Uncontrolled Vocabulary: Another one down (at least for now)

Greg Schwartz just announced that Uncontrolled Vocabulary, the “weekly live interactive roundtable discussion of all things library,” is on hiatus. The eloquent post offers reasons why (a matter of family priorities) and how difficult it is to take the step.

It’s not a decision I make lightly and it in no way reflects my enthusiasm for what we do here. I love producing this program. I love the conversations. I love the people who’ve joined me on this journey. I know some of them will be genuinely disappointed. For this, I am sorry.

…Please understand that the problem for me is not so much the hosting of the show, which is only an hour of my time per week. It’s the never-ending involvement: the slave-like attention to my feed reader, the setting up of blog posts, the reading and re-reading of proposed conversation starters. All worthwhile activites that I enjoy, but that require a certain constant level of engagement which forces me to make compromises with the rest of my priorities. I’m making a conscious decision to not make those compromises anymore.

So far, it’s only on hiatus–but a “permanent vacation” is a possibility.

Great work (from everything I’ve heard)

True confession: I’ve never participated in a UV episode (there have been 71 to date)–and I’ve only listened to one of them all the way through.

That’s my loss. I’m just not a podcast person–even less so now that my daily commute is from the dining room to my office, maybe 25 feet. (But even when I was working, it was only a 10-15 minute commute–and I think I’d find something like UV too distracting for that commute.) Since I wasn’t a listener, it never made much sense to be a participant (and I tend not to do any professional stuff after dinner).

But I’ve heard enough, from people I trust, to know that UV was great stuff–lively, interesting, informative, with a diverse range of perspectives. The one episode I did listen to made me want more, just not enough to find the time for it.

The profession definitely owes Greg thanks for what he’s done to date–and, to be sure, for the earlier Carnival of the Infosciences.

This stuff is hard (and not always very rewarding)

There have been a number of unique, passion-driven experiments in non-institutional, freely available  “periodical media” serving the library field–making a distinction between things that appear on a fairly regular basis and the hundreds of blogs and other wholly irregular sources. (If you think I’m putting down liblogs, you really don’t read my stuff much: I’m making a distinction, not a value judgment.)

A few examples (excluding peer-reviewed OA journals) and what’s become of them:

  • ExLibris, Marylaine Block’s weekly essay, which lasted more than 300 editions. It eventually became less-than-weekly. Block gave up on it in 2008, but continues to maintain the archive.
  • NewBreed Librarian, “a publication and web site intended to foster a sense of community for those new to librarianship, whether in school or just out.” The bimonthly “webzine,” heavy on graphic design, began in February 2001–and ended in August 2002.
  • Library Juice “was an irregular, weekly, then biweekly, then, for a moment, monthly electronic zine for librarians, library and information science students, and other interested people, published between January, 1998 and August, 2005.” Rory Litwin, who produced the zine throughout its eight-year life, resurrected the name as a blog, a book and a book publishing company. I’m not aware of any archive of the many zine issues.
  • Carnival of the Infosciences, while technically a series of blog posts, falls into this category, with the interesting twist that it had many direct hosts during its 90-issue life (August 2005 to May 2008). While the link here yields pointers to the first 57 editions, the wiki hasn’t been kept up to date; you’ll have to search a little to get the remaining 33 editions. Update: Schwartz notes that links to the latter half of the Carnivals are here; I just missed them.
  • Free Open Scholarship Newsletter, a monthly launched by Peter Suber in March 2001 to support “free online scholarship,” is a survivor–in part because SPARC took it over, sponsors it (Peter Suber is now a senior researcher at SPARC, among other things) and renamed it SPARC Open Access Newsletter in July 2003.
  • Current Cites, a team effort providing “8-12 annotated citations” of current library literature each month, is also a survivor and by far the longest-lived of any of these efforts, since it began in August 1990.
  • Added 2/25: LLRX.com, “Law and technology resources for legal professionals” (most definitely including law librarians) is a monthly collection of articles and columns (in a way, it’s an overlay journal) that Sabrina I. Pacifici has been doing since 1997. It has advertising and is a strong survivor. As noted on the “About” page, “LLRX is now in its 12th year of continuous publication, as a solo, independent enterprise.”
  • Cites & Insights, my own experiment in this field, began in December 2000 and has appeared at least monthly ever since. I no longer consider it an experiment. It does have modest sponsorship. And, frankly, if I was still fully employed and had a better sense of balance, free time and priorities…well, I’m not sure C&I would be around.

And now another one’s gone, at least temporarily. I didn’t use “unique” in the phrase “unique, passion-driven experiments” because I’m a sloppy writer–I used it because it’s true. Each of these (and probably others I’ve forgotten or somehow missed) has had its own strengths, weaknesses and approach. Each has served the library field well (in my opinion).

And most have, I suspect, been underappreciated and under-rewarded relative to the direct work and indirect effort that’s gone into them. As gray literature (and I’ll include podcasts as literature), they’re mostly ignored by indexing services and other “official” resources. Nobody got rich from advertising on any of these. In most cases, I think the creators have needed a little craziness to keep things going.

So, Greg, you’ve done good work–and made what’s undoubtedly the right decision. Hope things work out.

5 Responses to “Uncontrolled Vocabulary: Another one down (at least for now)”

  1. Thanks so much for the kind words. Your use of the word “eloquent” with regard to the post made my day, a day that has seen many kind things said by many amazing people.

    I did want to point out that, if you are seeking links to the latter half of the Carnival run, you’ll find them on the front page of the wiki: http://infosciences.pbwiki.com/

    Again, my sincere thanks for the positive remarks.

  2. I miss the Carnival, but I could have hosted more so partly my fault 🙁
    I would almost put LIS News in this category for things that serve this audience that keep going, oh, and LLRX. That’s sort of in this category, no?

  3. walt says:

    Christina: LISNews is very different, as a portal; it’s not a periodical medium. It’s valuable, but it’s different.

    I had, in fact, omitted LLRX.com, and that is in this category. Sabrina Pacifici has made this work for 12 years now, and it continues to be a real service to the law library segment (and beyond).

    Greg: You’re welcome.

    I’ve updated the post to add LLRX.com and the link to the newer Carnivals.

  4. Walt, LISNews is but one portal. LISFeeds.com is back up and running. Right now I am still figuring out how to adjust the “planet” back-end to embed show players. Beyond that, it aggregates some sample podcast feeds so that one doesn’t have to make a big investment like downloading iTunes or Juice.

    With the launch of the LISNews Netcast Network, frankly we’re trying to do regular radio in a newsreel distribution system. In conjunction with the two other program producers we are trying to produce periodized content that isn’t textual. The team’s content is hosted on LISNews but could theoretically be hosted elsewhere if we wanted to manage that hassle.

  5. walt says:

    But LISFeeds has no original content–it’s purely an aggregator, right? So I don’t consider that comparable. (Not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s not comparable to Library Stuff, ExLibris, Cites & Insights, etc.)