Much of my past week has been taken up with the launch of the new ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) website. The ILAB website was created, and for most of the last decade, maintained by Rockingstone, a Dutch IT company. Last October at the ILAB Congress in Madrid, Rockingstone resigned as of 1 December 2009, and I was made the Chairman of the ILAB Internet Committee.

This was curious, as I have no technical background. Sometimes (who am I kidding, always) I have to ask Dan where the button is to turn on my computer. Indeed, I think I was made IC Chair, because the rest of the ILAB Committee figured I’d use my influence with Dan Gregory, who has helped to plan and/or design both our website, as well as several iterations of the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America) website. It was either that, or I fell asleep when volunteers were called for.

My committee was charged with finding a new search engine provider, a new webmaster, and a new content editor to fill up the new website with book related articles in order to suck the unwary into our web. Somewhere along the line, mostly through the instance of ILAB Executive Secretary N. Marsh, a whole new website design was incorporated into our mandate.

My excellent committee, chosen for their experience, expertise, and willingness to do a lot of work that I wanted desperately to avoid, examined many proposals and finally recommended Marc Simon of Neteor as our new website designer and webmaster; and Jim Hinck of viaLibri to build a new metasearch for the website, replacing the old database search. Both Marc and Jim are Americans living (at least part of the time, in Jim’s case) in France, which turned out to be reasonably helpful as the two official languages of ILAB are French and English, and the site has to appear in both languages.

Additionally we hired a German bookseller, Barbara Werner, as our website editor. Luckily her English is better than mine. I don’t know how her French is, but no matter, it is still bound to be better than mine. I still retain some high school French, but as I was an adolescent boy at the time, most of what has really stuck with me are curse words and insults, so I generally refrain from using French on the principle of “starting an international incident – bad.” It has worked for me so far.

Over the past few weeks, a small working group consisting of Marc, Jim, Barbara, Nevine, ILAB President Adrian Harrington (often referred to as The Supreme Commander), and myself have been sending emails and phone calls whizzing across the globe, and sure enough on Tuesday morning of the 1st of December the new website and search engine were up and running, and I think, quite nice they are. There are still a few glitches, but it seems they are rapidly being sought out and eradicated.

The website has plenty of content, but not nearly as much as it will shortly, as Barbara Werner has prepared a great deal more, but the technical framework wasn’t in place to get it all up on December 1st. However, I doubt anyone would notice it unless I mentioned it. At any rate, we plan to cram the site with content in the near future. As an extra incentive to visit the site, be aware that some of the latest BTC catalogues are available on the ILAB site as pdf files here.

As of this afternoon the volume of emails from confused booksellers and book collectors about the website has slowed to a trickle, and I have had time to write this blog entry!

A footnote about Matt’s post of last week:

Matt mentioned that my highly organized workspace seemed a tad disheveled. Matt is relatively new here and obviously doesn’t understand the law of physics that states, as any novice bookseller can tell you, that “books abhor a vacuum, and will expand to fill any space, especially a flat space, or even more especially a nice, neat flat space on Matt’s desk.” That might be why he has to clear stuff away from it every morning. You see, I stay here later than he does most evenings.