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.

March 12, 2009

State of the Computer Book Market, 2008

O'Reilly publishes a periodic update on the state of the computer book market on their Radar blog. It used to be done by Tim O'Reilly himself, but now it's done by Mike Hendrickson.

This time around it's in five parts. Let's take a look at some of the hightlights. As usual, if you're interested in computer books, the posts are well worth your detailed attention. The comments are also very interesting to track.

Part 1: The Market

As you can see, the computer market is only 1% of total unit sales in bookstores and online retailers. The Computer category was the only category down [-8%] year-over-year...

What you won't see on this chart is that the computer book market cratered in 2001, shrinking twenty percent a year for three years until it stabilized in 2004 at about half the size that it was in 2000. (We only have reliable data going back to 2004.) We are hoping that the cratering we experienced in the second half of 2008 will not be as pronounced or long as 2001 because the current economic conditions are not squarely for computer books centered around Tech. That being said, 2008 was the worst performing year since we've been collecting the Bookscan data. The chart immediately below shows total units by year for the Computer book category. As you can see, 2008 was the worst year for unit sale in the computer book market.

Really worth looking at is the chart of hot to not-so-hot topics. Hottest are: Mac programming, vitualization, mobile phone, computers and society and social web. Least hot include: web authoring, windows, Linux, MS programming, ipod & itunes.

Part 2: The Technologies
In response to previous State of the Computer Book market posts, there have been reader comments indicating that part of the decline in the market is due to a lack of anything that new in the Tech world to sustain lots of books selling lots of copies. It begs the question -- will we ever see another Java-like phenomena similar to what we experienced 12 years ago? (And yes, we understand it was much more than just a Java event, but Java skyrocketed more than all others - it was truly astronomical...) However, we believe that one reason why programming and administration topics are suffering more than consumer topics is that sophisticated users are the first to show the preference shift from books to online content consumption.

Part 3: The Publishers

The most notable factor is that Wiley continues to hold the leading spot as the largest publisher, with 30% market share of units sold, while Pearson lost 2% market share and O'Reilly gains 1%. (We’ll look at revenue share later in the analysis.)...

So what is notable from this data? First that these top 8 publishers are down - 375,820k units from 2007 to 2008. Only O’Reilly and Reed Elsevier saw modest gains in 2008. Seven out of the eight top publishers had more titles making the top 3000 list in 2008. Wiley, O’Reilly, and Reed Elsevier saw their efficiency improve in 2008 while the other large publishers saw their efficiency decrease.

Part 4 -- The Languages
Overall the market for programming languages was down 5.9% in 2008 when compared with 2007. There were 1,849,974 units sold in 2007 versus 1,740,808 units sold in 2008, which is a decrease of 109,166 units. So the unhealthy 8% loss in the Overall Computer Book Market was not completely fueled by programming-oriented books....

If you look at the five-year trend for the languages shown below, you can see that C# has been steadily growing year after year while Java has been going in the opposite direction during the same period. PHP, ActionScript and Python are the other languages going in a positive direction. Ruby, Java, and C++ had the biggest declines in unit sales during 2008, and Ruby dropped out of the top 10 languages....

Lastly, the following languages sold fewer than 1,000 units in 2008. Here is the list in alpha order: abap, ada, awd, blitzmax, cl, cobol, cs2, d, delphi, directx, dsl, e, eiffel, fortran, haxe, idl, javafx, jcl, kml, labview, lingo, lisp, m, maxscript, ml, mumps, mysql spl, natural, ocaml, octave, oopic, opl, pascal, pda languages, peoplecode, phrogram, pl/1, qbasic, realbasic, rexx, rpg, s, scratch, smalltalk, spark, sql server, squeak, unknown, unrealscript, windows script, and x++.

Part 5 -- eBooks and Summary
The market got off to a fast start in 2008 but during July took a nose-dive downward and never recovered. 2008 ended up 8% behind 2007, and there were very few bright spots. There were significantly fewer new titles making it into the Top 3000 reports, which means that more titles that were published before 2008 continued to make the list. Titles that were published in 2008 performed worse than those published in the prior 6 years and only outperformed titles from 2001 and earlier. Apple and its software and hardware [iPhone, iPod, and Mac OS X] had the biggest impact on computer book sales in 2008. Social media development, virtualization and mobile also performed better than in 2007. From a publisher perspective, O'Reilly showed the best gain while Pearson, Wiley, and Microsoft Press lost the most ground. The two Imprints of O'Reilly and Dummies have the most diverse publishing programs due to their strong performance in our six categories. The number one title for 2008 was O'Reilly's Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual. The number one programming language was C#, with Objective-C and ActionScript showing strong growth in 2008. That's the quick view....

As you can clearly see, the decline in print has been slowly happening while Safari has maintained a very healthy double-digit growth rate. Do you believe we are at or near a tipping point for the computer book industry? Do developers want content online or a combination of online and print? Or is there a chance that new technological innovation will re-ignite a somewhat stale computer book market?

March 11, 2009

ICSTI 2009 Conference: Managing Data for Science

A very interesting conference coming up this June in Ottawa. I'm almost certain that I'll be there.

ICSTI's 2009 Public conference will take place on June 9 and 10, 2009 at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Speakers from Canada, the United States and Europe will address:
  • How eScience affects the way libraries, publishers and scientists relate to each other.
  • How the era of "big data" will enable enhanced experimentation and collaboration in science.

The conference program will inform researchers, scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishers, IM/IT professionals, chief information officers, and librarians about specific data initiatives of experts from Microsoft, the San Diego Super-Computing Center, Indiana University, Carleton University (ODESI Project), the British Library, and other institutions.

The program looks great!

ICSTI is the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information. Canada's national science library, CISTI, is organizing the conference.

March 9, 2009

More books and reports on the future of academic libraries

The two posts I did a little while back on books and reports about the future of academic libraries have proven to be surprising popular, with the latter edging up towards being my most popular post ever (details in a few days).

Of course, there are a lot more books that are relevant to the future of academic libraries that aren't part of the formal LIS literature. So, I thought I'd follow up with an even bigger list!

This list of books is a bit more scattershot, a bit more random, but still it picks up a few themes the last set didn't, like crowdsourcing. Like with the last list, I'm not sure I expect anyone to read every word of all of these books. To be sure, the business book style that a lot of them embrace would lead to Lovecraftian dementia, what with the excessive repetition and hype. On the other hand, I think that each of them could have one idea or one case study that's worth paying attention.

There are also a couple that aren't published yet that I'm looking forward to.

More Books

  1. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide by Henry Jenkins

  2. Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web by David Weinberger

  3. The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual by Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, David Weinberger

  4. Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block

  5. Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self Interest by Peter Block

  6. The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Is Reinventing Capitalism by Matt Mason

  7. Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration by Keith Sawyer

  8. The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

  9. Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe

  10. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

  11. The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

  12. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson

  13. The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr

  14. We-Think: Mass innovation, not mass production by Charles Leadbeater

  15. Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson

  16. Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters by Scott Rosenberg

  17. Mind Set!: Eleven Ways to Change the Way You See--and Create--the Future by John Naisbitt

  18. Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years by Bruce Sterling

  19. Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters by Bill Tancer

  20. Planet Google: One Company's Audacious Plan To Organize Everything We Know

  21. The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time by David A. Vise and Mark Malseed

  22. Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got From the Company Man, Family Dinner and the Age of Affluence to the Home Office, Blackberry Moms and Economic Anxiety by Dalton Conley

  23. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Dubner, Stephen J. Levitt

  24. Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki

  25. Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of their Own by David Bollier

  26. The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship by John Willinsky

  27. Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet by Christine L. Borgman

  28. The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid

  29. Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge by Cass R. Sunstein

  30. Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

  31. The Tower and the Cloud by Richard N. Katz, Editor

  32. Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold

  33. The Virtual Community:Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier by Howard Rheingold

  34. Print Is Dead: Books in Our Digital Age by Jeff Gomez

Just like I didn't mention every single interesting book last time, I also left out a few reports that look promising. The FriendFeed thread for the previous Reports post garnered a few suggestions that I'll repeat here. As well, I found a few more on my own.

More Reports

  1. The Research Library’s Role in Digital Repository Services

  2. The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration with Other Discovery Tools ("The Calhoun Report")

  3. On the Record: Report of The Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control ("WoGroFuBiCo")

  4. Associate Librarian Deanna Marcum responds to On the Record: Report of The Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control

  5. Writing in the 21st Century: A report from the National Council of Teachers of English

  6. ALA's Core Competences of Librarianship

  7. TAIGA 2009 Provocative Statements

  8. How to Use Social Software in Higher Education

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).

Update 2009.03.11: Re: Joe Kraus' comment, I added a few more books and one report to the list from the original FriendFeed thread.

March 6, 2009

Friday Fun: Lovecraftian School Board Member Wants Madness Added To Curriculum

Boy, do I ever love The Onion:

"Our schools are orderly, sanitary places where students dwell in blissful ignorance of the chaos that awaits," West said. "Should our facilities be repaired? No, they must be razed to the ground and rebuilt in the image of the Cyclopean dwellings of the Elder Gods, the very geometry of which will drive them to be possessed by visions of the realms beyond."

The whole article is hysterical.

By the way, I absolutely love the caption to a Cthulhu drawing: "Artist's rendering of the Cthulhu, a hideous demon borne of pure malice that fewer than 3 percent of high school sophomores can identify."

Friday quiz: The board member's name (Charles West) is a combination of the names of two Lovecraft characters. Without googling, which ones?

(via LisaSlo)

March 5, 2009

Open Laboratory 2008 is for sale

It's finally here and available for purchase at

This year's editor Jennifer Rohn put together a collection of fifty-two selected blog posts showcasing the quality and diversity of science writing on blogs in 2008. You can see the background story on how the book came about here. You can order the first (2006) volume here and the second (2007) here.

I'll be ordering one copy for myself and one for the collection at work as I think that this is a worthy project to support.

If you want a preview of the contents of the book, links to all the winning posts are here.

I look forward to reading and reviewing the book.

March 4, 2009

Best Science Books 2008: Library Journal Best Sci-Tech Books

This might be the last post for 2008 books, and it's one of the best annual lists out there. Every year, I use this LJ list to catch up on my popular science ordering for the year, to get the good stuff I missed. I don't order a huge amount of popular science for our collection, but I do like to get the best stuff. I like the fact that the books I get are check out quite a bit. There is a demand for popular materials among academic library users.

Here goes, some hightlights:

  • Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food by Ronald, Pamela C. & Raoul W. Adamchak

  • Death from the Skies! These Are the Ways the World Will End... by Plait, Philip

  • The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies by Hölldobler, Bert & Edward O. Wilson (text) & Margaret C. Nelson (illus.)

  • Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by Palfrey, John & Urs Gasser

  • Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff by Pearce, Fred

  • Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion–Year History of the Human Body by Shubin, Neil

  • Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked a Nation on Prescription Drugs by Petersen, Melody

  • The Scientific Life: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation by Shapin, Steven

  • One to Nine: The Inner Life of Numbers by Hodges, Andrew

  • Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life by Zimmer, Carl

  • Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures by Schutt, Bill (text) & Patricia Wynne (illus.)

  • Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique by Gazzaniga, Michael

  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking To Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics by Susskind, Leonard

  • Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Roach, Mary

March 2, 2009

Whither CISTI and the Canadian War on Science

Many of you will have heard of CISTI, the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, one of the premier scientific libraries in the world and a key document delivery provider for universities everywhere.

Well, apparently the Government of Canada doesn't think that this is such a good thing to have because, I guess, everything is on Google for free.

Here's the recent announcement (via) (emphasis mine):

An announcement from CISTI as to the upcoming changes:

Dear colleagues,

I would like to share some news with you regarding upcoming changes to CISTI as a result of the recently approved Canadian federal government budget.

Over the course of 2008, the National Research Council (NRC) was included in the Government of Canada’s Strategic Review process. As a result, NRC will be realigning resources and programs, which will include major changes to CISTI.

The NRC Strategic Review plan focuses on the issue of ‘core role of government’. For NRC-CISTI, this will be realized through the spin-off of NRC Research Press and the transformation to new delivery models of the Information Intelligence Services and National Science Library Programs.

CISTI will continue to exist but will function on a significantly smaller scale, and will seek to deliver some services via private sector vendors or partners. The provision of scientific, technical and medical (STM) information remains a priority for NRC and the Government of Canada. CISTI will continue to partner with other organizations to fulfill its core role as part of Canada’s innovation infrastructure, as feasible under the new model.

The option we have recommended for the Research Press is to move to a new not-for-profit corporate entity to permit a continued commitment to provide a viable Canadian S&T publishing option. Free electronic access to Research press journals for Canadians is in question due to the projected loss of DSP support.

It is too early to say how these changes will affect the way we work with you. The proposed program transformations will require investigation of feasibility and best options, consultation with staff, potential partners and stakeholders, and planning. This planning phase will occur in 2009, with implementation beginning in early 2010. You will be consulted as CISTI moves into the planning phase, and I will provide you with more information when I have more details.

CISTI’s core value of delivering quality STM information service remains unchanged and we will try to minimize the impact of these changes on our clients and stakeholders. However, this year is going to be a very challenging one for everyone at CISTI due to the scale and complexity of the proposed changes and the ambiguity around how some of them will be implemented.


Pam Bjornson

Director General, Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information
Directrice gnrale, Institut canadien de l’information scientifique et technique
National Research Council Canada | 1200 Montreal Road, Ottawa, ON K1A 0R6
Conseil national de recherches Canada | 1200, chemin Montral, Ottawa (ON) K1A 0R6
Tel/Tl: 613-993-2341 | Fax: 613-952-9112

Thanks to a FriendFeed pal, I see this letter to opposition leader Michael Ignatieff framing a possible response to the government's actions:
The lion’s share of these cuts to the NRC are shouldered by the National Science Library CISTI. From the present budget of about $48M the current budget by NRC to CISTI for 2010 is targeted at $16M - a dramatic drop of close to 70%. While some proportion of this cut will be accounted for by the planned privatization of the NRC Press this measure represents a major slashing of public spending on the basic infrastructure of science and technology: knowledge. At a time when scholarly science libraries are transforming from bricks and mortar repositories of papers and books to sophisticated information retrieval engines in specific fields of science, our country needs more, not less, investment in next-generation digital libraries as well as time to implement them.

Sigh. It seems that the current government has begun it's own little war on science. In particular, check out this article from today's Globe and Mail. I'll excerpt it below, but it's well worth reading the whole depressing thing:
So while the Barack Obama administration in Washington has added $10-billion (U.S.) to finance basic research in the United States, the three agencies that back basic research in Canada must cut spending by $148-million over the next three years.

CIHR, for example, Canada's main funding body for medical research, has to find about $35-million in savings by 2012, and $28-million of that is by eliminating a program that provided grants to research teams.


The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, which had been financing his work, received no new money in budget 2009.

CFACS, like Genome Canada, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, was one of 14 agencies created in 2000 to finance particular areas of peer-reviewed research.

But without new funding, CFACS will shut down by March 2010 and 24 research networks that have studied climate change and related issues will close down with it.

Meanwhile, NSERC's priorities do not involve funding climate-change research, he said, "and there are not many places you can go to for this money."

"As a citizen I have to question whether upgrading facilities is a good idea if there's no one there to run them," said Dr. Drummond. "I don't want to demonize anybody, but you have to question the wisdom."


"I think it's a fundamental philosophy of the Conservative government that they don't see the value in basic research," said Dr. Boone. "We'd like to stay in Canada," he adds, "but there's only two options: You stick it out and wait till the government changes or you go somewhere else."