Main | December 2003 »

November 25, 2003

Turkey and floats and 'The Twilight Zone'

I'm going down to Southern California to see friends and family this holiday weekend. No internet access (except for maybe a visit to the Apple Store in the Fairfax District) until Sunday evening.

I wish everyone a very nice Thanksgiving (and for any foreign readers ... have a good rest of the week)!

(P.S. -- In case you're wondering what Rod Serling has to do with Thanksgiving, one of the local stations in L.A. had a tradition of airing TZ marathons on Thanksgiving before the Sci-Fi channel bought the rights. The first time I saw the "To Serve Man" episode was on Thanksgiving, 1983 ... freaked me out ...)

Notches on the belt

I have received a milestone of sorts ... on a couple of technicalities, but nevertheless, I feel rather pleased.

My fourth piece of writing (second co-authored) has been accepted for publication. All before graduation.

There are technicalities involved because:

a. I don't know if one of the pieces will be published before graduation (Spring '04 -- crossed fingers)
b. One essay is being published in an SLA division newsletter. It's a big division, but it's not a mainstream publication (or even an e-journal).

I don't know if having these on my resume makes me more employable in my preferred discipline. But it does feel good.

And by the way: the topic of the latest essay is why I (and my co-author) have issue with calling library users/patrons "customers". Our attempted argument is that such language further erodes the sense that libraries are part of our commons -- a place where users/patrons have rights, privileges and obligations that go beyond that of consumers. My co-author did a great job.

And it looks like I could have a long future of yelling at kids to getting off my lawn ahead of me ...

November 22, 2003

A shot across the bow of LIS schools

A statement by Michael Gorman in the December 2003 ALASocial Responsibility Round Table Newsletter:

"The real heroes of the digital revolution in higher education are librarians; they are the people who have seen the farthest, done the most, accepted the hardest challenges, and demonstrated most clearly the benefits of digital information. In the process, they have turned their own field upside down and have revolutionized their own professional training. It is a testimony to their success that we take their achievement for granted."
Edward L. Ayers and Charles M. Grisham. Why IT has not paid off as we hoped (yet). Educause review. November/December 2003, p.43.

Professors Ayers and Grisham are quite correct about the achievements of academic (and other) librarians in dealing with the now ubiquitous computer. Their praise is quite justified, as is their unspoken rebuke to the rest of academia. It seems to me that they are quite wrong about the impact on library education.

(Earlier in the article they speak with wonder about how no-one would have predicted the death of the card catalogue ten years ago�oh, really?�so they are benevolent toward, if not especially well-informed about, our profession.) Our �professional training� has not been revolutionized; it has just drifted further and further from the practice of librarianship in libraries. Students graduate from the successors to library schools without a basic education in the core skills that define an effective librarian�reference work, cataloguing, library instruction, collection development, etc.�and without a grounding in the basic values of our profession�service, intellectual freedom, stewardship, literacy, etc.

This is a crisis that is teetering on the edge of catastrophe and it comes at a particularly bad time. Demography is our enemy. Librarians with command of basic skills and imbued with our values and a social conscience are retiring in unprecedented numbers. Who is to replace them? How will those people be educated in out core skills and values when many successors to library schools are indifferent to, or even contemptuous of, those skills and values? Even more importantly, how can we recruit potential librarians who reflect the demographics of today�s multicultural diverse America? I cannot pretend to have all the answers to these questions but they must be addressed and the structure of education for librarianship must be changed if our profession is to survive and thrive.

Michael Gorman
California State University, Fresno

For some people (at least on NEWLIB-L), them's fightin' words. I can't say whether I agree with it or not, but I do hope it gets wider distribution.

November 20, 2003

Cascading CIPA

A rant about an Ohio bill to require filtering and other restrictions to material by minors ... including requiring signed parental consent to check out 'R' movies.

If I remember correctly from the Internet Filtering seminar I took last year, restricting access to library materials based on an outside rating system don't tend to hold up in court. The MPAA film ratings board may hold a lot of power within Hollywood, and a lot of influence outside of it, but it's just another volunteer group with no legal standing. It's the same as using the recommendations of the Catholic League to restrict access to material. Henry Reichman, in his book, Censorship and Selection: Issues and Answers to Schools (page 32), refers to such actions in regards to public schools as the "transfer [of] authority over a section of the curriculum to a private agency." Since libraries, like schools, are government entities, the same principle applies.

In theory, at least. I'll keep my fingers crossed for Ohio librarians

The Glamourous Life (apologies to Sheila E)

Despite the best efforts of Steven Cohen and others to keep track of the e'er-increasing tide of library-related weblogs, there are innumerable blogs that I have not heard of, will never know of, and may only read once or twice to forget all about that. Thus, I don't claim to know the prevailing characteristics of library bloggers and I have a couple of questions:

1) are there many blogs by library support staff?
2) are there many blogs from the technical services perspective, outside of technology/systems librarians?

If you the reader know of any, please leave a comment ...

I work in Acquisitions for Stanford University Libraries. Stanford is a pretty fun place (despite the lack of an arcade on campus). And SUL is involved with some pretty interesting projects, among them:

LOCKSS (an e-journal repository)
The digitization of the official archives of GATT/WTO
High Wire Press (an STM "network publishing"/e-publishing project)

I don't work with any of that. I don't work with the public. I don't work in the same building as the public-services staff.

Right now (and this will change in the very near future), I order and claim materials, check the serials, send things off for receiving and cataloging, and handle the supposedly non-heavy lifting functions of maintaining the MARC records. Right now (and this too will change in the very near future), I do all this for the sake of the international Government Documents collection.

Unless something goes wrong or I make a mistake, I'm completely invisible to the users and largely invisible to the majority of the staff.
It doesn't matter how good I am at researching material because no one sees it and the questions I try to answer aren't all that interesting.
Attempting to RefGrunt my work would put everyone to sleep or risk libelling vendors and other business partners of my employer.
I have no desire to frag my colleagues, even if some are a good deal stranger than what I'm comfortable with, or to indulge in the stereotype that tech services is where you stick all the freaks who don't belong in front of the public.

In theory, this should mean that I have nothing to blog about ... but I must reject that. As a storyteller and a writer, I have many areas of improvement, so the idea of writing about issues and events that I know aren't inherently interesting (even to me) is really daunting. I want to be popular and read and blogrolled and have all sorts of Trackbacks leading back to my journal. Yet, I think there's something to be said about what happens in the back rooms of libraries that impacts (and is impacted by) librarianship, even if it (further) torpedoes my attempt to find an audience for this weblog. I know I'm not the best person to do this, and I don't think I'm the only person to try (hence the queries at the top of this entry). But I will try.

November 19, 2003

CLA Intellectual Freedom weblog

Karen Schneider announced a new weblog, Cal Freedom, "An informal, unofficial blog from the California Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee".

There's already rich content, with posts on the realities of Internet filtering/CIPA and the USA PATRIOT Act presentation from the 2003 CLA Conference.

And to top it all off, Karen has a "No Brainer" explanation of RSS.

All I can do is bask in the reflected glow of knowing that she's an adjunct at my school. Unfortunately, I've never taken her for the class (nor will I get the chance).

November 18, 2003

Open Letter to American Libraries

I did send this via email to AL, but I figure I might as well include it here:

Dear Editor,

Thank you very much for the feature articles on DVDs and videocassettes as
collection assets in libraries. All of the articles and columns dealing
with the subject were well-written and thoughtful. In fact, my major
complaint is that the November issue should have been larger in order to
deal with quetions/practices of video and DVD collections beyond the
public-services angles of all of the pieces.

Off the top of my head, such issues include:
* the acquisition and technical processing of DVDs and videotapes
* archival and preservation aspects, including migration from analog
cassettes to digital formats
* legal issues, especially with DVDs (which are theoretically covered
under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
* use in library programming
* post-MLS programs in archival moving images (such as the programs at

Thank you, though, for whetting my appetite.


(blah blah blah fishcakes, as they say at a certain television criticism site ...)

If the letter sounds obsequious, it's because I was overcompensating: I was actually rather irritated about how much potential content was left out. I realize that it would not be an easy thing to scrap, say, the news or letters section or add 5-10 unscheduled pages, but it seems like the articles just scratched the surface (or to truly belabour the metaphor, never got below the subcutaneous layer).

I suppose that when I saw the cover, I was expecting a 'big picture' overview ... the picture wasn't as big as I thought it could or should be. A shame, that. However, it's probably just the frustrated film preservationist within me.

November 15, 2003

Because Dan Gillmor told me so ...

Thus I'm linking to this interview with a co-founder of the Public Library of Science (PLoS), Harold Varmus.

If you're wondering what's the fuss about, Walt Crawford has the 411 on open/scholarly access (as far as I'm concerned).

Raising the (Broadcast) Flag

I'm underdecided as to whether to create "Legislation" or "Media" categories, but for now, this will do.

As reported earlier this month, the FCC issued an order earlier this month, mandating the Broadcast Flag for use in digital television/HDTV.

At first glance, the Broadcast Flag seems to have as much to do with libraries as Napster does.

This comment to the FCC -- submitted jointly by the American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, the Medical Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association -- does a good job of illustrating why it does matter for libraries.

If I can be trusted to summarize: the Broadcast Flag is a layer of government-enforced DRM that has the (very likely) potential to seriously erode the already precarious status of fair use as it extends to digital content, among other concerns about innovation, control and access to such content. Forgive the gross oversimplification. Less gross and less simplified is Edward Felten's take on it. ALA has a neat little description and update.

November 14, 2003

In the Comment box of San Jose's Joint Library ...

I'm enjoying the new SJPL/SJSU joint library (named for Dr. Martin Luther King). I have some reservations about it, but this post is not about those.

This post is about the little things that the library administration can do to make my library experience a little bit better:

1) The chairs suck royally. I lose feeling in the back of my legs after about 3 hours . I see half of the people with laptops hunched over uncomfortably, and I'm one of the hunchers. It's hard to sit against the back of a chair, have a book open on the side and type with both hands at the same time. I blame the chair. At a career panel I attended at the library recently, one of the panelists who worked here said, "I won't keep you long because I know these chairs aren't comfortable ... and the public librarians didn't buy them!" Oh, gracious, please tell me that the university librarians would know better after years of observation ...

2) There are group tables with ethernet jacks and cables that have pink stickers indicating that the jacks are specifically for SJSU laptops that students can borrow, and no other computers can use those jacks for Internet connections. There are student carrels with ethernet jacks and cables for people who bring their own laptop. And then there are group tables with ethernet jacks (no cables) and no sticker -- those aren't connected. Maybe a little orange sticker ("Ethernet not available here") would be helpful to those of us who don't want to bother the information desk with our petty little connectivity problems.

3) Lockers! Don't ask me where to put them, I don't know. But lockers would be so cool. If I were working on a library science paper that required older and current periodical and monographic sources, I would have to visit the basement (Bound Periodicals), the 4th Floor (Current Periodicals) and the 8th Floor (P-Z Monographs, LC class). And I'd be lugging around my backpack, my laptop, my wool coat and scarf (hey, it's rainy and chilly and half the people I know are sick), and my bottle of agua, PLUS any resources I decide to lug with me. Then, I decide to go to lunch and visit my advisor across campus for a while, then come back to finish out the day, which means I have to take everything with me, even though I'm going to be back in an hour or so.

No no no no no no no no no. Please no.

I know there are issues of space and liability and maintenance and vending and not having someone kick the structural integrity out of a poor, defenseless locker. But really, someone should look into it. In my whirlwind self-inflicted tour of NYPL's Main on 42nd, I didn't see lockers. But I know for a fact that LAPL's Central has lockers, and they are wonderful, wonderful things!

These are just little conveniences. Take them as you will.

November 13, 2003

Librarians and Community Values

Courtesy of The Curmudgeony Librarian:

A Librarian at Every Table

"Librarians have an important role to play in building community in neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, states and the nation. People have great faith in libraries as fair and trusted institutions and in librarians as the honest and diligent keepers and disseminators of the human record.

There are many demands on librarians today to integrate new technologies in service of a digital future. Sometimes we feel that these demands pull us from the traditional values that inform our daily work. This website is a resource to demonstrate the value of librarianship in the community building movement."

(Comment: Backed by Kathleen de la Pena McCook. Intriguing. I should probably wait until I finish spring semester because I want to delve sinto this. I also need to join the Progressive Librarians Guild ... )

November 11, 2003

Catching up on the Internet Librarian

Last week, I went to the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey. It was eye-opening in a lot of ways. And I couldn't do justice to all of the content ...

These blogs can:

Library Stuff
Tame the Web
Free Range Librarian
The Shifted Librarian

A couple of choice ... paraphrases from IL:

Stephen Abram's keynote on online trends: We cannot teach Boolean! We need to realize this and move on ... in this hotel, there are electric eyes in the restrooms of this hotel because we cannot teach well-educated people to flush!

Barbara Quint's endnote on the life of a searcher: If we need to let go of the "L" word in order to realize our worth and potential, so be it.

Yes, the dreaded "L-word" argument made itself known. No one in the audience flinched, though, not even the public librarians ...

I have issues with the argument. Frankly, I'm sick of it. I think if people saved the energy they expend arguing about this and use that energy to convince laypeople that librarianship, in all its forms, is relevant, current and able to keep pace with the changing nature of information access and distribution -- things would be copacetic. Or maybe not. But's this isn't doing the profession much good to go over the same ground.

And it is the same ground. While doing a bit of research, I ran smackdab into this quote:

"The special librarian was even allergic to the word librarian and called himself by various other terms like information officer, research officer, and documentalist. He preferred to be classed with the scientists and technologists whom he served rather than with the librarians whose art it was that he practiced, though with improved techniques determined by the new thought-unit of his operation."

S. R. Ranganathan, "Special Librarianship -- What It Connotes," Special Libraries, v. 40, no. 9 (Nov. 1949).

I knew this argument had legs. I didn't know it was older than I am. Or that it literally predates my graduate advisor.

I've gone public with my issues over dropping references to libraries, librarians or librarianship. And my friend Marti can articulate it better than I can. What I'd rather do is try to figure out the resultant scenario if the following happens:

* A critical mass of special librarians do drop references to being 'librarians' and it takes within the profession, within the corporate world and by the public

* At the same time, public libraries have changed internally to the point where non-MLS holders reach professional parity with MLS grads, and it's no longer considered necessary to get a MLS to work professionally or run a public library

Don't be dismissive of the latter point: it was made at a career panel for library support staff ... there are a lot of people working in public libraries who don't see the point of going back to grad school if they can learn the skills (cataloging, reference, acquisitions, circulation, programming) on the job and are willing to devote their work lives to it.

I'm not a good chess player, because I cannot see 4 moves ahead. I can see 2 ... sometimes. 3 ... miraculously. I don't know what will happen to the L-word if one group drops it and another group picks it up. May be a mixed blessing. Or an pure benefit. I don't know. I don't want to be reactionary about this. I fear that I already am, though.

Embracing my ignorance

Wow. Not long after I mention that I'll be writing about digital issues in this blog when lo and behold, a digitial issue pops up. Boy, does it.

However, I know nothing about the Semantic Web. Sorry. I'll just be watching from the sidelines.

November 10, 2003

Open Source Library Source: E-discussion


In conjunction with our current Open Source theme, the WebJunction Community
is proud to present an online event "Open Source for Libraries?"

The event will take place November 10-14, in the "Software" forum on All

Guest facilitator Art Rhyno will moderate our community discussion about the
pros and cons of Open Source Software, and what you need to consider in
making OSS decisions for your library. We'll also do questions and answers
with current OSS advocates and users, and conclude the event with a very
simple Open Source installation that *anyone* can do.

To participate, go to, click on "Community Center"
and then "All Aboard".

Or, go directly to the Software forum at

(Personal commentary: if only I had the time to delve into this ...)

November 09, 2003


The first entry is always that hardest. Which is why this is not really the first (but it is post-dated).

Welcome to my library blog. I have a personal one on LJ, but I wanted to do something a little different ... a little more thoughtful and professional. And it'll get me away from those darned LJ quizzes ...

The blog will cover my experiences in library school, my current paraprofessional work, and my gradual entry into the world of librarianship. I also hope to post fairly frequently about my professional interests:

News librarianship
Special librarianship
Intellectual freedom
Digital preservation (especially web archiving)
Copyright and copyright legislation
Library conferences
Internet technology in libraries
Professional and paraprofessional issues
Librarian pop culture

I'm likely to get silly, but I'll try very hard not to get off-topic. That's what's the personal blog is for, after all ...

In the meantime, I hope to provide food for thought and fodder for conversation.