Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

Making Book 7: Marc for Library Use, Second Edition

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Shortly after G.K. Hall purchased the Professional Librarian Series from Knowledge Industry, the series editor asked me whether the time was ripe for a revised version of MARC for Library Use, which was still selling reasonably well. I responded that the completion of format integration (moving from a group of format-specific MARC formats to one integrated USMARC format) would be a good time to do that.

To some extent, a secondary motivation for the original book was to promote the idea of format integration. RLG staff began preparing proposals for such integration in 1984 and worked with others (at OCLC, LC and elsewhere) to refine those proposals over the years. The proposals were turned into reality during the MARBI sessions at Midwinter and Annual 1988—but, after having worked on the proposals for years, I was not at those two MARBI sessions. Because of changes in my position at RLG and other factors, I declined reappointment to MARBI for 1987-89 and moved from being an active participant to an interested observer.

Thus the subtitle of the second edition: Understanding Integrated USMARC. I refreshed and updated the earlier material—and also added occurrence tables for commonly-used fields in each material type, based on the test runs done for Bibliographic Displays in the Online Catalog and a new test run of over 600,000 records done in August 1988.

In addition to extensive updates and refinement, the second edition also added a chapter on format integration and a chapter on nonroman text (with samples from RLG cataloging, since RLG was a leader in establishing nonroman character sets, eventually working with a number of companies to establish UNICODE).

I’m guessing that most of you (if there are many of you!) who’ve seen or used MARC for Library Use used this edition—a 6″ x 9″ 358-page book (hardcover and paperback). It appeared in 1989. It did very well.

A note on production: While I’m pretty sure I produced camera-ready copy for some of my earlier books, I’m 100% certain of that in this case: there’s a colophon on the last page. It was set in Zapf Calligraphic, an updated version of Palatino designed by Hermann Zapf (who designed Palatino) for Bitstream as one of a series optimized for digital typography. Except for a few figures (added later), I prepared all pages using Ventura Publisher and an HP LaserJet Series II printer. (In some ways, I miss Ventura Publisher—but it didn’t play well with Windows, especially after Corel took it over. I do not miss the brutally expensive HP LaserJet, which ran hot and noisy, but it produced high-quality typography at a time when that was difficult to do on a budget.)

Crawford, Walt. MARC for Library Use, Second Edition: Understanding Integrated USMARC. Professional Librarian Series. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1989. ISBN 0-8161-1887-6. ISBN 0-8161-1889-2 (pbk.)

Making Book 2: Technical Standards

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Until I read the final page of MARC for Library Use (while preparing the first in this series of memoirish posts), I’d forgotten that KIPI contracted for another book even before the first one was publicly available.

That book was Technical Standards: An Introduction for Librarians. It appeared in 1986—a 299-page 6″ x 9″ hardcover and paperback. (That’s actually about the same length as MARC for Library Use, around 100,000 words in each case: more smaller pages.)


For reasons that still escape me, the first ALA or LITA committee I was formally involved in was TESLA, the Technical Standards for Library Automation Committee, originally part of ISAD (Information Science and Automation Division, which changed its name to LITA). I started attending the meetings in 1976, and served as a committee member from 1978 through 1982 (chairing the committee from 1980 to 1981).

Beyond that, my formal involvement in technical standards was pretty minimal (until somewhat later, when I agreed to be the founding editor for NISO’s new ISQ, Information Standards Quarterly, which I did from 1989 through 1991). For a while, I was RLG’s “alternate representative” to NISO (the National Information Standards Organization, Z39, which did and does prepare technical standards in library and related areas—it’s an accredited ANSI standardization organization)—but that didn’t mean much, because RLG’s primary representative, Wayne Davison, who was very active in NISO. (RLG had a long history of supporting technical standards; it was also a founding member of the Unicode Consortium.)

I had, however, published articles on technical standards—one in Library Trends in 1982 and another, a column arguing against a proposed standard (a Standard Library Patron ID), in LITA Newsletter in 1985—but by then I was also working on this book.


Sandra K. Paul’s foreword to the book begins “Standards aren’t sexy.” True enough, which may be why there wasn’t much in the way of approachable literature explaining technical standards—especially from a librarian’s perspective, as opposed to that of a scientist or engineer. With encouragement from some key people, I tried to improve that situation.

RLG helped by permitting me to use a wonderful anecdote about precision and technical standards—although it wasn’t so wonderful at the time. RLG used to produce millions of catalog cards—remember, this was the early 1980s! In 1982, RLG moved from an IBM line printer to a Xerox 9700 laser printer, using prepunched sheets of card stock that held four cards each and were guillotined after printing. The people ordering the cards assumed a 3″ x 5″ card size. And RLG members/users started complaining: The cards didn’t fit.

They didn’t fit because the standard for library cards (Z85.1, one of few library-related standards not bearing a Z39 number) didn’t specify 3″ x 5″: it specified 75mm x 125mm, and that’s actually been the size of catalog cards for a very long time. 75mm x 125mm works out to 2.95″ x 4.92″—which means that well-made catalog card drawers wouldn’t quite hold the 3″ x 5″ cards. RLG ordered a new set of card stock and reprinted the faulty cards. It was an expensive lesson, but a useful one.

The book covered quite a few aspects of technical standards in general—among other things, noting the number of technical standards you’re likely to benefit from in a typical day—and considered varieties of “standards” other than formal consensus technical standards, a discussion I continue to view with pride. I discussed motives, implementations, problems, dangers, the standardization process and standards organizations, with some emphasis on NISO. I discussed each Z39 (and Z85) standard in existence at the time and a handful of others.

The book did well—certainly not as well as MARC for Library Use, but well enough that KIPI invited a second (revised) edition down the road. More on that in a later post.

This was another book that required a number of trips over to UC Berkeley, mostly to the Engineering Library with its extensive set of published standards. As always, quite a few people helped with the book—reviewing drafts and providing additional insights.

Crawford, Walt. Technical Standards: An Introduction for Librarians. Professional Librarian Series. White Plains, NY: Knowledge Industry Publications, 1986. ISBN 0-86729-192-3. ISBN 0-86729-191-5 (pbk.)

How Not to Be the Expert

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Some tips for those who really, truly want to avoid becoming known as The Expert on any single topic (or The Guru, or The Obvious Speaking Choice…) while being professionally active.

These tips come from decades of experience.

1. Don’t specialize

You’ve prepared an important article or book or blog post on a significant topic in your field?

Time to try something else!

Delving deeper into that topic, refreshing your work for newer audiences, or—worst of all—showing how that topic applies elsewhere (even if it’s stretching a point): Don’t do that. You’ll wind up on the speaking circuit, in demand, known for your expertise.

Repeat as necessary: If you do important work in two fields, you may still wind up known as The Expert on one or both.

Better to change topics frequently. Mark Lindner owns the phrase “habitually probing generalist,” but that’s the general idea.

2. Don’t broaden your exposure on a single topic

You’ve done that significant piece—call it a book, just for fun.

The obvious next step would be to do a related article, and maybe propose some speeches on the topic.


This is related to Rule 1, but not quite the same. It’s also related to Rule 3:

3. Don’t propose speeches on your topic(s)

If you show up at CIL/IL, Charleston, state library conferences, ALA, ASIST speaking on your topic, you’re likely to become known as The Expert even if you have other topics.

If somebody really wants to hear from you, let them come to you: Don’t go looking for trouble!

4. Don’t go on the speaking circuit

If you’re following Rule 3, you’re halfway there—but if you’ve made the mistake of doing a couple of good speeches or papers on your topic, you may find a stream of speaking invitations coming in.

If you accept as many as you can plausibly handle (and if your workplace favors professional activity), that can wind up being quite a few…maybe to the point where you’re on the speaking circuit.

Set an annual limit. (I used eight trips or ten speeches a year. That seemed to work effectively. Depending on the situation, you might still consider that being on the speaking circuit—four speeches might be a better limit. Don’t worry: If you’re following the other rules, you won’t have to turn down invitations after two or three years—they’ll shrink on their own.)

5. Don’t act as though you’re The Expert

Rule 5 may be key.

The expert makes sure that her knowledge is available for interviews, etc., and pipes up whenever somebody posts or says something related to his topic.

6. Prefer precision to hyperbole

Avoid “all” when the facts say “most” and “most” when the fact say “some.”

Avoid speculation about certain futures when you really don’t have much basis for such speculation.

Never say “inevitable” unless you’re talking about mortality.

Don’t confuse anecdata with studies, and be aware of the limitations of most studies.

7. Avoid the bleeding edge

Focus on topics that need further exploration and explication, rather than the Hot New Topics.

It’s particularly useful to do something deep and comprehensive at roughly the point that an area is becoming irrelevant or obsolescent. (I would say obsolete, but that’s really tough…and you might become the Expert on curiosities of the past.)

If you are compelled to look at The New, try to make it something people don’t really care much about.

8. Be an introvert

This is a valuable addition to all of the tips above; it will help you to avoid the spotlight.

Where are #9 and #10?

To be a proper listicle, this post needs to have at least 10 items.

A proper expert would always find a couple more things to say, if only by repeating an earlier rule with slight rewording.

But, what the hey…

9. Don’t create or promulgate infographics

What more need be said?

10. Understand your data, and make sure your readers get plenty of it

Numbers! Librarians love numbers! You can never have too many numbers!


These rules have stood me in good stead, as evidenced by the fact that, after 16 (or so) professionally published books, half a dozen (more than that) self-published books and several hundred articles and columns, I am the recognized Expert on…nothing.


Maybe, possibly, Gaia willing and the creeks don’t rise: A multipart discussion of how some books (all on topics about which I am not The Expert) came to be written.

Unless, of course, I decide to read Crime & Punishment instead. (Then again, maybe not…)

Dear Fed: Why do you hate us (and other savers) so much?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

This is a serious post. Probably the most serious I’ll post all year.

My wife and I did what we were told we should do. We saved our money. We lived less considerably below our means so that we could save our money.

Now we’re retired (somewhat earlier than planned, through no fault of our own, but never mind…)

And now the Fed is essentially saying “Screw you. We hate savers. You are required to invest and borrow. Saving is for idiots.”

Which is to say: We can’t get decent rates on CDs or other guaranteed savings–because the Fed plans to keep interest rates at essentially zero for what sounds like pretty much forever.

Would we be happy to get interest rates equal to inflation? Not really–but I don’t even believe we can count on doing that at this point.

We don’t much like risk. We spent less money–a lot less money–so we wouldn’t have to cope with risk.

That apparently offends the Fed.

As far as I can tell, the methodology being used by the Fed basically enriches Wall Street, as it forces more people to invest regardless. It’s doing a pretty good job for bankers, too. Basically, those who were already getting richer are getting even richer.

I don’t believe it’s bringing lots of people back to work. Companies that can borrow at no interest seem to keep enriching their owners, managers and shareholders, and hiring the absolute minimum number of workers they can. (If zero-interest loans were only for small businesses, which create most new jobs, that would be different.)

But for us and, I believe, a few millions or tens of millions of other people, it looks like direct punishment for not being massively in debt and for not being gamblers: Making sure that we can’t earn decent return on savings.

And I think it stinks.

I forgot to add this crucial point:

If we could get decent rates on savings, we’d spend more.

As it is, fear of long-term major issues and knowledge that we’re getting crap on our savings–and that it’s likely to get worse, not better–is keeping our optional spending lower than it should be.

The public library benefit scene in 2010: inCompleat Give Us, an FAQ

Friday, September 13th, 2013


What is it?

The most complete book I know of to understand public library funding and service data in FY2010–more complete and detailed than the more recent $4 to $1. The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, a 433-page 8.5″ x 11″ paperback, combines the text and tables from Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four with all of the commentary added in Cites & Insights–and all of the graphs in Graphing Public Library Benefits that work in a black-and-white publication.

That’s why it’s inCompleat: It’s lacking some multicolor line graphs that don’t make sense when rendered in grayscale.

Who should find this worthwhile?

Libraries serving library schools, for one.

Some larger public libraries.

State library associations.

Some library consultants.

A few librarians who want a fairly detailed understanding of the situation.

How is it available?

The paperback version costs $26.99 plus shipping from Lulu.

There is no ebook version.

While there are sales to justify availability, The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 1: Libraries by Size includes all but Chapter 21 (libraries by state) and also includes all of the multicolor line graphs. The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 2: Libraries by State directly replicates Chapter 21 of The Incompleat… but in 6″ x 9″ PDF page images. Both ebooks are $9.99; both are also available in site-license versions ($39.99 and $34.99 respectively).

Will the book get cheaper over time?

No, but it will disappear when there are no sales.

Will it be replaced with a newer version?

No. The “newer version” already exists ($4 to $1…), but it doesn’t replace this because it discusses fewer measures and breaks libraries down into fewer groups in order to attain a reasonable length.

68 by 68?

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

I hadn’t thought about it, but it might not have seemed an unreasonable goal:

68 by 68.

That is, 68 sales of new/recent Cites & Insights Books by the time I turn 68 (coming very soon now). Let’s say, 68 starting either August 26 (when the new books were announced) or, heck, August 1. After all, enough people had committed money in advance to account for somewhere between 17 and 36 sold copies right off the bat…

Barring miracles, that goal seems highly unlikely.

How about $68 by 68–that is, enough sales to generate $68 in net revenue, starting August 26?

Well, I’m about a third of the way there.

The good news: I’ll definitely have enough net revenue to pay for my own dinner on my birthday. Since we’re going to Campo di Bocce, a restaurant I like quite a bit…that offers free dinner on your birthday. I think there’s even enough net revenue to cover the 20% tip on what the dinner would have cost. Maybe.

Oh, and Blake? Yes, I’ve updated to 3.6.1.

Silence, partial or full

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

There might not be any posts here for a few days, quite possibly not until September 10.

There are some things I care about that seem to have gone into a total stall, and I suspect my best course is to try to ignore them and definitely not talk about them. (Nothing health-related, marriage-related or otherwise real-world seriously important!)

So: I’m still around, I’m reasonably healthy, I’m even working on an essay now and then. And that’s about it.


Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Apparently “I” just sent email to 192 people inviting them to view my book recommendations on goodread.


I finally decided to join goodread, both to see what’s being said about my own books (what? you wouldn’t do that? really?) and maybe eventually to store book notes & recommendations. Or not.

As I read the description of the function, I thought it was using my Gmail contacts to build a set of “your friends recommends” items to me. I guess I needed to read it more carefully: It was actually sending out canned email to all of them. Which I would have never done if I realized what was happening.

Again, sorry.


Monday, August 19th, 2013

Maybe that’s all I need to say. The $4 to $1 campaign failed. Big time.

Thanks to the 18 folks who supported it. (I thanked each one by email when the pledge came in. I may do another email round later.)

I might do a post mortem later on. I might not. It’s a Monday sort of Monday.

On a completely different topic:

What the *B(#^ is it about infographics that causes people to take “facts” seriously even when there are no sources given and the “facts” are wildly improbable? There’s an “awful facts about reading” infographic making the rounds that has no sources, includes wildly improbable “facts” that are refuted by, well, every other survey that’s been done–and turn out to be based on a ten-year-old statement from some group I’ve never heard of that, itself, doesn’t really provide sources. But hey, it’s an infographic: It Must Be Taken Seriously. Arggh…

Or does this mean that I should scrap $4 to $1 and turn it into a series of, what, 400 infographics, so that it’s taken seriously?

Go read this.

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Dorothea Salo has a new article out in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication.

You should read it, especially if:

  • You care about open access
  • You care about scholarly communication in academic institutions
  • You would like to see a healthy future for scholarly communication and for scholars, including independent scholars
  • [This bullet removed as, well, a spoiler for those who don’t read thoughtfully.]

The title: “How to Scuttle a Scholarly Communication Initiative.”

The remarkable thing about this article is that it appears to have been used as a blueprint by any number of institutions before it was published.

One consequence of Salo’s article: My planned article-in-installments, “How not to be the expert,” a series of autobiographical musings, may be postponed indefinitely. Once you’ve seen a master at work, it’s easy to recognize one’s own limitations. But that’s me. For you: Go read it. Now.