Archive for October, 2007

Where are you?

Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on October 11th, 2007

Look at your library’s home page.

Can you tell me within one minute what city and state (or province, or nation) your library is located in–without prior knowledge?

If you can’t, maybe you should consider revisions to your website.

Oh, and if you have a blog or many blogs: Do those blogs list your library’s address? Do they link directly to your home page (and vice-versa)?

There’s an interesting discussion on PUBLIB (where I usually work). Part of it has to do with exactly the first question: Figuring out where a library is…when all you have is the library’s name (and that name may not even be the name of the city or town). I’m sure some of you don’t read PUBLIB and work in public–or academic, or school–libraries.

I actually ran into this quite often when I was preparing Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples: Not only blogs with no links to the library’s website, but library home pages that didn’t tell me where the library actually was.

Sure, most of your web users probably visit the physical library first and get the website URL from the library card or bookmark or something. They know which Madison or Ontario or Orange County or Cambridge or … they’ve reached. (I’m not saying any of these multiply-occurring city and county names has a problem with their websites; these are just random examples.)

Maybe that’s why I didn’t make a big point of it when I was doing the book. I don’t mention the difficulties I had figuring out which library was which; I didn’t think it was relevant to the book. But the fact is that without Worldcat Registry, I might never have been certain where a library blog actually came from in one or two cases–and yes, I sent email to a Canadian province that should have gone to a U.S. state.

You’re proud of your website, right? If you aren’t, it probably needs work. And if you are, you should be proud to display it not only to those you’ve guided there, but also to others who’ve stumbled upon it indirectly. And you sure don’t want people thinking you’re that other [enter ambiguous name here--and if you think your city's name isn't ambiguous, you should check].

I live in Mountain View. There are at least a dozen Mountain Views in the U.S. and Canada–including, bizarrely, a “census designated place” called Mountain View in Contra Costa County, which is only a few dozen miles from here. I just checked MVPL’s website, which is now a page within the City of Mountain View’s website. A little ways down the left sidebar, I see this:

585 Franklin Street
Mountain View, CA 94041
Phone: 650-903-6337

OK. Street, city, state, zip code. Can you say the same for your library?

[Psst: Academic library websites could use proper addresses as well. Take a look at the disambiguation page for "St. Mary's College" at Wikipedia, to name one possibly-extreme example.]

Plotting a new course (and an apology)

Posted in Stuff, Writing and blogging on October 10th, 2007

So what have I been doing during this two-week break? Not writing those five meaty posts on my list, for sure–but some of those may turn into C&I essays in any case.

In addition to clearing out some mental cobwebs and tossing away old regrets, and of course writing for the next C&I and working on the Academic Library Blogs book (if it ever happens), I’ve been seeing how a future schedule might work and make sense. Here’s what I see so far.

  • Given that the new position is explicitly part-time, I’m aiming for a total of 40 to 45 hours a week for professional activity, both “work” and writing. That would be a significant reduction from the 60 to 65 hours I’ve been averaging, and leave time to get back to reading more books, getting a little more sleep, and thinking about some of the writing a little more. (Since another very-part-time gig may yet turn up, I’m actually aiming for 35 to 40 hours total at the moment. We shall see.)
  • I’d picked up a cheap pedometer (unfortunately, way too easy to reset inadvertently) about six weeks ago and started checking out what I’d need to add to my daily routine to reach 10,000 steps a day (roughly five miles). Turned out adding a daily walk of roughly a mile did it–and given the lovely scenery out at the old workplace, it’s a shame I didn’t start doing that years ago. (Key factor: I’d been doing at least 1.25-1.5 miles a day on the treadmill.) But…
  • Working at home could be a whole lot more sedentary. That’s a danger. So I’m taking preventive action, and I hope to keep it up. Two parts to that. First, I’m replacing the 40 to 60 minutes a day I used to spend driving (to and from work and to and from lunch) with something like 1.4 to 2 miles a day of extra walking–either walking to a nearby strip mall to buy a sandwich, or walking to the same mall to mail letters, or just walking. That takes 18 to 30 minutes, since I walk at around 4mph on a level surface. And I’m upping the average treadmill time, from 18-25 minutes to 25-30 minutes (watching old movies in fewer but longer segments–currently, two segments each for more of the old one-hour oaters). Those walks also make good, effective breaks, getting out of the house as well as off the computer. I expect to live for a good while longer; I’ve always been a fast walker who enjoyed walking; I’m hoping that doing it long and often will help assure that I can keep doing it. (And, to be sure, keep my weight down.)
  • Yes, I’m sleeping in a little later, but I’m still a morning person–but morning now starts around 6:15 instead of 5:30. So I sit down at the computer somewhere between 7:20 and 8:00, instead of the old 6:55 to 7:15.
  • Right now, a “typical” schedule of 7:30 to 11ish, long lunch/walk/errands break, 12:30-1ish to 3-4ish, then exercise, shower, and *maybe* a short computer session roughly 5 to 6:15, will work nicely. That’s actually more than enough time, but it looks like a workable overall schedule, particularly if I skip the late-afternoon session many days to read or dream instead. And, to be sure, the computer almost never goes on after dinner: That’s been true for a while, and I intend to keep it that way. Added note: That leaves out weekends, of course…which used to amount for maybe 8 of those 65 hours. I’m trying to keep that down to 6, and to use it as overflow as needed.

Changing work habits so substantially is a slight shock to the system. I’m sure these patterns will vary over the next months and years (and, of course, will be wildly disrupted before and after conferences and vacation trips). But I think the general parameters make sense–for me, for now. More walking, a little less working, and maybe a little more focus.


About the apology. On this post at Information wants to be free, I added a comment that overgeneralized what Dorothea Salo was saying. I conflated several different posts (not all from her) and got it at least a little wrong.I attempted to add a comment today at that post, apologizing to Dorothea. Apparently my comments are being trapped as spam. So I’ll do it here. I still think there’s too much “exclusion of the middle” in the field, but in this case Dorothea was not saying what I heard. That happens. Sorry.Oh, and I certainly agree that librarians must be willing to take some initiatives in trying out new things, at least some new things, at least some of the time. Stagnation helps nobody.

Random thoughts in between

Posted in Passé on October 9th, 2007

It’s really past time for me to do some “regular” posts–posts that have nothing to do with job searches and new books. I’ve got a list of candidates; maybe I’ll get to them as time goes on. Meanwhile, here’s a few random thoughts that don’t deserve individual posts. One bit of context: This is the second week of a two-week period of deliberate unemployment, intended to clear my head and refresh my energies so that I can do a great job for PALINET. So far, I think it’s working.

  • If you’re waiting to hear more about my departure from OCLC RLG Service Center, don’t hold your breath. I never planned to write memoirs (and have now discarded most of the papers that could go toward memoirs), for the perfectly sound reason that I’m not in the pantheon of celebrated people. If I ever do write memoirish things that are more than casual posts, they’ll almost entirely concern my non-work library life. I had 39 years in the library automation game, most of them good years. That life is over. I’m focused on the future.
  • I’ve now realized just how odd it was to state publicly that I was leaving a position not because “it was a bad fit” or “to explore other opportunities” or whatever, but because the position was being terminated. That’s almost as bad as admitting that I stopped writing “The Crawford Files” in American Libraries not because “three years was long enough” or “it was time to explore other kinds of writing” or “I was running out of appropriate topics” (which is, indeed, the actual reason I stopped writing “PC Monitor” for ONLINE at the end of 2006), but because the column was dropped by the publication. Oops. I did that too, didn’t I? Clearly, I was raised badly, never learning that “honesty is the best policy” has a big escape clause “…except when it could make you look bad.”
  • Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve come to the conclusion that when somebody writes a post noting various problems that they’re having–problems that legitimately deserve some sympathy or empathy–and says they don’t want a pity party…well, most of the time they do sort of want a little tiny pity party, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
  • When someone says “Nobody ever said…” with regard to some statement currently viewed as extreme, what they usually mean is either “Nobody ever used that precise set of words, although some people definitely wrote things that reasonable people would interpret that way” or “You shouldn’t actually look at the history–nobody should be held accountable for what they said two years ago.”
  • There’s a big difference between not picking up on every tool that comes along and being unwilling to use new tools when they make sense. To my mind, for many people (myself included) the former is a way to maintain some kind of balance–in fact, we do not all need to know X intimately, whatever X happens to be. (I don’t need to know how to modify a Second Life avatar. Neither do most other librarians.) But being unwilling to adopt a tool that makes sense for a real-world application you have because you’ve never used it before: That’s a sign of rigidity and impending retirement that I hope never to suffer from.
  • What? You want a real-world example? I never created a wiki–because I had no problem for which a wiki seemed to be the best solution. My new job will make heavy use of a wiki–actually, the wiki is the fundamental medium. I knew that before I applied for the job, and it appears to be the right tool for the job. So I’ll become a whole lot more familiar with the intricacies of one kind of wiki software–because it’s the right tool for the job.

That’s six little items, more than enough for now. I do plan to do more substantive posts. There’s no question that PALINET knows about this blog and about Cites & Insights–after all, the press release on my hiring mentions both of them. There’s no question that PALINET assumes I’ll continue blogging and publishing C&I, does not intend to censor or guide the content of either one, and assumes I won’t violate internal confidences or otherwise violate unstated blogging guidelines.

I would say blogging might be irregular as I dive headlong into the new situation come next week–but when has blogging at this here blog ever been regular?

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering: Yes, I will be at Midwinter 2008. Annual, too. Always barring various disasters, to be sure.

A special thanks to Peggy Sullivan

Posted in Worklife on October 5th, 2007

I think it’s worth noting that the PALINET position discussed here didn’t just come to me–and I didn’t happen upon the job posting by scouring all available library jobsites.

A friend forwarded the job posting to me, with the thought that I might find it interesting.

Dr. Peggy Sullivan was ALA Executive Director when I was LITA President. A few years before that, she was ALA President. She was a pleasure to work with back then (when I was LITA President–when she was ALA President, I was a fledgling in the organization and exclusively associated with ISAD, the former name of LITA). She believes in what she does and believes in people. She’s had a distinguished career. I’m honored to call her a friend.

And, to be sure, as promised in a very early job-related posting, I’ll be sending her a complete autographed set of my books–past, present and future.

50 Movie Pack Hollywood Legends, Disc 3

Posted in Movies and TV on October 5th, 2007

Monsoon, 1943, b&w, Edgar G. Ulmer (dir.), John Carradine, Gale Sondergaard, Sidney Toler, Frank Fenton, Veda Ann Borg, Rita Quickley, Rick Vallin. Original title: Isle of Forgotten Sins. 1:22 [1:16, same as National Film Museum print]

The sleeve description says “A young couple travel to India to a remote jungle village, to announce their betrothal to the bride’s parents…” and so on, and lists George Nader as the star. If the person preparing the sleeve copy checked IMDB or standard reference works, they no doubt based that on the 1952 flick Monsoon—directed by Rodney Amateau, starring George Nader, Ursula Thiess, Diana Douglas and others.

This is an entirely different movie with an entirely different plot, filmed nine years earlier (with an entirely different title) and not even set in the same country. It’s about greed, gold, diving and weather; it starts in a South Seas gambling hall/brothel and winds up in a similar establishment. In between? Better than you might expect, partly because there really are no heroes among this strong cast. $1.25.

Borderline, 1950, b&w, William A. Seiter (dir.), Fred MacMurray, Claire Trevor, Raymond Burr, José Torvay, Morris Ankrum. 1:28.

Maybe I saw too much of Raymond Burr on TV, but his bad-guy movie roles always strike me as suiting him better—and this one’s no exception. Burr is a drug ringleader (or one rung below leader) in Mexico, MacMurray and Trevor two different American agents sent—by two different agencies—to infiltrate the gang. Naturally, each of them thinks the other one’s part of the gang. Naturally, they fall in love. Naturally, it all works out. It is an odd combination—part comedy, part noir, part “melodrama” as the sleeve says—but, to my mind, t works pretty well. For that matter, MacMurray makes a fine leading man and tough guy. I found it enjoyable and the print’s pretty good. $1.50.

Indiscretion of an American Wife, 1953, b&w, Vittorio de Sica (dir.), Jennifer Jones, Montgomery Clift, Richard Beymer, Gino Cervi. Dialogue by Truman Capote. Original title: Stazione Termini. 1:12, 1:30, 1:03 in U.S. release [1:03].

This one’s supposed to be a minor classic, but of course anything by Vittorio de Sica is supposed to be a minor classic. The plot’s pretty simple: Jennifer Jones (the “American wife”) has been somehow involved with the “Italian” Montgomery Clift and is now returning to her husband and child. The two meet in the train station and talk and talk and emote and talk and… Unfortunately, Capote or no Capote, it’s not very interesting talk. I’m not anti-romantic: I saw and loved Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and generally like good romances. This one…well, at just over an hour it seemed way too long; I can’t imagine sitting through the 90-minute version. For serious fans of de Sica or Jones, I’d reluctantly give it $1.

The North Star, 1943, b&w, Lewis Milestone (dir.), Lillian Hellman (screenplay & story), Anne Baxter, Dana Andrews, Walter Huston, Walter Brennan, Ann Harding, Farley Granger, Erich von Stroheim, Dean Jagger. Music by Aaron Copland. 1:48 [1:45].

What starpower! What historical drama! What sweep! What…well, nonsense, at least historically. The first quarter of the movie is bizarre, as it depicts the healthy, happy, well-fed, joyous occupants of a Ukraine farming village who all have what they need thanks to benevolent Communism. They sing, they dance, they have little in common with real Ukrainians at the start of World War II. Then their idyllic way of life is shattered by the Nazi invasion; the remainder of the movie is all about the occupation of their village, barbaric draining of children’s blood by evil doctors, and the brave defense by a group of horse-riding village men hiding in the hills.

If you read the whole set of IMDB reviews, you might think this is some sort of early Hollywood Communist plot (you know that old Commie Walter Brennan, right?)—as opposed to a wartime propaganda film made at the request of the President, to help convince Americans that Russians were our allies and should be thought of more favorably. This is, then, a true period piece: A picture that could not have been made with that much star power two years earlier or five years later. All that said, and all those fine actors admired, it’s just not a very good movie–not only does it romanticize the USSR, it’s sort of a mess dramatically. At most $1.

The job: Director & Managing Editor, PALINET Leadership Network

Posted in Passé on October 4th, 2007

Here’s the press release:

Walt Crawford Named Director & Managing Editor of PALINET Leadership Network

Philadelphia, PA, October 2, 2007 — PALINET is pleased to announce the appointment of Walt Crawford as Director and Managing Editor for the PALINET Leadership Network. Crawford is an internationally recognized writer and speaker on libraries, technology, policy, and media, and the creator, writer and publisher of Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, an ejournal on the intersections of libraries, policy, technology, and media published monthly since 2001. He also maintains a blog on these and other issues, Walt at Random. He was recently listed as one of the 31 most frequently-cited authors in library literature 1994-2004 (the only American writer on that list outside academic libraries.) Cathy Wilt, PALINET’s Executive Director, comments: “We are thrilled to have Walt direct the development of this library leadership community of practice. The PALINET Leadership Network and PALINET members will certainly benefit from his substantial experience, not to mention his editorial wit and wisdom.”

About the PALINET Leadership Network

Currently in beta release, the PALINET Leadership Network is an innovative online member service for library leaders designed to create a community of practice by sharing informative articles, forums on current issues, and collaborative discussions on cutting-edge topics. Designed as a wiki platform, the PALINET Leadership Network provides the latest innovations and most current leadership information in the library arena and beyond. It is an ideal vehicle for staying current with literature, blogs, and other leadership conversations, as well as a critical tool for mentoring staff.

About PALINET

PALINET, a member-owned and governed regional library network, was founded in 1936 and is one of the largest U.S. networks, serving 600+ members throughout the mid-Atlantic region and beyond. PALINET provides innovative training opportunities through its classroom and online distance education programs and live events and discounts on hundreds of library services from more than 80 business partners through its group purchasing program. For the latest information on PALINET, visit www.palinet.org.

New position: Removing the uncertainty

Posted in Passé on October 3rd, 2007

Apparently my previous posts regarding “what I’ll be doing next” weren’t quite clear enough about the level of uncertainty. So, let me be as clear as possible:

I’ve signed the contract. I will be taking on an interesting, challenging, worthwhile responsibility starting October 15. I’ve made the near-term travel arrangements involved in that responsibility. I even picked up the discounted ALA Midwinter/Annual registration using the name of the agency on my badge copy.

What I haven’t done yet: Posted a formal announcement of exactly what the position is. I want to coordinate that announcement with a formal announcement from the agency. These things take a little time.

Will I be adding other new things? Possibly: This isn’t a full-time job (technically, it’s not a job at all, as I won’t be an employee as such.) But this will be my core position–the one that gets the most attention.

Sponsorship for Cites & Insights is also clear at least through 2008: YBP will continue to sponsor C&I.

I’ll post more when there’s more to post. That should certainly be within the next two weeks.
In the meantime, I would say that posting here might be even lighter than usual, given that I’m sort-of taking two weeks off (as described previously)–but I won’t say that, for two good reasons:

  • I’ve always said that bloggers shouldn’t feel obliged to tell us why they’re not blogging for a period, unless it suits them to do so. Life trumps blogging: always has, always will.
  • Blogging frequency here has always been erratic and unpredictable. My original “target” was two posts a week; based on that target, I’m covered through early 2011. I know there will be at least one more post this week (I’m watching the final movie on Disc 3 of the Hollywood Legends set, and you know what that means), and I could suddenly be inspired or irritated to put out several other posts.

Heck, I might even do a post about the freshet of posts from people who find themselves with a truly annoying version of “blogger’s block”: Where instead of simply not blogging for a while (no harm, no foul), people are sitting at the keyboard for significant periods of time and still not coming up with posts. Now if I had something useful to say about that…


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