Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I have some catching up to do.

There was an article in the NY Times on 11/5/06, "The Silent May Have Something to Say." It was about the importance of, and techniques for, gathering input from people who may be reluctant to speak up in meetings. I remember hearing the Provost of the University of Pittsburgh -- James Maher say once that in some ways academe was way ahead of the corporate section and that engaging its personnel in the management of the organization was one of them. It may not always feel like it and it may not always be pretty, but if you compare it to what happens elsewhere it's not bad.

Still, this article was a useful reminder to find ways to try and listen to the less vocal members of our organization, and that includes the library. As the VP for Human Resources at Intuit, Jim Grenier, was quoted as saying in the article, ''It's not about a consensus culture. ... You're looking for more input so you can make a better decision. Employees know that we are serious about asking for their feedback, and we listen and we do something about it.''

This is not something that I always do , or always do well, so it is good to be reminded.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thinking About Librarianship

My defense has led to another long break between entries on this blog. I am glad to say that I am now ABD -- all but dissertation.

Two books that I have been reading have made me think about librarianship (beyond my monomaniacal interest in librarians and the Copyright Act of 1976.)

The first is William Patry's "The Fair Use privilege in Copyright Law." (1985.) I have been aware of this title for some time but it has been on my list of second tier titles, one of those titles that I should get round to reading but not a core text for a couple of reasons. First, not many copyright histories refer to it, which is probably related to the second reason, the title is ahistorical, and third the Library of Congress subject headings are

Fair Use (Copyright) -- United States
Fair Use (Copyright) -- United States -- Cases

Nothing about this leads the researcher to suspect that Patry wrote a legislative history of the development of the doctrine of fair use and included quite a detailed history of the evolving text of section 107 and 108 from 1955 through 1976. It is so good in fact that for one awful moment I thought he had written my dissertation! He hasn't, but his book is going to be very useful.

So why does this make me think about librarianship? Its all about precoordinate description and post coordinate searching. Precoordinate description is when an indexer creates ways in which an item can be retrieved and hopes that they have considered all the ways future researchers might search for the book. In this case, Patry and his publisher titled his book in a way that they thought would most interest their core audience -- copyright lawyers. Then the cataloger (or maybe even the publisher again, since the subject headings were part of the "Cataloging in Publication" record) created the subject headings, neither of which refer to "history." Post coordinate description happens after the event. A good current example of this is the Google Book Search program in which a researcher can search the fulltext of a book in ways that make sense to them. If I had been able to do that, Patry's book would have quickly appeared in my retrieved sets and, I hope, I would have recognizes its usefulness.

I am not suggesting we do away with pre in favor of post coordinate searching. I think that the most powerful information retrieval comes when searchers have access to both. Since precoordinate description is so expensive we should reserve the combination only for those most important items and rely on post coordinate searching for the rest. Of course, as my example shows, it is tough to know ahead of time which are those "most important items".

The second book that made me think about librarianship will be the subject of a later entry.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I have just spent Thanksgiving at home with my family. I think Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday. First, it is such a great concept: a day just for giving thanks. Every country should have one. Second, it's all about food and not about shopping. All the shops close and there is no wild potlatch of gift giving. Though that later aspect is spoiled by the recent rise of "Black Friday" and its spread into the late hours of Thanksgiving.

This year I got to bring back from Florida:
  1. Fresh pecans to bake into a superb pecan pie using John Thorne's recipe in Richard Sax's "Classic Home Desserts." They really do make a difference.
  2. Key limes for a chiffon key lime pie. A perfect feather light ending to the meal.
  3. Kumquats that I boiled in a syrup and tossed into roasted sweet potatoes.

In return I am coming back from Pennsylvania with half a bushel of magnificent empire apples from Soergel's to share with our student employees.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My family seems to be coping fine without me, my move to the Olin Library has proved to be very professionally rewarding, and I am enjoying becoming part of the Rollins community.

Next year I hope I can be thankful for the Miller-Hicok clan being together again and happily esconsced in sunny Orlando.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Future of the Library readings.

Here are a series of readings I gathered for our Library Advisory Council to help them think about the future of this library as they become more involved in our planning process. You might find them interesting.

Thanks to colleagues on the newdirector-l listserv and the Oberlin Group listserv for their suggestions.

Peggy Seiden "Forecasting the Future" 9(1) (Fall 2006) p1, 4.

OCLC "Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources: A Report to the OCLC Membership." OCLC 2005 [excerpts]

Jeremy J. Shapiro and Shelley K. Hughes. "Information Literacy as a Liberal Art: Enlightenment proposals for a new curriculum." Educom Review. 31(2) (March/April 1996)

The Horizon Report. NMC & EDUCAUSE (2006 Edition.) [excerpts]

Taiga Forum Steering Committee. "Taiga Forum Provocative Statements" March 10, 2006.

Jerry D. Campbell. "Changing a Cultural Icon: The Academic Library as a Virtual Destination." EDUCAUSE Review (January/February 2006) p.16-30

Joan K. Lippincott. "Net Generation Students & Libraries." EDUCAUSE Review (March/April 2005.) p.56-66

Isn't it interesting that they are all openly accessible on the web. What does that say about our professional literature? Or maybe my searching preferences.

I feel the need to explain my silence ...

on this blog. Until last night's post I had written nothing here since October 20th. Steven Bell told me that the rule of thumb was to post a couple of times a week to give people some reason to keep on coming back to the blog. So, why did I suddenly go silent?

You may now I am completing my PhD at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. I defend my proposal on November 27th and have spent the weeks since October 21st writing my methodology section and editing the whole document.

So, I have been writing, just not on the blog.

Events in the Library

It's 12:30 a.m. on 11/8/06. I am the last one left in the library. We organized an Election Results Viewing Party in the Bib Lab. Cable TV on the big screen, some websites, cookies, chips and soda.
We did it at the last moment, after checking to make sure that we were not stepping on the toes of the College Democrats or Republicans, Student Life, or the Poli. Sci. department, and I am pleased to say we got quite a good turn out -- probably forty people in all. Students and faculty came in and out all evening. Some stayed for quite a while, others for just a short time. But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves (though based on the results, the Democrats amongst us probably felt better than the Republicans.)
Another interesting aspect of this was that when I sent out the e-mail notice about the event I got at least a dozen responses saying how happy they were to see that we were organizing such an event. In my experience, an interesting feature of liberal arts communities like Rollins is that people may not show up for events on campus, but they like to know that events are taking place.