May 18, 2009

Check out the new home for Confessions of a Science Librarian

Over at

After 6.5 years and over 1300 posts, a new chapter begins.

My sincerest thanks to everyone who's read, commented and supported this blog over the years for your time and attention. And I'll be seeing you over at the new digs!

May 13, 2009

Library Faculty Open Access Declarations

That I know of, we have three four groups of library faculty that have adopted declarations of one sort or another that promote more availability and openness for the content they produce, either work-related or professional/scholarly contributions:

Now I have two questions:
  • Are there any others I don't know about?

  • What are the rest of us waiting for?

Librarians are big promoters of OA but I think sometimes we don't quite practice what we preach. An opportunity exists for us to show that we mean what we say -- that sharing and openness are the values we both promote and practice.

(Disclosure: There have been rumblings at MPOW about this, but nothing concrete yet. I'm also rather slowly depositing my own stuff in our institutional repository; I'll try and get something else in today. BTW, check out my spiffy new web site!)

C2E2/CDEN: Engineering the Future

Thanks to Sharon Murphy of Queens for reminding me that the final deadline for the call for submissions is May 15th for The Sixth International Conference on Innovation and Practices in Engineering Design and Engineering Education. The conference is July 27 - 29, 2009 at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

From the general call for papers:

The sixth CDEN International Design Engineering Conference will focus on design innovation and engineering education that are such essential ingredients of creating a new future for the people of Canada and the world. Submissions can include, but are not limited to, the philosophy of design; tools and techniques for effective and successful design; methods and tools for designing to meet needs; methods for and research into the assessment of design; teaching and promoting design; humanitarian design; design successes and failures; tear-downs of designs and design-processes; the infrastructure required for design; lessons and methods used in non-engineering design fields; design for commercialization; and related topics.

The goal of the conference is to explore design practice and teaching that leads to better lives for Canadians.

Sharon's coordinating the technical session on "Information Research and Knowledge Management" and would love to see proposals from librarians. You can contact her at murphys at queensu dot ca.

Unfortunately, the conference is during my Summer vacation this year, so I won't be able to attend. It's doubly unlucky because Hamilton is so close to Toronto that attending would have been quite easy.

May 8, 2009

There's a lot of things you can do with the Internet

Thanks to Michael Geist for the information that tomorrow's Ivor Tossell column in the Globe and Mail will be his last. I've really enjoyed Tossell's column over the years, even (especially) when I've disagreed. He's given good coverage of the online world and I'll miss that. I understand that sometimes a column just runs its course and maybe the Globe wasn't getting what it hoped for any more, but I'll certainly miss it. Hopefully, the Globe will replace the column with something new and equally exciting.

I'll quote most the same bits from the final column as Geist because they are representative of Tossell at his best:

There's a lot of things you can do with the Internet. You can sit around all day, strip-mining the Net for free movies. You can disappear into virtual worlds. You can log onto your favourite website and leave a comment that will cause readers to wonder whether the planet wouldn't have been better off left to the dolphins.

You can buy a webcam and do something profoundly embarrassing that will render you unemployable for years. You can spend your days filling up Facebook with a hollow performance of yourself. You can create a Web service that seems destined to change everything, only to discover - several billion dollars later - that it really changed nothing, because people are people, and the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Or you can make something. On the sunniest days, I look at the Web and I see a world of people making things. Maybe they're cat videos; maybe they're full-blown recreations of science-fiction series from the late sixties. Either way, the creative process never happens in a vacuum. It's an endless back and forth of ideas and materials, and some of them will always cross the lines of ownership and copyright.

Friday Fun: Five songs I love

Not my five favourite songs -- that list doesn't really exist. Not the five best songs. Not even five objectively great songs. Just five songs that really keep knocking around my head. This week is pretty hard rock -- maybe I'll do a different set another one of these weeks.

  • Neon Knights by Black Sabbath. I'm a major Sabbath fan, mostly of the Ozzy and Dio eras although I enjoy the other eras as well. Interestingly, I never really got into the Ozzy stuff until after I heard this song, which is probably my favourite Sabbath song.

  • Tears of the Dragon by Bruce Dickinson. I've never been that much of an Iron Maiden fan but I do love Dickinson's solo stuff. Chemical Wedding is one of my all time favourite albums. (A great unplugged version of Tears of a Dragon.)

  • Dreamline by Rush. Canadian content, of course, in mandated on all blogs originating in the Great White North. I'm not a huge Rush fan, but this is one song of theirs I really love.

  • Young Man Blues by The Who. Back in high school, when everyone else was arguing whether The Beatles or The Stones were the best rock band in the world, I was saying The Who (Yes, I'm that old). I haven't changed my mind.

  • My Sacrifice by Creed. Prime cheese, I know, but I just love this song. It's probably the only Creed song I like even a bit.

So what are five songs you really love?

May 5, 2009

Are you a librarian?

Such were the innocent words on the big ad on the ScienceBlogs site the other day.

Well, I'm a librarian, I like the ScienceBlogs site quite a bit, so I clicked the link. Lo and behold a librarian survey. "Hey", I think, "ScienceBlogs wants to know what I think about stuff!"

To cut a long story short, it's not really a survey about what librarians think about science publishing, science blogs or ScienceBlogs. It's a marketing survey basically asking us if we subscribe to Seed Magazine (both Seed and ScienceBlogs are run by the same company). My library already does. As a nice reward for filling out the survey, they promised to send anyone who filled it out a ScienceBlogs coffee mug. At that point, I thought it was a fair trade and promptly posted a link to the survey on both FriendFeed and Twitter. And forgot about it.

But, thanks to a couple of comments on Friendfeed from suelibrarian, especially "I got to a question related to whether I would consider purchasing a particular magazine then got out of it." I started thinking a bit more.

At this point, it would probably be most useful to check out the FF conversation that resulted.

Offended, annoyed, bemused, whatever. The point that came to mind from this particular bit of marketing was that Seed saw me as a librarian more in the cheque-writing role than in another possible role, that of a collaborator with publishers in the job of disseminating scholarly and other information about science and technology.

And that's ok. I certainly wear a "buying stuff" hat. I like Seed Magazine and I really like ScienceBlogs, so I bear no ill will to them at all for this particular marketing strategy and will use my mug with great gusto when it arrives. If they pick up a few library subscriptions and that helps them get through a tough economy, great. (On the other hand, it would have been nice if...)

More precisely, this incident has raised a number of questions I have for myself. Scholarly communications is changing, Open Access is growing, commercial publishers are holding on to their places fiercely, scholarly monographs are transforming (slowly), media is approaching a weird singularity.

What are some of those questions?

  • How do we want publishers to see us?

  • What do we need to tell publishers about what we do?

  • How do we form as strong ties to OA publishers as we have often done with toll access publishers in the past, both commercial and society?

  • What would an OA publisher Library Advisory Group look like?

  • How can librarians help publishers figure out what business model is most appropriate for them?

  • What does a post-stuff library look like?

  • What does a post-stuff librarian do?

Lots of questions, of course, and not particularly any answers at this point.

I'd be interested to hear any answers and/or questions from all of you out there. Maybe we can come up with some together.

May 4, 2009

Is Canada losing the lab-rat race?

Good article in Saturday's Globe and Mail by Erin Anderssen and Anne McIlroy.

Ariana Rostami ranks chemistry and biology as her favourite classes. She gets top marks in her advanced Grade 11 courses and is happy to discuss quantum mechanics. But ask her about a career in research and she grimaces as though someone suggested locking her in a dark closet.

Which is only a slight exaggeration of how she and many of her fellow students regard the scientific enterprise - they picture long, lonely nights exiled in a lab, isolated from other humans, continually begging for funding.

"Look up 'scientist' on Google," the 16-year-old says, "and you will see someone in a lab coat." At the moment, she is considering something with more immediate results, such as physiotherapy.


How do you change education systems that often drive students away from science and build a national culture in which the best young minds naturally envision themselves as future Nobel winners and not ostracized, penny-pinching lab rats?

Just ask the students in Ottawa if they can name a Canadian scientist. "Only if he's dead," jokes Shadman Zamau, 16, before volunteering Alexander Graham Bell - whose invention of the telephone is now more than 130 years old.

It's a very eye-opening article on an important issue -- attracting young people to science research careers. There's a very interesting tension, here, of course. You always want the best and brightest to pursue research careers. But there are many things that are discouraging them.

First of all, actual career prospects are mixed at best for academia. Salaries are often only mediocre after a very long apprenticeship. Compared to other careers like medicine or law, this is definitely to science's disadvantage.

Second of all, scientists have a very low media profile and what there is of it is very poor. Again, compared to medicine and law, what's the profile of science on TV or in the movies? Pretty well the only positive images are in the CSI shows, and those are more crime shows than science shows.

Third of all, science has a low social profile in Canada. When you look at how it's published (especially the major commercial and academic houses, which virtually ignore science and what's happening at NRC Press), how it's featured in newspapers and other media, what the various governments actually do as opposed to what they say they're going to do, it's hard not to argue that we're getting the national science infrastructure we actually want.

Interestingly, the one argument that doesn't resonate with me is the idea that science is poorly taught in high school and that discourages students. I went to high school, and all the subjects were taught poorly, not just science. I had good science teachers and bad science teachers. But the exact same thing was true of the other subjects as well -- there were good and bad teachers.

Anyways, read the article. It makes these points in much more eloquent detail that I can.

BTW, I can't help seeing this particular quote in the article as a clarion call for more Canadian science blogging:
Success breeds success, he says. "As a nation, we expect our hockey teams to win because they always have. If you are good as a nation at something, there are role models for young people coming through."

Scientists themselves accept some of the blame. Samuel Weiss, who won a prestigious Gairdner Award last year for his discovery that the adult brain can produce new cells, says Canadian scientists have to get better at thumping their chests.

"As scientists, we are way too reticent to tell the story and engage the community the way scientists engage the community in other countries. ... We'll point to government, but I don't know if we have made the case about how important science is."

May 1, 2009

Friday Fun: Explaining Twitterspeak to Others


This one really is priceless.

When someone on Twitter says, "I’m here in [COOL LOCATION] but am so exhausted from the flight I’m gonna crash."

What they really mean is, "Hey everyone, I got to go to [COOL LOCATION] and you are stuck in your lame place!"

Oh, so true -- Twitter definitely uncovers some less-than-proud moments for humanity. And you know what, we've mostly all been guilty of Tweetspeak at some point too! (Or at those of us on Twitter. All you other lower life forms get a pass on this one ;-)

(Yeah, yeah, subscribe to me on Twitter, because, you know, I need "only 7 more followers until I reach [IMPRESSIVE-SOUNDING NUMBER]!")

April 29, 2009

The Bookstore of the Future

A very fine article by Claude Lalumière in the latest issue of Quill & Quire (Nothing online yet for the issue, but their editor just passed away recently, so I imagine they'll be a little behind for a while).

You might be thinking that the future of bookstores is a little off the beaten track for me, but there are a couple of reasons why I'm pointing this article out.

First of all, the way the author envisages the intersection between technology and physical space in the bookstore of the future is very relevant for academic libraries. Second of all, Claude's been a good friend for something like 20 years (!) and when he mentioned that he was about to publish an article on the future of bookstores when I saw him at Ad Astra a few weeks ago I just knew that it was something I wanted to highlight. (Plus Claude has a new short story collection coming out.)

I wish there was a full text version of the article I could point you to, but there isn't. So, I'll just have to give a few longish quotes:

Some customers browse on computer terminals, while others tap away at their laptops at cafe-styled tables. Some are sitting on couches, having animated conversations about the books in their hands. People thumb through demo copies of selected books, displayed on the few bookshelves and promotional tables to be seen. Staffers circulate, answering questions. Somewhere in the back, a machine hums -- it's printing books on the spot, which will then be brought out to the counter and handed to paying customers.

This is the bookshop of the future.


To be competitive, the bookstore of the future will need to offer access to any title within minutes, in order to provide faster and more reliable service than online retailers, instantly satisfying book buyers' fickle interests. At the same time, it must keep offering the kind of personal, social experience that no online venue can match. To achieve this, our vision of how a bookshop operates must step out of the 20th century. But bookshops cannot march into the future by themselves: publishers, too, need to invest in new infrastructure.


The bookshop can and should be more exciting than ever. If reinvented with sufficient passion, imagination, and co-operation, it will become the preferred venue for readers to navigate our information-rich world, and for authors and publishers to reach their audiences.

Almost word for word, many of these same points apply just as much to academic libraries -- in our desire to remake ourselves as social and informational hubs for our communities, places where learning can take place in a variety of contexts and settings.

Will we concentrate on delivering monographs via print-on-demand technology rather than online to reading devices? Probably not, but we're not trying to sell artifacts at a profit.

I think the point claude is mostly trying to make is that to survive, bookshops need to somehow find a way to resonate with the life of their communities and to leverage than into a revenue stream. Similarly, libraries need to resonate with the life of their communities and to leverage than into continued growth and support within their institutions.

(Unfortunately, Q&Q doesn't seem to be online anywhere so if you want to read the whole article you'll have to either find it at your library or local bookshop. Oh, the irony.)

April 24, 2009

Friday Fun: Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era

McSweeney's strikes again!

Check out their syllabus for ENG 371WR: Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era:

As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade...


Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t!

Read the whole thing. It's very funny. And perhaps a little too close to true sometimes...

(Via Dan Cohen.)

April 23, 2009

Yet more reports & books on the future of academic libraries

Yes, yes, I'm still completely obsessed with this futuristic prognostication business (consider that a bit of foreshadowing). I will continue to try and make the laundry lists a little shorter and more digestible.


  • The Future of Management by Bill Breen & Gary Hamel

  • Redefining Literacy 2.0 by David Franklin Warlick

  • Slow Reading by John Miedema

  • Twitter Revolution: How Social Media and Mobile Marketing is Changing the Way We Do Business & Market Online by Warren Whitlock & Deborah Micek

  • YouTube for Business: Online Video Marketing for Any Business by Michael Miller

  • Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business! by Paul Gillin

  • Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World by Matthew Fraser & Soumitra Dutta

  • Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business by Larry Weber

  • Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day by Dave Evans

  • Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter

  • Electronic Tribes: The Virtual Worlds of Geeks, Gamers, Shamans, and Scammers edited by Tyrone L. Adams & Stephen A. Smith

  • First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Pat Harrigan

  • Networked Publics by Kazys Varnelis

  • Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age by Duncan J. Watts

  • Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness by Duncan J. Watts

  • The Social Atom: Why the Rich Get Richer, Cheaters Get Caught, and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You by Mark Buchanan

As usual, I'm happy to take suggestions for other books, reports, blogs, etc. about the future of academic libraries here in the comments, on Friendfeed or via email (jdupuis at yorku dot ca).

(Apologies for all the social media marketing books. Believe, it's just a small sample of what's out there. Frankly, it's probably not worth taking more than a quick glance at one or two of them.)

(A bunch of the books are from The Social Software Primer: 13 Books You Must Read)

April 22, 2009

Conferences vs. journals in computing research

Such is the title of Moshe Y. Vardi Editor's Letter in the most recent Communications of the ACM (v52i5).

I'll excerpt it a bit:

What I'm referring to is the way we go about publishing our research results. As far as I know, we are the only scientific community that considers conference publication as the primary means of publishing our research results. In contrast, the prevailing academic standard of "publish" is "publish in archival journals." Why are we the only discipline driving on the conference side of the "publication road?"

Conference publication has had a dominant presence in computing research since the early 1980s. Still, during the 1980s and 1990s, there was ambivalence in the community, partly due to pressure from promotion and tenure committees about conference vs. journal publication. Then, in 1999, the Computing Research Association published a Best Practices Memo, titled "Evaluating Computer Scientists and Engineers for Promotion and Tenure," that legitimized conference publication as the primary means of publication in computer research. Since then, the dominance of conference publication over journals has increased, though the ambivalence has not completely disappeared. (In fact, ACM publishes 36 technical journals.)


My concern is our system has compromised one of the cornerstones of scientific publication—peer review. Some call computing-research conferences "refereed conferences," but we all know this is just an attempt to mollify promotion and tenure committees. The reviewing process performed by program committees is done under extreme time and workload pressures, and it does not rise to the level of careful refereeing. There is some expectation that conference papers will be followed up by journal papers, where careful refereeing will ultimately take place. In truth, only a small fraction of conference papers are followed up by journal papers.

Years ago, I was told that the rationale behind conference publication is that it ensures fast dissemination, but physicists ensure fast dissemination by depositing preprints at and by having a very fast review cycle. For example, a submission to Science, a premier scientific journal, typically reaches an editorial decision in two months. This is faster than our conference publication cycle!

So, I want to raise the question whether "we are driving on the wrong side of the publication road." I believe that our community must have a broad and frank conversation on this topic. This discussion began in earnest in a workshop at the 2008 Snowbird Conference on "Paper and Proposal Reviews: Is the Process Flawed?" (see

Interesting. I'm curious about all this and I wonder if any of the computing people out there who are reading this share Yardi's ambivalence. It's always seemed to me that the computing community's tendency to self archive on their own web space has been a great strength, probably leading to a somewhat lower probability of an arxiv-like system coming in and taking over like with physics. From what I've seen, probably 80-90% or more of most conference proceedings are available via authors' web pages.

April 21, 2009

Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services

I've always thought that Morgan & Claypool's Synthesis product is one of the best, most forward-looking products out there. They give quality, targeted, born-digital content of the kind that I can push out to faculty & grad students. And most of all, content that's worth paying for. They're also very receptive to the library community, welcoming input and feedback. And supporting our activities at conferences, etc.

Now they've even given back by starting a series of basically Information Science lectures on Synthesis!

Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services is edited by Gary Marchionini of the University of North Carolina. The series will publish 50- to 100-page publications on topics pertaining to information science and applications of technology to information discovery, production, distribution, and management. The scope will largely follow the purview of premier information and computer science conferences, such as ASIST, ACM SIGIR, ACM/IEEE JCDL, and ACM CIKM. Potential topics include, but not are limited to: data models, indexing theory and algorithms, classification, information architecture, information economics, privacy and identity, scholarly communication, bibliometrics and webometrics, personal information management , human information behavior, digital libraries, archives and preservation, cultural informatics, information retrieval evaluation, data fusion, relevance feedback, recommendation systems, question answering, natural language processing for retrieval, text summarization, multimedia retrieval, multilingual retrieval, and exploratory search.

Take a look at the first four:

Great stuff -- I think this is going to end up being a terrific resource. You can see some of the lectures they have under development here:
  • Digital Libraries by Ed Fox

  • Faceted Search by Daniel Tunkelang, Endeca

  • Grid-Based Repositories by Reagan Moore, Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI)

  • Information Architecture by Wei Ding and Xia Lin

  • Information Concepts by Gary Marchioninil

  • Information-Seeking Behavior by Raya Fidel

  • Personal Information Management by William Jones

  • Personalization in Information Retrieval by Javed Mostafa

  • Reading and Writing the Electronic Book by Catherine C. Marshall

  • Research and Analysis of Online Social Networks by Fred Stutzman

  • Web Analytics by Bernard J. Jansen

April 17, 2009

SciBarCamp 2009: Registration is open!

Registration is open for this year's edition of SciBarCamp Toronto. Last year was a blast.

This year, it's in collaboration with the Science Rendezvous series of events in and around Toronto.

So what's SciBarCamp?

SciBarCamp is a gathering of scientists, artists, and technologists for a day of talks and discussions. The second SciBarCamp event will take place at Hart House at the University of Toronto on May 9th, 2009, with an opening reception on the evening of May 8th. The goal is to create connections between science, entrepreneurs and local businesses, and arts and culture.

One of the topics we will be exploring this year is "Open Science", but we welcome any suggestions from participants. After all, in the tradition of BarCamps (see for more information), the program is decided by the participants at the beginning of the meeting, in the opening reception on May 8th. SciBarCamp will require active participation; while not everybody will present or lead a discussion, everybody will be expected to contribute substantially - this will help make it a really creative event.

The participant list is already up and growing and there is some preliminary information on the program. If there's a topic you're interested in, add it here.

One of the organizers, Eva Amsen, has more on her blog. There is also, of course, a Friendfeed room and a Twitter hashtag.

April 14, 2009

York University Libraries 2.0

My colleague Bill Denton and I whipped up a little article for the Libraries' spring faculty newsletter on some of the stuff we've been trying out recently.

We called it YUL 2.0.

Over the last few years the World Wide Web has changed from a place where we passively consume information to one where everyone can carve out their own little place to participate and contribute. The set of Internet technologies that encourage interactivity and user contributions—blogs, wikis, social networks and social bookmarking sites—are called Web 2.0.

Over the last year the library has embraced many of these Web 2.0 technologies, venturing out in the wilds of the interactive web and looking for involvement with our students, faculty, and anyone else around the world.

Here are some of the projects we have up right now, and one or two that are still just experimental glimmers in our eyes.

April 13, 2009

The kids are alright

Or at least Hana is.

She's one of York's official student bloggers and her entries on the student blog YUBlog are always worth reading.

First of all, I really like her response, Are we really that stupid, to the Toronto Star's article Profs blast lazy first-year students.

The Star article is fairly typical "kids today are all lazy and dumb" overstatement. That's not to say that it doesn't make some pretty good points about problems in high school education or the cult of self esteem that pervades a lot of educational theory. It does. But similar problems have always plagued us as a society. Undergrads have always been lazy and unmotivated, overconfident and looking for shortcuts. New technologies haven't changed that, only given birth to new ways for those tendencies to manifest.

Enough of me, here's Hana:

Now I’m not sure what to make of all this - it seems like every generation of teachers says that this young generation is truly hopeless and clueless, since the beginning of time. But there is something to be said about how easy it is to slack off with the help of a laptop and Wikipedia, and there is also something to be said about parents who are too nice to enforce some discipline during high school.


Unprepared or not, there are resources on campus for students who want to use them. Study workshops, writing centres, extensive disability services, one-on-one academic counselling, library research classes, and professors themselves are there for you. If you put in the effort and are in a program you’re passionate about, there’s no need to worry.

Hey, Hana, thanks for the shout-out to the Libraries!

And speaking of books, I also like her Best 10 things I’ve read in university:
3. Maus I and II - Art Spiegelman

Maus is an amazing, amazing graphic novel about a Jewish family’s experiences during World War Two. All the characters are presented as humans in animal masks - the Jewish characters are mice, the German characters are cats, the French are frogs, the British are fish, the Russians are bears, the Americans are dogs, you get the idea. It’s really disorienting and almost makes you forget you’re reading a children’s story instead of nonfiction. Maus took thirteen years to complete, and is based on the stories told to Art Spiegelman by his father, Vladek Spiegelman. It’s a really wrenching read, something that you come back to compulsively between meals and sleeps.

And another shout-out to the library for item 9!

In any case, I do think it's too bad that she was able to get through four years of Creative Writing without reading any science or technology books that really grabbed her, but what can you do. I'd be interested to hear which Natural Science course she took. If you're reading this Hana, drop me a line for some good suggestions to take out from Steacie!

April 9, 2009

The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians

What with all the fuss and bother about the Taiga Provocative Statements, I thought I'd take a break from doom and gloom and highlight a more recent set of statement that certainly provide a more optimistic, almost kumbaya, view of the profession.

Of course, I mean The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians which were written by John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor.

One of the great things about the CC-BY license that the statements are released under is that I can share the full text of the statements with you all below.

For the most part, I really like the statements. They are optimistic and forward thinking, envisioning the best that libraries and librarians can be. There represent something to aspire to.

Not surprisingly, however, I do have some small quibbles.

  • I'm never too pleased to see rhetoric like, "Hire the best people and let them do their job; remove staff who cannot or will not," especially just after they say, "Identify and implement the most humane and efficient methods, tools, standards and practices." This kind of corporate, Wal-Mart, race-to-the-bottom approach to HR is the wrong approach for public or non-profit institutions.

  • Frankly, some of the statements are a bit over-stated, almost veering into the sentimental and mawkish. For example, "The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization" or "The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change." I would have a hard time reciting those in front of a group of faculty and keeping a straight face. While ducking tomatoes.

  • I feel that the statements aren't really aimed at academic libraries so much as public or even national libraries. I'm sure many in institutional or special libraries would feel the same way. This isn't a big deal, of course, but it would have been nice to see something a bit more explicit about Information Literacy, for example. As I mentioned above, the current incarnation probably wouldn't go over that well among faculty or academic administrators, who would tend to see themselves as the guardians of civilization. It might make an interesting exercise to remix the statements to be more applicable to the academic environment.

But like I said, these are just quibbles.

(BTW, the Annoyed Librarian takes a stab at fisking the Darien Statements. She/he/it/they mostly miss the mark, but do make a few good points.)

So, here they are, the full text of The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians (word version):
The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians
Written and endorsed by John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor

The Purpose of the Library

The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.

The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change.

The Library is infinite in its capacity to contain, connect and disseminate knowledge; librarians are human and ephemeral, therefore we must work together to ensure the Library’s permanence.

Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict.

Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will.

A clear understanding of the Library’s purpose, its role, and the role of librarians is essential to the preservation of the Library.

The Role of the Library

The Library:
  • Provides the opportunity for personal enlightenment.

  • Encourages the love of learning.

  • Empowers people to fulfill their civic duty.

  • Facilitates human connections.

  • Preserves and provides materials.

  • Expands capacity for creative expression.

  • Inspires and perpetuates hope.

The Role of Librarians

  • Are stewards of the Library.

  • Connect people with accurate information.

  • Assist people in the creation of their human and information networks.

  • Select, organize and facilitate creation of content.

  • Protect access to content and preserve freedom of information and expression.

  • Anticipate, identify and meet the needs of the Library’s community.

The Preservation of the Library

Our methods need to rapidly change to address the profound impact of information technology on the nature of human connection and the transmission and consumption of knowledge.

If the Library is to fulfill its purpose in the future, librarians must commit to a culture of continuous operational change, accept risk and uncertainty as key properties of the profession, and uphold service to the user as our most valuable directive.

As librarians, we must:
  • Promote openness, kindness, and transparency among libraries and users.

  • Eliminate barriers to cooperation between the Library and any person, institution, or entity within or outside the Library.

  • Choose wisely what to stop doing.

  • Preserve and foster the connections between users and the Library.

  • Harness distributed expertise to serve the needs of the local and global community.

  • Help individuals to learn and to use new tools to create a more robust path to knowledge.

  • Engage in activism on behalf of the Library if its integrity is externally threatened.

  • Endorse procedures only if they guide librarians or users to excellence.

  • Identify and implement the most humane and efficient methods, tools, standards and practices.

  • Adopt technology that keeps data open and free, abandon technology that does not.

  • Be willing and have the expertise to make frequent radical changes.

  • Hire the best people and let them do their job; remove staff who cannot or will not.

  • Trust each other and trust the users.

We have faith that the citizens of our communities will continue to fulfill their civic responsibility by preserving the Library.

April 6, 2009

Recently in the IEEE

Some selections from recently published journal issues.

IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, v31i1, special issue on Asian Language Processing: History and Perspectives

IEEE Engineering Management Review, v37i1

IT Professional, v11i2. Special issue on Cloud Computing

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, v28i1

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, v52i1.

IEEE Transactions on Education, v52i1.

IEEE Security & Privacy, v7i1

April 4, 2009

Book Reviews: Cory Doctorow and Mafiaboy

Calce, Michael with Craig Silverman. Mafiaboy: How I cracked the Internet and why it's still broken. Toronto: Viking Canada, 2008. 277pp.

Doctorow, Cory. Content: Selected essays on technology, creativity, copyright and the future of the future. San Francisco: Tachyon, 2008. 213pp.

I'm reviewing these two books together for two reasons. First of all, I don't feel the need to go on at great length about either of them. Secondly, I think that they're related -- they both touch on the free, open and ungoverned (ungovernable?) nature of the Internet. One is a white hat treatment and the other, black hat. Or perhaps, many will think of both of these books representing a black hat perspective, that perhaps both these books represent the worst that the Internet has brought to modern society. The Web promotes openness and freedom. Generally, we consider both of those qualities to be positive. Certainly, Cory Doctorow would be a prime advocate of openness on the Web. On the other hand, the freedom that the Internet provides can also be cover for those that would exploit weakness and take advantage of others. Certainly, the story of Mafiaboy epitomizes the dark side of hacker culture.

Cory Doctorow's Content is a colletction of Doctorow's various essays on copyright and open content. collected from a bunch of different places, this is a stimulating and thought-provoking collection. Of course, every single essay is available for free on the net. An interesting conundrum, of course, is that if it's all available for free on the Web then why did I buy it? Most of all, I really like the idea of sending a little cash to the artists and thinkers whose work moves and inspires me. So, yes, I still buy books and CDs and pay to see movies in the theatre.

Never mind what you should pay for this book, who should read it? Well, if you're a copyright minimalist it's preaching to the choir. You'll agree that information wants to be free and that you the best business model for artists is to give stuff away that's easily copied and sell stuff that isn't. In other words, in a world where bits can be easily copied for virtually no cost, you have to be able to actually sell something other than pure content to make a living -- like experience. If you're a copyright maximalist, well, Doctorow is the anti-christ and you probably won't really appreciate the book. If, like most, you're in the middle, then this book is for you. Doctorow really makes a very strong and very persuasive case for his point of view, that . It's compelling and hard to ignore. You might not end up agreeing with everything (I certainly don't), but he will definitely win you over on a lot of points.

If there's one thing that detracts from Doctorow's ability to make his case, it's his attitude. Sometimes he's just too cocky, too arrogant, too sure that he's right and you're dead wrong. There's no agree-to-disagree is his world, it's my-way-or-the-highway. Take his opinion of opera:

The idea of a 60-minute album is as weird in the Internet era as the idea of sitting through 15 hours of Der Ring des Nibelungen was 20 years ago. There are some anachronisms who love their long-form opera, but the real action is in the more fluid stuff that can slither around on hot wax — and now the superfluid droplets of MP3s and samples. Opera survives, but it is a tiny sliver of a much bigger, looser music market. The future composts the past: old operas get mounted for living anachronisms; Andrew Lloyd Webber picks up the rest of the business.
My only reaction is that Doctorow is completely wrong in this. In fact, he really contradicts the main point of the long tail that Internet gurus are so adamant about. The new media landscape doesn't make 60 minute operas less interesting and relevant. It makes them more so -- finally able to find their niche in the long tail of human artistic expression. People that like opera can enjoy and obsess over it. People that don't, well, can listen to whatever they like. The point isn't Doctorow's rather juvenile assertion that some particular type of artistic expression is somehow not worthy, the point is that the Internet enables every kind of artistic expression is a way that was not possible before.

In any case, that was one of the few false notes (all the same kind of thing) in an otherwise excellent book. Read it and disagree, engage and enrage. But it's too important to ignore. I would recommend this book to any academic or public library as well as to anyone interested in the future of content in a fragmented and radically shifting online landscape.

And let's take a look at Michael Calce and Craig Silverman's account of Calce's life as Internet hacker Mafiaboy. Its a fascinating story of a Montreal-area teen and how he got involved in the world of hacking and ended up launching a couple of big denial of service attacks on some prominent web sites like Yahoo! and CNN. Calce tells the story of how he got involved in the hacking underworld as well as how he was caught, the jail time he served as well as how he's reformed and is using his obvious computing gifts for good instead of evil.

A couple of interesting points, though. Especially in his tell of the early part of the story, Calce comes off as a bit arrogant and clueless about the seriousness of his actions, not really showing much empathy. I find this interesting because while the later chapters make it pretty clear that he's grown up and left those feelings mostly behind, there are still glimpses and insights into the teenager that caused the havoc. We see the macho reputation building, the bragging and the power trips but not really from the point an introspective point of view. I guess it's hard to expect anyone to write that kind of book.

A great story, well told, well worth reading and thinking about. I would recommend it to any academic or public library interested in the way the Internet is shaping our society.

April 1, 2009

Some provocative statements

A little while back the Taiga Forum: A Community of AULs and ADs released their TAIGA 2009 Provocative Statements. There's been a fair bit of commentary around the web, most not that impressed.

A bit late to the party as usual, I've decided to add a bit to the not-so-impressed pile.

For the most part, their statements seem meant almost not to be taken seriously. They are pokes-in-the-eye. Unsupported and unsupportable....and yet, I've done a lot of the same things in my own ten years series, I've even said some of the same things (of course, a few years earlier). So the idea that you can be provocative and a little far out shouldn't bother me, right?

What bothers me is the tone. It's destructive and negative rather than cautionary or even visionary. It's "look at me, look at what a guru I am" In fact it's part of a strain we see these days of people trying to out "apocalyptic guru" each other. One person says, "newspapers and old media are dead" and the next says, "I think newspapers and old media are deader than you think they are!" "No, I think they're deader!" "No, I do!" And so on.

So, "Libraries must change!" and "No, I think libraries must change more than you do!" The Chicken Little impulse is natural, but not constructive.

Frankly, it's not hard to picture them all sitting around a table in dark sunglasses, black berets and smoking Gitanes, discussing Don Tapscott or Chris Anderson instead of Sartre or Camus.

So, in the same spirit of making ridiculous, unsupportable, poke-in-the-eye provocative statements, I feel the need to make some about them too:

  1. I have trouble remembering their name. I always think targa or parka.

  2. The document is in PDF format only. This seems oddly old fashioned.

  3. What's with all the ellipses? Really, you didn't need them and it makes the document look funny.

  4. The web site is so 2001. It looks like it was cobbled together in a weekend using FrontPage.

  5. There's no blog or online forum to promote discussion, not even a page that allows comments. This is very web 1.0, not what you'd expect of provocative visionaries.

  6. Not even Twitter. How can you be provocative without Twitter?

  7. "faciliate" is just funny. How are you going to get librarians to take you seriously if you can't spell.
    "An online social network is maintained by the Taiga Forum to faciliate continuing discussion of pertinent issues throughout the year. Membership in the online social network is open to all AULs and ADs who wish to participate. To receive an invitation to join the network, please fill out the contact form on this web page."

  8. The whole top-down, non-crowdsourced, walled-garden approach is kind of old-fashioned (see text of previous item).

  9. They changed their minds on their best point.

  10. The provocative statements are actually the Provocateurs preferred future.

In the complementary spirit of unsupported and unsupportable commentary, let's take a look at the individual statements.

1. ... all librarians will be expected to take personal responsibility for their own professional development; each of us will evolve or die. Budget pressures will force administrators to confront the "psychological shadow" cast by tenure and pseudo-tenure that has inhibited them from performing meaningful evaluations and taking necessary personnel actions. Librarians who do not produce will be reassigned or fired.
This is definitely provocative.

However, in my opinion, any organization that refuses to play any role in supporting the professional and career development of it's staff is a bad organization. Any organization, especially one with an academic mission, that behaves like this isn't "provocative." It's dysfunctional. Why so confrontational? Should we expect better? Shouldn't anyone who works in a knowledge industry expect better? Who do these people take their management lessons from? Donald Trump?

Yes, libraries have personnel issues, tenure can be a problem, transitioning people to new skill sets and career paths is a challenge. Yes, it's called leadership.

Yes, yes, I know that the Provocateurs aren't actually advocating running libraries this way, that it's all only a thought experiment. But it's all so gleeful and gosh-wow that it's hard not to extrapolate that this would be their current preference.

2. ... collection development as we now know it will cease to exist as selection of library materials will be entirely patron-initiated. Ownership of materials will be limited to what is actively used. The only collection development activities involving librarians will be competition over special collections and archives.
Just-in-time collection development versus just-in-case. Haven't we been discussing this for years?

In a nearly 100% online collection environment, it's entirely possible that we won't actually own anything, but will only access things on a pay-per-use basis, especially for new e-only monographs. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine all the commercial journal publishers disappearing in five years and that a pay-per-use model for all that content makes any sense for us or them.

On the third hand, as we see progress towards an Open Access paradigm, it's hard to see how this point is relevant to that material at all, or that they even considered libraries' role in curating, organizing and managing those scholarly resources at all. And I guess they've completely written off IRs.

The dig at the end about gladiator-like competition makes a lot of sense in the human resources model the Provocateurs seem to favour in #1.

3. ... Google will meet virtually all information needs for both students and researchers. Publishers will use Google as a portal to an increasing array of content and services that disintermediate libraries. All bibliographic data, excepting what libraries create for local special collections, will be produced and consumed at the network level.
In the PDF version of the document, this provocative statement is actually crossed out, as if they changed their minds and no longer thought this was a provocative statement.

Oddly, I actually think this provocative statement is the best of the lot. It implies a very large question: What do we think is worth paying for?

The dominance of discovery at the network level will put A&I database vendors under the gun, forcing them to innovate like crazy or die, something we're already seeing. The opportunity for us to to be able to use the money from cancelled A&I services to fund other aspects of the transformation we need to survive, particularly to our physical spaces.

Provocative? Sure. Hardly a new idea. I wrote about it two years ago and I'm sure others before me.

4. ... knowledge management will be identified as a critical need on campus and will be defined much more broadly than libraries have defined it. The front door for all information inquiries will be at the university level. Libraries will have a small information service role.
Frankly, I can never get myself to finish reading a sentence that has the term "knowledge management" in it.

I'm not sure what's provocative about this one. Are there any libraries that are currently the knowledge management hub of their campuses, meeting all possible information needs? Is this a role that makes sense in the future. Maybe if I had a clearer idea of what they meant by this statement.

5. ... libraries will have given up on the "outreach librarian" model after faculty persistently show no interest in it. Successful libraries will have identified shared goals with teaching faculty and adapted themselves to work at the intersection of librarianship, information technology and instructional technology.
I sort of understand this one. The point seems to be that faculty are no where near as interested in us as we are in them. This always has been and always will be true.

"Outreach Librarian model" is used oddly here. I would think that part of reaching out to the campus community is identifying shared goals with teaching faculty. I'm not sure that the role of outreach librarian is generally so narrowly defined as to exclude what the statement is implying we will embrace.

If faculty show no interest in "outreach", what makes them think that faculty will show any interest in identifying "shared goals" and working with us at the "intersection of librarianship, information technology and instructional technology."

But is it provocative to suggest that the best way to engage faculty is by getting involved in their educational activities? The best way to do outreach is via curriculum integration. A kind of broader form of integrating into the curriculum via educational technology is exactly what this statement is suggesting.

6. ... libraries will provide no in-person services. All services (reference, circulation, instruction, etc.) will be unmediated and supported by technology.
Yes, this one is genuinely provocative.

It's interesting that this sort of assumes that libraries will have no role on campus in providing study, collaborative or casual spaces. And that all the successful Learning Commons projects will just fold up and disappear and no new ones will be initiated.

If students are in our physical spaces, they may actually want to talk to somebody about something at some point. I can kind of see myself (after all, I'll only be 51 in five years), running away from students in the library so that I'm not tempted to perform some service for them unmediated by technology.

It also assumes that pretty well all aspects higher education will be mediated by technology. Which is possible but hardly likely in five years.

And I assume that Information Literacy will also disappear, as I will begin running away from profs and ignoring their emails just in case they want me to do some unmediated instruction or consultation with their students.

7. ... libraries will have abandoned the hybrid model to focus exclusively on electronic collections, with limited investments in managing shared print archives. Local unique collections will be funded only by donor contributions.
I'm not sure that anyone would think of this as particularly provocative anymore. The idea that libraries will abandon print completely one day has been around for awhile, particularly in the science library community. Will most or all libraries completely abandon print as soon as five years? Probably not. Probably not even ten years, although by then we might only be spending one percent or less of our budgets on print.

However, the idea that local unique collections would only be funded by donour contributions is absurd, destructive and actually kind of misses the point. If newspapers can find part of their survival strategy in aligning themselves to their communities with an intensely local focus, then so should academic libraries. It seems to me that local unique collections can provide something that Google can't and that intensely local focus might be something that we do think is actually worth spending money on. And yes, I'm sure we'll digitize our intensely local print collections.

8. ... library buildings will no longer house collections and will become campus community centers that function as part of the student services sector. Campus business offices will manage license and acquisition of digital content. These changes will lead campus administrators to align libraries with the administrative rather than the academic side of the organization.
Ah, now I understand #6.

But isn't playing video games with students and serving them coffee a service that's unmediated by technology? Oh, sorry, can't play Wii games with them, only MMORPGs.

I would suggest that what they're talking about is also no longer a library, so I guess I'm not working there anymore anyways. Which leads to understanding #s 1, 2, 5 and 7. Wal-Martization is the term we're looking for, the race to the bottom hollowing out the mission of all of higher education.

In fact, I think it's possible to see this as the uber-provocative statement, the one from which all the others follow. The loss of the academic library's academic mission leads to treating our staff like Wal-Mart treats theirs and to viewing our licensed and purchased content like Wal-Mart views the products they stock.

Which makes it odd to put at #8. It probably should have been #1.

And I surely can't imagine that this would be anyone's preferred outcome.

9. ... the library community will insist on a better return on investment for membership organizations (e.g., CRL, DLF, CNI, SPARC, ARL, ALA). All collaboration of significance will be centered around either individual entrepreneurial libraries (e.g., HathiTrust, OLE), or regional consortia.
This one's fine, although I'm not sure why they would have considered it even mildly controversial rather than full-blown provocative. Using the word "all" rather than "most" or "much of" does seem rather strong, but again not provocative.

10. ... 20% of the ARL library directors will have retired. University administrators will see that librarians do not have the skills they need and will hire leaders from other parts of the academy, leading both to a realignment of the library within the university and to the decline of the library profession.
Since these statements are coming from AULs & ADs, I find it odd that they don't seem to think that they are qualified to make the next step and become directors. Or that anyone on their campuses will think that they are. Although the skills that librarians do have are probably not best suited for running what's left of the library the in the student centre model anyways, so maybe it's just as well.

It's interesting. The sum total of the provocative statements seems to be that we'll all be spending our time serving coffee to students in the next five years as pretty well every other library function will either completely disappear or be taken over by someone else. It seems that they're despairing that we'll lose virtually any sort of genuine, meaningful, professional role that libraries or librarians can have in the academic mission of the university.

Now, what they provocatively suggest may come true. The Provocateurs may even think it's inevitable or desirable, although I hope not. I do think that it would have been possible to have worded most of their statements differently, in a way that suggests a way forward. I don't think it's useful to approach the future from such a defeatist perspective, that some of their provocative statements could actually show some, you know, that thing we expect of library leaders like AULs and ADs. Oh yeah, leadership.

I also find it interesting how much contempt and disdain for their fellow library workers oozes out of the various "provocative statements."

(I like to think that the Future of Academic Libraries presentation I did in 2008 is nicely sprinkled with provocative statements. Take a look.)

(BTW, just to reiterate, this whole screed is intended in the spirit of provocativity. No harm, no foul. Right?)

(Also, it may very well be no coincidence that it's published on April 1.)

March 30, 2009

The Cluetrain Manifesto -- Ten Years Later

The Cluetrain Manifesto (full text) is one of those books I've always meant to read but haven't. Not sure why, but it's probably due to the fact that when it came out initially I was just beginning library school and wasn't that plugged into the whole social media/internet will change the work business literature like I am now.

There is a copy kicking around the house and now I feel like I have to crack it open and give it a look. Why? Because Simon Owens was kind enough to let me know about his interview with three of the four Cluetrain authors, Rick Levine, Christopher Locke and David Weinberger. The title of the article gives us a strong indication of where both Owens and the authors are coming from: 'Cluetrain Manifesto' Still Relevant 10 Years Later.

From Wikipedia, a bit of what TCM is about:

The Cluetrain Manifesto is a set of 95 theses organized and put forward as a manifesto, or call to action, for all businesses operating within what is suggested to be a newly-connected marketplace. The ideas put forward within the manifesto aim to examine the impact of the Internet on both markets (consumers) and organizations. In addition, as both consumers and organizations are able to utilize the Internet and Intranets to establish a previously unavailable level of communication both within and between these two groups, the manifesto suggests that the changes that will be required from organizations as they respond to the new marketplace environment.

Owens' piece is interesting in that he talks about both what TCM got right and what it got wrong.

I recently spoke to three of the four authors of the manifesto about the last decade and the relevance of their words today. Does the existence of Twitter merely confirm what they asserted about the near-instantaneous conversational tone of online media? Surprisingly, their individual answers varied widely (some were almost borderline curmudgeonly) but all seemed to agree that, for the most part, the "Cluetrain Manifesto" has continued to be relevant and -- with a few exceptions -- its 95 theses have held up to the test of time.

It's particularly interesting in the context of what Weinberger says about how long it's going to take before we can really see the web's true impact on business and society:
"There's real progress and it's a daily struggle," he said. "I think it's likely to be a daily struggle for a generation. Many of the changes we now take for granted, and thus they are invisible to us. There was a time when if you wanted to buy a car, you had to rely upon the information that the car dealer gave you. These days the car's website is maybe the last place you go to."

When asked why he thought this struggle continues, Weinberger said it was because there are real risks involved with online media.

"Institutional participation in the leading edge of social media is always going to be tinged with embarrassment," he said. "The leading edge is always where they're going to be most exposed and will likely do things in which they look foolish. And I salute companies that are willing to look foolish."

I like that, "a daily struggle for a generation." The real change in academia will come when the kids that are in high school and are undergrads now become the tenured faculty of the future. I hope (and work for every day) that libraries and librarians will be waiting for them, which unfortunately requires that we at least start transforming before the rest of academia.

Maybe I won't dig out the copy I have at home. Maybe I'll wait for the new edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto that's coming out in June.

Socially network with me!

We should probably all do this every once in a while, just as a way of expanding our connections a bit.

Here are the social networks that I'm reasonably active on:

As far as IM is concerned, the only one I am on with any frequency is Meebo, for which you can use the widget on the sidebar.

I'm on LinkedIn, Nature Network and Connotea, but not particularly active. I don't currently have any other active blogs.

So, friend, follow or subscribe to me and let's connect online. In particular, if you haven't joined my favourite of the bunch, Friendfeed, I would encourage you to give it a try. There are active and vibrant library, science and technology communities there, all of which I have lots of connections to. It would be quite easy to start with friending me and branch out into those areas and explore. Friendfeed is by far the best source for conversation online, vastly superior to Twitter. FF is talking with a group of friends at a bar or restaurant, Twitter is shouting at each other from across a crowded concert hall.

(Yeah, I know I should have a text box on the sidebar with all this info. I'll get that up and running fairly soon now that this post is done.)

March 27, 2009

Friday Fun: 50 Reasons No One Wants to Publish Your First Book

It's been a while since I picked up something from Bookgasm, but this one really caught my eye.

Although many of the reasons are decidedly NSFW (and hilarious), here's a few that are appropriate for a family blog:

4. Where are the vampires?

5. No, seriously, where are the vampires?

29. Everyone who attempts to load a copy of the manuscript onto their Kindle is found dead three hours later.

33. Writing a book about vegetarian zombies kinda indicates you don’t exactly know why people like zombies in the first place.

50. Again, I ask one last time, where are the freaking vampires?

March 26, 2009

Academic Blogging: Promoting your Research on the Web

I did a workshop/presentation to York faculty as part of the Libraries' Research Frontiers series. As the title of this post suggests, it was on the usefulness of blogging to an academic career.

Here are the slides I used:

You can link to the slides here, and in our institutional repository here.

It was a pretty cozy session, which was ok since that lead to a lot of interesting questions and discussion.

Of course, I couldn't resist using Friendfeed as a way of working my way though some of the issues around academic blogging. I started by asking about potential titles for my session and ended up getting a pretty good discussion going around more general issues.

There were a lot of really great suggestions for titles, serious and not-so-serious and I was happy to be able to use those suggestions at the beginning of the presentation, both as a way to provoke discussion and as a way of demonstrating the usefulness and value of online communities. Needless to say, I'm very grateful to my freeps for all the input and suggestions.

I particularly liked what Cameron Neylon had to say:

I started up a blog and all I got was five invites to give keynotes, ten new collaborators, introduction to new funding bodies, an interview in Nature, an invite to scifoo, three papers...and a couple of t-shirts

Point very well taken.

March 20, 2009

Clay Shirky on Web vs. Print

Cobbling together a 4 part Twitter message:

The "Web vs. Print" conversation has been dominated by two camps, each knowing one thing. One camp knew that the web couldn't replace print functions, and assumed the web wouldn't destroy the print model. One camp know that the Web would destroy the print model, and assumed that the web would replace print functions. Both camps were right about what they knew, and wrong about what they assumed.

Serious food for thought here and a very succinct summary of his very fine recent post Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. And although Shirky was talking about newspapers, I think the general sentiment is also applicable to books and magazines as well -- with print journals already having been supplanted by online.

In terms of journals, if online hasn't exactly replaced all the print functions, I think that all the new functions added have, for most people, more than made up for what was lost. Print journals will disappear more-or-less completely in the fairly near future.

I think the same will be true for newspapers, that ultimately the added functionality that online gives will more than make up for the lost print functionality and that print newspapers will more-or-less completely disappear in the foreseeable future. Probably later than for journals, though I might be wrong on that.

It'll be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out for books -- whether online/ebook/Kindleish will add enough new functionality to make the trade-off worthwhile for the majority of people. I think it'll happen, it'll just take longer than for journals and newspapers.

(An interesting question: how exactly would you save something like Shirky's Twittering in Zotero or EndNote or something? As well, how exactly would you cite it in a paper? As a web page? blog post? personal communication?)

Friday Fun: 10 Annoying Habits of a Geeky Spouse

This one's pretty funny. I'm not actually guilty of very many of these. Honest.

Here's a sample:

5. Wearing obscurely geeky T-shirts to "normal" places - Every geek has at least a few of these; don't try to deny it. We love them, because we get the jokes and we know that only other geeks will get them, too. Unfortunately, they can make our less geeky significant others feel a bit conspicuous when out with us—or maybe they feel the geekiness will rub off on them, I'm not quite sure. Still, I feel that if I have to occasionally let my daughter wear a Hello Kitty shirt out of the house, I can wear my shirts from ThinkGeek.

Let's just say I have a pretty impressive collection of library vendor t-shirts and leave it at that.

March 18, 2009

Ten weeks of stats

Warning! Navel gazing ahead!

At the beginning of January, I did a longish post about the hit stats for the blog over 2008. It had been a good year as well as about 18 months since I'd last posted stats, so I thought it was a good time. I also favour transparency in such things; I appreciate it when others post their stats as I think it demystifies the whole "popularity" business.

Little did I know what the beginning of 2009 would bring.

Not that the rush has been that impressive -- I've gotten 19,113 pageviews so far this year compared to 73,212 for all of last year (26% of last year's total in 21% of the year so far, so a slight increase). It's how it's come.

So far this year, I've had my most popular post ever as well as my 6th most popular. That's since June 2006 when I started using Google Analytics. Before then, however, my traffic was only about 5-10% of what it is now so the data from then probably won't affect "all time" totals much.

So, what are those two posts?

  1. Twenty-nine reports about the future of academic libraries
  2. & Globe and Mail Books: What can library websites learn

The Reports post has already become my most popular post ever by a fairly large margin. Let's take a look at the top 10, with total pageviews since June 2006 in brackets.
  1. Twenty-nine reports about the future of academic libraries (3,584)

  2. Best and worst science books (2,540)

  3. Jeff Healey (1,494)

  4. Interview with Timo Hannay, Head of Web Publishing, Nature Publishing Group (1,445)

  5. My Job in 10 Years: Collections: Further Thoughts on Abstracting & Indexing Databases (1,051)

  6. & Globe and Mail Books: What can library websites learn (1,014)

  7. The life of a CS grad student (980)

  8. Best Science Books 2007: Library Journal (913)

  9. Giving good presentations using PowerPoint (860)

  10. GuruLib home library organizer (715)

Of course, the reason those two posts have become so popular so quickly is because they were both linked quite widely. The Reports post in particular got a lot of mentions all over the library and educational blogospheres. The Tor/Globe and Mail got a bit boost from a mention in AL Direct. Thanks to all!

March 16, 2009

Movers & Shakers -- The Science/ScholComm Sublist

First of all, a hearty congratulations to all those selected for the Annual Library Journal list of Movers & Shakers. I'll highlight a few here that are part of the science and scholarly communications communities. I've only looked at the list very quickly, so if I miss anyone, please let me know.

Dean Giustini (blog)

In his preweb library days, Dean Giustini noticed that consumer health groups for breast and prostate cancer, along with the AIDS movement, were using the library intensively. “That was a major reason I liked health libraries,” says Giustini, who, as University of British Columbia (UBC) biomedical branch librarian, works in a hospital. “I could help people find information so they could make life-death decisions.”

Joe Murphy
Murphy developed an iPhone-based text messaging reference service for the Yale Science Libraries, matching patrons' mobility by “bringing reference where they are through a preferred medium.” The iPhone also saves time, enabling SMS, phone, email, IM service, and posting directly to Twitter and Facebook from one device.

Kristi L. Palmer
Kristi Palmer loves touching original historic objects and documents. But she also believes that free, open, easy digital access to them reveals otherwise impossible research avenues to otherwise unreachable audiences. As metadata librarian for IUPUI's digital repository, IDeA, and manager of its Electronic Theses and Dissertations collection, she provides 1000 downloads per day worth of access.

Melissa L. Rethlefsen
While Melissa Rethlefsen was a student working at the Bio-Medical Library at the University of Minnesota, a reference staff member found her engrossed in the writings of Herodotus—the ancient Greek researcher known as the world's first historian, who chronicled events in an organized, logical way. The librarian asked Rethlefsen to work at the reference desk. Rethlefsen's affair with research and information tracking had begun.

Dorothea Salo (blog)
As digital repository librarian at the UW-Madison Library, all Dorothea Salo's computer knowledge is self-taught, leading to a “rough and ready” approach to making things work. Steve Lawson, humanities librarian, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, says that Salo's “exhortation to just 'beat things with rocks until they work' has been a source of much inspiration for me.”

Rachel Walden (blog)
Rachel Walden, observes David Rothman, information services specialist, Community General Hospital Medical Library, Syracuse, NY, “is unique in providing frequent, authoritative posts on the science and politics of women's health.”

Dean Giustini also appears to be the only Canadian this year.

(Side note: given my recent musings about the usefulness of blogs to career development, it's interesting to note how many of the M&S people have blogs. Look here for a nice list of the recipients and their blogs or other web presences.)

March 14, 2009

Here & There

A pretty amazing day or two around the blogosphere, with a few posts really worth your attention:

  • Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable by Clay Shirky
    Journalism has always been subsidized. Sometimes it’s been Wal-Mart and the kid with the bike. Sometimes it’s been Richard Mellon Scaife. Increasingly, it’s you and me, donating our time. The list of models that are obviously working today, like Consumer Reports and NPR, like ProPublica and WikiLeaks, can’t be expanded to cover any general case, but then nothing is going to cover the general case.

    Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

    Some of the best commentary on what's going on in the news business is coming from Clay Shirky. I really like him because he doesn't get into the whole "I think old media is deader than you think old media is" posturing of so many "new media gurus" but rather looks carefully and objectively at what's happening.

  • It’s not all about the tech - why 2.0 tech fails by Meredith Farkas
    If it’s something that’s failing because staff aren’t contributing to it, you need to try to understand what’s behind their resistance. Make sure you’ve done all you can to secure buy-in. Are staff comfortable with the technology? Are they not being given time to add content? Did you offer trainings on it? Are there any technology barriers that you can bring down — make it easier to post, make the wiki/blog/etc. the homepage on their computer, even post things for people to get them started, etc.? But honestly, if most staff members don’t recognize that there’s a need for a library wiki or library blog or whatever in the first place, or the project isn’t strongly supported by administration, it’s not going to be a good fit for your library.

    Clear-eyed, practical advice. We all have dead 2.0 projects littering the landscape and this post helps us understand why. We should all be so addled. Ricard Akerman continues the conversation.

  • Revisiting potential research-support roles for the library by Richard Akerman
    Where I think things are possible is on the smaller scale, building and integrating advanced discovery and integration with researcher workflows piece-by-piece. (This shouldn't be read as "build all" - integrating includes e.g. helping researchers integrate Connotea, Zotero, etc. into their workflows.) Many researchers are not that web-aware beyond Google searching - there are all kinds of tools that they could use. The library has a role in providing information about those tools. In the near term, there are some very quick wins just providing better discovery and information management tools, most of which are already available for free on the web. In the medium term, there are intriguing possibilities to support researchers with Virtual Research Environments. And in the long term, true semantic discovery may be possible, with very advanced computational and visualisation tools supporting very sophisticated computer- and data-driven science.

    Some interesting ideas, if a little challenging to carry through on. Peter Murray Rust continues the conversation and gives a bit of insight on the challenges libraries face carrying through.

  • On science and selfishness
    When it comes to scientists, you don't just have to hand them a sharper saw, you have to force them to stop sawing long enough to change to the new tool. All they know is that the damn tree has to come down on time and they will be in terrible trouble (/fail to be recognized for their genius) if it doesn't.

    I suspect the phenomenon that Bill refers to really applies far beyond just academic scientists but to all academics, students and even the general public. For most people, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it doesn't solve a pressing need faster and better, then it's too much trouble. Bill and others continue the conversation.

If there's a thread that goes through all these items is that change is hard to predict. That humans alternatively embrace and resist it in strangely (un)predictable ways. The future is hard to guess and even harder to shape. But, doing nothing and waiting for the change that the future brings just isn't an option. You'll be overwhelmed and snowed under. You have to keep moving, keeping learning and keep trying stuff, even if it doesn't seem to work.