Thursday, October 27, 2005

Oxford Guide to Library Research

It's finally here! I received my personal copy of the revised Oxford Guide to Library Research (3rd ed.) today. Yay!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Libraries in the digital world

Looking for a two-page summary of the challenges that the Web is presenting to the library and its traditional roles in collection development, preservation, and reference? Print out this article from that latest issue of Educause Review that's making the library blog rounds (for example, see here).

All the News That's Fit to Shrink

Newsprint has risen in price - one of those odd details that can alter (literally) the shape of things to come. According to the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal will start lopping off a column to save money next year, shrinking the paper by 10%; the New York Times will use lighter-weight newsprint (and lay off a bunch of reporters). This may hasten the market for new technologies for reading comfortably without using paper. Just one more pressure point on the troubled Fourth Estate.

There was an interesting piece in Inside Higher Ed a while back on how much more expensive it is to go after facts than to express opinions. And (with a touch of nostalgia) the essayist looks back on an era when news, opinion, and entertainment were more distinct. I'm leery of "golden age" nostalgia, but I do worry when good papers cut back on their news operations. Because, as Spiked points out, it's awfully easy to go wrong when you don't check the facts.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New blog

Barbara is now blogging at the Association of College and Research Libraries blog, ACRLog. The blog's focus: "Blogging by and for academic and research librarians."

Monday, October 17, 2005

Blogs and usability

Here's a good article titled Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes, by Jakob Nielsen. I especially appreciate mistakes 4 and 9.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Possible correlation between citation and cost of content

Citation studies as of late indicate that freely available content, such as open access journals on the Web, is heavily cited. Others have observed that free content online can drive sales of physical facsimiles. (Consider this article about the National Academy Press published in 1999.) The studies conclude that, since such information is simply more findable and accessible than costly print or electronic journals online available in library databases, it is easier to cite.

Such a pattern appears to hold for another form of information: New York Times opinion columnists. The New York Times, in an effort to collect some revenue from the traffic to their Web site, decided recently to charge for "premium" content, including their columnists. I was disappointed, because now I have to read Maureen Dowd through Lexis-Nexis.

New York Times columnists are commonly cited by bloggers. But as this graph on the Daily Kos Web site indicates, these columnists are now being cited less after the New York Times started charging.

This is not surprising. Can a blogger realistically expect his or her audience to pay to read a column to which the blogger is responding? True, I cite the Chronicle of Higher Education all the time, but many of this blog's readers (I think) are librarians and students who have access through their respective institutions.

Note: The Daily Kos's source, BlogPulse, is admittedly opaque. Apparently BlogPulse is a blog search engine with tools that presumably can count the number of keywords occurring in blogs over a certain period of time.

The nature of Truth and the definition of Authority

Librarians and others are currently debating the nature of truth and the definition of authority on the Web4lib listserv. "Authority" is a standard criterion used by librarians in evaluating information and reference sources. But what is authority? Is it "findability," as some suggest, or does "objective" truth contained in a tome grant it authority? Read along by subscribing or browse the October archive (subject: Authority + Wikipedia ). Here's the article that set off the debate.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Still gagged...

The Supreme Court denied the ACLU's appeal to lift the gag order on the Connecticut library system served with a National Security Letter mentioned here earlier. So while eventually the courts may rule in the library's favor, it may come too late for them to comment on their experience of the law before it's reauthorized. It's all very Kafkaesque.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Librarian stereotypes

There is a hilarious posting at Bookslut today:

Today's librarians aren't all old women with glasses and their hair pulled back in buns, reports the AP. Also, today's police officers aren't all fat Irish guys who swing their night sticks jauntily about while giving shiny pennies to street urchins and telling them to stay out of trouble. And today's newspaper reporters don't have cards that say "PRESS" stuck in the bands of their fedoras, and almost never say "What a scoop!"

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Libraries in the Chronicle

Lots of interesting stuff about libraries and librarians in the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. One that I particularly like is by Elizabeth Breakstone - "Librarians Can Look Forward to an Exhilarating Future" (or, as it's slugged on the main page, "Enough With the Stereotypes.") It's a great piece, and if you don't subscribe to the Chron you can get the article from the "Scholars' Bank" at the University of Oregon, an interesting example of an institutional repository that makes faculty publications available in a free, open access model.

Breakstone thinks there's too much anxiety in the air about the future of libraries, and in communications with the general public that leads to either Michael Gorman-like dismissal of technological developments - or too much hype that devalues traditional formats. There's a middle ground:
"For new librarians like me, technology is second nature. We use instant messaging, record our lives and discuss our work in blogs, and include Google as one of the many tools in our arsenal. We're early adopters and explorers. At the same time, many of us are positioned squarely between generations that grew up with print resources and the generation growing up immersed in technology. We understand the utility of the traditional and the potency of the new."
But she also raises some very important concerns:
"I worry about the economics of scholarly communication -- the combination of plummeting library budgets and skyrocketing journal and database prices. I fear that leasing digital collections of material, rather than owning them, will leave librarians dependent on the long-term benevolence of corporations. I worry that the so-called graying of the profession isn't actually opening up new jobs but is creating empty positions in libraries with tight budgets looking for ways to cut back. I suspect the jobs that do exist will continue to pay poorly, forcing some librarians to enter the corporate world in search of a better living."
Tell you one thing - these are all important challenges, but with people like Elizabeth Breakstone entering the profession I'm confident we'll thrive, and so will those who depend on libraries.