30 August 2005

Carnival of the Infosciences #4

Summer is ending, school is starting, and, like me, many of you may be wishing to spend these last few dog days sitting around and watching the river flow. But time stops for no one, and neither does the Carnival of the Infosciences, although it may this week be showing a few signs of wear and tear. The rides are still running, though, so step right up, grab yourself something from the concession stand, and enjoy the ride.

This week's carnival is small but meaty. Our first stop takes many of us far afield, or perhaps more accurately, far out to sea. Von Totanes, the Filipino Librarian, weighs in on the great digital divide debate in "Digital Divide: The Other Side." I've noted before that the world is not flat, and I hope we see more international voices in the Carnival to give us an idea of just how varied a world we live in.

Just in time for those of us who are going back to school, Joy Weese Moll of Wanderings of a Student Librarian comes out with some advice on "How to read a journal article".

Joy's advice is so good that it was recommended by Mark and followed up on by Angel. Mark also points us to another just in time for back to school post from Angel, the Gypsy Librarian. "What does Generation Y Want?" is a review of an article from portal: Libraries and the Academy which suggests that what Generation Y needs are just the kind of skills that Joy recommends. (Oh, the synchronicity!) Mark notes "it is one of the few things I have read that takes a pragmatic approach to serving this group versus just wanting to hand over the keys to the asylum to them."

And now for a few added Editor's Picks:

Since I've already stretched the rules of the Carnival a little by posting a day late, I'm going to stretch them just a tiny bit more so I can include "Codex Seriphanianus," by Nichole of nichole's auxiliary storage. It's a fascinating and beautifully illustrated piece about a librarian's worst nightmare: unwittingly buying a stolen book.

I am not a cataloger, but I live in awe of them, and two cataloging blogs this week have items of note. The first, "Lafof zobac (Ĉu vi parolas Dewey? 2.0, with added religious fervor)," comes from Jonathan Furner of the Dewey Blog and picks up on the international theme with a discussion of the Dewey Translators Meeting at IFLA's World Library and Information Congress. One important discussion dealt with the options in the 200s (where, as you may recall, Christianity takes up a bit more than its fair share of numbers in the world of religion).

In "Trackbacks," a post on Catalogablog, David Bigwood considers the possibilities of trackbacks, tagging, and other Internet classification tricks for libraries and library catalogs. The folksonomy vs. the taxonomy seems to be another one of those subjects where people tend to freak out and zealously guard their ground. There will be no tagging of our carefully controlled vocabulary! say the taxonomy people, while the folksonomy folks rant that taxonomies are dead, wooden, lifeless things (rather like taxidermy, which perhaps explains why I often have difficulty keeping the two terms straight). David points out that there's room for both.

Finally, Christine Borne, NexGen Librarian extraordinaire, has reemerged from a dormant period with several thoughtful posts about being a librarian, including this one, "More introspection." I like old people, too.

That's it for this week's carnival. I'll pack up the bags and send them on over to Christina's LIS Rant, the next stop on our virtual tour. Here are the general submission guidelines. And if you've missed any of the previous stops of this extravaganza, check them out:

Carnival of the Infosciences #1
Carnival of the Infosciences #2
Carnival of the Infosciences #3

29 August 2005

updates, carnival and otherwise

Greetings from Iowa City, my hometown. I'm currently sitting downtown on the pedestrian mall, using wireless courtesy of theIowa City Public Library. I took a last minute trip here this weekend and will be headed back today.

Due to the nature of traveling (lots of time spent with friends, not so much time spent online), I've only just now learned that a number of e-mails to me have been bouncing. My apologies.

Due to various crises, I also have a rich full day today, and so--with apologies to Greg if this violates the laws of the carnival--I'm going to extend submissions to 6 pm tonight, and I'll get the carnival up tomorrow morning. So, if you haven't been able to reach me, send a submission of a blog post (yours or one you admire, or both) from last week to lauracrossett [at ] hailmail [dot] net (which should work--and if that bounces, try laurapalooza [at] sbcglobal [dot] net). Of course, if you've written something this week (since 6 pm last night) that you're especially proud of, you should save it for next week's carnival, at Christina's LIS Rant.

Again, my apologies for the technological snafu and the delay. I promise a carnival, due penance, and (special added bonus!) some pictures from my trip when I get back.

22 August 2005

bricks and wireless

There was a little tidbit on NPR's "Morning Edition" this morning:
Real estate company RE/MAX says it will create a Web site listing homes for sale across the country. Some observers say the growing availability of Internet listings will increase competition in the real estate industry and that could lead to lower commissions. [audio of full story]
Realtors, meanwhile, are tripping over themselves to tell you about all the things that a real estate agent can provide that a web site can't. Realtors know about houses before they go on the market; they know the quirks and ins and outs of their terrain; they know how to operate; they know, in short, more information than you will ever find out by surfing the web.

Sound familiar? Try replacing the word "Realtor" with "librarian," make a few other minor adjustments of lingo, and you'll see where I'm going.

The most fascinating thing, though, was that apparently people who look for houses on the web are actually more likely to use Realtors than those who forgo the internet altogether. Is that true when it comes to librarians? I doubt it.

I am not generally taken with the notion that we must hasten to be as much like the market-driven world as possible: I think you lose some of your essence when you try to be too much like a thing you are not. But the library is a fundamentally socialist institution in a society and an economy that are fundamentally hostile toward socialist projects (except, of course, when it comes to government subsidizing of the oil industry and other corporate welfare), and we have to figure out ways to trick the system into supporting us anyway. Wifi in your library is one way to do that--it's pretty cheap to install and run; it makes the people with wireless devices think the library is a happening place and thus, one hopes, makes them more willing to support the library the next time a referendum comes around, thus making it possible for you to buy more books and computers and dedicate more staff to helping out the folks on the other side of the infamous (but in no way imaginary) digital divide.

The library needs to be an information source for those who don't have access to the internet, but there's no reason it shouldn't also be an information source for those who do.

roll up for the mystery tour

The Carnival of the Infosciences #3 is here, hosted by Joy, of Wanderings of a Student Librarian fame! Meredith notes the brilliance of the whole carnival idea:
[I]t highlights bloggers who are writing great stuff and who may not yet be on people’s radar screen (probably because they haven’t been at it too long). Second, it physically brings people to different blogs every week that they might not otherwise visit, also expanding their biblioblog repetoire. Third, it’s a great reader’s digest version of the best material of the week for those of us who don’t have the time to read everything. Finally, it motivates some people to write thoughtful, interesting posts so that they can be submitted for the carnival. What a cool idea!
And, not entirely incidentally, I'll be hosting the Carnival #4. How do you get on board? Check out the original submission guidelines, and then send your submissions to me at laura [at] newrambler [dot] net (incidentally, if you have another e-mail address for me, it will probably work too--most of them lead to the same place eventually) by 6 pm on Sunday. I'll say 6 pm central time, since that's where I live, but if you east coasters don't get to it till 7, I don't imagine it will be a problem. And if you're submitting from outside the continental U.S. (you never know), send it on in by 0000 Greenwich mean time (or coordinated universal time, as one is apparently now supposed to call it).

And might I add that if you've been thinking to yourself, gee, I should start a blog, why not do so now and join the carnival? The blogging community--and the biblioblogosphere in particular--may be one of the few places where more are always welcome--at least, I have yet to hear anyone say, "@#$%!, not another goddam library blogger!" We've got room for all kinds of sideshows here on the virtual carnival grounds, so come join the fun!

21 August 2005

the world is not flat

I hate to break it to you, but, despite recent rumors to the contrary, the world is not flat.

The world is not flat at all: it is filled with dizzying heights that fall off into the deep, with shifting sands and fiery eruptions, with water and wind constantly carving the land into new shapes, and with vast expanses which a great many people perceive to be full of nothing. The world is bumpy, messy, variegated to the extreme, and it is bumpy not only in its physical terrain but also in the lives of its inhabitants, in all the sorts and conditions of humans who live on it.

Recently Celvio Derbi Casal, a library student from Brazil who has a blog, wrote to tell me a little about the public libraries there:
We have a very sad field here!! In my city (Porto Alegre, you may know because the World Social Forum was made here 3 times) and its a big city, the capital of the state, the Municipal Public Library has no computers, even for the staff, and the catolog is a card catalog (the old 7.5 x 12.5 cards!). There's no money for acquisitions, and there's only one librarian in charge. You can project this picture to the small towns, where there are no libraries sometimes.

So when I read the US blogs about virtual reference or online resources for public libraries, I live a wonderfull but distant dream, and wonder about when our libraries will pass to this condition.
We have wonderfull libraries here too, and very good eletronic information resources, but they are developed and shared only in the college, academic and specialized libraries. Be a public or school librarian here sometimes is an adventure like be an archaeologist, crossing tons of old stuff, searching for something with value.
Contrast that with some of the statistics on computers and the internet in US libraries, as reported at BlogJunction (see the full study from Florida State University)
Sounds good--but that's still not the full story:
I don't think of the digital divide as a tired old cliche, but I also don't think of it as a single thing. There is not one digital divide, there are many--as many divides as there are lines on a contour map of our bumpy, crazy world. People come into the library where I work every day to use our computers because they do not have computers (or internet connections) of their own at home. For these people, the divide is not ability but access. But othepeoplele come in each day who do not know how to use computers at all, who, if we were to plop them down in front of one of our machines, would not even know where to begin. And many people, of course, never come in to the library at all. Some of them, like many of the undergraduates I used to teach at the University of Iowa, have all the access to technology they could want but are remarkably lacking when it comes to interpreting and evaluating the information they find. Others are among the 21-23% of American adults who cannot read well enough to fill out a job application or read a picture book to their kids.

All of those people need things, often very different things. Some need computers; some need to learn how to use computers; some need help learning to interpret the things they find; most need some combination of all these things. If you stay in your own contour of the map and spend your time talking to other people who live at that same level, it may well appear to you that the world is flat, but it's just not true.

When I was in junior high, I was taught that the United States was the world's largest oil producer but also the world's biggest oil importer and that the Soviet Union was the world's biggest wheat producer but also the world's biggest wheat importer. The world situation has changed since then, but the insane way in which its resources are distributed has not. The people with the greatest access to technology are also those who constantly seek more of it and who benefit most from many of the decisions that get made about technology. (A municipal wireless system is kind of neat, but it doesn't do you a damned bit of good if you don't have a wireless device, and I haven't noticed Philadelphia running around handing out laptops to the poor). Libraries are one of the few places in the world where you can hope to have some flattening effect, but you can only do that if you are fully aware of thheightshs and the depths that surround you, and of all the gradations in between.

20 August 2005

survey madness

Meredith has put up her survey of the biblioblogosphere, which I just took. A number of people have commented on it already; while I would have probably asked some slightly different questions and asked some questions slightly differently, since I did not go to the work of putting the survey together, I am not going to complain. Anyway, if you are in any way a library person and you have a blog, head on over and fill it out. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes, and the more respondents it gets the more interesting the results will be.

After that, I was on a roll, so I tried taking the Blogger survey that they've been advertising on the page you get when you log in to post to your blog, but sadly, it was closed. Ah well.

Now that I'm all in a surveying mood, I'm thinking about following through on my idea of a survey of blogger linking habits, which would consider questions such as
Do you link chiefly to other LIS blogs, to other non-LIS blogs, to outside news sources, to studies? And (this is the hard part) why do you link? To back up your argument? To position your argument? Because you admire the post you’re linking to? Because you’re trying to get your blog noticed? Do you link more to short, “hey look at this neat thing!” type posts or more to longer, more reflective ones?
I have never designed a survey at all (except for this very short survey that I did many years ago), so I'll have to give it some thought, but stay tuned. . . .

19 August 2005

better late than never: the Carnival's next stops

That last post was mostly by way of whining and partly by way of explaining the paucity of posts of late, or at least of posts containing much in the way of original content.

One of the things that happens when people say incredibly nice things about your writing (thanks, Meredith, Greg, Mark, and my mom's friends) is that on the one hand you think, Dude, I'm a rock star! and on the other hand you think, Cripes, I'm never going to be able to write anything again because it's not going to live up to people's expectations. That's my other excuse for not writing much recently.

I have no excuse, however, for not having pointed you to the Carnival of the Infosciences #2, where you can read all kinds of great stuff from the biblioblogosphere. And I have no excuse for not pointing out that the Carnival will be moving over to Wanderings of a Student Librarian next week. You've still got till Sunday at 6 pm to get your submissions [here are the guidelines] in to Joy [write her at joy [at] mollprojects [dot] com], who has some great suggested topics, in case you're looking for one. And don't be afraid to jump on board--as Mark says, it is a friendly crowd here.


Wash, rinse, repeat--except for the car accident. I'm hoping I don't repeat that.

16 August 2005

worst practices for services to teens

Hand out felony charges for improper computer use. [via The NewStandard]

15 August 2005

LIS student bloggers

I'm a bit belated in posting this, but Joy, from Wanderings of a Student Librarian, has started a list of library student bloggers, plus a few recent graduates, plus a couple of additions. I'm proud to be among their number--and if you are among their number and aren't on the list, please let her know at joy [at] mollprojects [dot] com.

an open source search engine?

Back in May, Google announced that it would be adding a "credibility" factor to the algorithm that ranks its Google News results. "Credibility" would be measured by various factors, including the size of the news outlet's staff and how long it had existed. As Brian Dominick reported on The NewStandard staff blog, such a system would be devastating for independent and alternative news sources. That got a some people thinking that what the world needed now was an open source alternative to Google. They've now officially launched the project, dubbed Openzuka.

If you care about alternative and independent voices having a fair shot in this world (and as a librarian, you certainly should), check this out. And if you're at all technologically inclined, consider lending a hand--and if you know anyone else who would be interested, please pass it on!

Are you afraid of the world's major internet search resources under a single gatekeeper, or by a small number of gatekeepers?

Are you nonetheless fascinated by the speed, power, and accuracy of current search engines?

Are you intrigued by the prospects of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people around the world contributing their expertise to build a distributed, open-source search engine, without a single gatekeeper, with the speed, power and accuracy of current search engines?

Then get involved in the Openzuka project.

Openzuka is an effort to build an open-source internet search engine--distributed architecture, fully transparent, open source, on a widespread scale with the speed and effectiveness of current commercial search engines like Google and Yahoo.

And we need your help to help us design and build it.

We imagine that the effort will require software developers, hardware specialists, theoreticians, information science experts, and anyone interested in knowledge exchange more generally. But we'll need lots of contributions from a host of different fields.

If you wish to learn more about the project, and can contribute your expertise, ideas, suggestions, please join our online discussions:



--The Openzuka Team

14 August 2005

the anxiety of influence

Of all the jobs I do at the library, the most thrilling and frightening by far are buying and weeding books. I am in charge of all the YA books, which live (except for the nonfiction, which, when it is no longer new, gets interfiled with adult nonfiction) in two long shelves tucked in the back corner of the adult room. They are so hidden that often when I take people to find a book back there, they are surprised to learn that there is a YA section.

Because we don't place a book order in August, I have now had over a month to fiddle with my September order. It is rare that a day goes by that I don't take something out, only to put it back in the next day. I can spend a good deal of time worrying about the books, worrying about what kind of service I can possibly be providing to our patrons if I neglect one of them in favor of another, wondering what influence my choices will have on the people who rely on the library. For instance, the other day, courtesy of A Wandering Eyre, I happened upon this piece on the censoring of YA books from Bookslut, which praises Perfect, a novel by Natasha Friend. It was published last year and has been the subject of some controversy, chiefly, it seems, because it is about a girl who has bulimia, and it is quite graphic in its descriptions of how to become bulimic. Of the eight libraries in our system, five own it, but my library is not among them.
Now, I am all for the stocking of banned books, particularly when (as is the case with this one) they have gotten good reviews and they seem to be popular (three of the five copies in the system are out right now, and one was only just returned). I add this book to my order every few days, and then periodically I take it out, not because of the content (although I will admit that I am squeamish about eating disorders) but because, usually, there's a newer book that I want to buy instead.

After all, the book is available in our system, I tell myself. But it's not available in our library, says the other little voice in my head, and the other libraries aren't anywhere near ours. If kids don't see it here, they're not likely to find it. But they can find it through the catalog. How the hell are they going to know to look for it in the catalog? It's not like there are lot of high quality bookstores in Franklin Park, IL (yes, that third one you see on the list is an adult bookstore--actually, there's another adult bookstore that doesn't show up here that's even closer). But I have to make choices, and if I buy this, I can't buy a new book that might be equally important!

Well. You see how that goes.

The other day, in another fit of anxiety, I decided to do a little quasi-scientific experiment with my book order. I've been reading lately about the paucity of books (especially children's and young adult books) that appeal to males and how this could be part of the reason that guys don't read. I went through my order and classified each book, to the best of my ability, as appealing more to females, more to males, or equally to both. The results (excluding half a dozen graphic novels, which were requested by a guy but which I really don't know where to place):
Oh dear. (And that, of course, provides another argument for not buying Perfect, which is likely to appeal only to girls).

But if the process of buying books is sometimes fraught, it pales in comparison to the process of weeding them. There are moments when weeding is satisfying. Clearing out beaten up paperbacks by R.L. Stine is a fine feeling. But more often than not, weeding is difficult, frustrating, and sometimes painful. As Rick Roche recently wrote (on both buying and weeding), "I have to accept the reality that I can not perfectly predict which books will be well read and buy the potentially hot books and shift other books to make a little more room." I hate that.

I also hate it because I was a reader of obscure books when I was a child. At my elementary school, which was filled with the offspring of doctors, lawyers, and professors, there were lengthy waiting lists for every new book that came it. Because I did not want to wait three months to read a book, and because I didn't know how to get on the waiting list anyway and was too shy to ask, I prowled the stacks to find the oldest, most abandoned books I could. My ideal was to find a book that hadn't been checked out since before I was born. I read many wonderful books this way--Octagon Magic by Andre Norton and Quest in the Desert by Roy Chapman Andrews and many more. In high school, I found The Lady's not For Burning, which had not been checked out since 1972. I checked it out nearly once a trimester for the remainder of my time there; recently, I checked the catalog to see if it was still there, and wrote to the librarian, who confirmed said that yes, the last checkouts dated from the early '90s--my last few years in high school. (Christopher Fry, the author, died only recently. I hadn't realized he was still alive. I would have written him a letter--the people who help get you through high school deserve to be thanked). Every time I get rid of a book, I can't help but wonder if the book I'm tossing is one of these, if it's a book that's meant to be found by someone at this very library, if it's somehow going to save even a small portion of a person's life, and if I am interfering in God's great plan. This is the sort of thing that can keep you up at night.

The last best word on the subject of keeping odd (albeit, in this case, well-circulating) books in libraries, though, comes from Annie Dillard, in An American Childhood. She writes about growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s and visiting the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh every week and what she learned from borrowing books there:
The Field Book of Ponds and Streams was a shocker from beginning to end. The greatest shock came at the end. . . . When I checked out The Field Book of Ponds and Streams for the second time, I noticed the book's card. It was almost full. There were numbers on both sides. My hearty author and I were not alone in the world, after all. With us, and sharing our enthusiasm for dragonfly larvae and single-celled plants, were, apparently, many Negro adults.
Who were these people? Had they, in Pittsburgh's Homewood section, found ponds? Had they found streams? At home, I read the book again; I studied the drawings; I reread Chapter 3; then I settled in to study the due-date slip. People read this book in every season. Seven or eight people were reading this book every year, even during the war. . . . The people of Homewood, some of whom lived in visible poverty, on crowded streets among burned-out houses--they dreamed of ponds and streams.
I miss the days when you could see the date stamps on your library book. I learned a great deal from them. When I stand now in the aisle, computer printout of circ records in hand, trying to decide what goes and what stays, I can only hope that I am doing justice to the worlds that reside on the shelves. The library is a growing organism, but that means, unless you have unlimited amounts of space, that it is also a dying one.

13 August 2005

film & poverty: things not normally combined

Looking for something to watch? Check out this fascinating list of films on poverty, compiled "by Steve Fesenmaier with additions from the field" for SRRT's Homelessness, Hunger and Poverty Task Force. [thanks to HHPTF's John Gehner for pointing this out on LISnews.com].

12 August 2005

I win!

My post "The Medium is Not the Message" over on my other blog won "Best Overall" in the EFF Blog-a-thon. You can read the many other fine posts here or here. I'm deeply honored--and humbled--by this. There are so many people out there working at the ground level to bridge the digital divide, rescue and preserve knowledge, fight restrictive DRM, and on and on. I am but a midget amongst giants.

If you're not familiar with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, go check them out. Along with ALA, they are responsible for the victory over the broadcast flag back in May. They do a lot of good work and a lot of good for libraries, and even if you're a bricks and mortar fanatic, you have to admit that the world is becoming increasingly digitized. As with any new frontier, many people have an interesting in staking out a claim for themselves. If you care about keeping the digital commons common, you should care about EFF.

Thanks to them again, and thanks to librarian.net for the coverage (and, for that matter, for covering digital rights and libraries in general).

09 August 2005

come one, come all!

The Carnival of the Infosciences is here! Step right up and enjoy this week's fine selection of readings from the biblioblogosphere, hosted by Greg Schwartz.

05 August 2005

libraries meet MTV

Jessamyn had a great idea the other day--a show called Pimp Your Library:
Pimp My Library would take some ratty old library with an outdated web site, half-busted computers, no good YA room and terrible signage and trick it out to a level suitable for a modern-day information crossroads. Librarians and other staff would be forced to take the day off under the guide of professional development and would be returned to a sparkling new ergonomic and fashionable workplace with accessible standards-compliant web site. We’d still call the library. It can be done. Maybe we’d need to call the show something else though.
And then tonight's episode of This American Life had a story about the rock band The High Strung and their summer library tour in Michigan.* (Remember those photos Michael Stephens posted the other day?)

Are you ready to rock?

03 August 2005

what for and for what?

My mother, Judith Crossett, is a geriatric psychiatrist (or, as we usually put it, she treats old crazy people). She works at the University of Iowa, where she treats patients and also teaches in the medical school. A few weeks ago she was telling me about the first thing she teaches any medical student or resident working with her.
"When someone asks you for a competency test, the first thing you ask them is competency for what?

"Do they mean is this person competent to choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Do they mean competent to drive a car? Do they mean competent to make decisions about being committed to the hospital? These are all very different things, and there is no universal competency test for them."
How does this relate to libraries, you ask? Well, it struck me a little while ago, while reading yet another article bemoaning Wikipedia/Google/the Internet as the end of the world, that for what is exactly the question we need to ask when we're talking about sources of information. The answer to "Is Wikipedia a good source of information?" is not "Yes" or "No"--it's "A good source of information for what?"

If you're looking for information on podcasting, you're not likely to find a better resource online or in print (where you'll hardly find anything, except perhaps in the newspaper) than the Wikipedia entry. If you want to know more about DRM, Wikipedia can be an interesting, though sometimes controversial (check out the discussion) source of information. If you're looking for an analysis of gender roles in A Winter's Tale, it might not be so helpful.

Let's consider the movies. What's a good source of information on the movies? Well, if I want to know what movies are playing near me, I check out the listings on My Yahoo!. If I want to know who was in a certain movie, I look at imdb.com. If I want to know what kinds of reviews a movie was getting when it came out, I head for the subscription databases. And if I want to know about auteur theory, I hit the stacks. All of these are good sources of information for specific purposes.

Another way of looking at this business of "good sources of information" is to think about what Victor Navasky, editor of The Nation and author of a great new book called A Matter of Opinion, calls the "ideology of the center":
If The Nation has the ideology of the liberal left and National Review has the ideology of the conservative right, then The New York Times, The Washington Post, the newsweeklies, and the networks have the ideology of the center, and it is part of the ideology of the center to deny that it has an ideology.
Navasky also quotes the late, great journalist Jack Newfield:
Among these unspoken, but organic, values are belief in welfare capitalism, God, the West, Puritanism, the Law, the family, property, the two-party system, and perhaps most crucially, the notion that violence is only defensible when employed by the State. I can't think of any White House correspondent, of network television analyst, who doesn't share these values. And who at the same time, who doesn't insist that he is totally objective.
We tend to think of encyclopedias--"real" encyclopedias, those heavy tomes with the gold leaf edges, as good, objective sources of information. But consider a few selections from a list by A.J. Jacobs (who spent a year reading the Britannica and wrote a book about it called The Know-It-All), on how to get into the Encycopaedia Britannica:
1. Get beheaded. This is perhaps the surest path to getting written up. The Britannica loves nothing more than a person -- preferably a noble one -- who has had his or her neck chopped in two. One of my favorite games involves reading a biographicalsquibb that begins "French revolutionary" and then guessing how many years it takes before he finds himself under the guillotine.

4. Become a botanist. Scandinavian ones seem particularly popular. Also, the study of mosses and peat deposits shouldn't be underestimated.

5. Get yourself involved in commedia dell'arte. The Britannica's obsession with the Italian 18th-century comedies borders on the unhealthy. The EB has great enthusiasm for commedia dell'arte actors, whether they happened to play the pretentious but cowardly soldier Capitano, the saucy maid Columbine, or the madcap acrobat Zanni.

8. Design a font. Apparently, coming up with a new typeface is a more impressive feat than I had previously thought. The Britannica especially likes controversial typefaces that are initially dismissed haughtily, only to be revived later and recognized as brilliant, like Baskerville, designed by font hero John Baskerville.
I mean no disrespect to the dead, botanists, Italian comedy, or fonts, but you have to admit, their selection criteria can be a little bit nutty--one might even say subjective--at times.

Lastly (yes, this post will come to an end soon), how could I not give some space to Google and everyone's favorite anti-Google (and blog) ranter, ALA President Michael Gorman? One of Gorman's favorite anti-Google tropes has to do with his stand against atomized information. I would tend to agree with him that Google Print is not going to be the best way to read The Education of Henry Adams (although, I must confess, I have not read it in any way myself). But imagine how useful atomized information might have been to my mother (remember her?), back when she was getting her PhD in English (we follow odd career trajectories in my family):

She was doing an edition of Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi. That meant she had to go through every edition she could find of the book (which does not survive in manuscript) and try to decide whether Twain wanted to write "schoolhouse," "school-house," or "school house." Or whether he meant to describe the blackness of the night or the darkness of the night. Or--well, you get the idea. In the 1970s, this meant sitting around with books and microfilm readers and undergraduate research assistants. One person read aloud; the others followed along in different editions, looking for differences. Now just imagine that all those editions were scanned and searchable. Presto! Results!

There's no such thing as a "good source of information" or a "good technology"--there are only sources of information and technologies that are good for certain things.

What? You're still reading? Then check out a few of the many posts that got me thinking about this topic over the past few months:
Thanks to them--and to all the library bloggers out there--who've gotten me thinking.

02 August 2005

blog-a-thon! (more shameless promotion)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been having a blog-a-thon for the past couple weeks to celebrate their 15th anniversary and their work on behalf of bloggers.

What does all this have to do with libraries? Well, a few months back, the American Library Association and EFF (among others) successfully challenged the FCC's broadcast flag mandate. (Essentially, the broadcast flag was a form of digital rights management (DRM) that would have meant that you could only play broadcast-flag- equipped media on approved players [sounds to me a bit like a Coca-Cola licensing agreement, wherein beverages can only be dispensed in approved cups]. For some idea of what it's like to deal with DRM, check out The Shifted Librarian's travails.)

EFF has been at the forefront of most, if not all, of the battles for free speech online and for civil liberties in general in the digital world. If you read at all in the biblioblogosphere (aka library blogland), you'll see them again.

In any case, I wrote up an entry of my own for the Blog-a-thon. If you're interested, you can read it over at my other blog.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Creative Commons License