this past week. . .

Monday
I finished up a collection development project for LIS 721, Library Materials for Children and discovered the existence of phantom reviews. I used Baker & Taylor’s Title Source II to help locate some books and reviews, and my partner used Follett’s Titlewave, and then we’d go look up the full citations for the reviews we found. . . or at least we tried. Let’s say that for one title, B&T said it was reviewed in the July 2000 issue of Booklist. I would dutifully go to Dominican’s databases and start searching for the review. I couldn’t find it by author, title, keyword, or date. I then tried going more directly to the source and looking through the Booklist indexes (which exist somewhere on the ALA website, though naturally now I can’t find them). No luck there either. It was time to get serious. I hit the stacks. I grabbed the microfilm and spent half an hour or so scrolling through Booklist from July 2000 and from November 2000, when Follett claimed it was reviewed. No cigar. And this happened again and again, not just with Booklist, but also with School Library Journal, VOYA, and others. My partner, meanwhile, was having a similar experience with Books in Print, Book Review Index, et al. I wrote my professor. Were we going crazy? Apparently not. She said she’d noticed this problem before. We did the best we could. A few days later, I mentioned this to my professor for LIS 745, Searching Electronic Databases, who pointed out that Baker & Taylor and Follett are, after all, in the bookselling business, not the bibliographic verification business. Still, it’s maddening. My adventures in bibliography were not over, though.

Wednesday
I turned in my final project for LIS 745, Searching Electronic Databases, which was a 25 item annotated bibliography on the subject of state guardianship programs for adults, prepared for my client, the Iowa Substitute Decision Maker Task Force, a group of people (including my mother) who are trying to establish such a program in Iowa. The week before, I did my final presentation on the project. I found many beautiful pictures with which to illustrate my presentation via the Creative Commons search on Flickr. I’m a big believer in giving people things to look at when presenting, but it does make for a monster-sized PowerPoint, which convinced once again that I really need to learn the S5 and/or Jessamyn West version of slides. . . I thought about doing it for this presentation, but as time was beginning to get short, I thought perhaps that would be an untenable exercise in procrastination.

Thursday
I began the morning of my 30th birthday by oversleeping. I am hoping that this was the last gasp of the past decade rather than a sign of the decade to come. I finished up and turned in the paper on virtual readers’ advisory for LIS 763, Readers’ Advisory Services. Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous post on the topic, and thanks to all the biblioblogosphere folks who’ve created, written about, or fantasized about how we could make OPACs more useful and interesting. Not surprisingly, I found much more material for this paper by searching blogs than I did by searching professional journals. “Folksonom*” as a search term in one of the LIS databases turns up one citation (“Metadatering door de massa: Folksonomy,” by Sybilla Poortman and Gerard Bierens), which looks really cool, but unfortunately it’s in Dutch, which I can’t read. Partly, of course, this is because I was writing about stuff so new that it simply hasn’t made it in to professional literature. In fact, the very afternoon at work before I turned the paper in, I read a couple of new things I wanted to add. But I stopped, went to class, turned in the paper, listened to some cool book talks, and so completed my third semester of library school. One more to go!

And now it’s winter break, which I plan to spend a) reading, b) working some extra hours at my dog-walking job, c) sleeping, and d) getting serious about the job hunt. Expect more on the first and last of those in future entries–I’m also planning to a bit more blogging, now that I have a few weeks free from one of my obligations.

metablogging 2: the why I blog post

So Travis Ennis wants to know why we–we here being ML(I)S students–blog.

The snarkier part of my nature is of course tempted to say “Because I can” and/or “Because I’m good at it”–two responses often given by Famous Authors who have been asked Why They Write. I am not a Famous Author (I mean, really, I’m not even dead yet!), and such a response would seem pretty obnoxious even if I were.

I have always known that I am pretty good at writing–it’s one of those things that makes up for other things, like being unable to run or throw or catch, being unpopular, being awkward and unsure of your place in the world. Going through an MFA program is a pretty good way to shake your confidence in your writing abilities, in some cases because everyone seems so much better than you do and in some because everything they’re doing seems like such crap that you figure you can’t be much better, but I got through more or less intact.

I used to write a newspaper column, which is still my idea of a totally ideal job. I keep hoping someone will say, “Here, let us pay you a living wage to give us 800 words several times a week on whatever you’re thinking about,” but it’s never happened. I loved writing a newspaper column even when I only got $15 0r $20 for it, though, and I’d do it again for that little, or less. In the interim, though, blogging is a nice substitute. (Among other things, there are no deadlines and no required word counts. I sometimes miss the discipline of 800 words every seven days, but not too often.)

There’s a very long explanation over at my other blog about how that got started, and there’s a little explanation of my original reason for starting this blog in its very first post. Oh, and then a few weeks later, I hopped on the metablogging bandwagon again with a little more explanation. lis.dom’s purpose has changed over time–as I’ve noted before, starting a blog in order to tell people about the existence of blogs is probably a little illogical–but some of what I’ve said before remains the same.

At the moment, though, the real reason that I blog is that I want to be part of a community (or, as I sometimes put it, I want to be one of the cool kids). Can you imagine a library run by the members of the biblioblogosphere? I think it would be the most amazing library in the world. It would have all the hottest new technology, but the technology would work for us, not the other way around, and nobody would get burned. It would have provocative, timely, and enriching programming. It would be the place everyone wanted to hang out and where everyone was welcome. It would be staffed by people relentlessly, zealously working to make the library a better place–working to make library vendors give us what we want, working for, and often with, patrons to make sure they had the information they wanted. It would be a thing of beauty, if not a joy forever. Some people work in libraries that are closer to that ideal than others, but here–wherever here is, wherever you imagine cyberspace to be–we all get to be a part of it. I think that’s pretty neat.

back to school


by the numbers
Originally uploaded by newrambler.

update on 9/21: URLs fixed!

I’ve now started all my fall classes, which are a slightly different line-up from when I last posted on the topic. I’m now taking

LIS 721 Library Materials for Children
LIS 745 Searching Electronic Databases
LIS 763 Readers Advisory Services

All told, that makes for 9 hours a week of class, 19.5 hours a week at the library, 8-12 hours a week of dog-walking, and 8 hours a week commuting, not counting time spent schlepping between dogs. And all told that adds up to lots of time spent on various duties and not so much time for blogging, I expect to be checking in periodically.

Also, may I belatedly add that you should check out the most recent stops of the Carnival of the Infosciences:

on and off the bandwagon

  • update 9/5/05 9:55 pm CST: Flickr link at the bottom is now fixed and will actually take you to pictures and not to Wired article

I am late to jump on many bandwagons, and, quite often, just simply late. Last weekend, which now seems impossibly long ago, I took a trip home (though I spend most of my time in Chicagoland these days, I’m still an Iowa resident, and Iowa City is still home) to do a few things and see some friends. It was in the course of hanging out with my friends that I realized that in the last six months or so, I have started to speak another language.

A few examples:

  • “I’m sorry I never read your site, but OpenDiary doesn’t have an RSS feed.”
  • “Oh, you’ve got a blog for your radio show? Send me the url and I’ll add it to my aggregator.”
  • “The camera’s just on loan, but I’ll just upload the pictures to Flickr and then I’ll be able to post them wherever.”

I got a lot of blank looks from my friends, who, as you may surmise, are not technologically oriented. They are very smart people. Most of them graduate students at the University of Iowa; the rest are the over-educated, under-employed types one finds around a college town. I don’t consider any of them hopelessly uninformed. But I now inhabit, at least part of the time, this whole world that most of them are only barely aware of.

Now that I’ve found this world, I’d never want to leave it behind, but my visit home was a little reminder that it is, in many ways, still a small and insular community. I love RSS and think it is one of the greatest things since the resurgence of decent bread, but I’ve been reminded that it’s not part of the picture for a lot of people and that, for the most part, they are getting by just fine without it.

You’ve probably heard about different kinds of learners (visual, oral, etc.) and different kinds of intelligence (emotional, intellectual, practical). There are also different ways of gathering information. I get most of my news from the radio, though when I lived in Iowa City, I also read the Daily Iowan in its hard copy version. I got an iPod for Christmas, and while it’s a nifty little device, at least a third of my music collection is still on LP and cassette. In my car at the moment all I have is radio, and thus when I’m driving around on my dogwalking route, I mostly (shudder) listen to commercial rock stations, since “Fresh Air” loses something when heard in 5 minute chunks with 20 minute gaps in between.. I did listen to a bunch of Greg’s podcasts on my drive home (I don’t have one of those handy gadgets that will play your iPod through your radio, so I did this by listening through one ear bud), and they were pretty great, but I don’t know that I’m going to get hooked on podcasting. My friends are mostly not tapped into the world of feeds and aggregators and social bookmarking, and that’s okay.

I started this blog with the idea that it would be a way to show fellow grad students about the wonderfulness of library-land blogs, which I now realize was kind of a nutty idea. I continued it, though, because I was getting so much out of it, which seems like a fine reason. And now just as I’ve learned that lots of people are considering jumping off the Flickr bandwagon, I’m jumping on. I don’t actually own a digital camera, so posts will be few and far between, but I did borrow my mother’s while I was home for the weekend and put together a little tour of Iowa City (only the parts I like, and only some of them). Take a look if you like (and remember I’ve never used a digital camera before). Enjoy!

yesterday

  • 6:30 am get up, eat breakfast
  • 8 am walk big dog
  • 9 am see doctor
  • 10:30 am bump into brand-new car en route to work [NB no one was hurt; the other car got a small scratch on the left rear fender, mine might have a scratch near its front right bumper, but I can’t really tell]
  • 11 am-2 pm walk dogs in pouring rain
  • 2:30 pm go to Berwyn Police station to fill out accident report
  • 3:30 pm get back home, eat lunch, shower, call insurance company, explain accident for nth time
  • 4:30 pm get in car again
  • 5-9 pm work at library
  • 9:30 pm get home, eat dinner
  • 10 pm watch Daily Show
  • 10:30 pm read about 3 paragraphs of An American Childhood
  • 11 pm sleep

Wash, rinse, repeat–except for the car accident. I’m hoping I don’t repeat that.

I win!

My post “The Medium is Not the Message” over on my other blog won “Best Overall” in the EFF Blog-a-thon. You can read the many other fine posts here or here. I’m deeply honored–and humbled–by this. There are so many people out there working at the ground level to bridge the digital divide, rescue and preserve knowledge, fight restrictive DRM, and on and on. I am but a midget amongst giants.

If you’re not familiar with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, go check them out. Along with ALA, they are responsible for the victory over the broadcast flag back in May. They do a lot of good work and a lot of good for libraries, and even if you’re a bricks and mortar fanatic, you have to admit that the world is becoming increasingly digitized. As with any new frontier, many people have an interesting in staking out a claim for themselves. If you care about keeping the digital commons common, you should care about EFF.

Thanks to them again, and thanks to librarian.net for the coverage (and, for that matter, for covering digital rights and libraries in general).

blog-a-thon! (more shameless promotion)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been having a blog-a-thon for the past couple weeks to celebrate their 15th anniversary and their work on behalf of bloggers.

What does all this have to do with libraries? Well, a few months back, the American Library Association and EFF (among others) successfully challenged the FCC’s broadcast flag mandate. (Essentially, the broadcast flag was a form of digital rights management (DRM) that would have meant that you could only play broadcast-flag- equipped media on approved players [sounds to me a bit like a Coca-Cola licensing agreement, wherein beverages can only be dispensed in approved cups]. For some idea of what it’s like to deal with DRM, check out The Shifted Librarian’s travails.)

EFF has been at the forefront of most, if not all, of the battles for free speech online and for civil liberties in general in the digital world. If you read at all in the biblioblogosphere (aka library blogland), you’ll see them again.

In any case, I wrote up an entry of my own for the Blog-a-thon. If you’re interested, you can read it over at my other blog.

a book, an interview, a web site: lots of blatant promotion

Looking for something to read in the 300s (335.998, to be exact)? You can check out my interview with Fran Hawthorne, author of Inside the FDA: the Business and Politics Behind the Drugs We Take and the Food We Eat.

In other publishing related news, I’m happy to report that Third Coast Press* is moving this very weekend to its new place of virtual residence, LIShost. Expect some fluctuations over the weekend, but thirdcoastpress.com should be up and running smoothly again by early next week–and then (yippee!) we’ll be able to fix up some things on the site and (double yippee!) start adding new content again.

*Third Coast Press was an alternative monthly newspaper published in Chicago from January 2003 through March 2005. It’s now a web site and will, we hope, resurface as a quarterly print publication. The Fran Hawthorne interview was originally scheduled to run in the May issue.

Update on 7/31/05: I just realized that the link at the bottom of the interview was broken. That’s fixed now. Also, one of the images (which is really just a quotation pulled from the interview) doesn’t show up on Internet Explorer or Safari (and Safari, for some reason, messes with my fonts). All the more reason to switch to Firefox, I say! Everything looks dandy there.