Archive for May, 2008

Public Library Blogs: Still available

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on May 31st, 2008

Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples

Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples is still available at Cites & Insights Books. Price: $29.50 plus shipping and handling–or $20 for a PDF ebook version. (It’s also available on bright-white paper with an ISBN at Amazon, also $29.50, ISBN 978-1434085591.)

The 299-page 6×9 trade paperback (x+289 pages) features descriptions and sample posts for a wide range of blogs from 196 public libraries of all sizes, in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand.

It’s the first and only broad-range study of its kind, looking at how public library blogs appeared during March 2007-May 2007, with metrics for each blog, information on links to and from library home pages (or, in a few cases, the note that the blog is the library home page) and a sample post for each blog. You can see how blogs measure up for number of posts, length of posts, number of comments (overall and per post) and use of illustrations. You can also look at blogs by specialty, including half a dozen technology blogs, three dozen teen blogs (and one for tweens), one on censorship and four devoted to genealogy–among many more.


Why should you (or your library) buy this book?

If your library is associated with a library school, it should be a no-brainer: It’s the broadest and most complete study done of how public library blogs actually work and are being used, as opposed to commentaries with a few hand-picked examples.

If your library is considering a blog, this book should help you find blogs from comparable libraries to consider as examples. If your library has a blog and is considering more (or revising the ones you have), this book should help you find interesting examples–the public library blogging community is remarkably diverse!

196 libraries are included in the book:, with extremely diverse service populations (as of 2004 figures):

  • Under 1,000 (actually under 400): two libraries
  • 1,000 to 2,400: five libraries
  • 2,500 to 4,600: eight libraries
  • 5,000 to 9,900: 17 libraries
  • 10,000 to 15,000: 16 libraries
  • 16,000 to 24,000: 20 libraries
  • 25,000 to 33,000: 20 libraries
  • 34,000 to 46,000: 17 libraries
  • 51,000 to 69,000: 17 libraries
  • 75,000 to 97,000: 11 libraries
  • 100,000 to 137,000: 19 libraries
  • 146,000 to 240,000: 21 libraries
  • 260,000 to 497,000: 10 libraries
  • More than 670,000: 13 libraries

I would quote review excerpts–but there haven’t been any, positive or negative.

Scarcity and continuation:
This book has been out since mid-August 2007. In nine months, it’s sold 68 copies.

Some time after August 2008, one of two things will happen, largely depending on sales for this book and Academic Library Blogs: 232 Examples, although feedback and other factors may come into play:

  • It will be replaced by a new book showing how library blogs change from year to year, comparing March-May 2007 with March-May 2008.
  • It will go out of print, at least on Amazon, if it isn’t averaging at least one sale a week (which it hasn’t been for the last three months).

In either case, you may have a relatively rare copy.

Balanced Libraries: A reminder

Posted in C&I Books on May 28th, 2008

Balanced Libraries: Cover

Still available at my Lulu storefront or directly, with full information and preview pages. Also available (on bright-white paper instead of cream book paper), with ISBN 978-1434805256, from Amazon.

The 247-page paperback is $29.50. If you prefer a PDF ebook, it’s $20, only from Lulu.

Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change is my contribution to the ongoing set of discussions, experiments and changes in libraries and librarianship that sometimes carries the name “Library 2.0.”

It’s been out for about 14 months. I think it’s still a valuable contribution to the ongoing set of discussions.


Why should I buy this book?

Here’s what some reviewers had to say:

Pete Smith at Library Too:

I recommend this book to anyone interested in ‘Library 2.0′ and other contemporary issues, as Crawford sets them in their wider context. Yet it covers broader issues than just the latest technology, and does so in a considered way. As such, it will also stand when today’s issues are yesterday’s debates. It is passionate, yet not partisan; timely, yet not time bound.

Jennifer Macaulay at Life as I know it:

I would recommend this book to any of my colleagues. Whether one likes the term or not, the concept of Library 2.0 is important as are the discussions that have taken place around it. Reading Balanced Libraries is a great way to learn more about Library 2.0 – in a very non-threatening way that won’t cause people to become overwhelmed by the winds of change that seem to always be surrounding us.

Wouter at Wow! Wouter over het Web – well, you’ll just have to read the review (if you read the language)

John DuPuis at Confessions of a Science Librarian:

One of the best things about this book was that it provoked an awful lot of internal debates as I was reading it. You know how when you’re reading a book and suddenly you’re stopped in your tracks by something? It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree (and I certainly didn’t agree with everything in Crawford’s book), it makes you think, it makes you start a kind of virtual discussion with the author. You find yourself saying, “But, what if…” or “You know, that’s not how I think that would happen…” or “Right on, and what about…” It takes a long time to read a book like that, because so much of your time is spent digesting what you’ve read. It often took me a day or two in between chapters to process. Lee Smolin’s The Trouble with Physics, which I was reading more or less simultaneously, was the same.

John Miedema, now at johnmiedema.ca:

Balance is not a sexy idea, but Crawford helps makes sense of the debate, showing how both change and stasis can be troublesome for libraries, providing a fresh take on the timeless wisdom that technology must serve the library mission, not the reverse.

Those are all brief excerpts from thoughtful reviews. Go read the full reviews, and decide whether this book would be worthwhile for you or your library.

Using technology for balance instead of guilt

Posted in Libraries, Technology and software, Writing and blogging on May 22nd, 2008

This post is unusual for Walt at Random in several ways:

  • I’m mostly just recommending another post–this one. I don’t have much more to say here (I did comment on the post, and may comment on it later). I rarely do straight “recommendations.”
  • The post is on a blog I don’t link to all that often, The Shifted Librarian.
  • I am not criticizing, making fun of, or otherwise hassling Jenny Levine. I think this is a good post (and a good conversation following).

Go read it.

And for a whole lot more on technology and balance, consider buying a copy of Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change. (This has been a small commercial. But even if you don’t buy the book, go read Jenny’s post.)

I still don’t understand…

Posted in Stuff on May 18th, 2008

Four years ago, in Cites & Insights 4:7 (June 2004), Bibs & Blather included a section headed “It May Not Be My Fight, But…”

It went something like this (OK, it went exactly like this):

Boy, do I not want to write this section in some ways. I stand to lose readers as a result and I can’t imagine that I’ll gain any readers or friends (my few close friends already know where I stand). I could lose speaking opportunities. I should just let it be.

After all, it may not be my fight. I’m a middle-aged white man, straight, politically moderate, married to a wonderful woman for more than 26 years, with no intention of changing that status.

But here it is. And, come to think of it, maybe it is my fight.

I’m happily married. I’m heterosexual. We were married in a church.

And for the life of me, I cannot see any way to interpret the marriage of two adults who love one another as doing anything other than strengthening marriage, as long as the two adults are both competent to make that commitment. Those marriages do nothing to weaken my marriage in particular, and (I believe) a lot to strengthen marriage in general.

Before you blow your stack, note that I would have no problem with “marriage” being something that’s done entirely by religious organizations—as long as government replaces it with some other form of commitment that has the 1,100+ perquisites that currently exist for married couples, and only for married couples. Get government entirely out of marriage (that is, the rite and agreement with that particular name), and I have no problem. Of course, neither do same-sex couples: Any number of ministers in Metropolitan churches, Unitarian Universalist congregations, and other faiths will be only too happy to wed two men or two women who are committed to one another. Would my wife and I still have a church wedding? Hard to say.

“It’s for the children.” Hogwash.

I don’t remember any questionnaire when we went to get a marriage license, asking us whether we intended to have children. We don’t have them, and won’t. Should our marriage be annulled?

My father remarried at age 89 to a wonderful 91-year-old woman. I suspect there was never any possibility of those two having children—and that wasn’t a bar to their getting married.

“For the children” means that any person who’s infertile, either by choice or by chance, should be barred from marriage.

“The Bible says…” Well, for one thing, freedom of religion only works if there’s also freedom from religion, and the government currently provides all those perquisites to married couples. Thus, marriage has to be considered a secular union. Don’t push Biblical attitudes toward right and wrong too far. There’s at least one passage in the Bible that appears to praise drunken incest (Genesis 19:30-38), and certainly more than one case of polygamy without condemnation.

I also take into account that the case I’m most personally acquainted with: Two wholly-committed people were able to get married in San Francisco before the courts temporarily stopped a peaceful and loving process. That couple includes one woman who’s a military veteran and considerably more religious and conservative than I’ll ever be, and another woman who’s a minister and presumably understands the Bible fairly well.

Was Gavin Newsom legally right? I don’t know. (I know he surprised a lot of people, given that he’s a happily married businessman who’s relatively conservative by SF standards. But then, it took Richard Nixon to open U.S. relations with China.) Was he morally right? I believe so. I won’t comment on “Ax Handle Romney” or other players in this ongoing drama (if you don’t get the reference, you’re younger than I am). I was fascinated by an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, filed from South Boston, that suggests people there aren’t terribly concerned about Massachusetts’ legalization of gay marriage—and that some “family” groups are getting desperate because “two years might not be long enough to show that gay marriage undermines marriage.” For once, I agree with the “family” people: I suspect two centuries of gay marriage won’t be long enough to show that it undermines the institution of marriage!

Semi-reformed slutty “virgins” getting “married” for two days to have a good ol’ time with an old boyfriend may weaken the institution of marriage. People on their 6th and 7th marriage may weaken the institution. Fifty percent divorce rates may weaken the institution. Or, in all those cases, it may not. Everyone who cheats on their spouse weakens the institution, as does every man who believes his spouse is some sort of slave and lesser being.

Loving couples where both are men or both are women? Couples who have been together for decades (four of them, in the first San Francisco ceremony)? These couples strengthen marriage as an institution. They also strengthen society and help to undo a long-standing wrong.

If you find that so disagreeable that you’ll never read Cites & Insights (or anything else I write) again—well, that’s your privilege. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.


So what’s happened over the past four years?

  • The 4,000 marriages that took place in San Francisco were eventually annulled by state courts–but those courts didn’t choose to rule on the constitutional issue at hand.
  • As anticipated, several years of legal same-sex marriage in Massachusetts has failed to cause the moral or other downfall of that state or in any apparent way weaken the institution of marriage.
  • And now, California’s Supreme Court–which, incidentally, has six Republicans out of its total seven members–has concluded that the ban on same-sex marriage does, indeed, violate California’s constitution.
  • Carpetbaggers from Virginia and various other “liberty as long as you’re on our side”–“Family, but only the way we define Family” groups were already gathering petitions to try to write a ban on same-sex marriage into the California constitution. That only takes a majority vote. Could a majority vote to make it illegal for people over 65 to marry (after all, “It’s for the children”) or for left-handed people to vote? Presumably so…
  • Before we start talking about “will of the people,” it’s worth noting that the way the will of the people is typically expressed for legislative issues is through elected representatives–and that California’s state legislature has twice passed bills to legalize same-sex marriage. In both cases, the Governator vetoed the bills. (Yes, California uses the initiative process a lot–and, as in most other states, the initiative process frequently produces bad law and worse policy.)
  • Interestingly, the Governator has come out against the initiative to overturn the court decision and says he’ll campaign against it..

I still don’t understand how marriage involving two loving people can weaken the institution of marriage. (I don’t remember who commented that it would take a lot for gays to screw up American marriage more badly than straights have done, but it’s not a bad point.)

I’ve been married 30 years now, and look forward to many more years…and I suppose I’m only “middle aged” in my own mind, since I really don’t plan to live to anything like 124.

I did lose one long-time reader as a result of that 2004 commentary. That’s the breaks. I could lose more as a result of repeating and, if anything, strengthening my opinion–but I think it’s unlikely. Things are moving…and the Republican-dominated California Supreme Court made the right decision, in my opinion. (Worth noting: One of the three dissenters basically agreed that the ban was unconstitutional but wasn’t willing to overturn it. In some ways, it was a 5:2 majority more than a 4:3 majority.)

I’m hoping California’s voters will demonstrate the social liberalism that’s helped make California great. In a state with no majority, I’d like to see all “minority rights” treated well.

Update 6/21/08: Comments are closed for this post.

Comment policy

Posted in Writing and blogging on May 17th, 2008

It’s been a little quiet around here, other than repeating PLN blogs and announcing C&I issues. Not sure why. Maybe I should look at that “20 things to think about before stopping your blog” thing–but maybe not just yet. (I could use the weather Thursday & Friday as an excuse, I guess: Too hot to think, and we don’t have AC. But…)

Meanwhile, it appears that I never actually established a comment policy for Walt at Random. Maybe because I never thought about a fixed policy? Anyway, since such policies are being discussed in a couple of places, and since I still don’t have anything substantive to say that doesn’t either belong in Cites & Insights or on PLN (or in an EContent or Online column…), here goes…

  • Comments are welcome and invited as long as they’re vaguely relevant to the post. Linkbacks aren’t allowed–you can link to these posts, but the linkback won’t appear. (Spam, pure and simple.)
  • An email address is required for all comments and is never revealed: I won’t “out” you based on email address or IP address. On the other hand, I don’t require you to register or to sign in with any given account…
  • Signed comments are preferred. Anonymous and pseudonymous comments are allowed, but with a little less latitude.
  • I will not delete a comment because you disagree with me or make fun of me. Disagreement welcome…and snark is part of life.
  • I will delete a comment (or possibly edit it) if you use language I consider unsuitable, if you make personal attacks on anyone else, or if you say anything that’s remotely actionable (libel, slander, etc.)
  • I will delete comments that appear to be spam, that appear wholly irrelevant to the post, that seem to be beating a dead horse (especially one that’s not particularly library-related), that contain linked URLs that appear to be commercial or spammish in nature…
  • Comments are automatically closed six months after a post appeared, with some allowance for live conversations.
  • I attempt to check Spam Karma 2’s results before deleting them, but it’s conceivable that a “real” comment could be trapped as spam–e.g., if it has more than one link, is from someone who’s never commented here before, has a suspicious URL, etc. I’ve only rescued two good comments from Spam Karma in the last six months, so I don’t think this is much of a problem.
  • This is not an open forum. I delight in open conversations, even feisty ones, but in the end this is my blog; you’re a guest.

I think that covers it, subject to refinement as time goes on. I’ll copy the heart of that into a page…

Cites & Insights 8:6 available

Posted in Cites & Insights on May 15th, 2008

Cites & Insights 8:6, June 2008, is now available for downloading.

The 28-page issue is PDF, as usual, but (since My Back Pages is missing) all segments are also available as HTML separates at the Cites & Insights homepage.

The issue consists of:

Another good customer service story

Posted in Movies and TV on May 9th, 2008

You may remember this post, the second half of which discussed the exemplary customer service I received from a Hilton HHonors phone representative. (Maybe I should have noted in that post that I’m not a Very Frequent Stayer–I’m at the base “blue” level, although I’ve had higher level one or two years. So I don’t believe I was getting special treatment.)

Here’s another one–unexpected because, given the circumstances, I really didn’t expect much of a response at all. Maybe my expectations are too low?

I’m watching the movies in the 50 Movie Pack Hollywood Legends, alternating discs with the 50 Movie Western Classics set. On April 28, I finished Disc 9 of the Western set and, on April 29, started up Disc 8 of the Hollywood Legends set. I was really looking forward to this–not for the first movie, but because the second movie is The Man with the Golden Arm, which I’ve never seen and is supposed to be excellent.

Except that, when I started Side A of the disc, the two titles weren’t what I was expecting. Instead of The Town Went Wild and The Man with the Golden Arm, the menu showed Heartbeat and He Found a Star. A little investigation showed that those two movies should be Side A of Disc 11–and, indeed, Side A of Disc 11 also had those two movies. Side B of Disc 8 was fine. Somehow, in the point in disc manufacturing where the two sides of a two-sided DVD are pasted together, the wrong Side A got matched up with the right Side B. (The hub labels were what they should be–but that’s probably a separate step.)

Well, OK. not a huge deal. I don’t have any idea how long ago I purchased the set or who I purchased it from; probably at least a year, and I probably paid no more than $15-$18 for the 50-movie set. I sure didn’t keep a receipt that long. These things happen–particularly when you’re running such a low-cost operation.

But, well, the website for Mill Creek Entertainment has a contact email. So, just for fun–and just to let them know, if it was a widespread problem–I wrote email. Not angry email, mostly amused.. I did mention the reviews I’ve been writing, and said:

Since I have no idea how long ago I purchased the set and I certainly don’t have a receipt, I’m not going to make a federal case out of this (particularly since your prices are excellent and I admire the work you’re doing in putting the public domain to use). Still, I’ll admit that I was really looking forward to The Man with the Golden Arm, one old movie that I do regard as a classic–and have never seen. So if there was an easy and affordable way to send me a replacement copy (that actually has the right movies on the disc, not just on the label), I’d be delighted.

One business day after I sent the mail, I got a response–with an apology and a note that they’d be sending off a replacement DVD and include a bonus DVD set with their compliments. I immediately responded with thanks–and with a list of all the sets I already own (since, given current prices, that’s a fairly long list).

A few days later, the box arrived. It included a replacement disc (and this one has the right movies on each side), a replacement sleeve (they’ve upgraded the sleeve text somewhat)–and, instead of a 50-movie pack, three different and fairly unusual packs, two of which probably sell in stores for $5 or $6, one maybe $12 to $15(?):

  • A two-DVD “slapstick festival” with 35 shorts from Charlie Chaplin, the Keystone Cops, Our Gang, Three Stooges, W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Stan Laurel, and an “all star extravaganza.”
  • A two-DVD “Legends Series” collection: “Shirley Temple: Smiles and Curls Collection”–with three movies on one disc and 11 shorts on the other.
  • A four-DVD “Legends Series” collection: “Alfred Hitchcock: The Legend Begins”–billed as “20 Movie Classics” (there are a bunch of four-disc 20-movie sets). It includes two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 18 feature films (including six silents dating back as far as 1926), and a 55-minute set of movie trailers as a bonus.

I would have been more than satisfied just to get the replacement disc, particularly this long after the original purchase. The extras were, well, extra.

I note, as I also noted with the newest of the 50-Movie Packs that I picked up, that Mill Creek has changed its manufacturing for new sets. Instead of two-sided single-layer DVDs with hub labels, they’re now using dual-layer single-sided DVDs with full labels, which are much easier to handle. (At VHS resolution, you can get six+ hours on a dual-layer disc.) These smaller sets don’t use the one-sleeve-per-disc/multiple sleeves in a box packaging of the 50-movie packs (and, I presume, the 100-movie and 250-movie boxes). Instead, they’re in regular DVD two-disc boxes (well, the Hitchcock uses two hubs on each side with discs overlapping one another).

Anyway: Just another good service story. And maybe I’ll get a lot more familiar with Hitchcock’s early work…

Wir werden zu früh altes und zu spätes intelligentes

Posted in ALA on May 5th, 2008

I don’t know that my German grandparents (the Gruenig side) ever said it that way to me, but I’ve certainly heard the English version often enough:

We grow too soon old and too late smart.

I’m not sure why, but Roy Tennant’s response to my comment on this blog post brought that saying to mind. To wit:

  • Roy said “I’ve been to more ALA conferences than I care to count, and know exactly how I can be most effective there (even if I don’t always completely follow through…)”
  • I commented (among other things): “You know exactly how you can be most effective at ALA? I’ve been going for 33 years, and I’m still not sure…”
  • Roy responded: “Yes, Walt, I DO know how I can be most effective, and I can say it one word: Bars. That’s right, I can be most effective having conversations with people over our favorite drinks, whether it be diet soda or The Macallan. You won’t find it on the official schedule but there it is. Set up your meetings in advance with the folks you most want to hook up with. The rest is, well, up to you. As I’m sure you know. :-)

Now, before you think I’m poking fun at Roy Tennant for achieving age before wisdom, be aware that the title of this post is reflexive: I’m talking about myself, not Tennant.

I’d guess I had no bar-style meetings set up in advance with the people I should have been meeting with for most of the Midwinters and Annuals I’ve attended (and certainly not for most conferences I’ve attended as a speaker). Oh, sure, some of them–but even then, maybe one or at most two per conference. And I suspect that’s been a mistake all along the way–that I’ve let my introversion get the better of me, failing to do enough networking.

I won’t say “and that’s why Roy Tennant is Roy Tennant and I’m not.” There’s much more to it than that. But it probably plays a small part.

So am I going to reform–make sure that Anaheim is chock-full of bar sessions with people I want to hook up with, for our mutual benefit? And Denver after that? And Chicago, Boston, Washington, San Diego, New Orleans… (Hey! Where’s San Antonio? Dallas for Midwinter but not San Antonio? Really?)

Probably not. I don’t think I’m angling to be the next Walt Crawford, whatever that might mean.

But that’s my failing. As they said in the old country, “wir werden zu früh altes und zu spätes intelligentes”

Update: Title and last line modified, although I have no idea which “original saying” is really original.

Of wikis, transparency and customer service

Posted in Travel on May 3rd, 2008

Part the first:

I just finished writing a Perspective for the June Cites & Insights (which will emerge well before June 1, but certainly after May 11–I’d guess May 18-20, but that’s only a guess), “On Wikis and Transparency.” It’s mostly about MediaWiki and transparency, but that’s OK, since MediaWiki is pretty clearly the dominant wiki software for library-related wikis. The Perspective’s about 4,000 words long before editing; I plan to do a shorter version (maybe 2,000-2,500 words) to mount on PALINET Leadership Network as a companion piece to the Wikis and libraries article I completed there yesterday.

But first, I’ll give alert, knowledgeable, weekend-blog-reading folks a chance to tell me: Is this obvious stuff? Does everybody already know that MediaWiki wikis tend to be much more transparent than their owners might realize? (Which is, by and large, a good thing–once the owners realize it.) When I say “everybody,” I explicitly mean library leaders who need to know a little about wikis but are probably never going to install one or become intimately familiar with it…

Thus endeth part the first. And hey, if I do write something “obvious,” it won’t be the first time.

Update Monday, May 5: Having heard no cries of “everybody knows that,” I’ve completed the C&I essay and added a briefer version to PLN here.


Part the deuce:

Here’s the setup: My wife and I are going on a real vacation, for the first time in a couple of years. It’s a cruise, and it makes sense to fly to the departure port a day early and stay overnight. To make it even more fun, we’re going with a dear friend of ours–who’s also flying in a day early.

As we investigated places to stay overnight, we found that this is one of those cities where we could either spend a lot of money, or stay in an iffy part of town or in an iffy establishment, or maybe both. But if we stayed nearer the airport, we could stay in a Hilton at a reasonable price.

Which then caused me to think. Given my odd travel, I belong to several hotel affinity programs–as with air frequent-traveler programs, it costs nothing to join, and some hotel programs at least get you a free newspaper or something–but I tell all of them to give me American miles instead of hotel points, since I rarely have the choice of hotel. But Hilton HHonors has “double dipping”–they give you both miles and points. So I’ve accumulated some quantity of points over the years (given the choice, I’ll tend to stay at a Hilton-family property, especially Embassy Suites). Hmm. Let me check…

Yep. I had enough points for one free night at this category of hotel. In fact, I had more than enough points for two free nights. Now, back in the good old days, at least as I remember it (but this may be airline rather than hotel), this was a multistep process: First you’d send in a mailed request for a certain kind of award certificate, then they’d send the certificate, then you’d book the award with certificate in hand. Now, of course, you go to the Hhonors website, log in, find the hotel and verify availability, and the certificate is created at the point of use: You get two emailed confirmations, one your actual reservation, one your award certificate. Fast, easy, well-designed. Cool.

And here’s the pitch: The best use I could think of for the rest of the points was to pick up another free room for our friend–if the friend wanted it. Which, it turns out, they did. How would I go about reserving a room in somebody else’s name and paying for it with points from my Hhonors account?

So I called the Hhonors 800 number. One clear menu choice. Another clear menu choice. Then a crisp message: You can book awards online, but if you’d like to speak with a representative, just wait. I waited…for about ten seconds, maybe less.

Five minutes or less (I’m thinking three, but could be wrong): That’s what it took to ask whether this could be done (it could), provide my information, validate who I am, give the hotel info, give the other person’s name, deal with a slight variance (yes, a room with two doubles would be fine, if no one-king room was available), and get an award certificate number…following which, an automated voice from the hotel gave me the reservation confirmation code. Within one minute after hanging up the phone, both confirmation certificates were in my email, ready to forward to the friend.

Maybe there’s nothing unusual here, but I’ve surely heard enough horror stories about telephone assistance with even straightforward issues, much less slightly complicated ones like this. OK, I’ve always had great luck with American Aadvantage people–but then, American’s people are one reason I prefer American Airlines (just as Hilton people are one reason I prefer Hiltons). For some reason, this exercise struck me as remarkably smooth and pleasant: No waiting, phone trees used to save me time rather than to avoid actual contact, really slick combined use of the human touch and computer backup–I mean, those emails were there when the call was done.

Just a nice little story for a Saturday. It certainly made my Friday.

Many distinctive local libraries

Posted in Libraries on May 2nd, 2008

I’ve probably seen the announcement and comments on at least half a dozen blogs by now.

For the One Big Library Unconference, that is. To be held June 27, 2008, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. Organized by York University Libraries.

Here’s the blurb:

“It seems like there are lot of different kinds of libraries: public libraries, school libraries, university libraries, college libraries, law libraries, medical libraries, corporate libraries, special libraries, private libraries. But really there’s just One Big Library, with branches all over the world.”

The One Big Library Unconference is a one-day gathering of librarians, technologists and other interested people, talking about the present and future of libraries. It’s organized and sponsored by York University Libraries and the YUL Emerging Technologies Interest Group.

The first paragraph is in quotes–but with no source or link.

The list of participants already includes a bunch of people I know (at least virtually) and respect: John Dupuis, David Fiander, Amanda Etches-Johnson, John Miedema, Connie Crosby, William Denton, probably others.

I’m sure it will be an excellent day. I wouldn’t be going even if money and time allowed: It’s directly opposite my travel day for ALA Annual in Anaheim. (Well, hey, it’s a Canadian conference. Why should they care about ALA’s schedule?)

And there’s something about it that bothers me. Namely, the premise as stated in that first paragraph.

Sorry, but I don’t buy it as a reality or as a desirable future. I don’t think of Harvard College Library as a branch of The ARL Library, much less Mountain View Public Library, Harvard College Library, NYPL, Hewlett-Packard Corporate Libraries and the Poy Sippi Public Library as all being branches of One Big Library.

I think of all these as distinctive and distinctly local institutions–institutions which, being libraries, are really good at sharing and should get even better at it. But sharing is quite different than being a branch of a whole.

John Miedema’s attending, so I’m assuming the “slow library” perspective–a distinctly local view, where a library is distinctly part of its community–will be represented. I hope so, at least. That’s certainly not the thrust of the unconference description.

Semantics? Maybe–but, as I discuss in an upcoming C&I perspective, semantics–the study of meaning in communication–is to a great extent what makes us human.

So, to all my friends up north, hope you have a great unconference (I’ve never been to one, and that should change), but you can put me down as disagreeing with the anonymous writer of those quoted sentences.


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