big. hairy. mess.

Young Highland Cow

photo by Ben Cooper

My library director has us reading an article each month, all geared towards helping us think about better ways to do our things, with a look towards the future of libraries. This month is the Brian Mathews article “Librarian as Futurist: Changing the Way Libraries Think About the Future” from the July 2014 issue of portal.

I suppressed my gag reflex at the sight of the word “futurist,” forever associated in my mind with Joe Murphy (the “librarian”, not the amazing and hilarious podcaster tragically lost to cancer some years ago), and made it through the article. Lots of pie in the sky, but it got me thinking.

I had a call a few weeks ago from Informa Healthcare about adding some subscriptions. We have one title from them (for psychology), and since we have no pre-med or nursing programs, we’re not likely to subscribe to anything else. The sales rep sent me a turn-away report from our IP range for the past year, and talked about a pay-per-view plan (with a deposit account) that would give us perpetual access campus-wide for any articles purchased.

The Matthews article had me wondering about the future of my aspect of librarianship, since the author is mostly coming at it from a public services perspective, and the first thing that came to mind was the big hairy mess that is article purchases. At least with this model, we would have perpetual access. In the past, it was more like document delivery, with one person getting access one time, and paying again if someone else wanted it.

How do you account for the expenditure? Which fund do you use? Do we catalog each article we “own”? When will our OpenURL systems become so refined as to indicate when we have campus-wide access to a single article in a single issue of a journal and accurately link to it?

Big. Hairy. Mess.

But, I can see it on the horizon. Someone(s) will have to figure it out. I’ll be taking notes.

checking access to your library eresources


photo by daniel

If you don’t already read (or browse the table of contents) The Code4Lib Journal, I suggest you start now. Occasionally, there is content that is very relevant to eresources/serials/acquisitions.

The most recent issue contains an article written by Kristina M. Spurgin, the E-Resources Cataloger at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She created a Ruby script to check all the links and look for key words in the HTML or text that indicated if there was a problem with access. Of course, each platform has different ways of indicating whether or not a user from a particular IP range has access to an article/chapter, so each one has it’s own configuration, built into the script. She plans to eventually move them into their own files that can be selectively used by others as appropriate to their collections.

This is still a work in progress, and she notes that it’s not a perfect solution for several reasons, including random errors caused by one of the scripting libraries. That being said, I’m excited to see a potential open source solution to a problem we all have. Automated access checking requires the program to be a smart as an experienced eresource librarian, so it makes sense that a smart, experienced eresource librarian would be writing it.

2014 Parsec Awards finalists are announced!

DragonCon 2013 - Parsec Awards

photo by Kyle Nishioka

As some of you may know, I’ve been on the steering committee for the Parsec Awards for several years now. The awards seeks to celebrate the best in speculative fiction podcasting. If you have an interest in audio fiction of the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk flavors (just to name a few), then I can recommend nothing better than the current and past lists of finalists and winners.

It took a bit longer than usual for us to listen through and evaluate this year’s round of nominee samples, so I’m happy to announce the finalists for 2014! Check out these podcasts for stories, audio dramas, science behind the stories, and geeking out about favorite speculative fiction content.

why I type my notes

her hands

“her hands” by Vyacheslav Bondaruk

When done with pen and paper, that act involves active listening, trying to figure out what information is most important, and putting it down. When done on a laptop, it generally involves robotically taking in spoken words and converting them into typed text. -Joseph Stromberg, Vox Magazine

Many of you long-time readers know that I take notes of presentations at conferences and post them here. I get lots of thank yous from folks for doing it, and that’s the main reason why I keep posting them publicly. It’s probably obvious, but just to be sure, you should know that I don’t handwrite them and then transcribe them later. I type them out on some sort of mobile computing device (laptop or iPad) and publish them after I do a look-see to make sure there aren’t any egregious errors.

What I don’t do with my typed notes is try to capture every word the speaker says, which is I think the digital note-taking that the author of the above linked article is critiquing. Instead, I actively listen to the speaker, and quickly synthesize their point into a sentence or two.

Sometimes I will quote directly if the phrasing or word choice is particularly poignant, but that’s hard if they are a fast speaker, because I end up missing a lot of what they say next in my attempt to capture it accurately. However, if I wait until they pause before their next point, I usually have enough time to quickly type out the point they just made.

This was an active choice on my part some years ago. I used to take notes with lots of bullet points and half-formed phrases, but they were virtually useless to me later on, and certainly not helpful to anyone who wasn’t there. When I take notes, I think about the audience who will read them later, even if it’s myself.

Which is another reason why I type. My handwriting is terrible, and it gets worse the longer and faster I write. If I want to know what I wrote more than a few hours ago, I need to type it.

So yes, students might get distracted by their neighbor’s laptop, but I think certain researchers will always find some classroom thing that distracts students and recommend we go back to the good old days. Instead, I think we need to work on the skills students (and future meeting attendees) will need in order to use their tools effectively and maintain focus.

If I can do it, surely they can, too.