After the RSS tactics session, I took a break from conference stuff. My laptop and I went down to a Dunn Bros coffee shop where I sat out at a sidewalk table, sipped my Americano, and caught up on email using their free wi-fi. This also gave me time to decompress and get ready for the evening’s performance at Windows on Minnesota during the 20th Anniversary Party/Dinner. You can view the results of that here. I’m in the second skit.
Well, I’m finally getting back to writing up my experience and thoughts of the 2005 NASIG conference. Sorry for the delay.
Well, I’m finally getting back to writing up my experience and thoughts of the 2005 NASIG conference. Sorry for the delay.
When I last left off, it was lunchtime on Friday. We all grabbed our boxed lunches and headed off to wherever we chose to eat them. In my case, it was the committee chairs’ meeting. This year, I’m the co-chair for the Electronic Communications Committee, which means among other things, I’m the “webspinner” for nasig.org. If you see anything that’s messed up on the site, let me know.
After lunch, I attended my third tactics session, “Do You See RSS In Your Future.” Both of the presenters, Paoshan Yue and Araby Green, come from the University of Nevada, Reno. The session began with a basic over-view of RSS, and then moved into how libraries are using RSS. Blogwithoutalibrary.net was mentioned as a resource for finding out what other libraries are doing with blogs and RSS. Here’s a list of how libraries use RSS, as suggested by the presenters:
- Library news
- Subject blogs or subject guides
- New acquisitions by subject
- Book reviews
- Catalog search queries
- Personalized circulation information
- Academic blogs
- Internal communication
- Subject list of selected RSS feeds
And here’s a list of how RSS can be used in the serials world:
- Conference blogs
- Journal table of contents
- Journals with RSS feeds on library websites
- New electronic journal titles
- Recent serial issues received
- Database search queries
Most of these ideas have been kicked around in the library blogging community, but for many of the session attendees, RSS was a new and brilliant concept for getting customized information out to our users.
The presenters also had ideas for RSS within the serials community that included ejournal package/collection updates from publishers, and a closer-to-home suggestion that the NASIG jobs web listings have an associated RSS feed. I’m working on that one in my new capacity as webspinner, but it hasn’t been easy to get it just the way I want it. If anyone out there knows of a (preferably free or low-cost) blog software that allows you to create categories and will run on a Windows server, please let me know. Right now Blogger isn’t cutting it for what we need to do with the jobs list.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
What if Jesus had a crass best friend? What if they went to the East and learned kung fu and Zen Buddhism? What happened to Jesus when he was growing up, anyway?
The title of this book caught my eye when I first read it. I wasn’t quite sure if the book was a satire or a religious tract, and it turns out that it’s a little of both. Lamb asks the question, “What if…” and then proceeds to answer it page after page.
The story is told from the perspective of Biff, who was raised from the dead in the present time by an angel (with a directive from God, it seems) to write his gospel. The angel gives him the ability to speak in tongues, so the gospel is written with modern American idioms and informal language. If this book had been written now instead of a few years ago, one might imagine that the author would turn the Gospel of Biff into a blog.
There’s a lot in this book that is sure to rile the righteous. Although Joshua (Jesus) remains chaste throughout the story, Biff makes up for it by sleeping with almost every woman he meets. If the sex isn’t enough to make biblical literalists squirm, I’m sure that Joshua’s insistence than there should be a beatitude for the dumbfucks will do the trick. Clearly Moore had a great deal of irreverent fun filling in the gaps of Jesus’ life left by the other gospels. And, as he notes, if this book is enough to shake your faith, then perhaps you need to do a little more praying.
I’ve been reading the Blog of a Bookslut for a few months now, and aside from getting news and brief commentary on book-related things, I am also greatly amused by Jessica’s and Michael’s slightly snarky take on it all. Here is Michael’s response to an interview with Edward Klein, the author of “The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President“:
“The culture of lesbianism”? Is Klein afraid that a President Hillary Clinton would name the Indigo Girls to the Supreme Court, or replace the tee ball games on the White House lawn with field hockey? Shit, I’d welcome a president from the “culture of lesbianism.” You could get away with wearing hiking boots to even the most formal of events.
I have a new
obsession hobby. This past weekend, I discovered BitTorrent, a cooperative distribution protocol for sharing large files. In my case, it’s a way to get concert recordings (of artist who approve of that sort of thing) without having to set up a snail mail trade with someone and hope it works out for the best. It’s fast way to distribute shows, too. I was able to download a show yesterday that was recorded the day before!
The key to scalable and robust distribution is cooperation. With BitTorrent, those who get your file tap into their upload capacity to give the file to others at the same time. Those that provide the most to others get the best treatment in return. (“Give and ye shall receive!”)
Cooperative distribution can grow almost without limit, because each new participant brings not only demand, but also supply. Instead of a vicious cycle, popularity creates a virtuous circle. And because each new participant brings new resources to the distribution, you get limitless scalability for a nearly fixed cost.
So, what’s the library world application of this kind of protocol? The obvious one that comes to my mind is distribution of electronic publications. If part of the difficulties of publishing electronically is the cost of maintaining the backfiles, then perhaps publisher should look into a BitTorrent-type distribution model where everyone who is interested in the electronic content shares the burden of distributing it on demand.
I’m not sure if this would work in libraryland, but it certainly makes it a lot easier to share concert recordings.
Linda Absher asks, “Where is the true library visionary?” She continues:
“I’m asking this question in all seriousness. After ten-odd (at times very odd) years in the profession, we’re not only fretting over the same problems I read about in library school, we’re now obsessing over the exponential rate at which these problems grow. We worry about our obsolescence; we ponder about The Future of Librarianship, the salvation usually being whatever is trendy or sexy at the moment. And we wonder if anyone besides us notices (much less understand) what we do.
I hope I’m not too harsh, yet I can’t help but feel that we as a profession fall painfully short when it comes to coming up with an idea, a vision–a something that inspires the MLS/MLIS masses to greatness. We’re eloquent when it comes to reacting to threats: the Patriot Act, censorship, disappearing budgets, et al. But when it comes to going beyond defensiveness, we lose it. Other than a constant (and–thanks to increasingly sophisticated search engines and other information gathering technologies–justified) preoccupation with survival, we lack a true vision that makes our minds race or inspires us to go beyond just making through the next fiscal year or technological innovation. In other words, we have no post-millennium Ranganathan.”
I wish I could give a better answer, but I must admit that I don’t know who this person is or what kinds of things we should be worrying about as a profession, if the above are not enough. It’s good to ponder it, though. Particularly in light of Tuesday’s post.
I look up to certain librarians in the blogosphere and in my professional circles; however, I don’t think that any one of them is the kind of visionary voice for the profession like Ranganathan was. In thinking about Ranganathan and his five laws, I begin to wonder if we really need another visionary right now. It seems to me that we are still not following those laws to the best of our abilities, or at least not when “book” is translated to “library resource” or some such thing. We are often stuck on #4 with library policies and cumbersome technology that does not save the time of the reader. I think it is the gadgety solutions to this problem that causes some librarians to geek out over The Next Best Thing, but we also must remember law #2 and that not every library user will want to use The Next Best Thing, so we still must find a solution for them.
Perhaps my response to Linda is not, “I don’t know,” but rather, “We don’t need another grand visionary until we’ve fully implemented the vision of Ranganathan for our times.”
Last fall, I spent many hours in the QA stacks weeding the mathematics books. I ran across one 1964 title that caught my eye: Random Essays on Mathematics, Education and Computers by John G. Kemeny, the then chairman of the Mathematics Department at Dartmouth College. Flipping it open, I scanned the table of contents and was surprised to see a chapter entitled “A Library for 2000 A.D.” I turned to the chapter and began reading.
“Since I am about to propose a radical reorganization of university libraries, I must first establish that some such reorganization is inevitable. I shall argue that our university libraries will be obsolete by 2000 A.D.”
Kemeny’s reasoning is that at the rate libraries were acquiring books in the early 1960s, “the cost of building, of purchasing volumes, of cataloguing, and of servicing these monstrous libraries will ruin our richest universities.” (I guess he never considered that administrations would cut library funding long before that became a problem.) He then goes through a very logic/mathematic approach to solving the problem of libraries and providing a solution: a National Research Library that houses the entire body of knowledge and where users could call in and request information from the librarians. With shared catalogs like WorldCat, online repositories of journals and books, and Google, it seems that his vision of libraries in 2000 wasn’t far off the mark, if perhaps in a different form than he could have known.
My initial reaction to his statement about the obsolescence of libraries was a very petty, “neener-neener, you’re wrong!” But, upon further reading I realized it’s not that he thinks libraries would become obsolete, it’s that he thinks that libraries as they were in the 1960s would become obsolete. In many ways, they have, and so will the libraries of 2005 if we aren’t willing to change to make the responsible use of technology to meet the needs of our users.
Need a library collection fast? For about $7600 + shipping, you can get the 1,082 title Penguin Classics Complete Library from Amazon.com tomorrow. The books are paperback and likely not made to withstand the test of time, but to impress your friends with your collection or for getting a new library set up, it’s not a bad deal. [thanks aaman]
My thoughts on Google Print, such as they are.
Benjamin asked for my opinion on Google Print. I started to reply in the comments, but it quickly grew from a small reply to something entry-sized:
I haven’t blogged on Google Print because I haven’t decided what I think about it. It’s gotten coverage on a variety of librarian blogs, as well as some public radio programs that I’ve heard.
The way I see it, it’s often difficult to find material in books because they aren’t always indexed very well. Unlike many journals, they aren’t available full-text so that you can search the entire book. Some companies are providing books in full-text formats, and there are several models for it, but their emphasis is on new books. I think what Google Print has to offer is full-text searching of old and out of print books. Often these have useful information for modern scholars.
My concern about Google Print is twofold:
1. Copyright — They need to be careful in not stepping over the line of copyright or else the whole project may be tainted.
2. Searching — If I’m doing scholarly research, I don’t want to get 10,000 hits on a keyword search. I’m not sure how Google’s relevance rankings will work for books, but I hope that the search results will be as precise and accurate as a good reference database’s.
I’m keeping an open mind, waiting to see how it all turns out. I don’t want to trash Google Print just because it may step on the toes of libraries. I do hope that libraries will keep the books that are scanned into Google Print, because I doubt our users who want to read the whole book rather than gleaning information from parts of it will be willing to read it on a computer screen or print out the entire thing. On the other hand, our emerging users are more comfortable with screen text than even my generation, so I could be wrong.
I promise to get back to writing up my thoughts on the NASIG conference. It’s been a busy two weeks. As you can see, I ran out of what I had written while at the airport and I haven’t had the energy or time to get back to it.
Meanwhile, I read Karen’s thoughts on the latest Gormangate episode, and they became the final tipping point in a decision I’ve been trying to make. As a result, I bring you my open letter to ALA, which I also sent to them by email this afternoon:
Some years ago, I let my membership lapse because my income and expenses were such that I couldn’t afford to continue it. Since that time, I have found myself in a better paying job and I have been thinking about re-joining the association. However, I have been unimpressed by president-elect Michael Gorman and the anti-technology, anti-progress statements he has been making publicly in the past several months (re: bloggers, Google Print, etc.). Since he is the future leader of the association, I have to wonder if ALA is right for me.
I have concluded that if the majority of members would choose a leader who prefers the past to the present, much less the future of librarianship, then it’s not an organization that I need to be a part of. For now, I will participate professionally in other areas of librarianship, and perhaps reconsider membership in the ALA sometime after Gorman’s tenure.