Monday, February 16, 2009

Literacy Plus

The New York Times's correspondent covering the publishing world, Motoko Rich, has been gradually presenting a series on "the future of reading." In her latest installment, she considers the role of information literacy as a cause related to the plain old literacy that librarians have long espoused. It focuses on a New York school librarian and makes a good case for the need to have professionals in schools.

It's a little shallow for the Times, though - all of the articles in this series seem to be skimming the surface. I miss the days when David D. Kirkpatrick was their insider for the book world. His coverage of the "serials crisis" - the factors that have jacked up the prices of scientific journals and eaten library budgets whole - remains a well-sourced, thoughtful overview of the issue even thought it was published back in 2000.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Is it Getting Hot in Here?

It is, if you're a digital archivist. Or, in the words of one of them profiled in The New York Times, an archivist.

“I don’t think there’s any day where I would say I’m the digital guy,” [Joe Nadel] said. But he concedes that he’s not really an analog, ink-on-paper guy, either, and that is increasingly the case in his field. These days, he noted, “if you want to work in a library, you have to deal in electronic resources.”

He also describes his accidental career path:

Befitting a nascent discipline like digital asset management, Mr. Nadal, 32, said he went into it almost by accident. Unsure of his career ambitions, he began work on various book-scanning and preservation projects as a student at Indiana University, then took them over when the head of preservation left. After that, he said, it “took a year or two for me to realize my career in preservation had started a year or two past.”

He reckons that many of his peers have had similar experiences. “Among librarians, I think that happenstance may be a typical career path,” he said.

But the best part is Nadel's rousing defense of working for the public good.

As much as it might help his bank balance, Mr. Nadal cannot envision leaving U.C.L.A. for a corporate job. He finds the challenge of taming a vast collection of information for a major academic institution too appealing.

“We belong to the people of California and hold our collections in trust for them and for future generations of students, scholars and members of the public,” he said. “Public-sector institutions just strike me as far, far cooler. They have better collections, obviously, and they are innovative, connected and challenging in ways that seem more substantial to me.”