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Do they think we’re stupid?

27 Feb

Shorter Elsevier:

For anyone who doesn’t know why I’m referencing glorious 1980s cartoons in relation to a major publisher of scholarly journals, here’s the quick rundown of today’s event that I wrote for the SLA Academic Division blog, presented here in its entirety because I freakin’ wrote it.

As a follow-up to our earlier post regarding the Elsevier boycott, the publisher released a statement today indicating that they have withdrawn their support for the Research Works Act.

The statement is worth reading in full; while Elsevier will no longer openly support the RWA, they still oppose government efforts to require the open release of research:

Therefore, while withdrawing support for the Research Works Act, we will continue to join with those many other nonprofit and commercial publishers and scholarly societies that oppose repeated efforts to extend mandates through legislation. 

Long story short, this debate is far from over, and it remains to be seen whether those participating in the boycott will consider this policy change sufficient.

When I write under SLA Academic’s auspices, I try to be a bit reserved. But here, let me make it clear:  in no way, shape, or form is this change in policy sufficient for anyone to change their minds about how truly terrible Elsevier is.

I mean, how much more blatant could they make it? “Our most recent attempt to quash efforts to undermine our extremely profitable racket of stolen labor and institutionalized extortion has failed, because seriously, y’all have made the letters ‘RWA’ completely toxic. But as soon as we come up with a slightly revised law under a different name and send it to our pet Senators and Representatives, we’ll be right back in the game, baby.”

They’re not giving up. They’ve told us that clearly.

We can’t give up either.

Talking to future librarians

18 Nov

…is certainly different from talking about them.

I have an odd relationship with the physical Syracuse University. While I’ve been as immersed in Cornell’s environs about as much as a human my age can be, I only spent 14 days at SU during the two years I studied there; distance programs are like that. And more than half of that class time was spent in a building that’s not even the iSchool’s official home, which was being renovated back in 2007.

But that didn’t cause me a moment’s hesitation when I was invited to talk to this Fall’s IST 511 (Introduction to the Library and Information Profession) class about academic librarianship.

Jill Hurst-Wahl was the main lecturer that evening, and my portion preceded the Syracuse University Library’s own Natasha Cooper (who’d been one of the instructors for my own IST 511 class four years ago).  I put together a presentation, the slides of which can be found here. (As usual, a lot of the meaning is lost without the voiceover, but I do think that slide #6 is complete unto itself.)

I really enjoyed the experience, and it was great to answer questions and discuss elements of academic library work both during the class, in the hallways of Hinds afterwards, and on Twitter over the last couple of days. I’m grateful to everyone involved, and I’d jump at the chance to do this again in the future.

Two points of follow-up:

1. I was thrilled to see that the iSchool was also covering the more esoteric elements of library professional development:

Photographic evidence of rockin' professional developmen... on Twitpic

2. I was asked during the initial Q&A period about librarians jumping from public to academic libraries, and vice versa. I asked around on various social networks, and found examples of both.  One prominent local example is Susan Currie, director of the Tompkins County Public Library, who spent many years working and leading at Cornell and Binghamton University. Most of the other examples were shared directly with me, but I’d be glad to discuss them over email if folks are interested.

I wrote a thing for SLA’s Future Ready 365 project…

8 Nov

…and it got posted last Friday.

I mentioned this on the usual social media suspects, too. But I wanted to make sure there was at least a record of it here, and maybe some of y’all don’t follow me there?

In any case, this piece was a riff on something I ad-libbed during my webinar last month that seemed to resonate with folks. I tried to expand on the notion and make it a bit more general and hopefully inspirational.

If not, then at least I got to use a copyrighted image in a way that I figured was fair use. That’s always worth it.

Because following up is the thing to do

17 Sep

Duke’s Kevin Smith has written a wonderful and compelling open letter to J. R. Salamanca, whose 1958 book Lost Country has become a key element in the HathiTrust/Authors Guild lawsuit. Here’s an excerpt:

The sad fact is that The Lost Country has become a pretty obscure work. shows only two used copies available for sale.  In the Duke Libraries, the last transaction record we have for your novel is in 2004, when our copy was sent to high-density storage.  It has not left the facility once since then, and our system shows no circulations in the prior decade, either.   One of the famous “laws” of librarianship is that every book should have its readers, and the current system, I am afraid, is failing to connect your book to new readers.

It has to be said that the Authors Guild is not going to help you in this regard.  They are not going to publish a new edition of The Lost Country for you, nor will they pay you any royalties on the out-of-print edition.  The Authors Guild simply does not have the ability to create a new market for your book.  Even if they were to succeed in a grand strategy to impose a licensing scheme for orphan works in general, there is no reason to believe that you would profit from it. With such an obscure work, potential users who had to pay a fee would probably just skip the planned use.

Where you can find help for this problem is with the HathiTrust.  Their goal, and the goal of the libraries that plan to participate in the orphan works project, is to make it easier for readers to find works like your novel, which might otherwise languish on shelves or in large warehouses of books.  Digital access to low-use titles through our catalogs will encourage users to discover resources, for study and for entertainment, that they might not have bothered with before.

Go read the whole thing. It’s well worth the time.

Follow-up to my last post

26 Aug

I forgot to call it out specifically during my last post discussing the article, but this quote…

“Librarians are believed to do work unrelated to helping students,” wrote Miller and Murillo, “or work that, while possibly related to research, does not entitle students to relationships with them.”

…damn near broke my heart.

This is what we’ve gotta change, folks.

(Emphasis is technically mine, by the by, but it jumped out at me so much that it might as well have been in <b>-tags and 36-point font.)

Bridging the gap

26 Aug

Right off the bat, if you haven’t read the Inside Higher Ed article, “What Students Don’t Know,” go do so. It’s heavy stuff. It’s also a call to action.

I talked about this a bit today on the SLA Academic blog, and I’m going to expand on it here and tie it into last week’s post about the orientation materials we put together at Cornell, specifically our welcome video. Because I think we did a solid job with addressing some of these issues, but we also left a gap that we need to bridge.

First off, here’s the video we made, in case y’all haven’t watched it yet:

We hit some major points in there: college is going to be tough, tougher than you might expect; there are many, many resources in the library that you can use; you should ASK A LIBRARIAN for help, because we know the library; we’ll help you get better grades in less time.

Again, I think that video turned out great. But looking at it again in the context of ERIEL, it strikes me that we could have been more explicit about how asking a librarian, in conjunction with those millions of resources, will lead to better grades in less time. And we’re not explicit about it, I think, because we take it for granted.

It’s an issue of assumptions, those unstated pieces of information that bind arguments together. The problem is, our assumption about how librarians, resources, and good grades fit together doesn’t seem to match up with students’ assumptions. We know that we can point them towards better resources than they currently use, and help them use all the resources at their disposal better than they currently do. But we’re lucky if the former even occurs to them, let alone the latter. Most students seem clueless about what we can do, except maybe point them to a book or a database. Their professors don’t necessarily seem to know any more than that, either.

Like I said, this is a call to action.  Studies like this need to inform our reference, instruction and outreach efforts. We need to make sure that faculty know exactly what we can bring to their research, not to mention what their students may lack in terms of research skills and how we can remedy that. We need to inform our students exactly why they should come talk to us; not just to point them at better resources, but also to instruct them in the best use of all resources.

Yeah, even Google.

It can be frustrating to read studies like this. But it should also inspire us, by not just pointing us toward the gaps in our efforts to help our patrons, but also by getting us thinking and talking about how to bridge those gaps.

Amazon, Kindle, libraries, etc.

22 Apr

I confess I’ve had neither the time nor the inclination to compose my thoughts on the Kindle Lending Library news into a blog post. But I was capable of reporting other folks’ discussion for the SLA Academic Division blog, and maybe emphasizing a few questions I find important.

We deal in slides: Speaking next week at WNYLRC

13 Apr

As God as my witness, I thought weeks had more days in them.

The presentation as UNYSLA went really well, I think, and was bracketed by other excellent talks. I’m glad I got to see the whole thing, and would love to coalesce my thoughts about the event into words here. But I’m already prepping for my next presentation/workshop, so check out my fellow presenter Jill Hurst-Wahl’s take on things.

My next gig is on Monday, outside of Buffalo at the Western New York Library Resources Council:

Building Digital Communities With Digital Collections

Librarians can build online communities around their digital collections in the same way they build physical communities around their physical collections: by providing resources that interest their patrons, by making their patrons feel comfortable using those resources, and by providing their patrons with a sense of ownership of those resources. Hear how one library used the tools provided by new technologies to build a community of users around DigitalCommons@ILR, a premier institutional and disciplinary repository. Jim will discuss Catherwood’s strategies, practices, experiences and lessons learned, and illustrate how their success keeps patrons coming back.

There will be ample time for discussion. Please consider sharing information about your own library’s digital collections, or even doing a short demonstration.

I confess I’m not thrilled with the description, and that my dissatisfaction is entirely my fault. As described, it’s basically my talk from CiL2010, plus workshop elements. While that’s somewhat understandable — this event was originally scheduled for last November, and was prompted by good feedback the CiL presentation had received — the description itself feels somewhat obsolete to me. I wrote it nearly eighteen months ago, and those months have been full of work and thinking and assessment and discussion.

But, all is far from lost. It was good to revisit that presentation, see what still resonated and what needed to be removed. My plan now is to use a revised version of that preso’s thesis as a skeleton for the first part of the day, bring in some interactive bits rooted in the workshop Amy Buckland and I ran at CiL11 to get people talking and involved, and on the whole offer something that reflects my current thinking on these issues, allows attendees the opportunity to explore this stuff on their own terms, but doesn’t let me fall into the trap of simply rehashing an old presentation.

If you’re in the area and this sounds interesting to you, I hope to see you there! I’m thinking it’ll be a good one.

Library Day in the Life, Day 5

28 Jan

I am deeply glad I took part in this round of Library Day in the Life: it was great to reconnect with folks and make new connections, plus nothing gets you focused on your work quite like writing about it.

Today I knocked out a few more deep cuts from my inbox, which is now contains an absolutely absurd eight messages. A couple are personal stuff (“Medicate the dog!”), but about a half-dozen have to do with the work, mainly dealing with upcoming travel. I also waiting for a phone call to discussing such matters; seems like dealing with travel schedules will be my first priority next week, since I doubt I’ll get a complete handle on it before the end of today.

There’s also an email exchange I had with Erin Dorney about masculinity, male privilege, and librarianship that I’ve been meaning to turn into a blog post for about eight months. I should actually do that one of these days. On that topic…

This week has made me realize that I’m getting a better handle on things like committees and projects and presentations, but not at all on writing; specifically, writing for publication. (Not that I don’t love you, little blog.) I’ve gotten a few things published, but none of my current writing projects are going anywhere.

On one level, I know that the smart thing to do is just pick one and do it. (I seem to recall a great admonishment making the rounds recently that if you have more than three priorities, you have no priorities; sums up my writing efforts lately, that does.) On the other, I’m wondering if some kind of mentoring, either at CUL or through an organization like SLA, might not be something worth pursuing.

In any case, I had a great time this week capturing my work here, and on Twitter, and even on Flickr. I also really enjoyed following the #libday tag on Twitter and reading other folks’ blog posts about what they’ve been working on. I love this work, and I love this profession. Rawk on, people.

Library Day in the Life

24 Jan

Waking up to discover it’s -15° F is not a good start to a week. It didn’t impact my morning routine overmuch, though: coffee still got brewed, eggs scrambled, webcomics read. Taking the dog out was less fun for both of us, though, since it hurt me to breathe and him to walk. But we got by, and Nina and I both seemed able to stumble off to work in a reasonably effective manner. The bus was packed, which reminded me that classes started today; the lost-looking students confirmed it. I hope none of them freeze to death.

Got in, opened my calendar, and got my four to-do reminders for today:

  • Write for 15 minutes. The post you’re reading will cover that.
  • Post to SLA blog. Snooze for four hours. This is a weekly thing for me, and between what I’m writing now and other stuff I need to do today, I’ll probably wait until later in the week. Besides, I just posted there on Friday.
  • RefBlog editor. I get this duty about twice a semester, and when it comes up I’m responsible for 2-3 posts over the course of the week. I’ll try to get them all written up this morning, and schedule them to go live automatically today, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • Clean out inbox. I do this three times a week. It never stays done. But it’s the first thing I’ll do today, since I’ve got 141 messages in there, 121 unread. Typical weekend, really.

Today’s meeting-free, which is a rarity. There will be a few later in the week — presentations from the first applicant for the library director gig, the first get-together of the Cornell University Library Archival Repository Policy committee on Thursday, etc. — but it’s damned light compared to the last two weeks and next week. Which means I actually need to use that time to do stuff.


So, I managed to get my inbox down to something manageable (fewer than 20!), and did some email support for a few folks who manage their own series in DigitalCommons@ILR; also followed up on a reference question for a former student. Wrote up two of three questions for the RefBlog, then realized that if I wanted to get to the gym before lunch, I needed to get going. (Those efforts are chronicled elsewhere.) I also managed to answer some questions for the Web & Digital Projects Group’s two student employees, who are awesome.

After lunch, I found myself briefly distracted by the glorious and profane comic alchemy that was the @MayorEmanuel Twitter feed in the aftermath of an appeals court decision that Rahm Emanuel was not actually eligible to run for mayor in Chicago. But I got myself back on track and wrote up that final RefBlog post.

We got new phones today, which is cool; unfortunately, they’re not working yet, and I need to return a call to California.


Phones working, so now I’m waiting for a return call. (Cross-country phone tag is the best kind.)  I’m very much looking forward to said call, though: it could mean a couple more opportunities to go somewhere and tell folks about what we’re doing here at Catherwood, and I love that stuff. Of course, it’s starting to look like I might be taking something like half a dozen library-related trips between now and the end of June, which could get kind of crazy. Luckily, most of them seem like they’ll be reasonably short, and only a couple of them are definite.


Coming in on the end of the day. It’s been much more about writing than about meetings, which was a nice change of pace. Plus, most of the writing I’ve been doing the past few weeks has been for the Digital Projects Assessment of our three soon-to-be-consolidated libraries, but I got what could be the final draft of that out to my fellow Collection Management Team members on Friday. I suppose that’s one more reply I’m waiting to harvest, but for now it’s freed me up to do other things.

Of course, I could argue that today was just a day in which I answered questions and had discussions via email and blogs rather than in person, and thus not really much of a change. Truth be told, you could distill a decent number of my days down to, “Answering questions and talking about digital library projects, with an interlude of lifting heavy objects.”

You know what? I am totally fine with that.


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