Archive for November, 2006

C&I Feedback Invitation 3: Library Access to Scholarship

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

See this post for background on this series of Cites & Insights feedback invitations.

3. Library Access to Scholarship

This one’s tough. It’s not that coverage has stopped by any means. Sections appeared in May and December, only half as often as in 2005 and 2004, but there was also a Perspective: Thinking about Libraries and Access in June and a two-part Perspective on early OA journals in October.

On one hand, several blogs provide exceptionally thorough coverage of open access issues; the SPARC Open Access Newsletter also provides Peter Suber’s thoughtful commentaries. I won’t cover certain aspects of OA, and I’ve never quite succeeded in expanding “Library Access to Scholarship” substantially beyond OA-related issues.

On the other–well, I’m pretty sure all three Perspectives this year were valuable, and I got some positive feedback on the two sections as well. I’m not suggesting the possibility of dropping access-related coverage altogether; Perspectives only happen when the mood strikes, but the topic will stay in the mix.
Maybe there’s enough of a need for OA independents and heretics (T. Scott’s word) so that I should keep this, at least at a simmer.

What do you think?

  1. Dump the Library Access to Scholarship sections; it’s all done better elsewhere.
  2. Keep them around, but focus on new perspectives and synthes.s
  3. Expand them (unlikely): People may be getting access-related stuff here who don’t (and won’t) read OAN and the other sources.

#3 strikes me as improbable on the face of it, but…

Comments welcome here, or send email to waltcrawford at

Don’t expect quick responses in either case; this post is postdated, and I’m actually on my way to or in New York at the moment, traveling without technology.

Let’s do the numbers: I’ll bite

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

My colleague Günter Waibel started this at I hadn’t planned a metablog (narcissipost?) about this blog’s usage until I hit the two-year mark, still a bit more than five months away.

But hey, he tagged me, and asked for advice on the most interesting Urchin stats before preparing his post, so why not? (Urchin is the log analysis tool used at LISHost; both Hangingtogether and Walt at Random are hosted by LISHost, as are Cites & Insights and my personal site, and a few others such as Shifted Librarian, ACRLog, BlogJunction, LibraryTectonics, Lipstick Librarian, LibraryPlanet, Tame the Web, and Wandering Eyre–in other words, nobody you’ve ever heard of.)

So here goes–the same figures as GW provided, for the same period (August 15-November 15, 2006). And for what it’s worth, I seem to have 379 Bloglines subscriptions on a puzzling array of feeds (all provided automagically by WordPress, and ignoring the few Comments subscribers).

Walt at Random Statistics, August 15 through November 15, 2006

No fancy graph, I’m afraid. The pattern’s less interesting anyway, mostly more-or-less steady around 800-1,000 per day in August, 1,200-1,400 per day since, with three mysterious spikes of over 2,000 sessions each in early November. Otherwise, exactly the same info:

Sessions: daily average of 1,293, total of 120,621–pretty much identical to Hangingtogether..

IP Addresses: 16,902 different addresses; as GW says, “an approximate measure of how many individuals visited the blog”–a much more dispersed readership.

Number of countries: 106 (of which six are non-geographic top-level domains), with Canada, Japan, UK, and Australia highest non-US in that order.

Note re the domain table, added 12/3/06: The comparisons to Hangingtogether may be particularly flawed because, as a change to the original post shows, Hangingtogether was looking at 15 months, not three months. I’m not going to change my table at this point, since I’ll probably do a narcissiblog (couldn’t resist) next April 1, the 2-year anniversary. Briefly, though, for 8/15/05-11/15/06, was still the top .org domain, but with 9,341 sessions, not 2.897 ( second with 4,804); among .edu, emerson was third (1,465), with ctsnet (6,961) and virginia (2,712) ahead of it. End of Update.
I’m not sure the last item makes as much sense for W.a.r. as it does for Hangingtogether–that is, an interleaved set of the top .edu, .org, and .gov domains by number of sessions–but here it is anyway: 2,897 1,026 478 433 413 332 287 205 193 132 107 84 63 55 54 53 53 50 49 49 46 39 32 31 29 27 26 24 17 16 13 9 9 8 6 6 6 6 5 4

I have no idea what to make of any of that information. OCLC comes first: No surprise there, and thanks to my present-and-future colleagues.

Comparing the two sets of numbers is mildly interesting, mostly because it shows that Hangingtogether is much more targeted and successful in that regard, Given that the total number of sessions for the two blogs is roughly the same (one has 0.96% more sessions than the other), it’s noteworthy that Hangingtogether has 17 “target” domains with more than 1,000 sessions each, while W.a.r. (which doesn’t really have targets) has two (I’d love to know why Emerson finds this blog so interesting!); similarly, only 11 out of the 35 that GW lists have two-digit session counts, none dropping into single digits, while most of those shown here–24 of 35–have fewer than 100 sessions. (The crossed-out text is based on comparing 3 months of W.a.r. with 15 months of Hangingtogether, and thus largely nonsense.) Hangingtogether is apparently reaching its targeted audience; I’m apparently reaching lots of people scattered all over the place.

Which is as it should be.

No tagging here.

Updated a few hours later: to include all of the table, not just part of it. Sigh.

Has the MPAA lost its corporate mind? [Oops, it was a spoof]

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

I knew MPAA held pretty extravagant views on copyright, fair use, and their “right” to squeeze every last dollar out of major motion pictures, but this one took even me by surprise.

Updated: See Seth Finkelstein’s comment below: Apparently this is satire, but with the MPAA it’s really hard to tell…OK, so if I’d done an “About” at BBSpot… Sigh. Too early in the morning, too worried about a forthcoming trip, too gullible. And the story’s just a little too believable: The mark of good satire. As Emily Littella would say (sp?), “Never mind…”

So a married couple with a 32″ 10-year-old TV with stereo speakers, oh, say, like us, actually has a “home theater” and is “illegally” doing theatrical showings of DVDs because we have two comfy chairs to watch the TV from. And we should have to pay MPAA a registration fee. And our TV should have to report to them what we’re watching at all times.

The natural response is “Are these people out of their friggin’ minds?”

The second response is to say that “theatrical viewing” needs to be legally defined as involving charges or, at the very least, some form of publicity (other than phone calls), so that this sort of c**p will go away.

Next thing, the NFL will say that if you have any friends over to watch football [after all, MPAA’s standard is two or more chairs), you need to pay the commercial license fees that a sportspub would pay.

Some day, the absurd overreaches of the MPAA and RIAA will cause a strong pushback from “our” elected representatives. I hope I’m still alive when that day comes.

Credit where credit is due: I picked this up from Michael Pate’s post at LibraryPlanet.. Thanks, Michael!

The trouble with memes…

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

…is that (for me at least) they have to resonate.

That is, they have to strike me as something I’d want to contribute to.

Which makes researching an empty meme difficult and probably not very meaningful: The empty meme will only spread among those for whom memes as memes are interesting, not those willing to add to an interesting sort of serial conversation.

So, sorry, CW, but I’m not playing. And I don’t believe the results will show anything about how real memes spread, or even the pseudo-memes that get picked up from blog to blog because bloggers find the topic or technique or whatever fun, worthwhile, intriguing.

Yes, this is a semi-blind item. For it not to be blind, I’d be participating in the empty meme. Which I’m not inclined to do. On the other hand, I do believe the point about meaningful research is valid: When the thing being researched (in the social sciences) only exists for the purpose of research, the results are likely to be skewed.

Imagine a 30-minute survey whose only topic, evident from the beginning, is how you feel about taking 30-minute surveys… Or, for that matter, a two-minute survey of that nature.

C&I Feedback Invitation 2: Censorware

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

See this post for background.

2. Censorware Chronicles ( appeared once this year, in September, although censorware was mentioned in two other issues.

I think this one’s a fait accompli–there just isn’t very much happening. The one lawsuit I’m currently aware of is against a library that’s failing to follow the post-Supreme Court CIPA (that is, not unblocking sites at an adult patron’s request), and thus really has no effect on CIPA. There’s the ongoing DoJ attempt to revive COPA, and that’s interesting, but others are covering that a lot better than I could.
Should I:

  1. Drop Censorware Chronicles altogether because my coverage isn’t going anywhere?
  2. Try to revive it–and if so, any suggestions for how I can actually add value?

That’s the question. Feel free to answer by attaching a comment or sending me email (waltcrawford at

Dumping IE for Firefox: A bit of caution?

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

I’ve seen various mentions of “hiding” Internet Explorer–or, in one magazine’s case, suggesting uninstalling it as a holiday gift for parents or other seniors.

I have no particular love for IE; at the moment, I use Firefox 2.0 for essentially all of my browsing at work, and about 99% at home. (Two sites still won’t work with Firefox.) I switched to Firefox as my dominant browser quite a while ago. I don’t find anything in IE7 (at home) that makes me want to switch back.

But…quite apart from the questionable aspects of trying to uninstall IE on a Windows system…I do have to say this:

Firefox 2.0 isn’t quite as stable as one might like, or as Firefox 1.5 was.

I’m finding that, at least once a day, it just hangs–or doesn’t finish starting up. (Actually, make that twice a day: Once at work, once at home.) Mostly it’s on startup. Sometimes it’s apparently random. Usually, a forced shutdown and restart will cure it.

I have no idea why. I do know that it’s been true ever since the 2.0 upgrade. I know Firefox seems to use humongous amounts of memory (right now, it’s at 88MB, but I’ve seen it much higher-

Now that’s interesting: Just for fun, I opened two new tabs, checked appmgr, and Firefox was down to 78MB)…

I still prefer Firefox. I’m still using it as my primary browser. But I sure like having IE as a backup…

Cites & Insights: Feedback invitation 1: PC Progress

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

With the completion of Volume 6, it’s once again time to ask for feedback on Cites & Insights.

I’m not doing a formal survey for two reasons:

  • I don’t have the software handy
  • I’m not sure it makes sense to ask for feedback in areas where I’m unlikely to pay attention.

Geez, that sounds awful. What I mean is, much as I love to hear what you really like or even what you really think is a waste of bandwidth/paper, I’ve learned that trying to plan the future of C&I in any detail is absurd (it’s too much driven by what’s going on and my shifting interests), and there are quite a few areas where I’m going to keep on writing when I have something to say.

That includes areas some of you may find frivolous: My Back Pages and Offtopic Perspectives, to name the most obvious cases. Frivolity may be part of the motivation. (As I’ve said before, “When C&I ceases to be fun to do, I’ll stop doing it.”)

But there are some areas where I do wonder whether what I do makes sense any more. This and a (short) series of posts to follow will inquire about those areas.

With no further ado:

1. PC Progress ( appeared twice this year, in March and November

Coverage has declined from six magazines to two, and one of those magazines is but a shadow of itself. I’m down to two roundups a year, and not certain even that’s worth doing.

Should I:

  1. Drop PC Progress altogether as a waste of time & space?
  2. Keep doing it because you read it and find it worthwhile (“you” being a request for individual feedback)?
  3. Drop the cumulated essays, but include specific Editors’ Choice/Best Buy products in Interesting & Peculiar Products to keep you informed?

That’s the question. Feel free to answer by attaching a comment or sending me email (waltcrawford at

More questions later. General feedback always welcome.

A sort-of-Friday meme

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

“Sort-of-Friday”? Well, for USns (those of us in the U.S.), it’s effectively Friday, since most of us (I’m guessing) get Thanksgiving and the day after off.

So, given the silliness of having to edit the previous post considerably right after writing it, slapping my forehead, and checking my employer’s freely-available catalog…

Here it is, thanks to Amanda Etches-Johnson

You. Can. Only. Type. One. Word. No. Explanations.

  1. Yourself: middling
  2. Your spouse: best
  3. Your hair: gray
  4. Your mother: remembered
  5. Your father: remembered
  6. Your dream last night: conference
  7. Your favorite drink: wine
  8. Your dream car: S2000
  9. Your bedroom: typical
  10. Your fear: typical
  11. What you want to be in 10 years: productive
  12. Who you hung out with last night: spouse
  13. What you’re not: done
  14. Muffins: blueberry
  15. Time: enough
  16. The last thing you did: post
  17. What you are wearing: clothes
  18. Your favorite weather: ours
  19. The last thing you ate: bagel
  20. Your life: good
  21. Your mood: unsettled
  22. Your best friend: spouse
  23. What are you thinking about right now? Thanksgiving
  24. Your car: Civic
  25. What are you doing at the moment? reading
  26. Your summer: missing
  27. Your relationship status: happy
  28. What is on your TV? cat
  29. What is the weather like? overcast
  30. When is the last time you laughed? yesterday

Do movie megapacks make sense for public libraries?

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

When I was copyfitting the December 2006 Cites & Insights, getting it down from 33 to 28 pages, I cut several paragraphs from the end of Offtopic Perspective: 50-Movie All Stars Collection Part 2. This post isn’t those paragraphs, but covers the same ground. It’s entirely speculative, and if your response is “That’s the stupidest thing Crawford’s said in months,” you may be right.

The question is: Would any of the 50-movie megapacks actually make sense for public library collections?

[I’ll suggest offhand that they do make sense for academic libraries in institutions with any sort of film studies, but only as “filler”–cheap sources of third-rate transfers of movies, many historic and mostly old, many of which aren’t likely to be readily available elsewhere.]

If the answer is “no,” then these essays are appearing purely for amusement value. Not that I’m uncomfortable with that, mind you.

My answer is NoMaybe–and Yes.”

  • NoMaybe: I suspect it would be cumbersome for most libraries to acquire these megapacks as regular circulating items, cataloging them (presumably only the package–after all, spelling out all of the movies and stars would cost a lot more than the megapacks themselves) and circulating each 12- or 13-DVD set as one item. Added:A few libraries are opting to catalog each disc and circulate it separately; more power to them. [Bullet modified slightly based on reality.]
  • Yes: I think a fair number of public libraries could use these as supplemental casual-circulation items–but not using traditional acquire/catalog/process/protect/circulate methods.

Here’s what I mean. And hey, if you find it laughable, enjoy the laugh.

Quick update: I should have checked first! Clearly, some libraries have acquired some of these sets–at least 24 show as holding Mystery classics, which strikes me as a fine choice although I haven’t picked it up yet–and some have chosen to catalog each disc as a separate item. (Thus the multiple occurrences of some sets in Those libraries and library cooperatives know what they’re doing. Still, I suspect that for most public libraries these are cumbersome sets to handle that way. I should also note that some of the sets already have cataloging in Worldcat, spelling out the contents in full. End of quick update. Here’s an alternative method…

Some public libraries (many public libraries?) have informal paperback collections, fueled by donations and made available as casual supplements to the real collection. The paperbacks aren’t cataloged, have at most a genre mark or first-letter-of-last-name mark on the spines, don’t have security tags, and aren’t integrated in with the rest of the collection. They’re in a separate area, and patrons know they can just pick one up that looks interesting and bring it back when they’re done. Or drop off the paperback they just finished.

I believe that’s true; I know I’ve seen it in some libraries I used in the past. (It’s also true on most cruise ship libraries, and I’ve both contributed to and used those informal supplemental collections. I suspect that the ship librarian or library-attendant checks the paperback shelf once a day or so to remove anything that’s inappropriate.)

That’s what I’d do with the megapacks–start an informal video exchange collection, one that could be fueled by patron donations of the TV series that they know they’re not going to watch again (for example). You’d need a DVD or CD browsing tray or two alongside the paperback shelf. Here’s how I’d do it, if I thought it was worth doing–and in a community with a fair number of retirees who own DVD players, I think it might be worth doing.

  • Take $100 or a couple of hundred (the Friends might fund this) and pick up a few of the megapacks. Amazon has them (all, I think), at anywhere from $12 to $20 per 50-movie collection. has them at $15 or so. There are other sources. (Baker & Taylor and Ingram Entertainment both distribute DVDs from the publisher, so your library seller might even have them–but don’t pay more than $20-$25 unless there’s an awfully good reason,) The company itself is currently named Mill Creek Entertainment (formerly Treeline). At this writing, there are 21 different 50-movie packs, including Drive-In Movie Classics, Nightmare Worlds, and Warriors (mostly “Sons of Hercules” and that ilk). There’s some duplication among sets, but not a lot–and for more recent sets, the MCE website offers a summary of each flick including which sets it’s included in. Which sets should you get? Explore. (Note: There are also 20-movie and 10-movie sets, almost but not entirely derived from the 50-movie packs. I would avoid the “Cult Classics” 20-movie pack, almost all of which is unique; glancing at the titles and descriptions, it’s a little seedy for the average library. Well, a lot seedy, actually: There’s a reason that almost none of these flicks show up in the 50-movie packs.] Gunslingers? Westerns? Musicals? Hollywood legends? All good possibilities.
  • Don’t catalog them, add security strips, or repackage them in locking DVD cases or any other kind of DVD cases. Do that, and you’ve doubled or tripled the cost of the pack, and the fact that these are (mostly) mediocre VHS-quality scans, some of them with missing frames, will be more significant.
  • Remove the contents of the megapack (cardboard box): 12 or 13 CD-size cardboard sleeves, each sleeve containing the blurbs for the movies on the DVD in the sleeve. Those sleeves are your informally-circulating items. I wouldn’t even stamp them with the library name (hard to do without obscuring some of the blurbs, although admittedly some of the blurbs are so wrong that they should be obscured). I’d cut out the back panel of the box, which lists all of the movies, and have it available in the tray.
  • There’s your collection. If you spent $100 at Overstock or Amazon, chances are you now have at least 48 and maybe 60 circulating sleeves, most sleeves containing 4 movies totalling about 6 hours. A few sleeves will have five or six “movies”; a very few will have two. (There are at least two 13-disc packs where they couldn’t find very short “movies” to make up the 50.)
  • Enhancing this informal collection: If you have a couple of staff members who’ve purchased TV series on DVDs, and know they’re done with them, add those series to the informal collection–which is just a little more difficult. You’ll need to purchase slimline or regular CD jewel boxes (not DVD cases). For single-sided discs, just put each disc in a jewelbox. For double-sided or if you want to get fancy, photocopy the booklet (or the DVD case back, on really cheaply-packaged sets) and put the appropriate page as an insert in each jewel box.
  • Worst case: The DVDs all disappear and the experiment’s a failure.
  • Second worst case: Patrons don’t understand the disclaimer–that these are not part of the formal library collection, that the library won’t be cleaning or replacing them–and it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Best case: You wind up with a nice little extra with no ongoing labor costs and fairly minimal supplies cost. Patrons who love old movies or want to sample TV shows are happy.

Crazy? Maybe. But, you know, there’s a lot of good stuff in these sets–the old detective series (well, there’s an Asian stereotyping issue with a few of them, and you know which ones, but…), the good old B westerns, and rather a lot of old movies that didn’t have copyright renewed for one reason or another. (Some of the sets include a lot of newer movies, presumably licensed at next to nothing.)

If this seems ludicrous, then just accept that I’m including the offtopic perspectives for the same reason as “My Back Pages”: Leavening.

Cites & Insights 2006 index available

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

The title sheet and indexes for Cites & Insights volume 6, 2006 are now available.

This PDF-only document (title sheet and 20 pages of indexes) completes volume 6.