Archive for 2007

C&I Volume 7: Buy the book!

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Cites & Insights 7, 2007

Appreciate Cites & Insights? Want to support it? Why not pick up this year’s issues in a single, convenient, indexed, perfect-bound package?

Cites & Insights Volume 7, 2007 is available now, for $35 plus shipping, only from Lulu. (Amazon/CreateSpace doesn’t do full 8.5×11 books, so it’s not feasible to do a duplicate edition there.)

It’s a 405-page volume including everything you’ll find at the website–but also something you won’t find there: The 38-page phantom issue, Cites on a Plane, which was only available for ten days in January 2007, right around Midwinter. I believe it’s on bright white book paper, so it should read very well.

Oh, and as a bonus you get two library pictures–one from Alaska covering about half of the front cover, one from Hawaii covering the whole back cover.

I’d be delighted to autograph this or any of my other books during Midwinter, if you want them defaced. Chances are, I’ll be at the PALINET booth for some stretches, but I don’t know when–and, of course, I’ll be focusing on the PALINET Leadership Network then, but you can come look at the network and get a book signed.

As noted earlier, I’d consider putting out book versions of (some) earlier volumes if there’s some demand for them, probably with a bonus essay in each volume. I’m not sure it’s feasible to do volumes of the pre-2005 volumes (there may be a PDF issue), but…

Cites & Insights: Index to volume 7–and a print version

Monday, November 26th, 2007

The Index to Volume 7 of Cites & Insights is now available for downloading. This 19-page document combines a title sheet and 17-page indexes, for those wishing to prepare a bound volume.

On the other hand, why bother?

For the low, low price of $35.00 (plus shipping), you can acquire Cites & Insights 7, 2007 in paperback form, including full-color cover. (Two library-related photos, one from Alaska, one from Hawaii.)

But wait! There’s more! The book version of C&I includes an exclusive bonus, not available anywhere else (as far as I know): Cites on a Plane, the phantom 38-page non-issue that was only available for two weeks in January 2007. It’s not in the index–but it is in the book.

What’s in COAP? Five moldy golden oldies:

  • Perspective: Predicting the Future of Academic Libraries
  • Net Media: Analogies, Gatekeepers and Blogging
  • Perspective: You Just Can’t Comprehend
  • Trends & Quick Takes: The Long Tail’s Thick Head
  • Perspective: [40 of] Seventyfive Facets (the 40 actually written for Issue 75)

and an interesting example of Microsoft Word’s artificial stupidity at work,

  • Library 2.0 for Short Attention Spans

or what you get when you ask Word XP for a 10% summary of the Library 2.0 special issue and half-issue followup essay.

Note: If there’s enough interest in having other print volumes of C&I, I’d certainly consider it, probably working back from Volume 6, possibly including a special prefatory essay in each volume.

What’s “enough interest”? Indirectly, if Volume 7 sells at least 50 copies over the next six months, I’ll take that as indication of some interest. Directly, if ten people send me email or leave comments saying “sure, I’d buy Volume X for $35,” I’ll consider it–but not until after Midwinter 2008.

And if nobody buys Volume 7 at all? Well, here’s the truth: I need a bound copy of each complete volume. The only place I know of to get a set of printouts bound at a reasonable price no longer offers perfect binding, and I’m not that fond of the Velobind results (although it’s better than spiral binding). When I added up the total cost of reprinting the issues on good paper, even with the relatively low per-page costs of my new Canon MP610, plus Velobind costs…it turns out that, at my lower author’s price, the Lulu perfectbound paperback won’t cost me much more and should look a whole lot better and be easier to use in future years. If some of you find the book version worthwhile, so much the better.

Food pills and the Kindle

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

I’m thankful for many things–family, friends/colleagues, health, the new position…

I’m also thankful that I’m not really writing about ebooks and ebook devices these days. ‘Cause then, you know, I’d probably want to write something about the Kindle (do you really need a link?). Which would probably mean offering opinions about it.

And, well, I don’t particularly have them–except for the obvious ones: The Kindle no more spells the end of print books than any other ebook reader has. (Nor, I’m pretty nearly certain, does Jeff Bezos imagine that it would or should.)

Beyond that? I wouldn’t buy one–but I’m not much for portable electronics anyway, so I’m not a good case study. I haven’t really seen it or used it, any more than I’ve really seen the last sure-fire ebook device from Sony.

The wealth of commentary in various sources is amusing. Gee, textbooks-as-ebooks might make a lot of sense! (I’ve been saying that for something over a decade, so I’m hardly likely to disagree.) DRM-heavy ebooks take away practices that book readers are familiar with, like lending books, giving them away, buying them used and selling them back to used bookstores. (True. Not, to be sure, a death sentence for DRM or ebooks.)

Then there are the really peculiar ones. I’ll name two, the second one bringing us back to the title of this post:

  1. Given that some day, some ebook device really will function well and sell well (which I don’t regard as a certainty, but let’s assume it for the same of this argument), you shouldn’t be negative about this ebook device because you’ll eventually look silly. Some syllogism: The Palm Pilot worked, therefore people were wrong to be negative about the Apple Newton. Huh?
  2. The conversion of all print to digital form is, once again, inevitable. Why? Just because, apparently–I guess because “everything goes digital.”

I’ve seen one interesting rejoinder to that second claim–namely that most of us still don’t eat bytes and are unlikely to do so in the future. That rejoinder as it stands is nonsensical, to be sure.

But let’s modify it a little. I certainly remember some years (decades?) back when some futurists assured us that we’d all eat food pills in place of regular food, assuring us balanced nutrition and saving us all the time and effort of meal preparation.

Food pills (or meal bars, if you will) would theoretically save a lot more than that. Assuming that food pills were prepared where food itself was produced–in farm country, that is–you’d have enormous energy savings because you’d just be transporting those little pills/bars instead of all those raw ingredients and packaged foods. You could probably package a day’s diet (say 2,000 calories) into half a pound of meal bars–not a whole lot less, since as far as I know you can’t get more than nine calories per gram and it’s hard to make a balanced meal of pure fat.

Still, that’s a lot less transport. And, of course, a whole lot less wastage and garbage, with the food being processed once, period.

So isn’t it odd that we aren’t all eating food pills or meal bars. Some of us may eat “meal bars” (most of which are much less than a meal’s worth of food) but not exclusively.

Why not? We choose not to. And, oddly enough, very few futurists now suggest that we will ever switch to eating wholly processed pseudofood, or that it would be desirable to do so. Instead, if anything, the momentum is toward “slow food”–buying as much locally-sourced food as possible.

Here’s a case where the high-tech solution really would have demonstrably good consequences–along with some demonstrably bad ones and a whole bunch of unknowns. Inevitable? Not even likely, now or in the future.

Will print books ever be replaced entirely by ebooks? I think it unlikely–but since I’m certain I won’t be around long enough to see it if it ever does happen, I’m not worrying about it one way or the other.

Will the Kindle do brilliantly or fail? I have no idea. Is it a great device or a terrible one? I have no idea.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Cites & Insights 7:13 available

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Cites & Insights 7:13, December 2007, is now available.

This 22-page issue–PDF as usual, but each essay is also available in HTML form, is another All-Perspectives Issue:

  • Bibs & Blather Perspective: On Charting New Courses
  • In which I write off five decades in library automation with a 1.5-page non-memoir, summarize the start of an ongoing career in another 1.5 pages, and discuss new directions and what they may mean for the near-term future of Cites & Insights.

  • Following Up: On the Literature
  • Various threads on the state of the professional literature of librarianship.

    Note: It has been pointed out (thanks, Dorothea!) that a few words are missing at the very bottom of page 9. “If so, perhaps the answer is ejournals” should make the sentence more coherent (thanks, Pete, for the suggested wording).

  • Trends & Quick Takes Perspective: On Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax
  • With the help of Charles Lutwidge Dodson, a baker’s dozen assorted mini-perspectives on such topics as out of print in a PoD world, disk storage “too cheap to bill,” the means of creativity, the benefits of liblogs…and many more.

  • Making it Work Perspective: On the Middle
  • If you’re not 100% with us, you’re against us. If you believe that to be true, you should just skip this essay altogether.

Note: While this is the final issue for 2007, it is not the end of Volume 7. There will be the usual volume index and title sheet, for those who might be binding C&I as a print publication. When? Hard to say; see Walt at Random for reasons why.

Cites & Insights: A pre-announcement

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Chances are, Cites & Insights 7:13, December 2007, will come out tomorrow. (I’ve trimmed it down to 22 pages and printed out the proof copy. Unless I see some ghastly error when I reread it tomorrow afternoon–and it’s always easier to edit other people’s writing–I’ll do the HTML pieces, upload it and publicize it.)

It will be a somewhat peculiar issue. Not that there’s anything new about peculiar issues of C&I.

It’s not quite the end of the volume. Some time–late November or early December–I’ll do the volume index and title page for all those folks who bind the print volume. (I’d still love to hear from anyone whose library actually does this, or does it themselves. I do–Kinko’s velobinding–but, of course, I would, wouldn’t I?)

I’m already 99% certain that there will not be a special Midwinter issue next year–and it’s likely that the January 2008 issue, volume 8, number 1, will appear relatively late. Possibly even in January (although that seems unlikely). It’s also likely that it will be relatively short and possibly peculiar.

There’s a reason for all this. The stuff I’m doing in my half-time-equivalent contract position reaches a major milestone at ALA Midwinter. That’s early in 2008–just about eight weeks from now. I have a pretty good idea what needs to be done.

I’m nearly certain I can do an adequate job within the half-time boundaries, leaving lots of time and energy for bang-up work on C&I (and Walt at random and my two print columns, neither of which is due until late January 2008, and the Academic Library Blogs book…oh, and holidays).

But I don’t want to do an adequate job. I want to do a good job (or maybe even a great job, pace Tony the Tiger), and I want to leave enough time to do the iterative work needed to get this kind of thing in the shape it should be in.

So I’m going to devote a little extra time and a lot of extra attention to that project–and less time and attention to C&I and other writing. It’s worth it for now. The alternative is to go back to 65-hour weeks for a while, and I’m not prepared to do that.

If I didn’t mention anything, would most of you notice any difference? Maybe not: Peculiar issues are somewhat typical of C&I Some of you might notice the probable lateness of the January issue–but it might not even be all that late.

Still, in the interests of small-t transparency, I thought I’d mention it anyway.

Oh, and if you’d like reading material for the trip to and from Philadelphia in January: Buy one of my books! See the bottom of the page or just go to Cites & Insights Books (or get them from Amazon). For that matter, you could be the first to write a review of Public Library Blogs: 255 Examples, or even a scathing commentary on why it’s not worth $29.50 for public libraries.

Reading level?

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Some memes are more fun than others…

OK, so readability or reading level is largely fiction–but it’s entertaining fiction.

Naturally, I had to try the Blog Readability Test. Lo and behold: Junior High School

Oh, isn’t that cute: the code you paste sneaks in an ad for cash advances. Not on this blog, bubba. I my write at a junior high school level, but I comprehend pretty well.

Junior high school. Ain’t that sumpin’?

The test site says it can handle most web sites. It couldn’t handle my personal site or C&I, but it can handle pure HTML. So I tried a few essays from Cites & Insights:

  • Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0”: High school.
  • Cites on a Plane 2 (the Conference issue): High school.
  • On Disagreement and Discussion: High school. Hmm. I’m beginning to sense a pattern…
  • The Making it Work essay from June 2007: Aha. College undergrad level.
  • But most other essays I check…High school.

Which is, frankly, OK with me.

Other libloggers? Up to them to decide whether to play and whether this is a good thing, bad thing or just peculiar thing. But let’s look at a few of the non-library blogs I track:

  • Bad Science: Genius level (!)
  • Civilities: High school
  • Freedom to Tinker: College (postgrad)
  • Good Math, Bad Math: Junior high school (interesting: This has some of the deepest articles of the lot)
  • John Scalzi’s Whatever (Scalzi’s a science fiction writer): High school


[Updated 11/16 after the pasted code broke. Maybe because I removed the ad?]

Hollywood Legends 50 Movie Pack, Disc 4

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Starting here, I’m doing something I should have started long ago: When feasible, writing the first part of the review immediately after finishing the flick—and before checking date, run length, director, etc. on IMDB. I’ve been doing “immediate reviews” in some cases for a while, although not for every movie—but I think there are cases where I really need to offer my views before “informing” them through IMDB. The first movie here is a case in point.

Diamond Thieves (aka The Squeeze), 1978, color. Antonio Margheriti (dir.), Lee Van Cleef, Karen Black, Edward Albert, Lionel Stander, Robert Alda. 1:39 [1:26].

Good cast, well filmed, fast moving—and for some reason I’m pretty sure it’s a TV movie. Or, if it isn’t, it has the hallmarks of an “action” TV movie. How so? Strong cast but no real “openers” (stars who can assure a strong opening week). Catchy music that seems entirely derivative. Some odd plot holes at points. And, maybe most of all: I didn’t feel anything about any of the characters, so I wasn’t saddened or shocked when they were killed. Oh, and the fact that it’s on a disc like this even though it can’t possibly be more than 30 years old, given the cast. The title gives you much of the plot. Thieves stealing from what I take to be other thieves. Things go badly. An imported safecracker survives (wounded) and interacts with various other actors. Lots of double-crosses. Several shootings. Lionel Stander—sidekick Max in Hart to Hart—doesn’t overact in his role as a pawnbroker/fence. Karen Black chews the scenery, as does Van Cleef. And it ends.

So, now I’ll go check IMDB. Hold on… Well, look at that: Not a TV movie. Instead, a cheap Italian/West German production with many different titles in different countries—and the version here is missing several minutes, which may explain some of the plot holes. One IMDB reviewer calls it “European Trash Cinema” and that may be a good description. Well, it could have been a TV movie, even though it got an R rating (presumably for shootings with no gore). I’ll give it $1.25.

Treasure of the Jamaica Reef (aka Evil in the Deep), 1976, color. Virginia L. Stone (dir.), Stephen Boyd, David Ladd, Chuck Woolery, Rosey Grier, Darby Hinton, Cheryl Stoppelmoor, Art Metrano. 1:36 [1:32]

This one’s a little odd, in several ways. The title and some other opening titles are slightly out of focus (maybe a digitization problem). Much of the movie’s filmed underwater—at the site of a real sunken ship off Grenada—and generally very good, although a little murky at times. Lots of voice-overs from Stephen Boyd. It’s about a group of friends who get salvage rights for a sunken 200-year-old Spanish Galleon off Jamaica and set about finding it. They seem undercapitalized, very informal in their methods and way overtrusting. For some reason, they’re not at all concerned when two people on another boat show up more than once—naturally, as it turns out, intending to kill them off and take the treasure.

The only significant female in the cast spends most of her time in a bikini, but does a credible acting job. At the time she was Cheryl Stoppelmoor; she changed that second name to Ladd (by marrying David Ladd, who she met during the filming) and went on to greater fame. For that matter, the cast could suggest a TV movie (Chuck Woolery?), but it’s not. The sleeve description seems bizarre in one respect: “There’s a proverbial fly in the ointment: a big grey fly, known as a killer shark. Made before Jaws, its producers were accused of trying to rip off the Spielberg film.” Well, there’s a mention of sharks, but the cast is never imperiled by killer sharks, at least on in the version I saw: The peril is the people on the other boat.

Apparently this is the G-rated version: The uncut version includes shark violence (and apparently a lot more other violence). Just another indication that nobody at Mill Creek actually watches these movies. I must admit, I suspect I prefer this without the shark; I give it $1.25.

The Klansman, 1974, color. Terence Young (dir.), Lee Marvin, Richard Burton, Cameron Mitchell, O.J. Simpson, Lola Falana, David Huddleston, Luciana Paluzzi, Linda Evans, Ed Call, David Ladd. 1:52 [1:41]

Excellent cast. Mostly decent acting, although nobody was likely to get any award nominations. A “narrow” movie—set over a few days and entirely in one small backwoods Alabama town. Good color, good print, good sound. The missing footage mostly isn’t obvious –most likely omitting a rape scene (and some other violence you really couldn’t show on TV) and otherwise cleaning it up for TV. A jarring movie, not surprisingly, since it deals with coldblooded Klan racism and violence in a period that’s uncomfortably contemporary—a few years after the Voting Rights Act, while some Southern towns still managed to keep blacks from voting. Without giving away much of anything, it’s a dismal ending: Lots of people wind up dead, with no real resolution in sight.

Checking IMDB (after writing the above), I’d have to say it’s not a terrible film. As trimmed here, it’s mediocre, most flawed because it’s somewhere between a violent melodrama and a message picture. As cinema, it’s a mess. As a flick, it’s so-so. $1.25.

Lola (aka Twinky), 1969, color. Richard Donner (dir.), Charles Bronson, Orson Bean, Honor Blackman, Michael Craig, Paul Ford, Jack Hawkins, Trevor Howard, Robert Morley, Susan George. 1:36 [1:18].

An odd one, and if you think the title bears some resemblance to Lolita, you may not be entirely wrong. (Note that there are several other movies named Lola–but I doubt any of them were originally called Twinky!) Charles Bronson (back in his pre-action days) plays a mid-30s American writer (of novels hot enough to get banned in some places) in London, who gets involved with a 16-year-old schoolgirl (in a very short-skirted uniform quite plausible for the time). She convinces her to marry him: In Scotland, at the time, she’s apparently legal without parental consent. Her parents are shocked—but her grandfather (Trevor Howard), somewhat of a dirty old man, seems delighted. They go to America. Things don’t go terribly well. Orson Bean has a good role as Bronson’s lawyer, who thinks the marriage is absurd.

The biggest problem, really, other than titles that seem to focus primarily on the exposed thigh and bent leg of a bicycling schoolgirl, is a total lack of resolution. There’s no ending to speak of. Not that this would have been a great picture anyway—it’s remarkably superficial given the story line. (That could be the missing 18 minutes; they’re not obvious as it stands.) Looking at IMDB after writing the above: Susan George was Lola/Twinky, and 18 at the time. Good print, good sound, surprisingly good cast, generally good acting. Just not much depth or closure. $1.25.

Comments: Slight (automated) change in policy–and an ALA note

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

For a while now, I’ve turned off comments for posts more than a year old–the hard way, going in and editing each comment, a month at a time. A nuisance, but it cuts the amount of spam even further, particularly the “meaningful spam” (most of which is something along the lines of

I’m not sure I understand everything you say about [title of post is automatically inserted here], but I’ll have to read more about it.

Or something along those lines. The purpose of the spam is, presumably, to increase the visibility or PageRank of the URL the commenter provides. There are variations, of course, but the message is typically innocuous and sounds as though someone could have said it–except that I use a lot of post titles that really don’t make sense as part of that sentence. This kind of spam is almost always attached to old messages, where I’m presumably paying less attention. (Spam Karma 2 actually catches it pretty much all the time–but that means more spam for me to check, to rescue legitimate comments.)

Somebody–Jessamyn West? Somebody else–recently noted a newish WordPress plugin, comment-timeout, that does this automatically at whatever interval I choose. Getting a little braver (and with better SFTP tools at home), I actually downloaded, uploaded, and activated this one on my own, instead of asking Blake Carver to do it. (Taking off the training wheels? Maybe. At least this time.) The plugin has some nice nuances: You can set it so that ongoing discussions don’t get trapped at the timeout mark and so that popular discussions (you set the level of popularity) can go on even longer.

Looking at the reality of comments around here, particularly comments from my core audience, I’ve set it up like this, subject to change down the road:

  • For most posts, commenting gets turned off six months (actually 180 days) after the post. If you look at the May 2007 archives right now, you’ll see that: You can comment on some posts but not others.
  • For posts with ongoing discussions, commenting can extend 60 days after the most recent approved comment.
  • For posts with more than 20 comments (the default measure for “popular” and certainly a solid count for any liblog post), commenting can extend 90 days after the most recent approved comment.

Coincidence that I had to clear more spam today (before installing the plugin) than I’ve had any day in more than a week? Who knows?

Oh, then there’s another frequently-occurring spam text–one where I really wonder what universe the spammers operate in. The text refers to my “awesome guest book.” I don’t have a guest book. I can’t think of a single blog that I read that does have a guest book. At least “awesome blogroll” would have some faint hope of success–not here, but elsewhere.

The ALA note (hmm, I grumped about ALA interactive services a year ago–for much the same reason):I got the email asking me to renew my personal membership online. Logged in (the password sent in the email–password sent in gmail, which is a really stupid idea, ALA–was wrong, but that was OK: I know my ALA password). Got to the “category of member” page…and thought about it. Hmm. I’m not salaried (the new part-time position is a contract position). I’m semi-retired. I’m not really a librarian. Should I be paying $180? ($120 ALA, $60 LITA) I needed more info, so clicked on the appropriate link.

Which goes to a list of division memberships. Not to the page that explains the rules for different categories of ALA personal membership. Indeed, using the site’s search function

Stop laughing. Site search functions do work in some cases.

I was unable to find a page that defined “non-salaried librarian.”

I was about to choose that $42 category–well, actually, I did, but hadn’t checked out yet.

I mentioned it to my wife. She’s fully retired now, but was in a similar “unsalaried, but still doing some work” situation for 2007. (Of course, she is a degreed librarian.) She said something about “I think you have to earn less than X.” X being somewhat less than my contract and other library-related earnings should total next year.

So I canceled the transaction. Today, I went in via a different route and found the appropriate page–not by searching, to be sure. Indeed there is a limit of X for “non-salaried.”

I still have a mild quandary. My new position isn’t managerial as usually defined: Nobody reports to me. It doesn’t require an MLS or state certification. Come to think of it, that’s been true of my work for close to a decade…

Does that mean I’m library support staff and can get by for $42 instead of $120?

I’ll probably pay the $180 for 2008. Oh, and check my preferences again to see where ALA will send various emails this time around.

I discussed this with appropriate people at ALA and will act accordingly.

Wikis, authorship and collaboration: A question

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

I have a serious question, particularly for those of you who contribute to or maintain wikis:

Does it violate the “wiki way” for signed content pages–that is, essay contributions with prominent signatures–to be locked against edits (but have open Talk pages)? As a wiki user, would you be offended by such locked pages?

This isn’t a hypothetical. I’m working on a fledgling wiki that should become a major resource. It’s clear that much of the content will consist of signed essays. Some of those essays will be contributed directly to the wiki. Others will be contributed indirectly (by people who’ve already written them or are unwilling to deal with wiki markup). Still others will come from third-party sources and those must be locked (as a general rule).

Every locked page will have an open Talk page, open for contributions by anyone with an account on the wiki. We’ll try to make the Talk content more visible in a number of ways. When people have substantial alternative viewpoints, we’ll link to those content pages from the locked pages.

What do you think?

  • As a writer, if you contribute something that should be (and is) signed–anything in the first person, anything with a strong voice, anything that’s primarily opinion or your own experience–would you prefer that page to be open to edits by others or would you prefer it locked, edited only by the wiki’s editor(s)?
  • As a wiki user and contributor, would you be offended by frequent locked pages when they’re always accompanied by live Talk pages?

Thanks! Comments by December 1 will be most useful, but comments will stay open for the usual 6 to 12 months…

Good writers write a lot…

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Jon Carroll’s been writing his San Francisco Chronicle column for 25 years. Today’s column is about that–and about how Carroll’s been making it up as he goes along.

I’ve been reading Carroll’s column for 25 years, and appreciating it most every day. (But, as he notes in the anniversary column, if you asked me what yesterday’s column was about, I might not remember.) He’s a fine writer, an interesting thinker, willing to tell uneasy truths about himself (for some portion of that quarter-century, he was seriously drinking too much, and he spent some time later on talking about that).

Read the column. It’s a good one, as usual.

I go back a long way with Jon Carroll, in an odd and unidirectional way. When he was editor of California Pelican, UC Berkeley’s humor magazine, somewhere in the mid-60s, I submitted a couple of manuscripts. After looking at them, he informed me that I was not funny. That has probably saved me a lot of grief over the decades. (“Unidirectional”: there’s no reason Carroll would know or care who I am.)

Carroll writes a little less than I do: 198,000 words a year, where I’m running somewhere north of a quarter million. Carroll writes a whole lot better than I do. Oddly, he’s never been syndicated: the Chron thinks he’s too peculiarly local.

Anyway, good column, and thanks, Jon Carroll, for a quarter-century of great writing. Here’s the final paragraph:

I am sometimes asked for advice on writing. The only two things I know for sure are: Good writers read a lot, and good writers write a lot. As the artist Chuck Close said: “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”