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 Telnet, on the other hand, was a an old dos-based access system that has been outdated for a long time.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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

All hail Michael Dell!

Well, at least photographic archivists and scholars should hail him. He bought the print archive from Magnum, spending a lot of money, rumored over 100 million for almost 200,000 prints, and instead of burying them in a distant mine with a few people to scan orders, they're at the Ransom Center, on loan.

We're talking about the first great agency run by the photographers themselves, people like Cartier-Bresson, Danny Lyons, Capa, and almost a hundred more. Some of the famous photos are there, from D-Day on, but also some of the lesser known ones that will shed light on the photographers. It will be an accessible study collection, so students and others can actually see the great prints and the lesser ones that are no less important to scholars.

So take that, He Who Will Not Be Mentioned Because He's Had Enough Press Space! Thank you Michael Dell, for thinking of preserving them and making them accessible, instead of hiding and hoarding them for the chance of making even more money.

We thank you!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Our new resource on Kentucky Women Artists

We are proud to announce the debut of Kentucky Women Artists, a site
listing 300 women born before 1950 who were born or had strong ties to
the state.

The biographies list exhibits, works, links, teachers and students,
archival and bibliographic sources, and essays. The site also has
lesson plans, background for teachers, and a bibliography.

Contributions and corrections are welcome.

This project was funded by a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women.

Please take a look and feel free to link to the site.

Susan Knoer and Betty Lyn Parker

You may want to look at our other sites:

Humanities for Librarians, a list of free academic sites

Master Plans, a list of calls for papers and announcements for librarians

Library and Archival Resources, a list of preservation, archives, publications, and useful links