Archive for February, 2006

Abandoning “library”?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

The latest Informed Librarian has a “Guest Forum” contribution “Reading the Tea Leaves” by Chris Olson. IL invites comments, but only via email–and when I tried to go back this morning to check on the address, the site appeared to be offline. So…

Olson looks at the OCLC Perceptions report and finds things there that somehow eluded me. “People say that they use the library less, that they read less…”

Odd. The report I read shows that 69% of U.S. respondents had either increased their use of libraries or stayed about the same over the past few years, and that 73% expect to either use libraries more in the future or use them the same amount. (The figures for Kids These Days, the ones who’ve abandoned libraries and print: 74% and 88% respectively.)

“That they read less”? Maybe I didn’t read the report carefully enough, but I see nothing in the report that says people are reading less. Never mind; my reading skills may be impaired.

Olson also accurately reports that people equate libraries with books. And that most people feel that they can find information on their own.

Olson later has one of those sentences that tends to stop me in my tracks: “Libraries are no longer the sole keepers of information or providers of access.”

That’s like saying that the U.S. is no longer the only democracy or capitalist country in the world. “No longer” implies something that is simply false. Libraries have never been the sole “keepers of information or providers of information.” Never. Get over it. Nor, in my opinion [repetitive rant] have libraries ever been the first or most important source of information for most people in their daily lives[/rant]. Ever.

So what’s Olson’s conclusion? “Anyone who can change their brand name or drop the word ‘library’ from it, should consider doing so if they want to be perceived as offering something other than books.” Oh, and they should make sure that branding stays away from any association with libraries or books…

Olson doesn’t say “Any special library or corporate library.” Olson says “Anyone.”

Hmm. 80% of survey respondents view libraries favorably. As libraries. Even as collections of books.

Now, if you really believe that your library is an “information service,” then maybe Olson’s advice makes sense. For many special/corporate libraries, that’s a reasonably accurate definition. For, oh, 99% of public libraries and, I would argue, most academic libraries as well, “information service” is a tragically misguided term as a primary descriptor.

Chris Olson’s marketing firm “has transformed libraries into uniquely branded information services.” If you’re in a public library and ready to throw away 80% approval rating in favor of pushing your role as doing something that most people explicitly say they’re perfectly capable of doing themselves…well, I trust you have another career in mind.

Maybe it really is a divide between “information professionals” and “librarians.” Which are you?

50-Movie All Stars Collection, Disc 6

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Here’s the last disc in the first half (more or less) of this TV-movie megapack. Three war-related movies and the making of a revolutionary!

Coach of the Year, 1980, color, Don Medford (dir.), Robert Conrad, Erin Gray. 1:36 [1:34, jacket time 2:00].

Chicago Bears star comes home from Vietnam partially paralyzed; Bears want to hire him, but as a PR person, not a coach. Meanwhile, his nephew gets sent to juvenile hall for one of many offenses—and, visiting him, the old football player offers to coach the juvies. Naturally, after getting clobbered when he challenges a hotshot local high school team, his team comes back to win in a rematch. Cliché city, with Robert Conrad mostly being angry. Not quite as bad as the worst IMDB user reviews, it’s still mostly a rehash of a rehash of a done-to-death plot… Decent print, no special virtues. $0.50.

Wake Me Up When the War’s Over, 1969, color, Gene Nelson (dir.), Ken Berry, Eva Gabor, Werner Klemperer, Hans Conried, Jim Backus, Danielle De Metz. 1:14.

This one’s a charmer. Berry’s an American officer who falls out of a plane (he’s supposed to be throwing out propaganda leaflets) over German-occupied territory. He lands in a young widow Baroness’s (Gabor) estate. She hides him and takes advantage of the situation (ahem)…and continues to hide him for five years after the end of World War II, hiring local ex-Nazis to come once a week and tromp around looking for him. When he finally escapes, still not knowing the war’s over (and, after five years, not speaking a word of German), he causes a certain amount of havoc before, of course, Everything Turns Out Fine. Fluff, but well-done fluff, with a first-rate TV-level cast. $1.25.

Katherine, 1975, color, Jeremy Kagan (dir.), Sissy Spacek, Art Carney, Henry Winkler, Julie Kavner, Jane Wyatt. 1:37.

Apparently based on the life of Diana Oughton, an upper-middle-class young woman turned Weatherman. Portions are characters talking directly to the audience about their motivations; the rest is Spacek going from Peace Corps-style reformer to agitator to underground Weathermen-style radical. Carney and Wyatt play her wealthy parents. Winkler, in the most sinister role I’ve seen, plays her revolutionary lover. Everything most definitely does not turn out fine. Good songs from the period. So-so print and sound quality. Well acted for the most part, dramatic, could work as a modest theatrical picture (with a big cast); I’d give it a higher price if the transfer quality was better. $1.

The Ballad of Andy Crocker, 1969, color, George McGowan (dir.), Lee Majors, Joey Heatherton, Jimmy Dean, Bobby Hatfield, Marvin Gaye, Agnes Moorehead, Pat Hingle. 1:14 [Jacket time 1:30].

With a cast like that, how can you go wrong? Turns out it’s easy when there’s no worthwhile plot and the hero loses our sympathy ten minutes into the movie. Majors, a grade-school dropout from Texas who lives for racing motorcycles on weekends and repairing them during the week, gets injured just enough in Vietnam to come home with a medal. First night out in LA, a hippie chick takes him to a pad shared by several couples. They don’t spit on him or anything like that, but eventually make it clear that he’d be better off elsewhere. So the vet—the apparent hero of this story—steals a motorcycle from one of the hippies and drives home to Texas, where he finds that everything’s a mess. His girlfriend’s married (and pregnant, but still Joey Heatherton using the talents for which she’s best known). His motorcycle/race track “business” (co-owned with Jimmy Dean) is in ruins (and Dean winds up selling it out from under him). His farmer father (Hingle) is reduced to driving trucks. Marvin Gaye’s in there somewhere, as an Army buddy now in Oakland, maybe in five minutes of the flick. Lots of good old boys offer help, but the vet’s only interest is reviving that worthless business. The vet winds up beating up his partner, trashing the stolen cycle after a long chase with cops, somehow getting to Oakland…and the movie ends with him waiting for the Army recruitment office to open. What a waste of talented players. Generally good video and sound quality. $0.50.

Spreading the word

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Just got a look at January 2006 statistics for Cites & Insights (as always, thanks, Dan!).

So far, the special Libraries 2.0 and “Libraries 2.0” issue is far from the most frequently downloaded issue, but it’s done well for the first three weeks (2,861 visitors for the PDF).

The single essay that makes up the issue also isn’t the most frequently visited HTML article (that’s “Investigating the Biblioblogosphere”)–but it’s close (4,984 visitors), and far ahead of third place. I’d guess it will eventually be the #1 separate essay–and I’ll also guess that the issue as a whole will never be the most downloaded issue.

Not at all surprisingly, almost all of the visitors to the HTML essay got there directly from external links (4,555 out of 4,984).

I made an informal promise to myself after preparing the followup essay that begins Cites & Insights February 2006: No comments on blog posts regarding Library 2.0, at least not for a few weeks.

That’s turning out to be a tough promise to keep, but I’m sticking to it. For now.

Coffee break’s over; back to work.