Archive for March, 2006

ArchiveGrid–a few offhand notes

Monday, March 6th, 2006

ArchiveGrid became available on March 1. I think it’s an interesting and worthwhile rethinking of access to archival materials–both Mixed Materials catalog (what used to be called AMC, where the RLG Union Catalog has for years been the de facto database of record) and finding aids themselves, which can be long, complicated, and fascinating.

Yes, ArchiveGrid is from my employer, RLG. Full disclosure: I had nothing to do with the project. I may get stuck with involved in providing a complete set of internal reports on usage (nothing that would violate confidentiality, of course); I don’t know yet. But I wasn’t part of the development team.

It’s a new interface, based in part on user studies, with one search box. The results can be a mix of cataloging records and finding aids; there’s also contact information for the archives, since one primary use of ArchiveGrid is to find materials that would need to be consulted in person.

I’ve been fascinated by the results of some searches I’ve tried. Of course I tried “Randy Newman”–and there are three places reporting stuff by or about Newman, including the typescript for “Faust” at The Billy Rose Theatre Collection, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (part of NYPL). “Oscars” yields 14 results, including Walter Brennan’s papers at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. (“Academy Awards” as a phrase yields 55, including lots of stuff at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Brigham Young, NYPL and elsewhere.)

My home town turns up with 167, surprisingly (actually 188, but 21 of those are for people with “Modesto” as one of their names). Roughly a third of those are at UC Berkeley, but apparently only a third of that third at Bancroft. Interesting stuff. If I was planning to do archival research, I’d make heavy use of ArchiveGrid.

Sidebars along with a result set show the archives and locations included in the result set.

ArchiveGrid is free at least through May 31. (After that…well, I believe RLG is adding considerable value through ArchiveGrid, and RLG is not a government-supported institution: Someone has to pay our salaries and the costs of equipment and software if value is going to be added.) I think the team did a good job; I think it’s worth a look.

Update 3/7: Well, I told you I wasn’t involved in ArchiveGrid. And was unaware of a couple of helpful details about what’s happening. First, as I implied in the paragraph above, if other funding comes through, ArchiveGrid could remain free. Second, in addition to RLG’s usual institutional subscriptions, ArchiveGrid will have individual subscriptions if it can’t remain free, apparently quite reasonably priced–so that independent researchers, genealogists, and the like will be able to use it.

Great marketing ideas part 1042

Friday, March 3rd, 2006

Got something in the mail yesterday we don’t see very often: A USPS notice that there was a letter for me with $0.15 postage due. What could it be?

Today’s my short day at work; came home; walked over to the nearby mall (which also has the postal station at which the letter could be found) for lunch. Went to the post office to pick up that important piece of mail.

Which was from a bank or S&L (name not important) announcing that they’d give us $50 if we moved our savings there and performed various other feats. This said on a fairly impersonal big color postcard.

Big color postcard. With $0.24 postcard metered postage.

Oversize postcard. Which requires regular $0.39 first-class postage.

I’m wondering just how many people are going to be attracted to trust their money to an institution that doesn’t know how mailings work…and, of course, the name’s not important because I filed the postcard in the postal station’s convenient big round filing destination right after paying to see it.

Ah, it’s Friday. John Dupuis certainly understands that.

LITA’s 40. Will I make it to 45?

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

It’s LITA’s 40th anniversary (as a division, not with the current name). There’s a section of LITA’s website devoted to the 40th anniversary celebration. (If you go there, and you look at the PowerPoint of pictures, be kind: I don’t always or even frequently photograph well.)

I was president of LITA in 1992/1993. That was part of six continuous years on the LITA Board (which, given ALA rules, is only possible if you’re elected Vice President/President-Elect in the third year of a Board term–unlike ALA Councillors, Division Board members can’t be re-elected), including four on the Executive Committee. I presided over the program honoring LITA’s 25th anniversary. (If you can do the math, you’ll see that it wasn’t LITA’s 25th, but I did the program.)

The first major award I ever won was the LITA/Library Hi Tech Communications Award (that’s not the full name, which is too long to repeat here), in 1995.

I edited the LITA Newsletter for almost ten years, more than half of its life as a print publication. That included the LITA Yearbook 1992, the one and only book-length issue of the LITA Newsletter (Actually, it was a supplement, and came out of the regular budget–I learned how to manipulate the newsletter budget to get more pages without more money, partly by doing the copy-editing and typesetting myself. The supplement was a 122-page paperback, and the d*nedest annual conference report LITA’s ever seen.)

Fact is, for a very long time I only joined ALA because you had to be an ALA member to join ISAD (LITA’s predecessor) and, later, LITA. LITA was where I met people, where I started writing and speaking within the library field, where I found a few hundred friends and acquaintances.

So I’m a LITA member for life. Right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It bothered me when the LITA Newsletter disappeared–first moving from print to online publication and dwindling pretty rapidly after that. I nudged about it now and then. I heard encouraging words about steps LITA was taking. Meanwhile, I still have very little idea what interest groups will be discussing at Midwinter, even less idea what happened at Midwinter, and not much help to plan Annual either, except for the formal programs. The LITA blog helps a little, but I still feel somewhat alienated from my division.

It bothered me a lot when LITA increased its dues to $60, the highest in ALA–and, for the first time in my memory, did so without a membership vote. I’ve been asking here and there just what I’m getting for $60 a year…with relatively little response. LITA lost a fair number of members after that dues increase, but as with most sharp increases, the overall numbers apparently look good–but at the expense of a shrinking membership.

Now there’s an ALA dues increase, although at least we get to vote on this one: $30 a year, phased in over a three-year period. So I’d end up paying $190 a year. Plus, of course, increasing prices for conference registration.

I appreciate ALA’s lobbying efforts; I think the Washington Office generally does a fine, effective job. I appreciate American Libraries (even if I wasn’t a good fit as a columnist). I still enjoy Midwinter most years and Annual perhaps a little less; those are still the places I get to meet new colleagues and get in touch with some of my long-standing friends and acquaintances. And, once in a while, even learn something new. I don’t know about ALA-APA, but in any case I’m not a professional librarian, so it’s largely irrelevant.

So is the ALA-LITA combination worth $160 now and $190 in 2009? (OK, so when I retire some time later, the ALA portion of the dues goes down. Doesn’t it?) Am I really going to stick with LITA forever because of my past history with the division? Will I still be part of LITA for its 45th anniversary? (That’s the question in the title. It’s 15 years too late for me to make it to 45 in a more general sense.)

Damned if I know.

Spam filters get tough!

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Wow. I ran into a complimentary brief post at Confessions of a Mad Librarian.

I offered this comment:

Thanks for the kind words, although I thought of that essay as a once-over-lightly… I’ll go read OJR’s interview!

And got this in response:

Comment Submission Error

Your comment submission failed for the following reasons:

Your comment was denied for questionable content.

I tried again, eliminating the exclamation point and adding “[guess your spam filter is triggered by an exclamation point].” And got the same response.

Now, I know that many of the spamments I get these days have “thanks” or “wonderful blogging” or some such nonsense so that I’ll approve the “comment” (I love the ones applauding my part in the discussion, and commenting on my introductory post.) But I’m not quite ready to add “thanks” to my block list. But I suspect misseli gets a whole lot more spam than I do…

Anyway, Eli, thanks–although I really only did a once-over-lightly on the document in question.