Monday, January 28, 2008

Information wants to be free, but writers want to be paid.

Google the first part of that sentence and you get about 101,000 hits. Google the whole sentence and you get nothing. At least at 10:30 a.m. on 1/28/08.

I came up with the second half of this pithy statement. Unfortunately, I am also convinced that someone came up with it before me!

The first part was originally written by Stewart Brand (I understand in the May 1985 issue of the Whole Earth Review, transcribed from a 1984 conference) and has since metastasized through our culture. His original quote was, “information wants to be expensive, because it is so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time.” This is a far more nuanced thought than the short phrase normally quoted. So where did the second part come from?

Bryan Alexander suggested that Bruce Sterling had originally made this point. But I have been unable to hunt down any of his writings where he makes this exact point. The closest I have come in a speech he gave to the LITA Conference in San Fransisco in June 1992 in which he rails against the commercialization and commodification of information and states, ironically, “You seem to be under the misapprehension that information wants to be free and that enabling people to learn and follow their own interests will benefit society as a whole. Well, we no longer believe in society as a whole. We believe in the *economy* as a whole -- a black hole!”

Another possibility is John Perry Barlow's March 1994 article in Wired "The Economy of Ideas." In which, while proposing a new system of encouraging creators to create because copyright will not function in the digital age, he states that, "Stewart Brand is generally credited with this elegant statement of the obvious [information wants to be free], which recognizes both the natural desire of secrets to be told and the fact that they might be capable of possessing something like a "desire" in the first place."

Trouble is neither of these express exactly the pithy second part of my statement. They are about as close as the ur-statement of copyright's purpose, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8.)

So, I am looking for some help. Do you know who first said or wrote the second part? Let me know, leave a comment.

I find Barlow's article really interesting for another reason. I have always been unsatisfied with information science's understanding of information. We have tended to define and think about information as objects. As though an reference interaction for instance is as simple as a question and and answer that ca be captured with a hatch mark on a stats sheet. Any reference librarian will tell you it doesn't feel like that. Barlow articulates the reason for my discomfort. He writes about information as an activity.

"Freed of its containers, information is obviously not a thing. In fact, it is something that happens in the field of interaction between minds or objects or other pieces of information.

Gregory Bateson, expanding on the information theory of Claude Shannon, said, "Information is a difference which makes a difference." Thus, information only really exists in the Delta. The making of that difference is an activity within a relationship. Information is an action which occupies time rather than a state of being which occupies physical space, as is the case with hard goods. It is the pitch, not the baseball, the dance, not the dancer."

Mystical, but really, really good. There is lots more there that is worth considering. Read the article.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Seasons 52 5K Race

TR and I (and about three thousand other people) ran this 5K today. My first Florida race and my first 5K. I was pleased with my time of 23:45. TR (of course!) did it in 18:21. It was a beautiful course up and down Park Avenue and around the neighborhood near Lake Maitland

Thanks to Melanie for taking the photo and particularly for coming out to support us at 7:30 a.m.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Way back in September '06 I mentioned ILLiad as one possible software package we should consider using in interlibrary loan (ILL.) Well we just signed the agreement to begin using the software. Our goal is to implement it over the summer of '08. It took longer than I hoped but I think this is going to make a huge difference in how easy ILL will be for our users. It will also make ILL more efficient for the staff who work on ILL requests and thus get stuff to our users faster. Imagine this:
  • You find a citation to an article in one of our databases. It works for books too, by the way.
  • You use the "Find It" button to see if we have it in full text
  • The link resolver shows that we do not have it in fulltext and recommends you use ILL.
  • You click on the ILL link and the system asks you to login, you use your Rollins username and password and you're in.
  • ILLiad automatically finds your account based on that authentication and also fills in the citation information. You check to make sure everything is OK and press submit.
  • If you fit certain criteria the request will go straight to the lending library. The next thing you know an e-mail arrives in your inbox inviting you click on a link to get the article.
  • Behind the scenes the system is collecting all kinds of stats and helping the staff place requests and manage requests to borrow from other libraries.
  • If you get curious about what is going on with your outstanding requests (or even if you realize you need that green book you borrow on ILL last summer, but can't remember the title) you can login, view you record and track your outstanding and past requests.
I make it sound so easy, and it is for our users. But I want to acknowledge how much work this will be for our staff, particularly Shawne Keevan. Implementing ILLiad is going to be a huge job for her. I hope I am right in thinking that the pay off for our users will be just as huge.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thinking About Information Literacy

I think about information literacy a lot. What college librarian doesn't? But a couple of interesting reports have come out recently and Rollins is going through a process of curriculum review at the moment so I am particularly interested in the role of information literacy in the curriculum.

The AACU 2007 report of its Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative "College Learning for the New Global Economy" lists information literacy as one of six "intellectual and practical skills" that are "essential learning outcomes" should be "practiced extensively, across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects, and standards for performance" (p.22.)

On the other side of the pond JISC and the British Library just released a report on the Google Generation. According to the Executive Summary, they aimed to, "identify how the specialist researchers of the future, currently in their school or pre-school years, are likely to access and interact with digital resources in five to ten years’ time. This is to help library and information services to anticipate and react to any new or emerging behaviours in the most effective way" (p.5.)

Although they define the Google generation as people born after 1993, they note that the information seeking behaviors of that generation are now common to us all, "horizontal, bouncing, checking and viewing in nature. Users are promiscuous, diverse and volatile" (p.9.)

There is so much in this report it is tough to pick out just a couple of thing, but here is what really concerns me. "The information literacy of young people, has not improved with the widening access to technology: in fact, their apparent facility with computers disguises some worrying problems" (p.12.)

The JISC report is aimed at helping libraries change to serve this new generation, but I am more concerned with the how liberal arts colleges like Rollins need to change our curricula to effectively educate such students.

Information literacy isn't the point of a liberal education but I agree with the LEAP report. It is an essential skill that should be practiced repeatedly in increasingly complex ways throughout the four years that students spend with us.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Great new exhibits at the Cornell

Bethany and I went to the preview of the new Cornell exhibits on Friday evening. A superb collection of works by Louise Neville -- cool, black serene. Figure drawings, prints, etc. from the museum's permanent collection that once again so how rich that collection is. Finally a couple of crazy contemporary installations. Watching Bethany traverse the crocheted rope of Orly Genger's installation in her high heels was the high point of the evening as far as I was concerned.

Yet more reasons why I feel lucky to working at the same place as Luanne McKinnon.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

OCLC ILL Direct Borrowing

Imagine placing a request for an book via interlibrary loan. You fit a predetermined profile for the library (for instance you are a faculty member, or a student), you are requesting a book that is not owned by the Olin Library, it is owned by a couple of libraries that lend to us for free. Having met all these criteria (automatically, no extra steps for you) your request doesn't stop at Olin waiting for our staff to review it. It goes straight to the lending library. The first we ever see of the book is when it arrives via the US Mail. The same can be done for articles. It adds speed and cuts work and all depends on setting up the custom holding paths and policies correctly.

OCLC has been doing this for sometime, but I had kinda lost touch with it. It used to cost for each request ,which is pretty unsustainable for most libraries. They have now included it as part of our regular OCLC fee. This makes it much more interesting.

College Library Directors' Discussion Group

One of my favorite events at ALA, this is a chance to sit down with people in similar situations and find out how we are trying to handle whatever gets thrown at us. This time I sat with a group discussing the relationship between IT and libraries on our campuses. Issues that were discussed included how to collaborate with IT, "micro teaching" (a great description of what librarians spend a lot of time doing), learning commons, the growing phenomena of outsourcing of tech. utilities like e-mail and the potential impact upon library operations, our experience at Rollins with Teamspot, and Element K. Every campus will find its own solution to the relationship between IT and the library.I am glad to be working with such a high quality IT group here at Rollins.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bibliography management software at ALA Midwinter

Naomi is looking into softwares that will help our students manage and keep track of references etc. and wanted me to look at what the vendors are offering here at ALA. So far I have found Endnote at the Thomson/ISI booth and Refworks. Both have web-based versions that could sit on the network, be accessible both on and off campus, enable students and faculty to create their own accounts and folders to keep reference in. Both work with MSWord. Refworks also works with Blackboard (version 7) and also includes some nice sharing features. I am still on the look out for others.

Our basic point here is to find something that works with our databases and relieves students of the need to laboriously format citations.

Copyright at ALA Midwinter

Then it was on to a new copyright discussion group. Lots about copyright and multimedia, and quite a bit of the blind leading the blind as usual (I speak as one of the blind.)

But we probably need to have clearer guidelines about public performance rights (PPR) (outside of the classroom) on campus. Maybe take a look at Swank and add local notes about PPR to catalog records when we already have the rights.

EBSCO at ALA Midwinter 2008

I am going to try and blog this conference

I went to the EBSCO lunch and must say I was quite impressed with the "version 2.0" they are rolling out this year. The last major update was in 2002 and a lot has happened on the web since then. Their changes include a really simple "google-like" basic search screen. Lots of added functionality on the results page with faceted searching, float over windows (think Netflix for articles), visual searching (which I don't think they have quite got yet -- not that anyone has), Smartsearching (I think that is what they call it) which blows natural language searching out of the water by enabling a user to put as many words (they could paste a whole article in there) in the search box and get relevant results, better integration of their image collections. It is a major change and it will be interesting to see if CSA/Proquest will respond.

Friday, January 11, 2008

NITLE workshops on emerging technology

I spent Thursday and Friday in two NITLE workshops on social software and on emerging technologies in liberal education.

I am trying to do my part to raise the profile of technology in the process of curriculum review and in our educational mission in general at Rollins. Of course, when I use the word "technology" I don't mean all the technologies that surround us from from air conditioners to zippers. I mean the constellation of networked computing technologies, both hard and software,that are increasingly embedded in our lives.
I like to explain my concern this way. Our students come from technologically rich environments (in their high schools, their homes, and their social lives.) They will leave us to go into technologically rich environments in graduate school,in the workplace, and most aspects of their lives. What are we doing in the few years they are with us to respond to their technological expectations and to prepare them to be able to critically engage with technology throughout their lives? Many, most,of our students are facile users of technology but not necessarily ready to make informed choices about technology. I think this needs to be part of what it means to be liberally educated in the 21st century. These workshops will, I hope, help the Rollins faculty as a whole to engage with this issue more than it seems they have in the past. Some already are, but I think it needs to be a bigger part of our general conversation.

Some of the technologies discussed at the workshops include blogs,wikis, social bookmarking sites like delicious, facebook, second life, flickr, twitter, podcasting, and games. There are lots of information and other stuff at the workshop wiki links above.

Monday, January 07, 2008

AAAS Says Science Will Remain in JSTOR

It looks like the outcry worked. Science is going to stick with JSTOR. This is good news. I am sure that the AAAS would have done a fine job of archiving the journal Science, but having it in JSTOR strengthens that archive and it is a strike against the proliferation of single journal or publisher archives which makes the lives of users (and librarians) easier.

I wrote about this back in July 2007 I am glad to see they changed their minds.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Guide to Winter Park

Note: This is an update as of 10/8/08.

Cup O'Soul has moved to 711-A Orange Avenue, a couple of blocks closer to campus. Strollo's website is still in the works, luckily the restaurant is much further along.

The weather is just beginning to break in Florida as we move from the rainy season to the dry season. Temperature in the 80s during the day, in the 60's at night. Perfect strolling weather. If you have a day free, rent a car and go to the beach at Canaveral National Seashore. Just one hour away.

Note: This is an update as of 4/28/08.

The The Authentic Cuban Cafe is supposedly under new management. The quality is still the same, but the prices have risen.
I should have mentioned Tolla's last time round. Good honest Italian-American food. I love their linguini with clams.
Try Cup O'Soul on Fairbanks. Good coffee, cakes, and lunches. And they serve their coffee in ceramic cups. Yay!
Also another new place on Fairbanks. Strollo's Cucina Due. Has some interesting Italian deli (pancetta etc.) and the bread is not bad, but they have really good lunchtime sandwiches and desserts.
OK so the Cheese Shop on Park is not a restaurant, but they have really good cheese. Get some bread from the Olde Hearth at the Farmers' Market, a couple of tomatoes and some fruit, wander over to this place and pick up a perfectly ripe cheese, wander to central park and as we say in my country -- Bob's your uncle!


We have a couple of NITLE workshops coming up here at Rollins next week. So while we have visitors in town I thought they may like to explore a bit and sent them the following. The hotel mentioned, is the Comfort Suites on Orange. If you know Winter Park, what would you add?

I have already heard that I should add The Enzian, Hannibal Square, Red Light Red Light, Mad Cow Theater, and The Authentic Cuban cafe. All good ideas.

Places to eat and things to do in and around Winter Park – Jonathan Miller.

There is no shortage of information on the web about things to do and places eat in and around Orlando and central Florida. This list is one resident’s (albeit a recent arrival) idiosyncratic short list of things to do and places to eat around Winter Park and may give you a different impression of this area from the usual impression of the area as the “House of the Mouse.”

Restaurants, Coffeehouses and Bars in Winter Park

Palmanos – best coffee in town in a hidden courtyard off Park Ave. One block from campus.
Eola Wine Company – great people watching spot on Park Ave. with good selection of wines and food.
Ravenous Pig – New and very good “gastropub” with lots of fresh ingredients, between your hotel and the College on Orange Ave.
Fiddler’s Green. Classic Irish pub with darts, music. Food is good. Guinness is better. Between your hotel and the College where Orange meets Fairbanks.
Stardust Café – About 2.5 miles from your hotel. My second favorite coffee shop in town. Good food, great video collection, definite coffee house atmosphere. Free wifi.1842 Winter Park Rd, Winter Park, at the corner of Corrine.
Thai Place – best Thai food in town. Two miles north of your hotel next to the Winter Park Village shopping complex.
Little Saigon – 1106 E. Colonial. Less than a mile from your hotel. Good Vietnamese food in the Vietnamese section of town at Mills and Colonial.
White Wolf Café – Half a mile south of your hotel on Orange. I haven’t visited but want to. I have heard good things. It is in an interesting part of town with antique stores and Lake Ivanhoe.
Luma is a crazy hip place, very expensive.
Cafe de France has good French food and a quietly formal (at least by American standards) atmosphere. I was taken here during my interview and when I went back many months later the waiter remembered me.
Park Plaza Garden and Spice occupy opposite sides of the avenue and offer similar fare and a similar experience. Good places to be see and be seen if you sit outside and, after all, why don't you sit outside? It's Florida!
Bosphorus is a good Turkish restaurant, the best taramasalata (oops, that is what they call it is Greece!) You must try what my son calls the "volcano bread and see if your waiter will read your fortune in the lees of the Turkish coffee.
Tolla's is one of my favorites. Good authentic Italian-American fare and a very welcoming atmosphere.

Things to do

Winter Park Farmers’ Market – Every Saturday 7 am – 1pm. Corner of New York and New England, three blocks from the College. You gotta love a green market in January with fresh strawberries and citrus.
People watching on Park Avenue – Park Ave. is the entrance to the College from the north. Sit at any one of the many outdoor cafes and restaurants and watch the beautiful people.
Cornell Fine Arts Museum – On the Rollins Campus. Great permanent collection and some stunning visiting exhibits.
Morse Museum of American Art – At the other end of Park Avenue. A world class Tiffany glass collection.
Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden – One block from the College on Osceola. Small lakeside jewel of a garden. The gallery tour costs, but access to the garden is free.
Orlando Museum of Art – Less than a mile east of the Comfort Suites by either East Rollins Street or Princeton Street. Located in Lock Haven Park along with the Science Museum and the County Historical Museum.
Scenic Boat Ride – 312 East Morse. About three blocks from campus. Hokey but fun tour of three of the lakes of the area. They get the history right, you get to indulge in house envy.
Urban Think – Great bookstore, near some good cafés and restaurants in downtown Orlando next to Lake Eola and Thornton Park. Two miles south of your hotel.