« November 2004 | Main | January 2005 »

December 25, 2004

Holidays and hiatus

I meant to post well wishes and fare-thee-well earlier in the week, but I got felled by a cold.

Happy holidays to everyone ... I'll be on a break till the week of Jan. 3rd.

December 14, 2004

The great digitization of '04

Not that you need to hear this from this blog -- the news is quickly rippling through the library world: Google is helping to digitize library collections. Specifically, Google has made arrangements with 4 academic libraries (Oxford, Harvard, Michigan and Stanford) and one public library (New York PL) to digitize part of all of their monographic collections.

Harvard is starting with a pilot project of 40,000 pieces, in part to test Google's assurances that the books will not be damaged in the scanning process (note: Google will NOT be using the type of robotic scanners that require that books will be need to be unbound in order to be scanned). Oxford will only digitize material published before 1901 and NYPL is focusing on materials that are 1) out of copyright and 2) considered physically fragile. According to the New York Times, both Stanford and Michigan will be digitizing all of their non-serial collections, a combined 15 million volumes. Also, Harvard, Stanford and Michigan will be digitizing public domain AND copyrighted material.

The digital documents will be integrated into Google Print and copies will be given to the participating library for in-house/in-OPAC use.

Lots of news coverage with lots of interesting quotes:

From one of the horses' mouths
The Chronicle of Higher Ed.
CNN's take (with the hi-larious headline)
The New York Times

And the ResourceShelf leads off with news and commentary. In writing for SearchDay, Gary Price points out that this is only one among various digitization projects.

My favourite quote comes from an AP story:

"This is the day the world changes," said John Wilkin, a University of Michigan librarian working with Google. "It will be disruptive because some people will worry that this is the beginning of the end of libraries. But this is something we have to do to revitalize the profession and make it more meaningful."

Bold statement, that. But optimism is a good thing and a lot of people (librarians, scholars, publishers, etc.) will be watching to see if the optimism is warranted beyond a certain office complex in Mountain View.

White goat, not white elephant

Every year, the technical services staff at Stanford has its own holiday party, and since I've been here, part of the festivities have included a white elephant gift exchange. This year, there's been a change: instead of torturing each other with a bell curve of gifts (in past years, I've gotten the gamut between a way-too-small t-shirt to a set of knives with a woodblock), there were cashboxes set up and we were all asked to bring a check instead of gifts. The donations are going to Heifer International.

From a Barron's article about HI:

Over the course of its 60-year history, Heifer estimates it has aided 38 million people in 125 countries, including the U.S. Today it is working with goat farmers in Zambia, pig breeders in Slovakia and inner-city children in Toronto, who are raising bees and selling honey. In 2002 it marked the passing on of the three-millionth animal in China, and this year it celebrated 1,000 pass-on families in Poland.

In October Heifer's work was honored by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which awarded the charity its annual $1 million Hilton Humanitarian Award, the largest humanitarian prize in the world.

Heifer is apolitical and doesn't impose its mission or lessons on people. It works by invitation, often with other nongovernment organizations, or NGOs. Sometimes, in war-torn countries like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Haiti, it loses contact with its local offices and projects, but its work�the passing on of animals and related support�goes on unmonitored.

You can designate a specific animal. And for vegans -- you can also donate tree seedlings. Much more in keeping with the holiday spirit than trying to get (or get rid of) that Clay Aiken CD, I think. If you've already had your holiday party, consider HI for next year.

December 13, 2004

No more Gmail

I've given away the one Gmail invite. I don't expect more. Good luck to those of you searching for Gmail invites.

December 12, 2004

The Guardian on Rep. Gerald Allen (R - AL)

The UK Guardian newspaper has an article (with lots of quotes from Rep. Allen) about the proposed bill by a Alabama legislator who wants to remove queer-related materials from state-funded institutions.

Librarians have finally been name-checked:

"Traditional family values are under attack," Allen informs me. They've been under attack "for the last 40 years". The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is "Hollywood, the music industry". We have an obligation to "save society from moral destruction". We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from "re-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children". We have to "protect Alabamians".

December 06, 2004

Libraries and National Security

My dear friend, Joan Starr, has had her CE paper published in First Monday:

Libraries and National Security: a historical review. Definitely read it. Definitely tell your friends and colleagues about it.

"College Libraries: the Long Goodbye"

If you're an academic librarian who suffers from seasonal affective disorder, you may want to print out this article and stow it away until the spring thaw comes around.

Dennis Dillon, associate director for research services at the libraries of the University of Texas at Austin, has written a commentary for the Chronicle of Higher Education on what he sees as the long but inevitable twilight of academic libraries as we know them (currently available on the free section of the Chron's website).

The arguments for cutting library purchases of books and for outsourcing operations are well meaning. And the uncomfortable facts are that libraries are collections, publishers are distributors, and both collecting and distributing could be done online if enough money, organization, and expertise were put into the effort. But the arguments against those moves include a wealth of legal, financial, practical, political, pedagogical, and philosophical reasons.

This is a reasonable start to a reasoned defense of libraries. He builds up a good head of steam over the current limitations of electronic resources management, but then he gets diverted:

As I limped back to the gym on an age-challenged ankle, I saw a beat-up paperback copy of Plato's Republic in a trash can. Every college student knows how to find Plato on the Web, and the book was no longer worth carting around. Maybe Bob was right, and the university shouldn't be spending quite so much money on library books.

While he doesn't predict the "end of books" or the wholesale elimination of libraries, Dillon does foresee a very different library:

One day we may see book machines in every library or bookstore that can print and bind any book you want, machines that will draw on a database of millions of digital titles. Or every institution of higher education might create an official online repository of its faculty members' publications -- including books, articles, and multimedia works -- thereby replacing traditional journal publishers and university presses. Or some future version of Amazon.com may allow you to purchase or rent any book in the world, in whatever format you want, for as long as you want.

But all that is speculation. Here are the certainties: People will continue to write books, people will continue to read books, and the academic-publishing process needs to be reformed so that we can continue to meet our goal of scholarly communication in an economically sustainable way.

If I'm reading it correctly, it's a call for help in the Serials Crisis, but I'm not sure how many librarians (or library users) would consider it a happy ending. Whether or not this is reasonable supposition, I can't say. Personally, though, it saddens me to consider that this might be the future of college and university libraries. I'm a stacks roamer: even when I have a print out of everything I need from the OPAC, I like perusing the nearby shelves, seeing if there's a possible title I've missed in my online search. Perhaps it's a sign of my online retrieval skills, but I've made marvelous finds of relevant material that way. Not to mention there's the wonderful timewaster of just going through, picking books/bound journals with interesting titles and plunging into the table of contents to see what's there. In New Library Order that Dillon foresees, that serendipity would be gone.

What a shame.

December 05, 2004

Colour commentary of "The Librarian"

If I had been thinking ahead, I would have tried to arrange a librarian chat session for trading snarks about TNT's "The Librarian".

Well, here's my notes from the night's festivities:

(Caveat lector: mondo spoilers beyond ... in fact, it won't make sense unless you've seen the entire thing)

Oh, please tell me he's dreaming about being an Egyptologist. Oh no, he's not.

Let's see ... extremely smart, overly enthuasiastic, dorky dresser and lousy social skills -- just perfect

22 degrees -- any of them in library & info science? What about a certificate in Archival Studies? Just wondering ...

Scratch the lousy social skills; make that nearly non-existent social skills

And he lives with his mom! And he can't get dates! Oh my.

Oh, just-in-time, print-on-demand interview requests. I wonder if that one was sent by Tom Riddle ...

A line nearly out the door for a single library job: sounds just about right.

Oh no, the "well, I love books" cliche so very, very early ...

Um, he's not a librarian, he's a Sherlock Holmes clone. Perhaps he should be called "The Profiler"

Okay, that Ark bit was BLATANTLY stolen from "Raiders of the Lost Ark"

Bob Newhart is SO funny!

Never forget to STRAP on the jet pack before you turn it on

Of course Kyle Maclachlan is the bad guy ... ever since he started showing his age, he's been the bad guy. I guess that's what happens when you stop working for David Lynch ...

Vanilla Thorazine ... hah!

You know, it's not really a library ... it's an archival repository. So really, Flynn will be The Archivist if he survives probation. Talk about false advertising.

"The fate of the world is in my hands. That is just so ... sad." This is a funny movie.

Oh, frell, the physical awkwardness has kicked in.

The cabin is still pressurized! AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

Ooh, library muscle. Is it me or does she resemble Maura Tierney?


Classic jungle movie action stuff. Blah ...

"What is this, Slap the Librarian Day???!!??" HEEE!!

Is he supposed to get the book wet? Bad archivist, no biscuit!

Oh my stars and wonders, he actually consulted a book for the answer to something!

Mayan numbers in the Amazon? My husband's suspension of disbelief has just snapped

More blatant stealing from Indiana Jones (the trompe l'oeil floor) ... yay!!

The waltz? And oh, congenitally unable to dance.

Kelly Hu as a librarian fangirl? Heh.

An evil librarian? Oohhh ... maybe he tears out random pages from Chilton manuals just for fun.

"Nobody can read this!" "Nobody except the Librarian ..."

Wow, that lassoing should have broken Flynn's arm. Ow.

Shaingri-La is so pretty! And CGI-ish.

ME? What kind of English-language semantics is this?!

Where those Tibetan monks doing martial arts?

She's sleeping with him?

Oh, that's why she's sleeping with him.

The what scale?

Bob Newhart a Marine? Did he meet the height requirement of the time?

I'm not sure that killing your #1 HENCHMAN to test a device/potent new weapon is the best idea.

Bob Newhart, action star!!!

Catfight among librarian fangirls? If only ...

Librarian v. librarian

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Of course the capstone would fall on Wilde at just the right time.

Umm, shouldn't they be trying to break up the spear to hide in three different places again? So that if someone breaks in, they won't have the entire spear in their hot little hands? I'm just saying ...

"You don't understand, Mom, being a librarian is a pretty cool job." -- Awww. *sniff*

December 02, 2004

Queer lit

There has already been a fair amount of reaction to the proposed legislation by Alabama state rep. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) to ban state funds from being used to purchase material (fiction or non-fiction) for schools, public and college libraries that have queer characters offers a positive or neutral view on homosexuality.

Rep. Allen sees the possible effects of his bill as such:

Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

"I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.


When asked about Tennessee Williams' southern classic "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," Allen said the play probably couldn't be performed by university theater groups.

Allen said no state funds should be used to pay for materials that foster homosexuality. He said that would include nonfiction books that suggest homosexuality is acceptable and fiction novels with gay characters. While that would ban books like "Heather has Two Mommies," it could also include classic and popular novels with gay characters such as "The Color Purple," "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and "Brideshead Revisted."

The bill also would ban materials that recognize or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of Alabama. Allen said that meant books with heterosexual couples committing those acts likely would be banned, too.

His bill also would prohibit a teacher from handing out materials or bringing in a classroom speaker who suggested homosexuality was OK, he said.

Steve Brown, a local political science professor, believes that the "legislation stands little chance to legal scrutiny, it most likely stems from 'political hay' a legislator wants to make.

'Legislation is often introduced where everyone including the sponsor is well aware will never pass,' Brown said. 'They do it for the attention it garners.'" And there's no indication at this time that the bill has any co-sponsors or supporters.

Nevertheless, ALA has issued a denunciation from President Carol Brey-Casiano against the proposed bill.

And my spouse has devised his own method of protest:

Dear all, I ask you to join a protest against Gerald Allen, the legislator who wants to bury all books with homosexual main characters.

There's two steps:

Step One:
Let him know what he's trying to ban! Choose a worthwhile book that his proposed law would ban, and send it to him.

State House:
Rep. Gerald Allen
Room 531
11 S. Union Street
Montgomery, AL 36130
(334) 242-7758

District Address:
Rep. Gerald Allen
8200 Old Hargrove Road East
Cottondale, AL 35453
(205) 556-5310

The book that I've chosen to send him is Stranger At The Gate, the autobiography of Dr. Mel White, the former ghost writer for Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, and Jerry Falwell. (He has also published 15 other books under his own name, and created dozens of short, Christian films.)

Step Two:
Please spread the word. If you send a book to Rep. Gerald Allen, then copy this protest into your own blog and name the book. Or link to this entry in your blog.

With your help, he will see with his eyes what he's demanding to banish.

Take care, all.

For those of you who may be reluctant to sacrifice innocent (or even naughty) books to the cold, dark earth on behalf of this cause, you may want to devise your own activity of protest:

  • Send bibliographies of GBLT materials from local schools, public libraries and university collections to Rep. Allen
  • Send donations to LGBT centers in Alabama (perhaps under Rep. Allen's name?)
  • Buy a copy (or 2 or 12) of a book from the ALA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table's Stonewall Award lists and donate it to a school or public library or LGBT center, either in Alabama or in your local community ... again, in Rep. Allen's name, if you so wish
  • Become active in your state's library association's intellectual freedom round table and/or committee

While Rep. Allen's proposal is extremely ambitious, it is, in essence, nothing new. It's part and parcel of a rather not uncommon mindset that homosexuality/queerness/etc. are phenomena wholly unfit for study or discussion (beyond condemnation) by or for minors, i.e. anyone under 18. Even if this bill never reaches the statehouse floor, the mindset behind it must be confronted if we are to uphold the principles of intellectual freedom.

1 Gmail invite

I've received a Gmail invite from one of Google's gnomes. First person to comment with their email address visible can have it.

And no, I don't have a Gmail account. Just a single invite.

Pledge drive for an archive

Having a pledge drive for an archive intrigues me. Of course, the archive in question is a public radio one: the Pacifica Radio Archives. If your pockets are deep enough, you can adopt any entire tape to be preserved.

It's not the Beeb's archives or the The Museum of Radio and Television, and the politics are very well to the left of the mainstream. But preserving historic voices and debates should be part of everyone's agenda.

December 01, 2004

World Aids Day

AIDS Awareness Ribbon