Archive for May, 2006

ALA New Orleans, an informal post

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

I’ve been seeing a lot of list traffic about possible ground transportation problems in New Orleans. Seems as if those who’ve actually been there recently don’t see a problem; those who quote their brother’s cousin see BIG problems.

I’m going to post here what I just posted to LITA-L, where much of the discussion has occurred:

For those of you looking for things to worry about in terms of transportation:

Getting from the New Orleans airport to your hotel may be the easy part. (Or may not, but the direct reports sound good.)

The crunch may be getting “to and from New Orleans airport” from where you live.

Total lift capacity* will be 12,308 beginning June 10 (when Southwest begins/resumes several flights).

Right now, it’s 11,486.

Pre-Katrina, it was 21,000.
*Lift capacity: The number of seats available each day in and out of the airport, if all flights are 100% full.

If, as appears likely, ALA really is at fairly typical attendance levels (which I hope it will be, and yes, I’m going), that means some 20,000 people–mostly arriving Friday/Saturday, mostly leaving Monday eve./Tuesday.

You do the math.

If you don’t already have your air tickets, the last thing you may need to worry about is that they’ll be more expensive than you expected. The first thing may be whether they’re available at all.

And if you do already have your air tickets: This may not be the trip on which to demonstrate your acumen at showing up for a flight at the last minute. Standby could be a very long process.

Here’s the flipside–and there’s almost always a flipside:

Do that math. Realistically, more than half (and probably close to 2/3) of the passengers on any Friday or Saturday morning flight into MSY will be ALA attendees (as will probably 2/3 of the passengers on any outbound Tuesday flight). So if you just say “Hey, going to ALA and want to share a cab?” chances are you’ll get plenty of takers. (With two people, cab fare’s a buck more than shuttle fare. With three, it’s a buck less: $28 for one or two passengers, $12 per passenger for three or more.)

As for me: barring a miracle (an empty seat on an earlier flight, I’ll get off American flight 697 from DFW at 5:15 p.m., no checked luggage, and head for the taxi line as fast as my little feet can carry me…and I’d be delighted to share a cab. I’m at the Embassy Suites, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

[Here’s my rueful prediction for ALA New Orleans: Most people will have a great time. Plenty of restaurants, most of them, in the convention area and nearby will be open and eager for business: Last time I checked, every place I’ve eaten at the last three conferences is up and running. Since tourism is by far NO’s biggest employer, the real people will truly appreciate our business and, maybe, a 20-25% tip. Meetings will be well attended. It will be hot and sultry.

And at least one jackass will do something utterly stupid, get mugged, and blame it on ALA for sending us to That Hellhole in Louisiana. I’d bet at least one jackass has done something utterly stupid and gotten mugged at every single ALA conference–but usually they have to blame the person in the mirror. Now there’s a big fat scapegoat.

Before I get nasty email: I’m not implying that mugging is always or usually the victim’s fault. But sometimes? Yep. If you go for a walking tour of the cemeteries, by yourself, at night, or you pick up some good-lookin’ stranger who turns out to be stranger than you thought…well, you know, it isn’t ALA’s fault.]

Libraries and balance: More stuff that won’t be in C&I

Monday, May 29th, 2006

We deal with Holiday Big-Highway-Accident-Time Weekends by avoiding them. Thus, among other things, I was marking up the vast array of source material for the “Finding Balance: Libraries and Librarians” essay in the July C&I (which I hope to publish a few days before ALA). And, for that matter, writing the first few thousand words based on the first 20 or 30 items.

Since the first 20% of the source material yielded a partial essay that would be issue-length if kept at that rate, I turned ruthless on the remaining source material, including re-reviewing a bunch of stuff I’d already marked up but hadn’t yet written about.

That turns out to be all for the good, I think, even if it did mean a few hours wasted time. I’ve probably tossed 2/3 of all the source material, maybe more; what’s left appears reasonable, with the intention of yielding an essay that’s somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 of a typical C&I issue: A “principal theme” but not the whole thing. That may even leave room for more of the “Copyright Balance” discussion that was clearly too long for a single issue.

So what gets left out? Some individual items that, on rereading, seemed less worthy of comment than at first. But mostly:

  • “Further Library 2.0 discussion”–a few more notes related to the term itself. I dropped these because I’ve concluded that people fall into one of three categories: 1. Those who insist on using the term to promote themselves, their organizations as somehow forward-looking library vendors, or whatever; they’re not going to change. 2. Those who are building new services and features and showing how others can use what they’ve done; most of them are now avoiding any “us vs. them” rhetoric and appear to be using the term as a convenient label (which it is). 3. Those who really don’t give a da*n, but who get upset by contentiousness. Since I’ve given up on influencing the first group, I dropped the discussion because it’s no longer relevant to the other two groups.
  • “Who”–a bunch of notes related to discussions of personality cults, shameless self-promotion, and all that. This was all marked up, and in a way it hurt to leave it out. But…well, first, it really didn’t relate well to the general topic of libraries and balance. Second, while I do think that shameless self-promotion is like pornography (I know it when I see it), that’s not good enough. My current version, “Promoting YOU rather than pointing out what you’ve done,” may not be much better. Finally, perhaps most important, it’s plausible for others to suggest that I fall into the SSP category: After all, my brief stint as an American Libraries columnist was under “The Crawford Files” banner, I had a section in Library Hi Tech News called “Crawford’s Corner,” and the subtitle of C&I is “Crawford at Large.” I have responses for that (those eponymous titles arose because my inability to focus on a narrow range of topics makes other names difficult), but not necessarily suitable responses. Even more to the point, events of the past few weeks made me wonder how I would go about getting a new job, if the need arose. At age 60, as a systems analyst/library automator, I concluded that “building a great 2-page resume and putting it out there” would run into That Which Does Not Exist (there is no age discrimination in hiring anywhere, nosirree)–and that my only real recourse would be to keep my vita up to date (I don’t have a 2-page resume) and go out there looking for “someone who has use for Walt Crawford.” That was not so much humbling as revelatory: Maybe I shouldn’t be putting down “the brand of me.”
  • “Continuing Extremism”–a few examples of people who still offer extreme views on some of these issues. That includes one blogger suggesting that baby boomer librarians have nothing to offer and should all retire and just disappear, continued assertions from a small number of people that Everybody Must Get Stoned (that is, Every Librarian Should Be Blogging and Using IM and…), and those who make a habit of SHOUTING in comments on other people’s weblogs when other people raise mild questions about the universality of Hot Technology or, heaven help us, suggest that circulation and book sales figures actually do mean that some people other than academics and librarians still care about books. Extremists will always be with us. I finally tired of pointing them out. For this round.
  • Elsewhere: I substantially trimmed “philosophy” pieces, reduced the “problems and skeptics” coverage, and just generally tightened things up.

So there we are. All in all, I probably dumped 30-40 pieces of source material, which probably translates to 6,000-12,000 words of quotation and commentary. I’m certain it was the right decision.

Update: If you’re wondering what changed in the new version of this post: I added one letter to two different words, in one case to correct a clear agreement error, in the other to clarify a possible grammatical error. Much as I might be tempted to remove what may be more personal/job/career information than I perhaps should have included, it goes against my informal “blogging ethic” to do so. So I didn’t.

Library 2.0 – Like it or hate it, it’s public domain (an echo post)

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

Michael Casey posted this at LibraryCrunch last night. As one of those who suggested this to him, I’ll quote the whole thing as a way of reinforcing the claim against future foolishness:

O’Reilly has taken steps to consolidate use of the term “Web 2.0”, claiming it as a service mark. This has caused several worried library folk to contact me regarding “Library 2.0” and its usage.

I first published the term “Library 2.0” in September of 2005. I have always considered the term “Library 2.0”, used alone or in combinations such as “Library 2.0 Conference”, to be in the public domain, usable by anyone, and not subject to trademark or service mark registration. I would hate to see this changed by anyone attempting to turn the term itself into a commercial venture.

It appears well-established that “Library 2.0” is Michael Casey’s coinage. I believe his post should be strong evidence opposing any attempt by a company to register the term as a servicemark or trademark, by itself or in any generic combination such as “Library 2.0 conference.” Casey’s done the right thing here, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s dealt with him.

This may also be a good point to remind those who believe that Walt Crawford is the foremost “anti-Library 2.0” person around there: I’m not an anti-Library 2.0 person at all, as a reasonably careful reading of the special Cites & Insights should clarify.

I think I’ll adopt the same usage here that Peter Suber tagged me with as regards open access: I’m an independent. (Which really means largely in favor of the concepts, but choosing to continue thinking and writing about difficulties and refinements.)

In time there is change: An update

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Given that I’ve managed to turn out a pretty substantial C&I (and install a needed new search report at work, and various other things), some of you must be wondering about the status of this earlier post.

The easiest answer might be the brief “Bibs & Blather” essay in the new C&I, which won’t appear as an HTML separate–except here, I suppose:

A Funny Thing Happened

The final section of last issue’s BIBS & BLATHER was “Here’s the Plan…” I recognized that I need a break—and that most of you take a break in summer. I planned a June issue with copyright balance as a major theme, a July issue (just before ALA) with library balance as a major theme, and then a “non-issue” for August, focusing on the typography and design of C&I, which most of you would probably skip. Meanwhile, I’d relax, read, contemplate, and do some long-range planning.

As some of you know, events over the past few weeks made contemplation and long-range planning a trifle difficult.

I won’t say everything’s resolved for the long term. I will say that I’m not obsessing over the situation and am inclined to believe things will work out.

The major theme of this issue is indeed copyright and balance. The two essays here aren’t all that I had in mind; that would have required far too much space. More related essays may follow.

As things stand now, the plan continues—although that plan may not leave as much room for “reading, relaxing, going on short trips, organizing music, and all that.” We shall see.

Short term, expect continuity. Longer term—that’s harder to predict, but isn’t it always?

I hope that helps.

Cites & Insights 6:8 available

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Cites & Insights 6:8, June 2006, is now available for downloading. The 26-page issue (PDF as usual, but most essays are available as HTML pages from the C&I home page) includes:

  • Perspective: Thinking About Libraries and Access – Why I write about library access, and why I don’t stick to Open Access
  • Bibs & Blather – A funny thing happened…
  • ©3 Perspective: Copyright: Finding a Balance
  • Interesting & Peculiar Products – Nine of them
  • Perspective: High-Definition Optical Discs: What You Need to Know Now
  • ©3 Perspective: Finding a Balance 2: Signs of Imbalance (Part 2 of the primary theme for this issue)
  • My Back Pages – five little essays

“Library 2.0” – an apology

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

I think I owe one group of people a partial apology for having published Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0.”

Not the cheerleaders and proponents. Certainly not those who argue that doing an in-depth discussion of what was being said about “Library 2.0” in late January 2006 was somehow unfair because premature, where in May 2006 it’s a nicely-defined movement that every rational librarian should be part of.

No, the apology is to those librarians who expressed a variety of doubts about the name, the bandwagon, the universal applicability of the concepts, the need to drop those dangerous old ideas and focus on “Library 2.0,” the extent to which the term was being used in a confrontational manner…and other doubts.

Not that I agree with all of those doubts (I don’t, any more than I agree with all the pro-“Library 2.0” stuff that was in the issue), but I believe they were thoughtful comments worth addressing on their own merits.

Unfortunately, what I see happening–notably in the Wikipedia article on “Library 2.0” and in the reading list for the ALA course–is that my roundup is being used as the single example of anything less than enthusiasm for “Library 2.0.” (And in the case of Wikipedia, one criticism of “Library 2.0”–a minor one at that–is being peddled as the only criticism anyone’s made, and of course it’s been answered in full.)

So, hey, you get 10, or 15, or 30 pro-“Library 2.0” posts and documents. You get one (count ’em, 1) very long discussion as “balance” which, if anyone does go to read it, is not opposed to the ideas and explicitly tries to be fair to all parties involved. The C&I document is a nice excuse for dismissing all other doubts about the movement.
And for that, I apologize. The critics and skeptics deserve better.

For those who interpret this post as another attack on Library 2.0: I can’t control your interpretations, although you’re dead wrong. Failure to enthusiastically be 100% supportive of something is not the same as opposing it. (Analogy: Not entirely happy with NSA’s call harvesting or 100% enthused about Bush’s job performance? Why do you hate America?)

Changing Nature of the Catalog: One that won’t be in C&I

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

One trick to churning out Cites & Insights and two columns while simultaneously being lazy and holding down a job:

Never annotate a source document without using it for C&I or elsewhere.

A rule I’m breaking here.

I read through Karen Calhoun’s entire final report to LC (with the title above), even reading it in the order Calhoun suggests. I marked up a fair number of items as questionable or worth discussing further–from what seem to be overly sweeping statements to a report that aims to elicit “support” first, “dialogue” second, possible disagreement never. It’s hard to know what to make of the “literature analysis” since there’s not much of a bibliography. The business orientation and “life cycle” assumptions bother me. The “market that seems poised to move to e-books” line is a familiar one, but I sure don’t see any signs of such a move. I don’t see anything in the research or any uniform opinion among the interviewees that seems to justify the flat-out, repeated call to abandon subject cataloging (or, more precisely, eliminate LCSH). And there’s more.

I also read Thomas Mann’s critical review. I’ve known Thomas Mann for years; I like him and respect his expertise. I think he makes some excellent points, but the rhetoric of his review causes some difficulty–but then, he did write the review for LC’s union. I would caution against dismissing his criticisms because of rhetorical overkill (and reject the notion that he’s simply arguing against change).

Unfortunately, after spending more time than I’d want to on the whole thing, I find that I don’t have much useful to add to the discussion. Thus this somewhat pointless blog entry instead of a few hundred words in “The Library Stuff” in a future C&I.

I hate it when that happens.

Disappearing comments and trackbacks

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

If you see trackbacks appear anywhere and then disappear, there’s the usual reason: For some reason, a high-density, unrelenting spam attack that somehow overcomes Spam Karma’s settings.

Same goes for comments–and if your real, legitimate, personal comments disappeared, my apologies: SK seems to do that sometimes when you’re getting rid of the c*@p

50-Movie All Stars Collection, Disc 8

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

It’s that time again: Four TV movies, two of them probably shown in 90-minute slots, two probably shown in two-hour slots. None terrible, none superb; highlights include Broderick Crawford as a homeless drunk, Lloyd Bridges as a corrupt detective; William Shatner (and his trained moustache!) as a corrupt city official; David Carradine as a sociopathic drugged-out hippie–and Sally Field as a runaway teen hippie who’s seen the light. Sort of.

Children of the Night, 1985, color, Robert Markowitz (dir.), Kathleen Quinlan, Nicholas Campbell, Mario Van Peebles. 1:33

The first problem with this movie on Disc 8 of this collection is on Disc 5: Hustling is a much better flick dealing with the same subculture. This time, though, instead of an investigative reporter and “people who really make money from prostitution” as a running plot, there’s a sociology grad student and “the plight of teenage prostitutes” as the running plot. Like the other disc, this one’s too dark (that is, underlit) for its own good and based on a true story—but not as well acted, a lead character who’s a lot harder to take, and generally not all that good. $0.75.

Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring, 1971, color, Joseph Sargent (dir.), Sally Field, David Carradine, Eleanor Parker, Jackie Cooper, Lane Bradbury. 1:14.

Sally Field as a runaway late-teen who’s come back to her wealthy suburban household after a year in a hippie commune of sorts. David Carradine (mostly in flashbacks) as her sociopathic hippie boyfriend. Eleanor Parker and Jackie Cooper as Suburban Parents from Hell, with a drink always in hand and just wanting to avoid any problems—and Lane Bradbury as the younger daughter doing pills and ready to run away. Messages about the dangers of meth, I think, and lots of Sally Field being Sally Field (which is not a bad thing by any means). David Carradine makes a great worthless jerk. $1.25.

Incident on a Dark Street, 1973, color, Buzz Kulik (dir.), James Olson, David Canary, Robert Pine, Richard Castellano, William Shatner, David Doyle, Kathleen Lloyd. 1:36.

If this wasn’t a Crusading Young U.S. Attorneys episode, or a show within some series along those lines, it should have been. Strong TV-actor cast (if you can get past Bill Shatner’s silly moustache—hey, at least he’s a corrupt official), lots of plot, actually better than it has any right to be. $1.25.

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

Heroes and villains: Bridges runs the acting gamut from A to B in his role as a veteran police detective who tries to run his daughter’s life, discovers his son-in-law is having an affair, accidentally kills the other woman, and sets out to frame a homeless drunk for the murder. The best performances are probably Murray Hamilton as the other police detective—and Broderick Crawford as the homeless drunk. Frank Converse is serviceable as the son-in-law. $1.00

By the way: The resumption of more-or-less normal posting means that life goes on. It doesn’t mean that unresolved situations have been resolved or that I know much more than I did two weeks ago. Meanwhile, 20-30 minutes a day on the treadmill means old movies and TV movies to watch…

High-def optical discs: What you need to know now (3 of 3)

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

This is the last in series of three posts, which will also appear in the next C&I

Takeaways and Possibilities

This is my own conjecture. I’m not planning to invest in either format for some time (for one thing, we’re not ready to buy an HDTV), so I’m not actually betting on any of this.

People aren’t clamoring for high-def discs. When DVDs came out, they offered obvious advantages in picture quality, convenience, and extra features. The difference between high-def discs and DVD will, I suspect, be perceived by almost everyone as much less significant than the difference between DVD and VHS—and for most of us (everyone who doesn’t have a big HDTV), there is no useful difference.

That doesn’t mean (as David Pogue implies) that the only reason for high-def discs is because everyone has a DVD player and most everyone has most of the discs they want, and business wants to sell us all new players and resell the movies once more. There is a real difference in picture quality that almost everyone with good vision can see on good sets. Good high-def discs should yield significantly better pictures than broadcast and cable HDTV, just as regular DVDs yield much better pictures than standard-definition broadcast and cable TV. Despite his cynical lead Pogue admits, “The average person can see the difference in picture quality.”

I do not believe studios will try a muscle play, forcing people to buy high-def discs by dropping new DVD releases. Yes, the move to CD was in part a forced play by the record companies—but if you remember, studios didn’t stop releasing videocassettes until DVDs were already in most U.S. households (actually, some videocassettes are still being released). Record companies would have loved to get us to buy all our CDs again in SACD or DVD-A form, but when we didn’t cooperate, the CDs just kept on coming.

My best guess is that there will be a trickle of discs in both new formats for the next few months; predictions are that perhaps 200 in each format will be in stores by the end of the year, and those predictions may be optimistic.

A reasonably priced chipset is already available that can handle both high-def formats. I suspect we’ll see at least one “universal” player by this fall, probably at no more than $600, and that we’ll see a steady stream of them next year—if there’s any real interest in the high-def formats.

That’s a big “if.” It’s quite possible that neither format will catch on with the public. This holiday season will tell part of the story, but the 2007 holiday season is probably critical: If players aren’t selling by the hundreds of thousands and there aren’t thousands of discs, both formats may be headed for niche status or failure.

If I had to bet on one of the formats, I’d bet on Blu-ray. It has the best technology, the most studios, the broadest range of supporters—and although it’s theoretically more expensive, I note that Amazon’s prices for early Blu-ray (pre)releases are consistently as low or lower than HD DVD prices. But it’s a tough bet: You could make a good case for HD DVD as well.

For now—well, if I was a librarian, I’d wait a year or two to see what develops. Meanwhile, you know I’ll be following the story.