Archive for October, 2013

Mostly numbers: Help needed

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries on October 14th, 2013

If you’re in a library (either public or academic) and know of, and can access, “medium-size data” that regularly comes out of your ILS or other source in some semi-tabular form (comma-separated values, spreadsheet, database, table, whatever) and that could stand some analysis but is clumsy to deal with:

I could use your help. Specifically, I’d like to see the labels and a few rows of the data from such a dataset, with notes on how often it’s generated and the typical overall size. (I’m assuming that there is no identifiable borrower information in any of this: If there is, I don’t want it.)

Please either contact me (in comments or to waltcrawford@gmail.com) or send me the stuff–in some ways, comma-separated values are best, since they can’t harbor malware, they’re compact and (as far as I know) most programs can generate them. Send it as an attachment to that same email address.

If you’re one of the first three to send me something (I’ll add to this post when/if this happens), and if I’m able to use the submission to help me prepare a convincing proposal for a book (discussed below), and if the book is accepted by a real publisher…then you’d be mentioned in the acknowledgments and receive an actual physical copy of the book, autographed if you prefer. Alternatively, if this all leads to a webinar or some equivalent, you’d be mentioned in acknowledgments and I’d find some appropriate way to provide another form of thanks.

There are a lot of “Ifs” in that last paragraph, so maybe a little background will be useful.

Background

I had an idea for a book at one point–originally The Mythical Average Public Library and later Mostly Just Numbers, which has morphed to Mostly Numbers in the meantime.

I discussed the idea in this post in May 2013, actually preceded by this post in February 2013 and this post in March 2013 and, to some extent, in this post in April 2013.

Then I started working on other projects, and the less said about the current sales of those self-published books–so far at least–the better.

Along the way, I added two more brief comments on the possible project: One on June 10, 2013 and one on June 26, 2013.

Given the rousing response and dismal results of recent self-pub efforts, I’ve pretty much concluded that self-publishing this would-be book is absurd. One difference between the library-sayings and public-library-benefits projects and this one: The first was both fun and a voyage of discovery, the second was at least a voyage of discovery. This one would be trying to help librarians using some techniques I’ve “discovered” (they were there all the time, but finding them and thinking through their implications can be tricky)–without “mansplaining” or otherwise losing the whole point.

Doing something that’s inherently interesting and finding that it’s met with a collective yawn (or, rather, a collective total absence of any interest at all) is one thing. Doing something that’s mostly fairly hard work and facing a similar “Haven’t you gone away yet, old man?” response (or, rather, non-response) is quite another.

And yet, and yet, it’s not entirely easy to just give up and move on. It doesn’t help that, in the last couple of months, I’ve “discovered” a couple of additional techniques that are very powerful and not at all obvious (at least to me)–one of which probably saved me 90% of the time required to do one complex set of analyses.

So…

I don’t work in a library. I haven’t worked in a library for several decades, although I was working with a number of library statistical reports more recently–none of which I have access to any more. (None of which exist any more except possibly in some libraries as historical items…)

Having real example(s) of datasets that are potentially useful but a little cumbersome to analyze might help me decide whether this project is worth trying to sell to a publisher (or turning into a webinar or short course or something, in any case something with somebody else’s backing behind it, given the obvious quality of my own marketing efforts…).

I still plan to use the NCES academic library statistics and IMLS public library statistics as the basis for two chapters, to help librarians see how they can prepare their own specialized comparisons with relatively little effort. But adding to that a set of examples of how “advanced” spreadsheet techniques can make everyday (every month? every quarter? every year?) library analysis tasks easier and more productive…that might be worthwhile to more people.

To do that requires realistic examples. Thus my request.

Various somewhat obsolete versions of the potential book/webinar’s outline will be found in some of the linked posts.

If you can help and think it’s worthwhile, please do.

Lack of any response will also help me decide what to do, in its own way.

Speaking professionally–or not

Posted in Speaking on October 11th, 2013

I used the line”Rehearsals for retirement” (modified to say [semi-]retirement and with credit to Phil Ochs) in a Bibs & Blather essay a little while ago…well, OK, actually it was more than three years ago, in the June 2010 Cites & Insights.

This post isn’t another in that extremely intermittent series. Or maybe, in a way, it is.

Background

While I’ve never been on the speaking circuit–quite deliberately–I have done a reasonable number of speeches and perhaps an unreasonable number of keynotes in the past. Without including the same speech (or what was billed as the same speech) given more than once (which has happened three or four times, always by request), it appears that I’ve done 129 speeches, including 39 keynotes. Of those 129 speeches, 115 (89%) were invited.

Clarification: I’d regard the speaking circuit as involving at least one of three elements and probably at least two: Submitting proposals to speak, which I’ve only done once (and that by request of a publisher); Being willing to speak as often as the arrangements are feasible (there were at least two years in which I turned down invitations because I’d hit the eight-trips-a-year limit I’d set for myself); Giving the same–or essentially the same–speech on several occasions (which, as noted, has happened only three or four times).

I’m not putting down any of those practices. They just haven’t been what I’ve done.

If you’re curious, the peak came in 1996, with 13 speeches (all invited), although I was at my self-imposed trip limit in 1993 and 1995 through 1998.

I’ve spoken on a wide range of topics. I’ve had the fortune to speak at and attend state library conferences in roughly half* the states (which is always a pleasure), and I’ve spoken in two Canadian provinces and twice in Australia. (“And attend”: My practice was and is to attend as much of the conference as possible.)

I’ve almost always enjoyed it–I can remember three bad experiences, which is a pretty decent record. (That’s my bad experiences; I can’t say how audiences felt, but I’d guess I had reasonably good word of mouth in the 1990s, given that I had more invitations after I was LITA VP/President/Past-president than before or during that period.)

The three bad experiences: Once I came down with food poisoning on the first day of a conference and spoke the second day, unexpectedly facing very bright TV-filming lights. I was babbling for the first five minutes. I know: They sent me the video. Another time I flew down to Southern California, a one-day trip, to do a luncheon speech, where my primary requirement had been “a podium or table for my notes.” There was none, so I was holding notes in one hand while trying to speak. I honestly should have walked out. The third time was a combination of a speaking format I didn’t care for and felt was more of a stunt than an informative event and loads of hassles in arrangements before and during the conference. In any case, three out of 129 is pretty good. I won’t even attempt to name the best experiences, although VALA, PUBRAISS, OLA (Ontario), BCLA, TxLA and AkLA (and WisLA and WaLA and several MLAs and…) are among the many highlights.

All of which is prelude.

Foreground

I was just updating my vita, speaking notes and primary web page–the vita because it gets outdated easily, the other two because why not? {Caution: The vita is a 29-page PDF. Sorry about that.]

And thinking about whether I want to speak in the future.

The answer is yes. And no.

Yes

  • I love state library conferences and library conferences in general (with one exception, and it notably doesn’t have “library” in the name).
  • While I’m an introvert, I’m not antisocial, and I enjoy going to other programs and (within reason) social events at conferences.
  • I believe I still have things to say that are worth hearing–otherwise, I wouldn’t still be writing books.
  • We haven’t been traveling lately, so it’s a way to travel.
  • If your association concludes that I can offer perspectives that you wouldn’t otherwise get, I’d be delighted to discuss a possible speech.

Maybe not

  • There’s a lot to be said for hearing from people who are actually out there doing things.
  • There’s a lot to be said for hearing from younger librarians and library professionals. (Of course, when compared to me 90% or more of the field is younger, but there’s also a lot to be said for hearing from librarians and library professionals in their late 20s, 30s and early 40s, as well as for the more experienced folks who aren’t yet at retirement age.)
  • There’s a lot to be said–for some conferences–for hearing from a more diverse set of speakers, including hearing from more of the outstanding women in the field.
  • There’s a lot to be said for hearing from people who haven’t been heard from as often.
  • If you feel high-powered PowerPoint/Prezi presentations are essential, I’m not your speaker.
  • If you want absolute assurance about the future or punditry of a high order, I’m not your speaker.
  • If you want to be dazzled with infographics, you probably already know I’m not your speaker.

Conclusion

If there are groups who really do want to hear from me, and the arrangements make sense, I’m still interested.

And if there aren’t, that’s OK too. If I had to choose between Walt Crawford and [Jenica Rogers|Dorothea Salo|Jon Dupuis|Meredith Farkas|Laura Crossett|...] on a topic or for a situation either of them could handle well, I know which way I’d go.


*Added a bit later on October 11: I added a comment on the Friendfeed automatic posting of the title of this post, namely “Or “Why I might never be at NjLA–the most populous state I haven’t spoken in–and that’s OK.” To which Joe Kraus responded “NJ is not OK, not even close geographically”–which is very clever. Except that it led me to check the states I have and haven’t spoken in, and it turns out OK is close to NJ in one respect: It’s the next-most-populous state I haven’t spoken in [yet]. It appears that I’ve spoken in 29 of the 50 states and DC, including all but three states with at least three million people (Iowa’s the third).

$4 to $1: Two Timely Announcements

Posted in $4, Books and publishing, C&I Books on October 10th, 2013

At least in my mind, $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets is a much better overall discussion of public library benefits and budgets in FY2011 (and how they changed from 2009), and a much better tool for libraries to help tell their own stories, than was Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (still available, but you’re better off getting either The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar… in paperback or The Compleat Give Us a Dollar… volume 1 as a $9.99 ebook or $39.99 site-license ebook).

So far, apparently, nobody’s found it worth spending $9.99 (or $39.99 for a systemwide/statewide license) for the non-DRM PDF ebook to find out and use it–and only two people or libraries have purchased the $25 paperback, currently discounted to $19.96 at Lulu.

So, two timely announcements:

Now available at Amazon and elsewhere

If you just can’t cope with Lulu, you can now buy $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets from Amazon–currently discounted to $21.72. (I get less revenue from this than from the Lulu sale, but that’s OK–at this point, I really want to see the book get some use!)

“and elsewhere”? It should be available at other online bookstores. So far, I don’t find it at Barnes & Noble, but…

It’s exactly the same book, ISBN 978-1-304-35588-1. (“Exactly the same” might or might not be correct–it’s possible that the copies produced for other sellers don’t use the wonderful 60lb. cream book stock that Lulu uses, but I think they do. Given the sales to date, I’m not going to spend $21.72 to find out!)

Discount ends soon unless there are sales

The current discount on the paperback book on Lulu will be retained until the book has been out for two months–it was first announced as available on August 23, 2013.

If there aren’t any sales between now and October 23, 2013, I’ll drop the discount: the price will go back to $25.00

At that point, it’s quite possible that the ebook price will be increased by $5.

[If and when there are Lulu sales, and I notice them, I'll announce them, and those are unrelated to my promise that the prices of these books aren't going down: They're temporary Lulu-wide sales events that don't reduce my income.]

I must admit, at this point $159.99 is beginning to sound like the appropriate price point for a somewhat specialized library research report in PDF form; I’ve seen that used elsewhere, by an outfit that must be selling enough copies to stay in business…but let’s not go there just yet.

Mystery Collection Disc 39

Posted in Movies and TV on October 9th, 2013

Paco, 1976, color. Robert Vincent O’Neill (dir.), Jose Ferrer, Allen Garfield, Pernell Roberts, Panchito Gomez. 1:37 [1:30]

Paco’s a kid living in the hills of Colombia with his ailing father, his mother and his younger siblings; his only real possessions are a donkey and cart. He makes his way down to the village where he tells the priest that his father is very, very sick—so sick that his uncle’s on his way from Bogota. The priest performs Last Rites; the father dies; the uncle shows up; there’s a funeral.

Paco wants to go to Bogota with the uncle (Ferrer), who says no, stay here, I have a business there, go back and be the man of the house. But first, since the next bus isn’t until the next day, the uncle’s going to show Paco a good time: buys him new clothes, takes him to dinner at a “restaurant” (one table, a woman cooking on a home stove)—and would have taken him to the hotel, except that the uncle gambles away his money (with the priest looking on and drinking beer) and, eventually, the kid’s donkey and cart; both wind up sleeping on the street.

Next morning, the uncle says the donkey must have been stolen, says he’ll send money to get a new donkey and cart as soon as he gets back to Bogota and leaves on the bus. So we already know the uncle is a liar; soon enough, we learn that his business is being Fagin to a huge gang of gamines, street thieves for whom he acts as fence and occasional loan shark. (He begs as a presumed blind man when he’s not dealing with the street thieves, and apparently has a cozy relationship with the police.)

Anyway…Paco eventually runs away and makes his way to Bogota, in the process having most of his possessions stolen and doing an odd job for which he doesn’t get paid. He encounters one of the street kids and keeps looking for his uncle. Then a new plot enters: the uncle had claimed he was a good friend of a big-time movie star…and the kid manages to find the movie star and give him a crucifix necklace for good luck. While the movie star, a former street kid, is now informed by his Family that he must do something for them: steal a huge emerald that’s to be shown in a museum. Let’s just say the plots intersect thanks to the crucifix necklace and, in the end, the uncle continues to be what he is and Paco goes back home.

I guess the mystery is whether the incompetent jewel robbery (which becomes a smash-and-grab job, and come on, of a gang of four or five people only the actor has any disguise at all and there are a bunch of eyewitnesses…) will be solved and whether Paco will survive. I’m not sure what to make of the movie. The plot (badly mangled on the sleeve summary and equally mangled by IMDB: Paco is not an orphan!) seems to bear a fair amount of debt to Oliver Twist; the movie doesn’t make as much of the Colombian scenery as it could. It’s sort of a mess. But it’s not terrible. Maybe $1.25.

The Lucifer Complex, 1978, color. Kenneth Hartford & David L. Hewitt (dirs..), Robert Vaughn, Merrie Lynn Ross, Keenan Wynn, Aldo Ray. 1:31.

Where to start? How about “how did Robert Vaughn and Keenan Wynn both wind up in this atrocity?” It seems to be a one-hour low-budget schlock paranoia movie stretched out to 90 minutes through, well, loads of padding—a guy on an island, with thought narration, who happens to have a cave equipped with a big lights-flashing computer that’s apparently actually a laserdisc player with All of Man’s Records, including footage that couldn’t plausibly have been taken—oh, and although the huge console has a microphone, he doesn’t control playback using a keyboard: he twiddles one of many knobs scattered across the console. He mostly sits there staring at the screen and twiddling knobs. He’s apparently the Last Man on Earth, which does raise the question of who’s filming him, but never mind. For the first half hour or so, he’s showing various war clips from WWI and WWII. Then, he goes on to what I assume is Woodstock footage and Vietnam.

Then he gets to The Real War, in 1985, and that’s the actual movie. Basically, the Fourth Reich is cloning world leaders and running an operation on an island. Robert Vaughn, an apparently not-very-competent special agent, winds up parachuting onto the island, being captured and uncovering the plot. Or, rather, being told the plot by his captors until he uses his Fancy Moves to get out. Oh, and all the women who’ve been kept in a barracks (for unclear reasons that have something to do with cloning) have apparently armed themselves with submachine guns (maybe they made them during craft period?), so when he gets away, they start shooting up the place. I think half an hour is devoted to this nonsensical mayhem. All of which ends with…it being too late, because by then all the world leaders had been replaced by clones anyway. Which is why the narrator is alone on this wholly self-sufficient, eternally-powered island.

The pacing is…zzz…sorry, nodded off there. The photography is worse than mediocre. The acting…what can I say? It’s probably better than the direction. I would say the direction is better than the screenwriting, but you reach a certain level below which it’s hard to make fine distinctions. There’s no character development at all. The “small group of women who’ve been under constant watch suddenly become fully armed and wipe out an entire Nazi compound” plot makes no sense. Honestly, I only watched the whole thing because I was exhausted from a hike and kept hoping it would improve. I see from IMDB that the movie, filmed in 1976, was never released to theaters, going directly to TV in 1978. I imagine it was shown mostly after midnight.

This is dreck. It’s not “So bad it’s funny” or “Nice try by an incompetent team,” like, say, Plan 9 from Outer Space (a masterpiece by comparison). This is more in the Apache Blood category: so bad it’s really bad. But at least that horrendous film (which I think was even worse) had good photography; this doesn’t. Not worth a cent. The big zero.

A Tattered Web, 1971, color (TV movie). Paul Wendkos (dir.), Lloyd Bridges, Frank Converse, Sallie Shockley, Murray Hamilton, Broderick Crawford. 1:14.

Lloyd Bridges standing on a hill looking down at the young couple in swimsuits strolling far below. Lloyd Bridges in car as guy (from the couple) comes out of apartment building; calls girl, tells her to stay away from the guy. It doesn’t take long to learn that Bridges is a veteran cop, that the guy is his cheating son-in-law, that his daughter and son-in-law are living with him (and she’s a papa’s girl)…and when Bridges confronts the girl again, he winds up accidentally killing her.

That’s the setup. The rest of the story is how he tries to cover for it—and simultaneously keep his son-in-law from being blamed. It’s not great drama, but it’s reasonably well done, with a fairly predictable ending. Broderick Crawford has a remarkable turn as a befuddled old drunk who’s killed his best friend and can be convinced that he killed the girl as well. It looked like a TV movie from the get-go; I’m not surprised that it was one. Good cast, TV-movie direction and music, not great but not terrible. $1.25.

Target of an Assassin, 1977, color. Peter Collinson (dir.), Anthony Quinn, John Phillip Law, Simon Sabela. 1:45 [1:42]

Anthony Quinn. John Phillip Law. Hey, how bad could it be?

I honestly can’t tell you. First, I had external speakers on. Kept turning them up and up and still couldn’t make out the dialog. So switched to headphones. Kept turning them up and up, to the point where any musical cues were way too loud…and still couldn’t understand the dialog.

Based on IMDB reviews, it’s not that I’m going deaf(er)—it’s that either the original movie had incompetent sound recording or the transfer (which looks fine otherwise) was absurdly mishandled. After about 20 minutes, I gave up—at least up to that point, it was slow-moving and required the dialog to be worth watching at all. (Actually, based on other IMDB reviews, the flick sounds pretty marginal in any case.) South African; not sure if that’s part of the problem. Couldn’t watch; no rating.

The smallest, the largest and in between: Library sayings

Posted in Libraries on October 7th, 2013

Just for fun, here are six library sayings–the two from the two smallest libraries (in terms of legal service area), two largest and two most in-between (that is, at the midpoint) that had sayings that I recorded*:

The smallest

A Good Place To Have Fun

Hepler City Library, Hepler, KS 66746 [population 153]

Treasure the Past. Embrace the Future. Read and Grow.

Dora Public Library, Myrtle Point, OR 97458 [population 164]

The Largest

Linking YOU to the World

Houston Public Library, Houston, TX 77002 [population 2,257,926]

Enrich your life

Queens Borough Public Library, Jamaica, NY 11432 [population 2,229,379]

The Most In-Between

“Bringing the World to You”

Allen Parish Libraries, Oberlin, LA 70655 [population 25,568] (also used by at least one other library)

inform, inspire, enrich…

Cranberry Public Library, Cranberry Township, PA 16066 [population 25,611]

For many more (1,342 in all, including a few repetitions)…

Buy Your Library Is…: A Collection of Public Library Sayings (arranged alphabetically by state and city):


* No, these aren’t the smallest and largest public libraries in the U.S.; they’re the smallest and largest with sayings that met my criteria for inclusion.

IndieGoGo and non-sales: An oddity

Posted in $4, C&I Books on October 4th, 2013

This could be a letter to 16 of the 18 people who would have donated money for the three-book project (Your Library Is…, $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets, Volume 1 and $4 to $1 Volume 2) if another 70 or so had joined them in the IndieGoGo campaign.

Specifically, those whose contribution (which was returned to them) would have yielded sets of the PDF ebooks as perks.

But I’d rather make it an open letter because I don’t want to point at individuals.

Why 16 of the 18? Because I know that one of them–a close friend–did buy Your Library Is…, and one pledged a very small amount that would not have earned a free paperback. I believe one other contributor may have purchased both books, but have no way to be sure.

Here’s the oddity: 17 people contributed at least $30, for which they would have received the three ebooks.

Only two copies of each book have been sold to date–and all four sales have been paperback copies.

I was hoping, of course, that the 17 “contributions” (I’m not sure what to call contributions that don’t actually yield contributions) would lead to at least 170 sales of each book. That wouldn’t be wonderful, but it would be decent.

I sort of assumed there would be at least 17 copies sold of at least one of the two books. So much for assumptions.

I guess the question is why people contributed if they really didn’t want the books?

  • They wanted other people and libraries to get $4 to $1 for free–an admirable motive!–but they really weren’t interested in the book itself, and weren’t much interested in Your Library Is… either.
  • They were primarily interested in Volume 2, and only bought into the project to see that happens. That explanation strains credulity.
  • Some other explanation that hasn’t occurred to me.

It’s certainly not that people decided to get Your Library Is… by donating to Cites & Insights instead: To date (since well before the publication of the books), that hasn’t happened at all.

These are people who thought they were contributing at least $30. The two ebooks combined cost $18.99.

It’s an oddity.

About site license versions

I’ve promised that site license versions of $4 to $1 Volume 1, The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 1 and The Big Deal and the Damage Done  will continue until at least November 1.

I’ll refine that promise.

If there are no site license sales by November 1, 2013, site license versions will cease to be available on or around November 2, 2013.

I established these special versions to make it easy for library schools and other institutions or groups of institutions to make the ebooks widely available at absurdly low cost. But if there’s no interest, they’ll simply go away.

Liblogging books now out of print

Posted in C&I Books on October 1st, 2013

As promised in Cites & Insights 13:10 (October 2013), since there have been no sales for either book in all of 2013, The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009 and But Still They Blog have now been deleted. These books are no longer available.

Cites & Insights 13:11 (November 2013) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on October 1st, 2013

The November 2013 Cites & Insights (13:11) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights.info/civ13i11.pdf

The issue is 36 pages long. The “online version,” designed for reading online or on a tablet or large-screen ereader, is 69 pages long.

This issue includes:

The Front: Erehwon Community Library: A $4 to $1 Example   pp. 1-4

An example of what a library could derive from $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets, using a mythical “median library” that’s the average of the two public libraries with precisely median service population. (This essay is very similar to a September 27, 2013 post at Walt at Random, except that the post misspells the library name.)

Words: The Ebook Marketplace  pp. 4-30

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at a range of ebook-related issues. This roundup covers up to four years–and it’s really Part 1 (of at least two and maybe three or four parts). It includes items related to ebook devices, competition, collusion, DRM, stupidity, ebooks going beyond narrative text, “what’s a book?” and miscellany. (Part 2 will include sales, pricing, software, history and future–and probably lots more.)

The Back  pp. 30-36

Sixteen mostly-snarky little essays on a range of topics–including one that’s really not snarky: What if a stereo magazine had three successive reviews of three different speaker systems, found all of them excellent–and the three were priced (per pair) at $106,800, $29,800 and $159.99 respectively? (Yes, that’s a decimal point in the third price.) Oh, and what if the second and third were designed by the same designer–who added his signature to the nameplate of the $159.99 version?


Reverting to form

For the last few issues, announcements didn’t link directly to the PDF(s). Instead, announcements linked to the C&I home page, which now has the “Pay What You Wish” section just above the current issue table of contents and links.

I was hoping this speed bump–adding one click to the process of getting to the issue–would encourage a few more people to contribute.

I think it worked. A little bit. For a while. But it’s now one day shy of three months since there’s been a donation. So, at least for now, I’m reverting to the direct links.

Of course, I’d still very much appreciate donations. Of course, donations would still encourage me to keep going with C&I. Oh, and it’s still the case that donating $50 or more will get you a PDF version of Your Library Is… if you want it.

 


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