like many other "cultural intermediaries") has to adapt to the new environment. The first session of tomorrow will give us answers and let us understand which new opportunities we have

- we wished to tell ourselves that we are fully aware of the new opportunities that the web resources management is offering to us in order to keep in touch with our users: the tomorrow afternoon session will in fact show how better and how faster we can learn to understand our users behaviors through a careful monitoring of the digital resources

- we wished to understand how we are able now to use distant learning technologies, knowledge based systems stay nearer our users and help them (and this is the paradox we were speaking about in the foreword !): and we got the final session of the workshop about this subject, open to many contributions of non librarians.

What we are going to do in these days, is to work together, once again, like the worldwide community of the health sciences librarians is able to do.

We are not just delivering papers, discussing posters, listening to speeches. We are not just exchanging information, which is getting easier and easier with e-mail, discussion lists, forums and comments of a electronic journals. Just to communicate we would not come here; or, we would come here just for holiday and not to stay in a conference room while outside the sun is shining, the swimming pool is awaiting for us, the beach and the sea are welcoming us with their warm beauty and colours.

We have by now the wonderful opportunity to meet each other and to understand all the signs, all the hidden messages, all the deep meanings and to take advantage of this instant understanding. In the meeting we have had in the past, before Internet, we were not aware of the magnitude of the value of what was happening: it was normal, I go to a conference, I meet friends and colleagues, I learn, I deliver a paper.

Now we are able to understand that a conference is MORE. We discover instantly talking with a colleague, asking a question after a paper presentation, discussing with the author of a poster what we would need hundreds of written e-mail, hours of web pages searching and reading. This is the difference between distant and face-to-face communication.

We are already able to use both ways of communicating. Are we aware of this enormous improvement ?

We can try to understand if we are conscious of that, in any moment. We shall try to think to this, by now.

Let me introduce Professor Silvio Henin, our Keynote Speaker.

I met Silvio in a conference held in 1983 at the Roche Pharmaceutical Industry in Milan; that Conference, and the high professional quality of many Italian pharmaceutical information officers led to the foundation of the GIDIF, RBM the year after in Abano. For many years I have been meeting Silvio and other colleagues as member of the Association Board, and the meetings were hosted in the Roche premises, very often in the Silvio's office itself (for me, coming from Torino, this location was the best: just three underground stops from the railway station !!).

Along the years I learnt to know Silvio, to admire his very deep knowledge of computer and information science, which is indeed very rare in Italy ! (as Italian librarians we meet everyday computer people completely ignorant about subject headings and authority files; but Silvio isn't !).

I am also particularly grateful to Silvio as he accepted to come to Torino to held a conference about the future of medical libraries (and medical librarians) for the inauguration of the new "biological" branch of the Central Medical Library. 

Today, he is going to deliver an essay about the History of Computing.

We are able to learn from the history, from the exchange of our experience. So we get able to shape our future!