Category Archives: Commentary

April 15, 2014, 3:15 pm

WHAT IF OBAMA PAID FOR YOUR ELSEVIER SUBSCRIPTION? The Cost of Universal Knowledge Access

What if Obama paid for your Elsevier subscription? Or rather—what if the federal government covered the expense? Package it as a STEM or innovation initiative– something along those lines.

This is a hypothetical question, but obviously the free thinking from last week has carried over.

The short of it: there is a lot of conversation around open access and federal mandates for data and publications, but that feels like a slow road. The prestige of commercial journals is too ingrained—so how about a different approach?

What if we changed the scale? Instead of individual libraries (or consortiums) battling it out with the likes of Elsevier and other academic publishers (I’ll never forget the audacity of Nature’s 400% increase!) — what if the government purchased access to major academic journals (and eBook packages?) for all citizens. Or all households? Or for anyone…

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February 25, 2014, 1:39 pm

[DON’T] SAVE THE TIME OF THE READER: a disconnect between librarians and teaching faculty?

From time to time I receive faculty feedback that surprises me. There is a contrasting view that occasionally emerges around the notion that learning should be hard: specifically that the process of identifying and locating information sources should be difficult. I’ve encountered this everywhere I’ve worked. We’ve even been called out for making things “too easy for students.”

Our reference and instruction program exists for the purpose of helping people navigate resources and making it easier for them to do research. Our web tools, such as link-resolvers, subject guides, tutorials, and discovery-layers are intended to get people to the content they want as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. I mean, come on, “save the time of the reader” is baked into our DNA. Libraries exist to help make people’s lives easier/better.

Most of the librarians I know believe in…

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November 17, 2013, 5:42 pm

Who is your Masood Ashraf Raja? U of North Texas & Advocacy or: Library as cause, not just collections

UNT’s Willis Library

You’ve probably heard the news by now about the University of North Texas Library’s $1.7 million shortfall. Many operations are on hiatus while they figure out the funding possibilities. Apparently library administrators were caught off guard and are required to retroactively absorb benefits and other expenses. Their budget is almost entirely derived from student fees – which they cannot raise—and they will likely need to cut back on services and collections.

UNT provides us with a wakeup call and a great opportunity for scenario planning. How would you (or your organization) react if your Provost placed you in a similar situation? These are conversations we had all the time when I was the University of California, but if you’re not ready it can be quite a shock.

save_UNTTo me the most interesting…

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October 31, 2013, 1:54 pm

The Gorilla Statement (A Halloween Post)

I didn’t attend ALA this summer but I wish I had—just to meet the gorilla. It’s the one thing that stood out as I followed the conference on Twitter:

conferencesuit

photo 1 photo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My initial reaction was that he must have been making a statement: the gorilla in the room / elephant in the room type of thing. This had to be a commentary on obsolescence. Or maybe it was some type of wakeup call: a future shock –  “too much change in too short of a time.” Or maybe he was trying to shake people from the routine patterns of librarian presentations. Or was it a play on the invisible gorilla theme and he was making a point about us not being able to see things that are in plain sight?

 

Obviously I’ve probably overthought the whole thing. When I looked at the photos without any context, I saw the alienation of an outsider: a person with bold ideas who…

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August 28, 2013, 12:35 pm

My Office Pool: Hokies every week

Football season starts tomorrow! The world is against the Hokies right now but that’s okay. Nineteen-point underdogs? That’s okay too. I’d rather be underestimated….

picks

UGA and Bama both out!

Here are my picks in the office pool. We select winners for all the ACC games. I’m thinking that we should compete in pools with other libraries in our conference—I know we would certainly beat Georgia Tech with Mr. Hines and Mr. Brower playing.

White Cleat Trophy

 

You have to believe in your team. Despite injuries and youthfulness, I’m confident that Mr. Thomas can deliver.  In the library we play for pride– and this honorable trophy. Visit my office next year and you’ll see it proudly resting on my desk. go Hokies!

August 26, 2013, 12:22 pm

“Most Difficult” Discipline Debate: Chemical vs. Legal

You’re alone on the ref desk. The shift ends in ten minutes and you have a meeting across campus that you’re expected to lead. Just then—a student approaches and asks “the question.” You know the one I’m talking about— it’s not a known item search, it’s not an instructional “how do I find articles on x” — it’s a complex matter on a subject that you’re not comfortable with. Referral is not an option.

Lauren and I were debating this last week. Which set of information tools or subject/controlled vocabulary is the most intimidating? For me it was chemistry and for her it was legal.

We decided to open it up to you—friendly readers of librarian blogs—tell us, which one gets the nod? Polymers or shepardizing? If you want to suggest something different—go for it. Medical? Financial? Patents? Gov Docs? Physics? We want to hear it and why. Make a case for …

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July 24, 2013, 3:06 pm

The Decline of WIRED? What happened to the radical optimism?

wired_pubs

Wired, July 2013

Maybe it’s just me but I feel that the quality of WIRED has gone down this year. The latest issue touched a nerve. They outline how to get around academic publisher paywalls. One of their tips is to find someone in college who will give you their access info allowing you to proxy in. It bothered me and substantiated what I’m been feeling over the last few issues: an obvious decline in content and character.

 

Full disclosure – I’m a long time subscriber of WIRED. I’ve enjoyed their positive, progressive, future-oriented view of the world. But there has been a noticeable drop once Chris Anderson left. I mean, Long Tail, Free, and Makers are all awesome books. He is definitely a thought leader in economics-meets-technology. I didn’t fully realize it until it was gone, but Chris…

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July 17, 2013, 2:53 pm

Summer Grab Bag: does your jumping style limit your capabilities?

I hope your summer is going well. I wish that I could turn the calendar back to June in order to get more work done. It feels like a fast push into August and the new school year is looming. I just wanted to share a few random thoughts.

The Kids Today…

kidsWhen I read statements like this it always makes me think of Elvis, The Beatles, or Metallica— artists that parents blamed for corrupting the youth. Oh these kids with their horrible music, their wacky fashions, and so on and so on. It seems there is always a perpetual superiority complex among generations. They don’t read the same books that we did. They don’t write very well. They are so dumb. Why can’t they be more like us?

 

mixing Don’t these kids know they should be reading print books instead of mixing and editing audio files in the library? It’s almost as if…

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June 11, 2013, 3:36 pm

Tools vs. Emotions: what’s your relationship with technology?

This is going to be a rare personal post. If you’re looking for your fill on libraries check the Bell Tower because I’m going somewhere else today.

Context is an interesting phenomenon. When conversations or attitudes from one space merge or are invaded from the outside, there is a good chance for misunderstanding to occur. This happened to me last night.

People who know me– people who really know me– know that I love Apple. I came into their products later in life via my wife, but I’ve never looked back. I am firmly and admittedly in the Cult of Mac.

Much of it has to do with brand and mythology. Steve Jobs was an amazing persona, but the early connection with IDEO is also special for me. Apple’s priority on design resonates with my user experience side and they talk about technology differently than everyone else… although yesterday’s WWDC was a little…

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May 29, 2013, 7:02 pm

How Embedded Are You?

What does it mean to be embedded? We have workshops, blogs, and books, but I’m not sure that we have a common definition. Perhaps it circles around the act of taking content or services outside of our traditional framework (spaces, websites) and integrating them into the natural habitat of our users?

 

But that feels too vague. If I provide office hours in a classroom building or if I interact with a class via the course management system— am I embedded? Technically, yes, but this is a gray area to me. There are different degrees of experiences.

 

roleThe more I think about embedded librarianship, and I will confess I have not read much of the emerging conversation, the question I’m having is with depth. How engaged are we? Are we simply serving a traditional librarian role in an nontraditional environment or is there something else to it? Are we changing our context or are…

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