Archive for June, 2006

27 and change

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Note the category on this post–probably the last time that category will be used, and probably the last post I’ll make while employed by RLG. (Unless I do the next “megapack” disc mini-review before midnight tonight…and yes, one’s coming, but probably not today.)

“27 and change”? That’s how long I have been/was at RLG. My vita turns out to include a small portion of what I’ve actually worked on during those 27+ years, and offers little sense of the changes during that time. Nor will I bore you with that long list of successes, “failures” (projects that didn’t result in ongoing services, and “negative successes” (cases where I helped make the case not to proceed with a project that appeared certain to do more harm than good).

“and change” also looks to the future. I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing for OCLC–but I’m pretty sure it won’t be what I’ve been doing (except for transitional work), and that’s almost certainly a good thing. (My final job at RLG, designing and implementing internal activity reports and salvaging/refining/completing customer reports, was not one I would have chosen, but it was another change that turned out to be interesting and worthwhile in its own right.)

A few weeks ago (May 31) we had the final RLG picnic/BBQ, with a commemorative T-shirt and chance to take leftover conference tchotchkes (we did a great “” refrigerator magnet/clip once, along with all the pencils, magnifying rulers, RCM puzzle, and various other stuff). A bunch of “alums” (people who’d already retired or left under other circumstances) showed up.

Wednesday, we had the final RLG pot luck. I’ve never been much for the noontime potlucks, particularly after I was cut to 75% time and took off early most afternoons. This time, I went.

Today, there’s a final something-or-other going on that began at 4 p.m. at a beer-and-burger place up in the hills. I didn’t go, for a variety of reasons. (I’m not much for that kind of farewell, and I’m even less for either driving home after even one drink or hanging around there without drinking. And this being my last “part-time Friday,” I left work at 11 a.m.; it would seem odd to go back at 4 p.m., even if “work” is at a hangout.)

Monday, some portion of the remaining/ongoing staff will be there starting the long transition–probably not all that many, given that Tuesday’s July 4 and lots of people will take their first personal day under new employment to make a 4-day weekend. I’ll return to full time at that point.

Some time this weekend, or maybe later, I’ll reorganize my personal website to make appropriate affiliation changes. That process will continue, to be sure, as we get OCLC.ORG email addresses, as things firm up and change, as life goes on.

It’s been one heck of a run. I’d hoped for 30 years at RLG, but I don’t believe anyone made that landmark. Maybe a new milestone should be “six decades in library automation”–which means working more-or-less full time until 2011. That doesn’t seem implausible. (“Six decades” does not mean 60 years in this case; it means I’ll have been doing this stuff continuously and within six different decades.)

With any luck at all, you’ll see me as excited about my future at OCLC as I’ve been at times about events at RLG. With a little more luck, you’ll see me more excited about the future.

Meanwhile, it’s the weekend.

What’s a known item?

Friday, June 30th, 2006

I don’t want to get into the “OPAC wars” at the moment, but reading reports on various programs, I have to ask:

What’s a “known item”?

I ask that based on the assertion by a number of people that online catalogs are only good for finding known items.

My naive sense is that a known item is one particular entity (or, pace FRBR, a work which may have multiple instantiations), identifiable by a title and, usually, an author of some sort.

In which case, I’ll assert that any decent OPAC is also good for something other than known item searching that matters to quite a few library users:

“What do you have by this author/composer/musical group?”

Maybe that is a known-item question, since it presumes knowledge of the name of the creator. But I don’t think so: The assumption is that there are multiple items, and only the creator’s name is known.

[Incidentally, the question generally is “what do you have that’s currently likely to be available to me to walk out with today,” not “what exists somewhere in the bibliographic universe.” At least that’s my public-library-patron assertion. And I do regard “oh, and by the way, so-and-so also writes under these names, and you can click here to see what’s available under those names” is a very helpful additional answer, although tossing the other pseudonyms in with the initial result may not be so helpful.]
(I’ll also suggest that many OPACs are pretty decent at “more like this” searching based on hotlinked subjects or even call # browsing, but that would get into the OPAC wars, and I don’t want to go there. Yet.)

So: Do I misunderstand “known item”? Or is the claim of uselessness possibly overstated?

Preliminary random post-ALA notes

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

I probably shouldn’t write at all until at least yesterday, since I’m now 15 hours into the “travel day” and just skimmed through 458 library blog posts and 150 others (and, surprisingly, only flagged a dozen to look at again later–but I’d say at least 100 of those posts are repetitions because of Bloglines or blogging software glitches).

Still, before I forget, in no particular order, and with zero cosmic significance:

  • There is no Ten in the LITA Top Tech Trends. I’ve seen that extraneous word in at least two blogs. It’s TTT: Top Tech Trends. Not TTTT.
  • The time given for each TTT panelist was decided, at Midwinter, by the TTT committee and the TTT panelists. I wasn’t there. I was just The Enforcer. (Actually, a one-minute sign and a red “time up” sign were being held up in the front row of the audience–but I quickly realized that the panelists couldn’t see the signs. Too bad. I really was hoping not to say anything after summarizing Sarah Houghton’s trends…). I think five minutes is probably about right; in this case, it was literally the only way to save half an hour for managed audience questions. I think the managed-questions portion went very well (as did the whole thing, and since I’m no longer a panelist, I can say that): Most questions were included, while avoiding diatribes. (And I must apologize to Sarah: I left out “brighter” in the range of adjectives that distinguish the LiB from the bozo offering her trends.)
  • I wonder whether we’ll ever have an accurate number for how many people were at ALA–which is not necessarily the same as the registration count. Exhibits felt light; my hotel noted that a number of people had cancelled at the last minute; I wouldn’t be surprised if a thousand or more people just didn’t show up. Why? Because of the “lift” problem I noted pre-conference: There just weren’t enough airplane seats on the key travel days. I know of people paying $700 for flights booked more than a month ahead, $900 for flights booked fairly well ahead–and of one person being quoted $3,000 for a coach seat a week ahead. I can say that a $900 fare would have increased my total conference expenses by nearly 50%; for a lot of people, the extra $300 to $600 or more–or just the inability to book a flight at all without staying late or going in early–may have prevented attendance.
  • That said, there were still probably at least 15,000 librarians and vendors in New Orleans, and I believe most of us found attendance worthwhile. I wouldn’t have missed it…
  • Apologies in general to people who might have expected to run into me and didn’t. Thanks to a combination of factors–the strain of the last couple months, four or five days of pre-ALA weather in Mountain View where the lack of air conditioning made 92 to 96 degrees difficult to bear, getting a really bad night’s [lack of] sleep Friday night, the effect of the front half of the Convention Center being closed–I was just plumb exhausted by mid-day Saturday, and took what measures I could to protect energy. That meant spending less time at social functions and marginal (for me) programs than I might otherwise have, definitely not trying to stay up for the 10:30-midnight blogger/Louisiana librarian gathering, skipping a couple of kind invitations to fancy dinners that would keep me up too late… and generally laying a little bit low.
  • I’m grateful to all the folks who asked how things were going in terms of OCLC-RLG and my future. I think the short answer “It’s probably going to be all good, personally at least,” is better than the slightly longer answers I was giving. [OK, I might not word it exactly that way, but, well…]
  • And, given that cheap entertainment playing slot poker was one way to preserve a little energy and sanity, I should report that Harrah’s New Orleans has good music–I’m guessing it’s more or less the same blend of oldies used in other Harrah’s, but with every third or fourth song replaced by something local (songs about New Orleans, zydeco music, songs by other NO musicians, etc.). And, unlike some casinos last time we were in Reno, the music wasn’t playing SO LOUD IT HURT YOUR EARS.
  • Sure, I went to some programs. Sure, I toured all of the exhibits. Maybe I’ll have something to say about them later–but seems like lots of other people are covering things pretty well. (Cop out? You betcha.)

Oh, and I have to mention the LITA breakfast for 23 of the former presidents, as part of the division’s 40th anniversary celebration. (LITA isn’t 40 years old, but the division is: It originally had a different name, Information Science and Automation Division or ISAD.) Great stuff, and a good chance to see a bunch of people I really don’t run into that often.

Added next day: It probably isn’t obvious from the above, although my pre-conference posts may have hinted at it, but:

  • Keeping ALA in New Orleans was exactly the right thing to do. Exactly. I believed it when the decision was made. I believed it after the misreported story about killings in a drug-infested area of New Orleans. And I believed it even more while I was there, starting with the cabbie who, while grumping a little about ALA’s proficiency at sending people to the airport shuttles, expressed delight at us being there (his house is “OK,” but his furnishings were a total loss)–and all the way through.
  • Despite all the wonderful voluntarism, donations to NOPL funds, “over”tipping, ALA wasn’t there as a charity operation. We were there as a conference, with conferees having the usual good time in and after events. (“The usual good time” for NO being a little different than “the usual good time” for, say, Orlando.)
  • As I commented on John Blyberg’s first-rate post-ALA note: We did good. New Orleans did good.

Google Librarian Newsletter: My final RLG byline (I think)

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Google just published the June 2006 edition of Google Librarian Newsletter.

The “outside” article this time around is Libraries and Google/Google Book Search: No Competition!” by yours truly–written several months ago, appearing now. There’s an interesting bit of Googler feedback relating to some questions/criticisms I raise along the way. (Note: This was written long before we had examples of the somewhat-less-than-archival quality of some of the book scans.)

If this isn’t the last time “Walt Crawford, senior analyst at RLG” appears on a new publication (or its equivalent), it will be because of publishing lags. But, of course, “Walt Crawford, OCLC” and variations on that theme will start appearing…oh, probably a couple of weeks after ALA.

The final pre-ALA post (probably)

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

I’m not departing until Friday [very early], and I don’t see much point in posting my ALA schedule (don’t carry a cell phone, won’t be IMing or emailing, unlikely to be able to set up anything except in person).

But I thought I’d note a couple of things, for anyone who did want to look for me…

Friday: I plan to be at the WebJunction reception, and have registered for it–but that assumes that I get from the airport to my hotel in good time. I might be late. I might not make it at all. In the latter case, sorry I missed all you good folks…

Saturday afternoon: I might go to the LITA SF program, or I might go to “the ultimate debate,” or I might be in exhibits, or…

Saturday late afternoon, evening, night:

  • I suspect I won’t make it to the LITA Happy Hour because of OCLC/RLG stuff.
  • While I’ve RSVPed for the ALA blogger’s bash, 10:30 p.m. is pretty late in the day for me (I’m an early riser, and I do adjust to new time zones almost immediately). So my attendance there is, at best, iffy, and if I’m there at all it won’t be for very long.

Sunday: I will for sure be at the LITA Top Tech Trends program, but not spouting off: I’ll be the one shoving trendspotters away from the mike (or just speaking over them if there are multiple mikes) if they keep talking after their time is up. I’ll try not to have too much fun doing that, and I will be moderating the discussion period. Heck, with luck, The Experts will recognize that five minutes means five minutes, and I won’t have much to do at all.

I do plan to attend the LITA Awards Reception following the TTT program.

Monday? Well, if you’re another former LITA president, you know where I’ll be at 8 a.m. Otherwise, I’m leaving Monday just as loose as possible.

And I return on Tuesday, ready for the final three days of the 27 years and 19 days I will have worked for RLG.

In all those empty spaces, I plan to peruse the exhibits, maybe go to some other programs or discussion groups, say Hi to a few hundred colleagues and have longer conversations with some, continue my occasional gumbo survey of decent cheap places at lunch and dinner, overtip, have a glass of wine here and there, and do some minor touristy things. If you want to stop and chat, don’t let the fact that I seem to be walking like a bat out of hell dissuade you: I always walk fast…

New Orleans 2: The New York Times Got It Wrong

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

(OK, there’s always the possibility that the San Francisco Chronicle changed the wording on the NYTimes story it reprinted this morning–but I doubt it.)

If you know New Orleans and you’re going to ALA, you must have gone “Wha?” when you read this morning that the Central Business District, CBD, was a hotbed of drug activity and was where the quintuple slaying occurred.

After all, CBD’s pretty near the conference area.

Here’s a key paragraph of a New Orleans Convention & Visitor’s Bureau statement:

Contrary to reports in the national news, the recent reprehensible murders of five youths in the city occurred at 4:00 a.m. in the sparsely populated Central City neighborhood miles away from the Central Business District, French Quarter, Convention Center and Warehouse Arts District. Unfortunately Central City has historically been the location for criminal behavior prior to Hurricane Katrina, and remains a “hot spot” for unlawful behavior. The murders have no bearing on any crime or safety issues in the areas of the city frequented by tourists.

Read “conventiongoers” for “tourists” and you get the idea: The media just plain got it wrong.

Of course you should be careful in New Orleans, more so if you’re going outside the general convention area (CBD, Warehouse Arts, Convention Center, French Quarter). For that matter, I can’t think of many cities where you should be walking around by yourself at 4 a.m. in any downtown area…
But don’t get panicked because of erroneous reporting.

ALA New Orleans: A few thoughts in preparation

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Some of you may remember a flurry of posts back in 2004, offering good advice for people attending ALA. I pulled together some of those (and some other related lists) and even added one tip of my own, in Perspective: Good Advice: Making Some Lists in the July 2004 Cites & Insights. (OK, I might have added more tips during the blogging–but I didn’t have W.a.r. back then.)

I haven’t seen similar sets of advice this year, and the stuff from 2004 still makes perfectly good sense; that portion of the HTML page (down to “Suggestions for Presenters”) fits on both sides of a single sheet.

So there’s the first thought: Those tips from 2004 are just as valid this year. I’ll particularly stress “don’t overschedule” and “you will walk miles every day”

I haven’t been back to New Orleans since Katrina, but I have been back within the last two years. From what I remember of the convention center/downtown area, what I’ve read about the situation these days, and what I know of ALA’s arrangements, I will suggest a few specifics:

  • You’re going to walk half a mile to get from the exhibits to the front door anyway. Add another mile to that, mile and a half at most, and you can get to many or most hotels, lots of restaurants, the French Quarter, etc. In other words: You may need the shuttle bus if you’re heavily loaded, but I think of “the sliver by the river” as a walking town, at least in daylight or in groups. For an average walking pace (say 3 miles per hour), most places you’d want to go aren’t more than 30-40 minutes from the CC’s front door, and many of them are closer than that. (Nothing wrong with taking cabs, but they may be in slightly short supply, particularly on the big flight days.)
  • Which emphasizes another point: Wear comfortable shoes. If you’re able to walk a few miles a day, plan on walking a few miles a day. You’ll get more out of the town and the conference.
  • And wear comfortable clothes! Figure on it being 90/90: 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) or above, and 90% humidity much of the time. One time when ALA was in New Orleans, a general call went out to scrap the coats & ties (and equivalent stuffy clothes for women). Maybe that call should have gone out this time as well. You’ll have a lot more fun when you’re not dying from the heat and damp.
  • Sure, the high-end restaurants will mostly be open, apparently including Commander’s Palace. If that’s your thing, go for it: New Orleans depends on tourist/convention money, and always has. But, you know, those less fancy restaurants mostly have good Nawlins food as well, at considerably lower prices; you could put some of the difference toward maybe slightly overtipping the people who are trying to recover. (It’s real easy to figure one dollar out of every four on the bill…) (OK, I’m prejudiced on this one: I’ve generally been happier with the “ordinary” meals I’ve had in NO than with the hotshot restaurants, although they sure do fancy service at those expensive places. To my taste, the everyday NO places do food that’s maybe 80% as good as the top places, at 50% of the price,and with a whole lot less attitude. I like the neighborhood places, the semi-dives, and for that matter some of the heavily-localized hotel restaurants. Of course, I’m doing another gumbo exploration anyway, so I may not be the best judge here.)
  • If you’re volunteering on one of the two special days, good for you. If you feel the need to take one of the tours that features unrecovered areas, that’s fine too. But if you just want to enjoy the conference, enjoy getting together with all your twice-a-year face-to-face friends, enjoy good food, and enjoy New Orleans for what it used to be and the pieces that have returned: You know, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You’re part of what will bring (most of) New Orleans back: Visiting Money, Having a Good Time. If anybody tries to lay a guilt trip on you, ignore them.
  • As at any conference, show a little common sense. I don’t know if post-Katrina French Quarter is still a 24-hour-a-day frat party (as one local cabbie described it at 5 a.m., as we were passing all these drunks leaning against lightposts in that 24-hour drinking town with “sure, take the drink out on the street” laws), but you know, you really don’t have to see how many Hurricanes you can drink. Going out alone most anywhere at 3 a.m. is rarely advisable in any city. And, for what it’s worth, it really doesn’t hurt to tuck your badge into your pocket when you leave the convention center or your meeting room–although, if you’re swinging one of those freebie bags, chances are your status isn’t going to be any big secret.
  • Finally, and most important: Laissez lez bon temps roulez. Let the good times roll. New Orleans needs ALA. New Orleans needs you–to come, enjoy yourself, eat, drink, and spend money. And, to be sure, visit the exhibits, take in some programs, and wave or stop for a chat if you see me. [No, I don’t know any French. I’ve been to New Orleans often enough to know that motto, though–even if I did have to check the spelling.]

Cites & Insights 6:9 available

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

Cites & Insights 6:9, July 2006 is now available. This 26-page issue (PDF as always, but most essays are also available as HTML pages from the home page) is predominantly one 18-page essay:

  • Perspective: Finding a Balance: Libraries and Librarians – A mostly-upbeat continuation of the “Library 2.0” conversation.

The issue also includes:

  • Bibs & Blather
  • Perspective: Scan This Book? – You must have known I’d have something to say about the Kelly/Jarvis booktrashing!
  • The Library Stuff – Nine annotated citations
  • My Back Pages – Eight snarky little essays

If you write a blog: Please be sure to read Bibs & Blather

A grammar post!

Monday, June 12th, 2006

Once in a while, I glance at “Web pages that suck.”

Usually very well-chosen examples of utterly horrendous web techniques.

Today’s, though, is an oddity: The Oak Ridge Boys site.

Not that the site doesn’t suck–but Vincent Flanders, proprietor of WPTS, usually excludes musical groups and artists from consideration, because such sites are expected to push the envelope.

So why did he make an exception? Because of this “incredible grammar error”:

The Oak Ridge Boys is one of America’s best known country acts.

I sent Flanders email saying that, by my standards, that’s not a grammatical error at all. The Oak Ridge Boys is a musical group; it takes the singular, just as The United States of America or The Beatles or … (at least in American English, given that corporate entities are “people” in the U.S.).

Would you say “The United States are the world’s leading exporters of pop culture”? No, you wouldn’t,

The members of The Oak Ridge Boys are musicians. The Oak Ridge Boys is a group.

Looking at Liblogs: How you can help

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Preface: I still don’t much care for “biblioblogosphere.” For one thing, there are loads of “biblio” blogs–blogs about books–outside of library blogs. For another, “sphere” implies something I don’t necessarily agree with. So I’m using “liblogs,” also less than ideal since it could apply more directly to blogs from libraries. There really isn’t a perfect word. Life is like that.

I do plan to do another investigation of sorts, probably significantly different than last year’s. I haven’t started (and won’t until after ALA), and I haven’t made any final decisions about how and what. But there are two things that bloggers out there could do to help, or at least to clarify. (A modified version of this post will appear in the next C&I and in posts to some lists, I think.)

  • Want to opt out? If you just don’t want your blog involved at all, here’s what you need to do: Send email to or with the subject heading Liblog optout, and give the name of your blog and an email address I can use to verify that it’s you and not someone else. You don’t need to provide a reason. (I think this year’s look will be even less “hierarchical” than last year’s, and I can’t imagine why you’d want to be excluded, but it’s your blog and your business.) If you opt out, your blog just won’t appear. Period. Email should reach me by July 15, 2006.
  • Usage numbers? I’d like to try to correlate Bloglines subscription counts with direct/indirect readership. You can help, if you have access to stats for your weblog. I won’t name names or provide individual figures, but if I get enough numbers, I may do a paragraph or two about correlations. Here’s what you can do to help:
  1. Find two figures for May 2006: The average sessions per day (or total sessions: I can divide by 31), which is almost always easy to find, and the unique visitors during the month–or “unique IP addresses” if that’s what you have. Sometimes that’s a little harder to find.
    In a standard Urchin install, go to Domains and Users, then IP Addresses. The first page will have text something like this:
    IP Addresses (1-10) / 1,930
    the number after the slash is the number I want–in this case, 1,930.
    In a standard Weblog Expert install, it should be right on the General Statistics page, as “Total Unique IPs.”
    I know it’s readily available in WebTrends, and should be available in most any statistics package.
  2. Send email to or with the subject line Liblog usage, and include in the body the name of the blog and the two figures (clarifying whether sessions is average per day or total for May 2006).
  3. Email should reach me by July 31, 2006.

That’s it. I hope not to get any of the first category of email, but will honor whatever I do get (and can verify). I hope to get at least 10-15 of the second category. As Gmail users can guess, I’m using the subject lines so I don’t have to gather up lots of individual emails; I should wind up with one “conversation” in each category. (But if you get the subject lines wrong, I’ll deal with it.)

Thanks. Oh, by the way, if you have a liblog–not an official library blog–that you think I’ll overlook because it’s not listed in any of the typical places, you could also send me appropriate email.