Archive for July, 2007

Surveying the state of liblogs

Monday, July 30th, 2007

In the summer of 2005, Meredith Farkas put together a pioneering survey for librarians who blog. She reported the results here. At about the same time, I did a major piece on a few dozen high-profile liblogs.

It’s been two years. In the meantime, I did a much larger piece on a much larger chunk of liblogs–the “Great Middle,” as I called it. And, of course, liblogging continued to grow.

Meredith’s doing a new and better version of her 2005 survey. I’m not going to point you to the survey, because I think you should read her post first,

Go. Read the post. Then take the survey…assuming you blog, that is.

Disclosure: Meredith Farkas asked me and several other people to take a quick look at the survey before she announced it yesterday. I thought it was fine, and said so.

Am I planning a followup to either or both of the studies I did (neither of which “competes” with Meredith Farkas’ work at all, since we’re looking at different dimensions of blogging)? Yes. When? “Later”–depending on a whole bunch of things. What will it be? I think I know, and I’ll tell you when I’m sure.

Meanwhile, go read Meredith’s post and take the survey.

50 Movie Pack Hollywood Legends, Disc 1

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Like the original Family Classics 50 Movie Pack (C&I 5:4 and 5:7, March and May 2005) and 50-Movie All Stars Collection (C&I 6:4 and 6:14, March and December 2006), this collection isn’t limited to any genre. Like the Family Classics set, it’s mostly very old movies and includes quite a number that do qualify as classics or at least significant films of the times. (The All Stars Collection was TV movies.)

Once again, I’m interleaving two of the packs, roughly alternating these discs with the 50 Movie Western Classics collection. Walt Crawford? Westerns? I wouldn’t have thought so, but the westerns that showed up in previous collections reminded me just how much good entertainment Westerns have to offer. That set may be strange, as it appears to be organized by star: I’ll let you know how I feel about five Tex Ritter movies in a row, when I finish that disc in a couple of weeks.

Dishonored Lady, 1947, b&w, Robert Stevenson (dir.), Hedy Lamarr, Dennis O’Keefe, John Loder, William Lundigan, Margaret Hamilton. 1:25.

Hedy Lamarr is a successful magazine editor by day, a love-em-and-leave-em type at night, and it’s killing her. She drops out, moves to Greenwich Village to paint, falls in love with a scientist in the same building (O’Keefe)—and can’t escape an old paramour. Murder ensues, with a solid attempt to frame her. The naïve scientist is disillusioned, but things work out. Fine drama, well acted. Downgraded for a noisy soundtrack, but still $1.25.

Good News, 1947, color, Charles Walters (dir.), June Allyson, Peter, Lawford, Patricia Marshall, Joan McCracken, Mel Tormé. 1:35 [1:33].

This one should have been in the Musicals pack—it’s a full-fledged big-show-number musical set at Tait College, with Peter Lawford as the quarterback and June Allyson as a retiring coed. There’s lots more to the plot, of course, but this a big, full-Technicolor, big-production-number musical including numbers such as “The Best Things in Life are Free.” The picture’s in excellent shape, as is the sound. $2.00.

Tom Brown’s School Days, 1940, b&w, Robert Stevenson (dir.), Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Freddy Bartholomew, Jimmy Lydon, Gale Storm. 1:26 [1:20]

The problems of a boy new to Rugby (the school) and the headmaster trying to reform it from a rowdy bunch of hooligans into a first-rate school. Well played. Downrated for seriously damaged soundtrack. $1.25.

Second Chorus, 1940, b&w, H.C. Potter (dir.), Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard, Artie Shaw, Charles Butterworth, Burgess Meredith. 1:24.

[Film also appears in Musical Classics; review repeated from C&I 7:5] The timeless Fred Astaire and a very young Burgess Meredith as two “friendly”-rival musicians who’ve managed to stay in college, running a collegiate band, for seven years. They hire a gorgeous (and very effective) manager, somehow both graduate, and both try to get into Artie Shaw’s band, sabotaging each other along the way. Some slapstick, decent plot, lots of Shaw’s music and some other good numbers, and there’s a little dancing in there too. $1.50.

A book reading meme

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

No, I’m not going to tell you “what book I am.”

But I just encountered the only book reading meme I’m likely to pass along any time soon.

Say no more.

A quick apology

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

I’ll try to remember to cover this in an eventual Followup, but I’m awful on doing Followup sections…

I effectively misquoted Dorothea Salo in the current Cites & Insights by omitting a few words from a post, before criticizing that post.

Dorothea said “I’m not sure what it says about the personality of our profession that many of us revere this man when that same repellent condescension crisscrosses every bit of his written output I’ve ever seen.”

I left out “I’ve ever seen.” It was accidental but unfortunate.

Cites & Insights 7:9 available

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large 7:9 (August 2007) is now available for downloading.

It’s an odd issue: Four somewhat overlapping Perspectives and an Offtopic Perspective.

The 26-page issue (PDF as usual, but each Perspective is available as an html separate from the homepage) includes:

  • Perspective: On the Literature
  • I believe that gray literature—blogs, this ejournal, a few similar publications and some lists—represents the most compelling and worthwhile literature in the library field today…

  • Perspective: On Authority, Worth and Linkbaiting
  • Yes, it’s the dreaded Britannica Blog essay. Yes, I’m late to the game. No, this is not primarily about Michael Gorman, although his blogging (his blogging!) plays a crucial role in the discussion. There will be no fisking here, tempting though it might be—either of Gorman’s posts or of some over-the-top responses…

  • Perspective: On Disagreement and Discussion
  • Are librarians willing to disagree with one another?
    What a silly question. Of course we are (I’m counting myself as a librarian for this discussion). Consider some disagreements I’ve chronicled and taken part in here and in my blog, just for starters….

  • Perspective: On Ethics and Transparency
  • How much do you need to know about who I am and how I deal with issues, people and organizations that might relate to my writing? What do you need to know about my ethical standards? How much disclosure assures adequate transparency?

  • Offtopic Perspective: 50-Movie Classic Musicals, Part 2 – including Rhythm and Blues Review, Till the Clouds Roll By, All-American Co-Ed, Hi-De-Ho (an hour of Cab Calloway: how can you go wrong?), Royal Wedding…and a whole bunch more.

Not included in this issue: Perspective: On Clever Names for Perspectives. And the Bibs & Blather has appeared instead as an absurdly long post at Walt at Random.

Making the Sausage

Friday, July 20th, 2007

What follows was written as the Bibs & Blather for the August 2007 Cites & Insights. I’m doing final work on that issue now. This isn’t worth the print space, but it might make an amusing, if very long, post.

I’m starting this essay on July 4, 2007—the same day I start writing the first of several related essays for the August Cites & Insights, getting back to writing after a two-week break.

Why two weeks? ALA Annual came first. Then came the aftereffects of a difficult journey back home—it took three days to regain reasonable energy and catch up part of a sleep deficit. (“Sleeping” in Dallas-Fort Worth’s Terminal D was iffy at best). About the same time, I was finishing up the July issue (final copyfitting, etc.) and getting it out—and catching up on blog posts.

Oh, and doing the initial work toward producing a PoD book version of LIBRARY 2.0 AND “LIBRARY 2.0” and the followup PERSPECTIVE: FINDING A BALANCE: LIBRARIES AND LIBRARIANS. By the time this diary/essay is complete (which may be “by the time the August issue is complete”), either that book will be available at Lulu or I’ll have decided it’s not worth the trouble.

Anyway, the holiday gives me a chance to kickstart the writing process. I already knew there was plenty to write about: Folders filled with stuff on MAKING IT WORK, TRENDS & QUICK TAKES, separate essays, NET MEDIA…and some special folders relating to some essays I’ve been promising to do for a while, plus one I’d tried to avoid but find I can’t.Turns out the four essays I have in mind all overlap. They’re all real essays—opinion pieces informed by source material from others, rather than collections of citations and extracts with a few comments thrown in for seasoning.

I’m not sure how they’re going to turn out, or what’s going to wind up in the August issue. So I’m maintaining this essay as a sort of diary as I go along.

Making the sausage? Most of you probably get the reference already—you don’t want to know how sausage is made or how legislation gets written. You may not want to know just how messy the “creative” portion of Cites & Insights is. I think some of you might find it interesting to see how much can change between initial intent and final issue. Thus, this odd essay. Or maybe I’m just postponing actual writing for another 15-20 minutes. You think?

First update, 3 p.m., July 4, 2007

I stopped postponing the actual writing. I was aiming for maybe 3,000 words on disagreement and discussion as the first of three or four essays. I hoped to be done by now. At this point, I have just over 6,000 words (2,000 imported from a Walt at Random post and comments on that post) and I’m not quite done with the first draft.

The overlap between this essay and the second essay (on the literature) is obvious and growing. My comments on toxicity aren’t going to make it into the essay, and maybe that’s for the best. My sense that much of the August issue will be about authority, voice, discussion and relevance—all overlapping—seems likely to be right. Now? Time for a break.

Second update, 4:30 p.m., July 4, 2007

Maybe it’s not time yet to make any decisions about the PoD book—although, as I think about updating the liblog piece from last year (and maybe the other one from two years ago), the future starts to look a lot more interesting than “the past” in the form of adding footnotes and index entries.

First, though, let’s see if it’s feasible to finish the draft of this essay. Today.

Last update for July 4, and close of the first essay

It was feasible. Unfortunately, the essay’s now 8,600 words long—way too long if I plan three other essays and other C&I departments—and I’m not sure how I’m going to cut it without losing context in quoted material. There are worse problems, I know—but when you’re discussing discussion, it’s important to keep the level of discourse clear and to retain context as much as possible. You may disagree. On to the next essay—but not today, and maybe not tomorrow or the next day.

Second Essay

It wasn’t “tomorrow.” It is the next day: Friday, July 6 at around 1 p.m. Yesterday included the last movie of the last disc of a 50-movie pack, so I finished off the OFFTOPIC PERSPECTIVE and posted the Disc 12 portion.

I also verified my tentative conclusion of late July 4 regarding the PoD book. It’s not going to happen for a couple of overlapping reasons:

  • Gven ongoing job uncertainties and the dog days of summer, I only have so much energy. I’d rather devote it to new stuff (including “new old” stuff, namely revisiting liblogs from last year) than adding a little value to old stuff and making it pretty—particularly since I’d guess the book version would never reach high two digit sales, much less three digits.
  • For the PoD book to make sense at all (that is, for time spent on the footnotes, bibliography, index, cover preparation, etc. to be worth at least minimum wage), I’d need to price it at $25 or more—and given that most of the content is from other people, that raises tricky questions I don’t feel like dealing with.

I took off work early today (making up extra time from earlier) to start on the second of what could turn out to be five interlinked essays. I can only hope none of the others will be nearly as long as the first; there is no way I’m doing a 40,000-word issue.

On the other hand, an “all PERSPECTIVES” August issue might not be a terrible thing if it’s not too heavy or too long. The second essay is much more “where I stand” informed by comments from others, on my view of the current literature. It should be easier and shorter. It also begins with a blog post—but this time, portions of the post appear at the start of the essay rather than the end.

Update, 3:15 p.m., Friday, July 6

The second essay, at least in draft form, is a one-shot: I was able to compose it in one sitting. It’s definitely shorter (around 2,800 words at the moment), if perhaps not as short as it could be. I feel as though I cheated a little at the end, pointing to two [later three] posts rather than fleshing out secondary topics, but I really did want to keep this one relatively short. More than enough for now (there’s already enough for a full issue, but I’m just getting started). Next? Either the Gorman/Britannica/linkbait commentary or an essay on ethics, transparency and disclosure. I’m not sure which.

Third Essay

Saturday morning (7/7/07, for what that’s worth)—the time between breakfast and grocery shopping. Time enough to check mail (all list mail except one LinkedIn invite), blogs (not much this morning, as expected), a few other sites—and to set the scene for the third essay, after making notes on some source documents last night.

Looks like it will be the Gorman/Britannica/linkbait/authority essay, and the fun part will be keeping it relatively short. Does an issue with a quartet of true Perspectives—personal essays—and one offtopic perspective make sense? Maybe yes: It’s summer and OK for regular departments to take a brief vacation.

Maybe no: A couple of those departments are getting badly backed up…and there’s the “blog followup” issue looming beyond this one. Maybe it doesn’t matter: Looks like that’s what will happen, like it or not.

Odd. I was really nervous about two weeks without writing—and now I’m ahead of the game. That’s good in this case: I can print out the essays, let them sit for a while, revise them for better quality and shorter length—and get started on the liblog retrospective in the meantime. If I’m not busy looking for work and wondering whether the promised survival of C&I is really such a safe bet, that is.

Hmm. Just realized that it might make more sense to do more of the source markup and start the PERSPECTIVE this afternoon. Can’t possibly finish it this morning in any case. There’s a plan. So I’ll start the file, give it a title, and let it wait.

First update, 12:45 p.m., July 7, 2007.

“More of the source markup” doesn’t mean “all of the source markup”—there’s just too much source material (and I was selective in printing commentaries). It’s now clear that I need to make this one mostly summaries and pointers with relatively little quotation and direct commentary. Maybe one C&I can take four true personal PERSPECTIVEs; it certainly can’t take more than one or two very long PERSPECTIVEs. Splitting these across issues seems absurd given the amount of overlap. So, here we go.

Second update, 4:20 p.m., July 7, 2007

Done—or at least finished for the first draft. I concluded that it made sense to stop analyzing source material after a certain point, at least if the essay was going to be reasonably brief. It’s not terse by any means, but at least it’s not much over 3,000 words. Is it worthwhile? I’m not the judge.

Fourth Essay

Monday, July 9, 2007: I did “other stuff” yesterday, including prep work for the blog projects and finding interesting 50-movie packs for future exercise (two sets of westerns—who woulda thought? and a comedy set I’m still thinking about).

This essay won’t get written in one pass because I’m working “normally”—that is, after work (and exercise). That means no more than 60-90 minutes per day, and I don’t believe I can write this one in 60-90 minutes, although I might get the bones of it (and the cited material) in place. We shall see.

First update, 6:30 p.m., July 9, 2007

Off to a good start—cutting Lessig’s statement down to 20% of original size, offering initial notes, cutting about 20% from Houghton-Jan’s statement, preceding that with notes on previous Ethics essays. So, tomorrow, to deal with Houghton-Jan’s statement, consider the third post (Farkas), and maybe wrap things up with my own stance. Or maybe that will take until Wednesday.

Second update, 4:50 p.m., July 10, 2007

Can I finish this draft today? We shall see.

Final update, 6:15 p.m., July 10, 2007

Yes. It’s finished and it’s a good length—although it can certainly use polishing. So now I have 24,000 words, way more than enough for a summer issue. I’ll set them aside for a few days (maybe a week) while I get started on some other projects. Maybe then I can cut down the longest essay and make some balanced sense of the four interlinked essays.

Afternote: 1,800 of those 24,300 words (after the first round of revisions) were the B&B you just read (if you’re still here). I trimmed another 600 words and did a fair amount of copyfitting to get it down to 26 pages.When will the August issue appear? Maybe Sunday, maybe not. I’m certainly not planning to compete head-on with HP–and there’s other stuff to complete.

Balance and social networking

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

A few of you may remember this post, where I described my experiment with Twitter during ALA and why it didn’t work for me for now.

Since then, I’ve reread some of the posts from people who do find Twitter desirable–both in general and for specific cases (conferences). Reading the conference cases, I recognized one variety of conference-goer, somewhat (or a lot) extroverted with a bunch of acquaintances who they plan to get together with, with at least preliminary plans for most meals, drinks, etc. For them, I suspect Twitter can be a great way to maintain and change plans.

I also recognize that I’m not that kind of conference-goer–never have been and probably never will be. I’m not an extrovert, I don’t make lots of conference-get-together plans in advance, I frequently eat conference meals alone…and I probably wouldn’t want to keep up with lots of people in anything like real time. So it wasn’t just the equipment/service plan and who was signed up; it’s a fundamental mismatch.

Twitter in general? Not that I’m verbose (you can stop laughing any time now), and I used to get off some good brief lines, but “microblogging” at 140 characters a shot just isn’t my thing. And the whole stream of Twitters from a group didn’t work for me either before or after ALA. Again, your mileage may vary.

Still…imagine my surprise to see this post at Library Stuff. Quoting (Steven Cohen is terse, so there’s not much to quote):

I’ve decided not to sign up for Facebook. I don’t want to spend more time online. I spend about 1 hour these days reading feeds and posting to LS and that’s going to be it for me.

Also, I’m probably going to delete my Twitter account. I’m just not cut out for this online social stuff. Priorities, priorities.

Here’s what gets me off: Last Saturday morning. Hallie and I sitting at Starbucks. She’s drinking chocolate milk and I’m enjoying a cafe Americano. We’re talking about camp, ballet, her friends, and her brother. Priceless.

Read that second paragraph again. Do note that this is Steven M. Cohen, the same Cohen who made a point of publicly suggesting that I should be Twittering. (Not just me, to be sure.) (And, in fairness, it’s also the same Steven M. Cohen who later noted that he could see why I’m not on Twitter and wasn’t telling people they should be doing X.)

As I’ve said elsewhere–especially in the LSW Meebo room (yes, I’m still part of that group, now and then–less than in the past, and it’s hard to predict the future, and it really is the people and the clear sense that you’re there or you’re not and there’s no question of “catching up”), balance is boring–I’d probably sell more books and do better in general if I could stake out extreme positions and tout them as Truth. (I understand that Andrew Keen even admitted to writing an unbalanced book so he’d sell more copies, but I don’t have a citation for that.) Being the “library voice of the radical middle” is, well, yawn.

But it’s where I find myself, and where I think most of the action is. I’m not opposed to social networking, but I’m not ready to let it take over my life either–and for me, for now, that means keeping the number of involvements fairly low.

Apparently it’s beginning to work that way for Steven Cohen as well. Such is life.

Borrowing your watch: An apology to some consultants

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

I’ve always had a snarky attitude about some consultants, primarily big-name business consultants, expressed in the saying about what they do:

Borrow your watch, tell you what time it is, then walk off with the watch.

After all, why would someone hire an outsider to come in and tell them what they do?

Then I was working on the third in a series of six pieces on “The Storied Library” for WebJunction.

This one, Developing Your Story, is the second of three about figuring out what your library’s story is, so that you can tell that story (or, if you prefer, market your library) better. Part of what I say there:

You may be too close to your own library to recognize some aspects of its story: You’re a fish in a familiar river, hard-put to describe the details of that river. It’s your world.

Have you considered visiting some other river—and inviting one of their fish to visit yours? The analogy breaks down, but the idea’s sound.

A perceptive librarian at some other library may spot aspects of your library’s story that you’re too close to recognize. That’s part of what good consultants do: Tell an institution what it’s all about but is too close to see. Maybe a little free consulting from a suitable specialist—another librarian—will help.

There’s more. Heck, read the whole series (well, you can’t yet–I haven’t written the final piece yet, but will within the next four weeks or so). It’s freely available . For the moment, you can reach the story so far from here, and in any case a name search should work well.

Then, a while after I submitted the piece, the horrible truth sank in. What I was describing was just a different form of the kind of business consulting so many of us are quick to deride.

No more. I understand now that yes, it sometimes does make sense to pay someone–maybe quite substantial sums–to come in as an informed outsider to show you things about your operation that just aren’t visible from the inside.

In the interests of sending you to an appropriate Cites & Insights essay whenever possible, let me point out the Bibs & Blather from the June 2007 issue, On Being Wrong.

I was wrong in this case. Nothing new about being wrong. I continue to be amazed by the few people who will keep redefining and reiterating and recontextualizing and re-whatever to avoid admitting that, even on some small matter, they just might be wrong. I really, truly hope never to become one of those people.

Summer doldrums?

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Well, at least it’s not just me.

Mark Lindner’s feeling unbalanced and out of sorts.

Dorothea Salo’s on the quiet side.

I seem to remember others, but don’t remember just where right at the moment.

July can be like that–especially if, for whatever reason, you haven’t had a real vacation in a while and don’t have one on the horizon. ALA Annual, let it be said, is not a vacation.

What I’m going to do about it–since taking a real vacation still isn’t in the cards:

  • Take a day or two off next week, probably to start on my next book but maybe just to relax and read.
  • Not make any hasty negative decisions about future directions and current projects, although positive ones would still be appropriate.
  • Relax. This too shall pass.

At least it’s not a writing block. Actually, most of the content of the August C&I is already written; it just needs lots of editing. It’s likely to be another odd summer issue.

The next book? I’ll tell you more when it starts to come together. Assuming that energy doesn’t drain even more.

Clarifying a milestone

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Roughly three weeks ago, I posted this about the first milestone for Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change.

A couple of people asked about the actual numbers–that is, how many sales did it take for me to conclude that self-publishing the book wasn’t an outright failure?

Since I answered them and the earth didn’t open up and swallow me, I guess there’s no point in being coy about it. The first milestone was 100 copies (actually 101, since the first copy was my own and doesn’t count).

The second milestone–the point at which I’ll consider the book and publishing process to be a success–is 300 copies. The time frame for that milestone is two years, although I’d surely love to see it happen before then (if it ever does).

I’d call 500 copies a big success. A thousand copies would be remarkable.

In between, well, it’s neither success nor outright failure. (In the three weeks since that milestone? Well, it’s summer and there was ALA. Sales haven’t stopped entirely…)

I don’t think these are excessive milestones. For my “traditional” books in the library field, “success” would be around 1,200 copies in the first two years, with “big success” around 2,000 copies and “best-seller” somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 copies over the first five years. I’ve had two best sellers out of 13 traditionally-published books; most of the rest have been at least successful, a few of them fairly big successes.

Is it possible to sell as many of a self-published book as a traditionally-published book? Absolutely–if you’re in a position to promote the book to enough audiences. I’m not in that position and don’t really have the personality for it. So my goals were more modest.

Of course, if 20% of those who appear to have read Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” would buy this book, I’d have a best-seller by general library standards–but, you know, pigs still aren’t flying overhead and dropping bags of gold coins.