Archive for January, 2008

Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples

Now available: Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples.

  • Price: $29.50
  • Includes 231 English-language academic library blogs from 156 institutions.
  • Coverage rules same as for Public Library Blogs.
  • Similar metrics and inclusions–but this book also makes a few comparisons between academic and public library blogs. (I do not attempt to characterize academic institutions by size of user population or any other characterization.)
  • x+279 pages, 6×9, 60lb. cream paper.
  • Cover photo taken at Ephesus
  • If you need an ISBN or prefer Amazon, the Amazon/CreateSpace version is the same price and carries ISBN 978-1434832894. (Unlike earlier Amazon/CreateSpace versions, this one is also 60lb. cream book stock.)

I may offer more details in days to come, as time permits. The two books make a great combination, offering an extensive look at library blogging that should be useful to any library considering blogs for the first time or wishing to fine-tune or expand current offerings.

(If you’re wondering: The book was ready before Midwinter but I needed to see the proof copies. Both copies arrived on Saturday, January 12; both of them look just great.)

Update, January 17, 10:50 a.m.: This book should now be fully available at Lulu.

Books, a quick update

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

My copy of Cites & Insights 6: 2006 arrived today.

It looks great. You can see a tiny version of the front cover in this post or an even tinier version at the bottom of the blog–but that doesn’t show you the spine and back, all part of an 11×17 3/4 whole. (Color rendition will always vary a bit from copy to copy. My copy is a bit more muted than what appears here, but still very nice.)

The inside of the book looks great, too.

I won’t make a pitch for you to buy it. The other post (linked just above) does as much of that as I’m inclined to. Other than the preface and the cover (my wife’s photography, my addition of type), I didn’t really do any new work on it, and it will be much easier to deal with in the future than the Velobound version. Someone’s already purchased one copy; that’s one more than I was counting on. Sure, it’s a reasonably-priced way to get my major Library 2.0 essays, the big liblog examination and a quarter million words of other great stuff, but that’s another story.

As to the forthcoming Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples, just how forthcoming is it?

Well, both Lulu and CreateSpace sent messages either yesterday or today saying that the proof copy was produced and on its way. (I cheated for C&I 6: I approved it for open purchase without actually seeing a proof copy.) I’m guessing both will arrive while I’m at Midwinter or shortly thereafter. As soon as they do, and I do the usual cursory examination, I’ll post about it–and, of course, plan to publicize it in the February 2008 Cites & Insights when that finally gets written. (“When,” not “if.” My lassitude will cure itself sooner or later.)
(If you’re wondering, the wraparound cover for the new book is also from Ephesus, but not the library.)

Now to do last-minute chores (for PLN and around home) tomorrow, pack, and get up way too early to fly off to Philadelphia Friday morning. See some of you there, I’m sure…

Some notes in lieu of a new year’s post and Midwinter post

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Call it ego, but I don’t think I can let this go unremarked, although I apparently tried for three days…

“This” is a really interesting post by Dorothea Salo about the power of blogging in specific situations–but that’s not the reason I’m linking to it. (It might be the reason it turns up in a C&I piece–or might not–but that would be because of the real content.)

Nope. It’s this paragraph:

Over the last couple years I’ve learned that I can do professional writing, though it takes a hell of a lot out of me and I don’t think I will ever find it easy. Speaking is worlds easier, and whole universes more fun. (Combine Walt Crawford, to whom good writing comes as naturally as breathing, and me and you’d have one frighteningly effective public-figure librarian.)

Thanks, Dorothea. Not that I wasn’t a pretty good speaker back when I was in demand, but “to whom good writing comes as naturally as breathing…” Wow. Them’s kind words.

And, as I noted back to her in email, “Sometimes I have trouble breathing.” Which, fortunately, is not true (although if I ate a banana I might have terminal trouble in that regard)…but there are certainly times I have trouble with (some forms of) writing. Naturally, I’ve written about that too. When I had two monthly print columns, a bimonthly print column, and Cites & Insights, I managed to use “if you’re not ready to write X, write Y instead” to keep from missing deadlines. With two bimonthly print columns and a supposed state of semi-retirement, it’s easier to say “if you’re not ready to write X, read something instead–you’ll get around to it.”

Which I usually do, but it can be painful. When life offers a range of excellent excuses to avoid writing, it can be really painful.

Which is another way of saying that I haven’t written any of the essays for C&I 8:2 yet–and by now, I should have about a third of an issue ready. (Well, I do, but it’s another Offtopic Perspective.) As acute observers of C&I 8:1 may guess, I haven’t really focused on the range of usual C&I topics for a while now, making an exception for book digitization projects… I’m sure that will change after Midwinter. It had better. Of course, now that I’ve published a January issue on January 1, I could theoretically publish a February issue even a little later in February…

What was that slogan from a six-book trilogy (which we saw as a not-all-that-good flick)? Don’t Panic? I won’t. Of course, writing this post (and another one to come) is one way of procrastinating… (I’ve already done the “do Y”: I’m my usual month early on “disContent” with what I think is a tightly focused 850 words that came about partly because I wasn’t ready to work on C&I. And, for that matter, I finished writing Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples partly to avoid working on C&I; it will be available in two or three weeks, after I receive and approve proof copies from Lulu and CreateSpace. $29.50, of course, and just a few pages shorter than Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples. So far, I’m disinclined to combine the two into Walt’s Big Book of Library Blogs, but if I thought there was a market for that $50 580-page combination…)

Serious rambling here. Short form: Thanks, Dorothea. It ain’t always as easy as it looks–although, once I’m ready to write something, the words do flow. (No, I can’t and don’t do “15 minutes every day regardless.” For me, at least, that would yield choppy writing that read like it was written in little pieces…and probably take a lot longer than just not writing on Those Days and settling in when the time is right. My practice. Not suggested or recommended for anyone else.)

I didn’t really do a “here’s what I did last year and am going to do better this year” post, except by inference here and there. Fact is, last year was traumatic in some ways, enormously productive in others, and I don’t regard it as emblematic of any sort of succession. At least I hope not: I’m not sure I could cope.

One motto that popped up at several key points last year and that resounds in my mind when I read certain bits of advice these days does apply–for me, at least.

Life is too short.

Yes, I’ve turned down an invitation because it would put me on the same program with someone who I really couldn’t abide (worse, it would have me introducing someone as a principal speaker, someone who’s insulted me in writing and in public). Either I was being asked to increase the audience size, in which case I’d be lending my cachet (my cachet? I have a cachet?) under false pretenses, since I fundamentally disagree with this other person’s approach and persona–or I was being asked either to create a controversy or out of ignorance as to my stance. Either way, I lose. I’d do the same thing again with no apologies. Life is too short.

Oh, and yes, I’ve avoided some situations because I was pretty sure they’d put me in contact with one of maybe three people in the whole field who I really find grating on a personal level, and the situations didn’t have enough going for them to overbalance that. Why not? Life is too short.

That’s also getting to be my internal response when I see someone with a high-profile speaking or writing gig and think maybe I could have done a better job on it, if I was more of a go-getter. Life is too short, and since I’ve made a deliberate practice of encouraging new writers/speakers and treating people as people regardless of their highfalutin’ reputation or lack thereof, it’s absurd to grump when other people do well. I should celebrate their successes. Mostly, these days, I do. Life is too short to do otherwise.

The trifecta section: Why I’m not posting a Midwinter schedule.

Oh, I’ll be there–from Friday afternoon through Monday night (leaving way too early Tuesday morning, to match my middle-of-the-night drive to SFO on Friday), at the Embassy Suites Center City. I could even say “Of course I’ll be there. Midwinter 2008 is the formal launch of the PALINET Leadership Network. How am I not going to be there?”

But that formal launch also means my schedule will be changing up to the last working hour on Thursday and quite possibly beyond. If I can talk to people from library publications about PLN (open to all English-reading [potential] library leaders, free, great stuff), I will, and those who are trying to set things up know that. I’ll probably spend some time at the PALINET booth as well, although maybe not a lot–PALINET has a lot going on this conference, what with VuFind, Villanova University’s “open source discovery tool that replaces the traditional online public access catalog (OPAC) without requiring a new integrated library system (ILS).”

What I think I know so far, all subject to change:

  • I hope to make part of the LITA Happy Hour Friday, and maybe head off with some strange colleagues (you know who you are) afterwards, but it’s a hope, not an expectation.
  • I plan to attend the ALCTS Medium Heads DG on Saturday morning, since it’s on a topic of particular interest for PLN (succession planning).
  • I will most definitely attend PALINET’s member reception, which probably means I’ll miss another reception that I would normally make a point of attending.
  • I might hit LITA Public Library Technology IG on Saturday morning and NextGen Catalogs IG Sunday afternoon. I might not.
  • I’ll probably be at part or all of that saloon thingy–oh, wait, Blogger’s Salon, not saloon. Or not: There may be conflicts there as well.
  • So far, Monday’s wide open. I imagine that will change.

I anticipate having at least two and maybe four or more other meetings scheduled while I’m there. I also anticipate lots of time in the exhibits–and if the weather turns out to be nice, Philadelphia is a great walking town.

Want to get together? Send me a note before Thursday evening. I’ll have a cell phone, but only outbound and only for emergencies–and no, I’m not Twittering.

Ah, what the heck. Now that I’ve killed three birds with one post, why not go for a foursome?

I don’t carry a portable computer. My wife owns one, but it’s one designed for good value rather than light weight.

I’ve thought about the possibility that what I’m doing might make it much more desirable at some point to change that practice–to have “something” along when I’m traveling so I can do web-based things and maybe a little lightweight writing. I’ve also thought about my desire for traveling light, my sometimes-frugal nature, and my bad habit of leaving valuable things sitting around places (otherwise known as “Why I carry a $5 compact umbrella, not a $20 Totes”).

If I did need access on the road, I’m pretty sure I know what I’d buy, at least in today’s market. Hmm. Inexpensive. Semi-decent full keyboard. Decent screen. VERY lightweight and fairly rugged.

Nope, not that one. I’d give you the reasons, but only in person.

This one, silly as its name is: eee–by Asus. Two pounds, 7″ screen, not touch-typable but a plausible undersize keyboard, wifi built in, 4GB memory (flash, of course) for $400…

Yes, it runs Linux (Ubuntu, I think). That seems like the sensible thing to use on this kind of cut-down, hard-diskless PC.

Am I likely to get one of these (or some equivalent)? Unless someone’s in a silly mood, only time will tell. Frankly, all else being equal, I really rather like being off the air when I’m traveling.

Giving in to MP3–on my terms

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Faithful readers may know that I’m somewhat of a troglodyte when it comes to portable electronics–particularly when I used to fly a lot, I really liked (and still like) to travel light, I have no desire for 24×365 availability, I find it difficult to listen to music and actually read or think at the same time…

The first crack appeared last summer at ALA when I tried Twitter via a cheap Virgin Mobile prepay cell phone with a tiny QWERTY keyboard. Twitter didn’t do it for me (by the way, for those of you continuing to sign up to follow me: I’m not there–but Twitter doesn’t actually allow you to leave)–but the cheaper cell phone made sense if I needed to call home. Since that was the conference where I wound up spending a night in DFW’s American terminal, it was just as well. (And I’ll have the same phone with me in Philadelphia, usually turned off…)

Actually, though, the first crack appeared maybe three (or four) years ago. I picked up a $15 portable CD player to try on a couple of speaking trips, thinking it might be nice to have music in the airport waiting lounges or if I needed cheering up in the hotel. (Actually, it was a $25 player, since I immediately replaced the crappy earbuds with adequate $10 Sony half-in-ear earclip units.) Mixed results: Yes, I liked having music once in a while–but the CD player, little coin purse for the headphones, and wallet full of CDs was a little bulky–particularly since I’d use it for maybe 2-4 hours on any given trip.

Meanwhile, I’d digitized my CD collection–twice. First at 196Kbps, then at 320K, since I found even 196K MP3 tiring after 15-20 minutes. I’ve burned loads of compilation CDs over the past five or six years…

I’d been following reviews of portable MP3 players for a while. I knew the issues with hard disks. I knew that most players come with poor earbuds but already had a decent set of replacements. And I knew which brands had decent reputations for value and good-quality electronics.

So when Office Depot had a sale the week before Christmas on a unit from a brand I recognized, that seemed to meet my basic criteria, from a series that had gotten decent reviews and at a price that was too low to quibble over, I pounced.

No, it’s not an iPod. Why would you even ask? I didn’t plan to spend $100 or more, I don’t plan to watch videos, I don’t use iTunes…

It’s a SanDisk Sansa Express 2GB player–basically a slightly oversized, fairly thick USB Flash Drive. 3.1 by 0.9 by 0.7 (at thickest) to 0.4 inches, maybe two ounces, four-line display (one orange line for battery and current song #, three blue lines for selections), simple control pad. 15-hour lithium rechargeable battery (not apparently replaceable), charges via the same USB 2.0 port you use to transfer music. (Turns out the case is just a little too wide at that end for the front USB ports on my 5.5-year-old Gateway–but SanDisk includes a short USB extender, which works just great. When/if I get a new Gateway, this won’t be an issue.)

Selling points? Well, SanDisk should know something about flash memory, being one of the biggest producers. I knew 2GB was enough for what I wanted, even at 320K–I have about 320 of my favorite songs (pretty much everything I’d want to hear on the road), with about 100Meg to spare. (Yahoo! Jukebox immediately recognized the Sansa–no software install–and handles it flawlessly: Just drag-and-drop, or synchronize if my Jukebox library was small enough.) I wanted flash disk for durability. A small and slightly chunky design suited me better than the thin-and-flat but taller-and-wider designs. And at $49, who could argue with the price?

Of course, it wasn’t really $49. It was really $64–because I don’t travel with a notebook computer, so just in case I use it a lot, it makes sense to add a tiny little AC-to-USB plug ($15 at Fry’s)–which, oddly, is marketed as an iPod accessory, even though (most?) iPods require an adapter cable to use it.

I’ve tried it out with the superb titanium-element over-the-ear headphones I have at home: The sound quality is just fine, comparable to a regular CD player. It has shuffle play, which is how I’ll usually use it–I trimmed my first load of songs a little, so that I’m basically going to enjoy listening carefully to whatever comes up. (That’s less than 10% of what’s in the music library. So it goes.)

I was quite amused to see an announcement of an $80 microphone plugin so you could use an iPod for voice recording. It’s a good idea–but this $49 Sansa already includes voice recording. Haven’t tried it, don’t know whether I’ll ever use it, but (as with most non-Apple MP3 players) it’s there, and integrated into the software. And, as with most others, there’s also an FM tuner, which I might or might not ever use.

I’m not a lanyard person, and I don’t expect to be using this on the exhibit floor or during walks or while reading or dining…but I sure can see using it while waiting for or riding on a plane. Turns out it fits nicely in the little coin purse that holds the Sony headphones, and that just drops in any pocket with not much bulge.

Nothing momentous here. Love your iPod? More power to you; so do my brother and sister-in-law and millions of other people. This just suited my own needs better. (Oh, and if I ever do decide that 2GB isn’t enough…well, there’s a microSD slot on the Sansa Express also, so I could upgrade to 4GB for, what, $20 more–or have several loaded 2GB microSD cards.)

Hmm. I’ve got 100MB left. I don’t do well with podcasts at home but there’s at least two Uncontrolled Vocabulary episodes I’d really like to hear. Maybe I’ll load them and see whether Midwinter allows enough downtime…

Living in paradise

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Living it up in the Hotel California…

No snow (well, probably on the hilltops nearby). No ice (around here, at least).

Also no power…intermittently this morning, then for three solid hours. Now it’s back. For the moment.

Something about 50+ MPH winds, driving rain, and PG&E’s usual tendency to have lots of power losses at the start of a storm system…with, cross fingers, fewer later on.

You find out very quickly that a five-year-old Uninterruptible Power Supply is essentially a noisemaker, beeping as the computer shuts down as soon as there’s power loss. And, for when you replace the UPS or the battery, you think about the desirability of having the display, PC, and DSL/router/wifi all plugged into it. (Which, with the old UPS and my older CRT, was an overload. With an LCD, maybe not. And, maybe, with a more powerful contemporary UPS.)

You learn to reply to emails very tersely so your post gets sent before it gets lost…

And, on days (or mornings at least) when you don’t really want to drive out to a store that might not be open anyway, you appreciate knowing that–if need be–you’ve got an earthquake kit with a reasonable supply of food (and water, and…)

Mountain View really is a wonderful place to live–and maybe the general lack of weather is one reason we don’t have undergrounded/ruggedized electricity. I couldn’t cope with ice and snow. Lack of electricity–yeah, for a while, we can cope. Although I’m hoping it stays on now…reading by natural overcast light is great, but only goes so far.

Update: Friday was the worst of it–the even larger storms either didn’t materialize or moved elsewhere. Some tens of thousands of PG&E customers on the ocean side of the Peninsula still lack power. Turns out our local Safeway (.7 miles away) didn’t lose power–but the other two Mountain View Safeways, much further away, did. Meanwhile, Saturday was rain & tstorms now and then, but not high winds; Sunday was partly sunny…

I’ll say this for the local press: They’re calling this “the storm of every couple of years,” not hyping it…

If you’re going to Anaheim..

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

A word to the wise:

Housing reservations online for ALA Annual opened today.

I just finished making reservations. And got, oh, maybe my 15th choice of place–the others being waitlisted, already full, or only suite/concierge availability.

(It will probably turn out to be a decent choice for someone with a sense of humor…never thought I’d be staying at a mid-level Disneyland Resort hotel for ALA, though. Not a “good neighbor”–a Disney property.)

A more important word to the wise:

Some of the distance indicators on the online search-response form are just plain wrong. In one case, the form shows half a block and the hotel’s own website says “2 miles.” I’ve never heard of a hotel overstating its distance from a convention center… (Too bad. Otherwise, that hotel looks like an interesting choice.)

Cites & Insights 8:1 now available

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

For perhaps the first time, the January issue that begins a new volume of Cites & Insights is available in…January.

Cites & Insights 8:1 (January 2008) is now available for downloadingThe 30-page issue (PDF as always, but HTML separates for each essay are also available) includes:

Cites & Insights Books at ( now offers these volumes in paperback form, $29.50 each, with a bonus in each case (and full-color cover photos). The bonus for Volume 7 is Cites on a Plane, the phantom issue from January 2007. For Volume 6, it’s a brief preface including “where are they now?” notes on liblogs studied in 2005 and 2006 that have either moved, changed names or apparently gone silent.

Some thoughts after a few weeks working on the PALINET Leadership Network, including my current take on “Who’s a leader?”

A full year after the previous coverage of Open Content Alliance and Google Book Search, it’s time for some updates, but also a quick retrospective of C&I coverage of these projects.

Does “everybody” actually use Netflix? Have we all become upper middle class? Is there some limit to disposable income–and are some of us disposing of income we don’t really have? Some thoughts on ubiquity and reality.

Next month? Maybe back to “normal,” whatever that might be–and maybe, just maybe, the academic library companion to Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples.

One small New Year’s Resolution (thanks, Dorothea)

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. But sometimes an exception makes sense.

This is one such time.

Dorothea Salo at CavLec posted about an odd but growing phenomenon: Pseudo-personal email to bloggers touting specific items or studies with the suggestion that, you know, the blogger might want to write about it.

Quoting a bit of her post about the email she got:

It addressed me specifically. It indicated more or less how my name came up and why I was chosen. No quid pro quo, not even wink-wink-nudge-nudge style. No arrogance. Really nicely done.

And it still bugs the crap out of me. I’m sorry, it just does.

One of the nice things about using blogs as a professional filter is the confidence I had that I was following people’s genuine interests, influenced by no more than their own curiosity and intelligence and the environment they exist in and interact with. These weren’t, in a word, people who were being told what to think, much less paid to think it. They weren’t being filtered, in turn, by any particular establishment, no matter how well-meaning, much less a vendor or other organization with enough dogs in the hunt to create actual bias. That’s useful, that is.

And now I don’t know how far I can trust the filter any more, and that’s a loss to me.

I wasn’t a recipient of email in the instance Salo discusses. (I dunno. Maybe I’m too small a fry. Maybe I’m not known to be sufficiently adulatory or uncritical about the work of a particular group. Us lackluster veterans can be that way.) As it happens, the item being discussed is one that I’ve printed out (yes, the full study, not the press release) and may discuss later here or in Cites & Insights at some point. If I do discuss it, that will be on its own merits, not because someone I don’t know sent me email suggesting I blog about it.

First reaction:

I think her solution makes a certain amount of sense: “Here’s the deal. I value my bloggy independence, as I have from the very beginnings of CavLec, and I’m ornery as a kicked mule. If you push me to read and talk about something you have a direct interest in, not because you think it’s useful to me, and not because you intend to put my input to some sort of practical use (as with, say, a standards draft), but because you want to create buzz? To hell with you. I won’t just not read or review it, I’ll be more than a little tempted to call you out in public.”

But it’s not my problem–I’m not high enough profile to get that kind of email.

Second reaction, just a little bit later:

Whoops. I just got email (from some entirely different source, but also from someone who seemed to be addressing me personally, who I didn’t know) praising what I do (it wasn’t clear whether it was this blog or C&I) and suggesting that I really should investigate and write about this library-oriented thing they were involved with. Since it was totally outside the areas I cover (and in an area where I’m at a loss), I wrote a gentle reply saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

So, yes, it is my problem–and now that I think about it, that’s not the first time this has happened.

And then, on my morning blogscan (I thought about watching the Rose Parade and decided…nah), I got Salo’s followup post, beginning:

So, not a day after I ask the hypesters to leave my damn blogosphere the hell alone, I get another tout email. Do you morons not read? (Yes, okay, that one answers itself.)

Here’s my new policy. I’m publishing any of those I get. Sans links. With names. Call it my little gesture toward turning over the rock and watching the little grubs squirm.

You know what? I think it’s a reasonable policy. And I resolve to emulate it when I think I’m being hyped: You get identified, but what you’re touting gets soundly ignored.

Doesn’t happen to me very often (that I’m aware of). Press releases are impersonal–also usually a waste of time, but impersonal; those I just delete. Contacts from PR agents (“we can set up an interview”) are mostly related to the print column(s) I write (yes, I’m back in ONLINE this year, so it’s plural); they fall under a different set of guidelines (and are almost always wastes of the agent’s time).

But email directed to me personally, from someone I’ve never met and don’t know professionally, touting something as blogworthy…well, if it feels like hype, then selective exposure makes sense.

As with Dorothea Salo, I trust bloggers–at least some bloggers–as filters of sorts. Hype email reduces that trust. Not a good thing.

Oh, as for Cites & Insights, where the January issue for a new year did not emerge (gasp) during the previous December? Later today…or at least that’s 99% certain.

Update, January 8, 2008: Jenny Levine makes some excellent points in the comments (which see). It’s possible–not certain, but possible–that Dorothea Salo’s view of what constitutes “hype email” differs from mine. And I don’t anticipate doing loads of posts “outing” people for sending me email suggesting that I look into something. (Well, it would certainly improve my posting frequency, but…)

So here’s what I’m really trying to say–and this applies to me, not to Salo or anyone else:

  • Want to send me PR information labeled as such? Fine. Do be aware that I’m not much for doing insider interviews (especially for my “disContent” column, where being an outsider is what it’s all about). If you’re generally far outside my range of interests, I’ll let you know; otherwise, I’ll either delete the PR or pay attention to it.
  • You’re an actual, honest-to-Gaia, friend or acquaintance and have a head’s-up for me that you’re pretty sure is something I’d like to know about? Great. If I remember, I might even mention you if/when I write about it.
  • You’re not an acquaintance or friend, but you want me to view your “tip” as one coming to me personally, rather than as regular PR? Then, well, there’s a chance that I’ll be sufficiently offended to “out” you.

Or not. For some reason I hear the refrain “life is too short” more and more in the back of my head these days, even though I hope to have another three good decades…