Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Connecting with Collections - and disasters!

I've done three sessions at the Kentucky "Connecting with Collections" disaster workshops, and thought I'd share a link to my slides and notes. Doesn't seem like we'll run out of disasters anytime soon! But it looks like money is in much shorter supply everywhere, so think seriously about partnering with other cultural institutions. Your silo is of no help when it blows away!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring is here!

It's not that I haven't been writing, I've been WRITING. And proofing and on and on. It should be out late this spring - The Reference Interview Today, from Libraries Unlimited. A how-to guide for the beginner at the desk.

I've been keeping up the rolling list over at Master Plans, too. http://masterplansinc.blogspot.com/

Keep an eye out over there, soon we'll be running online on-demand workshops and classes. Many of us have seen our travel budgets disappear, so we figure it's time to go 2.0 completely. Early ones will be on disaster planning and business continuity, which seems to be timely right now.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why we don't publish

That's a royal (or editorial) "we". Books, okay, they take while (an always longer than we planned), but what's the deal with journals? I get that peer review takes time, but it shouldn't take as much as it does.

While I was updating the rolling list I keep on my other blog ( http://masterplansinc.blogspot.com/) today, I kept noticing that there was a year or more lag with journals. A year? For a hot topics/2.0 article is a very very long time. I get that we do it for tenure purposes, but let's get real - is it if any use to anyone else? Doesn't a blog post today contribute more to the profession than an outdated article next year?

So we have the odd circumstance of publishing twice - once to get the news out there, and once to get "extra credit". Sure, I'm not doing this post in an academic style, and I'm not spending anything on the distribution method, but does that make it (theoretically, at least) any less valuable to the profession, because it's fresh and new and not aged in oak?

I also noticed that a lot of well respected folks in the information professions blog. It's not just the young or new who are impatient with the traditional processes. So why do we bow to old academic traditions? Not even all the academics do - being the first with an idea is much more valuable than the first to print is more important in the world of patentable ideas, like engineering and physics.

So where do we fall, and why do we fall there? If we're supposed to be the cutting edge of information distribution, why are we on the cutting room floor?

It's not true of all of us, I know, and all props to the people who are supporting online journals and open access. They are the leader we should be looking at, not the publish or perish world. If we can't lead, maybe we shouldn't be on the dance floor, either.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Digitization in the NYT

I'm glad Harvard is willing to take on the task, forseeing OCLC's passing, but I'd rather see someone take on printing all the scanned stuff onto microfilm for permanent preservation (who is left with deep pockets and no pet project...can you say Facebook? I knew you could.) Intellectual access to something that has no physical access is useless, and it's scary how many institutions have lost files. (Can you say hot backup? Come on, try...)


In a related thread, the Chronicle has a fiery debate about Wikipedia. Personally, I'm fond of the person who assigned annotations as a class project, on the "better to light a candle than cuss" theory. I'd prefer the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy model, but I can't afford a server either, so I"ll be happy with the guys who are doing the "portal" work for Wikipedia. It can work, it's just messy and slow, like life.



But the reality is that we have no national library (LC is not), no permanent agency, and no tax base (except NY state). There's a lot that KB can do because it has a big stick that's not available to us, so we need to accept that we're not going to be the leaders in this race.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

They're BAAaaccckkk...Drake and Eskind's photography database

Hoorah! I'm sure I'm not the only one who has missed the Eastman House database, but it's back, enlarged and expanded, and it doesn't require telnet. If you don't know about this database, it's a database of image homes, biographies, histories, and exhibits. Telnet, on the other hand, was a an old dos-based access system that has been outdated for a long time.

It's not exactly intuitive, not much more than the telnet version was, but it only takes a few minutes to get the hang of it. It's not Google, but it's not supposed to be, either. It's a great tool for photographic researchers, and I hope that galleries and photographers will add to it and make it even more useful.

Kudos to Greg and Andy, for rescuing and expanding this!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Still more silos

Over at Off the Shelf, leala talks about digital asset managers, and how librarians and archivists are reinventing the wheel.

She's right, but doesn't take it far enough. It's not just DAM that others have been doing longer and better, how about records management? Talk to anyone in a regulated business - banking, stocks, medical care - and they'll be astonished that we don't know about systems they've been using for years.

How about project management? We never mention it in LIS schools, but we do a lot of it, mostly badly. Yet there's tons of expertise from big businesses to small construction firms.

But we own cataloging, right? Not at all, look at anyone else's catalog, from Amazon to Zappo's shoes. Better interface, better database, better metadata. Yes, they do put money into it, but don't we sink a lot into out catalogs and systems, too? And do they work as well?

Some years ago, I took on a large photo collection that had been neglected for 15 years, full of duplicate images and numerous captions for each image. A nightmare, but being young and foolish, I took it on. I drew up a workflow chart, like I did for building rehab (gotta make decisions about wiring before you plaster, decide where the kitchen will be before you plumb) and got it done in a year with two workstudy students. It was all in the planning and analysis, not one person starting at one end and going linearly until he retired, but three working simultaneously. The archivists were astonished - guess no one had worked construction. Or retail, where you plan your floor before you put out merchandise.

There are a lot of skills lacking in LIS programs, but prevalent in the "real world". Maybe we all should spend time there before going for out degree. Or listen to our fathers and mothers, who have done the same thing with different stuff.

It's very likely that instead of a second subject MA, we need a complementary MA - business, IT, something that will give us the vocabulary and knowledge to find what we need, outside the library.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Are references outdated?

This week there was a thread on the LIS students list bemoaning the fact that the public library only gave dates-worked references, and that employees were not allowed to do even that. One said that her library sent automated responses from HR for reference requests. How were they supposed to get responsive references when library policies forbid them?

A former student contacted me this week and asked if he could use me as a reference. I agreed, he's a thoughtful person, a good communicator, and willing to take on responsibilities. But I've never met him - I teach online. What's he like to work with? I can't really say, from experience. Terrific, I envision, but I can't say from experience.

That cuts both ways. I'm teaching in the LIS program again this year, for my fourth year. I've never met my boss, the assistant director, although I did take a class from him - online.

I have worked in two physical libraries. Both of my dept heads retired with the position being eliminated, leaving me to report to the deans, who then retired or moved on and left long vacancies. I could get references, if I knew where they were ;)

I can see the point of references. I've heard of candidates who looked great on paper, but were aggressive or never came out their offices at their previous job. That would be good to know before the face-to-face is set up. But if you're not going to get that insight, what purpose does the reference serve?

In a world of online classes, employers who fear being sued over a reference, and high turnover in the upper ranks, who can give that personal touch? Is it even reasonable to expect it today?

I don't have the answers. But maybe we should all be asking ourselves the question.