Saturday, March 31, 2007

Of the case for fair use: digital distribution of course materials

I thank everyone who commented on my draft manuscript, On the Case for Fair Use. I incorporated changes that reflected comments I received and appreciate those who took the time to comment. Thanks! Georgia

Friday, March 30, 2007

Future of Scholarly Publishing, a talk by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

I came across this if:book version of a talk by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, founder of Mediacommons, on the Future of Scholarly Publishing. It's an excellent text that recounts the circumstances that led to her creating MediaCommons, so it nicely outlines a very thorough laundry list of the problems with scholarly publishing in the humanities (as these are what led her to create MediaCommons). This is about online peer review and publishing, and publishing that takes advantage of the possibilities of the networked environment.

All this fits incredibly well into two meetings I had today at work. The first was about the library's expanding role in supporting faculty dissemination of scholarship; the other was about a joint project between the library and the U.T. Press. Both meetings were very positive and gave me a strong sense of doing something productive at work, beyond what has been asked of me directly. In other words, I love taking initiative and thinking up new ways to inform and enable and I'm very happy to have found a way to do that within the context of a new environment, for me. As I was preparing for these meetings this morning, I remembered that I worked at the Office of General Counsel for over two years before I really started thinking outside the box. It took me that long to figure out what was *in* the box.

I haven't really focused much on my work for the library this semester because the classes have occupied my time and my energy. But they are not quite so satisfying as my classes were last semester, and at least I have the opportunity to look elsewhere for ways to contribute. Ten hours/week does make it a challenge, however. My, how quickly those ten hours pass by.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Following Twitter

Ok, so I read about Twitter during SXSW, but didn't feel like figuring it out just then, but when I read about it above the fold in the paper copy of Financial Times that Robert brings me every morning (God it's heaven working at the Library), well, I realized I better get cracking. So I visited the site, signed up, and waited for some light to go on making it all make sense. Of course, that didn't happen. So I read a few blog entries about what all the hoopla is about (this one on the "Several Habits of Wildly Successful Twitter Users" is a good one, maybe a little more than I needed to know, but, that's ok), and pondered how this might be a good thing. Still nothing.

I chatted with a fellow Library worker, actually, a real live librarian, Lexie, and we both agreed it would be something to look into, maybe like live chat, but you know, it's not really like that. Well, that was that. I turned to other things.

Then, this morning when I logged on, I saw that Tim O'Reilly's RSS headline was "Twitter ETech!" and I followed the link and voila! Suddenly it's making sense. Just reading a couple of entries from the "friends" who are at ETech (O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference 2007 in San Diego) made me smile. I almost felt like I was there. It is funny, fun, informative, and potentially a big time sink... Well, what else have I got to do? Actually, 4 things are due this week, including the maddening crossword puzzle problem, the maddening xml markup project and a french test with written and oral parts. So, I'll keep it running in a Firefox window and check it out from time to time, mainly because, like everything else, there's no better way to learn it than to do it (my mantra as I slog through tedious grad school required courses).

Monday, March 26, 2007

Artificial Intelligence, With Help From the Humans - New York Times

I just read an article that pretty much describes two of my three classes this semester: Artificial Intelligence, With Help From the Humans - New York Times. The article is about a micro-payments market for human intelligence.'s founder Jeff Bezos (pictured, left) thought up one exemplar, Mechanical Turk, and in response to criticisms that it seemed like exploitation, he responded something to the effect of, "hey, it's a market... if people are willing to work for 1/2 cent, what's the problem?" Now, as to how that relates to grad school classes, ironically, I'm paying *them* to make me do exactly the kinds of inane things described in the article. I'm in the midst of two projects that are so tedious as to be insanely boring. And I'm doing this instead of writing papers. Somehow I had different expectations about the nature of research. Counting words, coding xml, calculating average word lengths, validating xml, debugging xml, it's all about as interesting as banging your head against a brick wall.

So if this is what research in the field of information studies is all about, I'm pretty sure I've made one very big mistake. Legal research, which I enjoy tremendously, gave me no insight into this aspect of the genre. Thinking of how I might like to spend my time over the next 3 to 5 years, counting black spaces in crossword puzzles, or anything remotely like counting black spaces in crossword puzzles, isn't on the list. There sure better be some other kind of research or this is not going to work.

Ok, enough complaining. I am sure I'm not the only person who feels this way. I think part of my problem is that I feel such tremendous pressure not to waste time. My mom. Alzheimer's. I'm scared to death of that slipping into incapacity. That's what it comes down to. So I know that there's something valuable to learn from coding xml for an image archive. I know that there's no better way to learn what's involved in constructing automatic classification systems than to try to construct one yourself. But damnit! I'd rather be writing papers and exploring the world of ideas that are more interesting to me in the time I have left on the earth. I just am not interested in automatic classification systems or encoding xml for archival projects. Thank God someone is, but it's not me. I have to find a way to balance this fear of wasting time (in other words, insistent impatience) with the realities that I have a lot to learn and I'm not in a field where I know what's best for me ("Toto, I don't think we're in the law library anymore.") Ok, so I need some patience. It's not like this is the first time I've recognized that. Somehow I have to pull a rabbit out of the hat...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The books done gone...

It is the last day of spring break, the mid-point of the semester, one of those dreamy timeless days, cloudy, moist, spring everywhere, but you can't tell what time it is unless you look at a clock. Dennis heads back to Houston today. I have a list of "must finish" items for school next week, but overall, it's a lazy, beautiful day, if not the sunny one I would have asked for.

I had a lot of time to think about what I want to do with my trip to France, with my research focus over the next 2 to 3 years. That reflective time is in short supply generally. I was talking with Peg the other day about the course lineup that is beginning to take shape for fall and spring for next year. It's entirely composed of research methods courses and research theory. Many of the methods courses involve implementing what you learn by doing small research projects of your own choosing using the methods studied. That should allow me to break down my larger research interests into small pieces that I can use to further the overall goals. I've been very frustrated by the lack of focus on research this semester. Neither of my iSchool classes lends itself to research papers. They are both project-based where the project is entirely defined by the professor. Practical experience is definitely a good thing, it's just that I'm anxious to get on to other things.

Anyway, I've got a lot to accomplish in the next 7 weeks, including making all the arrangements for the France trip. But, once I'm there, it should be a time for relaxation and enjoyment. I'm getting lots of practice reading French. All the information I need about what libraries to visit in France is in French. I found a great report that was published just this year, in January: Construire La Bibliotheque. It's about the architecture and the future, so there's a lot to learn from it about the French view of the future of libraries. The photo above, of the interior of the library at the universitaire du Havre, just blew me away. Most do not make that strong a statement, of course, but they speak nonetheless. I have to choose 3 to visit.

I also have started a list of US libraries I need to visit and chat with those who were or are responsible for their design, about their concepts of the library in 20 years. Here in Austin, we have a central public library that will be built anew starting soon. I can get in on the ground floor, so to speak, of what Austin imagines for its library in 20 years. But on the other hand, the current building was built only about 30 years ago and many have said it was obsolete almost from the start. Will that experience have taught us a lesson, or is it inevitable that we can't plan that far ahead? Is the key going to be merely, "be flexible?" Could it come down to that? I don't think so, because the whole question of the bricks and mortar is on the table. There has to be a vision of what the space will be useful for.

You know, we have buildings on campus that have undergone modest renovation, but are more or less as they were built 100 years ago. Classes need rooms. Departments need offices. Hallways connect classrooms. That's been fairly stable for a long time. But the library. It's all in flux. The big open spaces filled with shelves nearly to the ceilings. Gone with the wind, or in the vernacular, the books done gone.

That reminds me, however, of Brewster Kahle's summary talk at the DeLange conference last week at Rice where he noted that it's now cheaper to print (print on demand) books as needed (he says a buck a book) than to buy, maintain, catalog, shelve, etc. over and over again, a book for lending. Books aren't necessarily going anywhere, well that's not exactly correct either. We may not need to keep copies to lend. That's what's done gone, the lending library's done gone. The research reference books are all online, the novels and such that people want to hold in their hands are print on demand. What's not to like? Hmmm.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

So much for that paper...

Lorcan Dempsey pointed to a paper written by David Lewis, Dean of the IUPUI University Library (A Model for Academic Libraries 2005 - 2025), delivered to an audience in Southern California in late January this year, that pretty much nails everything I was thinking about (and had written about in a preliminary manner last semester for Knowledge Management class). So it seems, as I felt last semester, and as other readings keep confirming, none of my conclusions about what's happening or the likely consequences are new. Folks who have been deeply involved in running libraries for decades have come to the same conclusions. From my perspective, there's little need to say the same thing others are saying ("me too -- what he said"). But if many people, even those in positions to act on their beliefs, are aware of the need to gear up for the inevitable, why is there such complacency, such staggering passivity? Lewis himself points to many of the reasons for inaction in an earlier article where he applied Christensen's "Innovator's Dilemma" teachings to the library, (The Innovator's Dilemma: Disruptive Change and Academic Libraries).

I read Christensen last semester and indeed, his observations were central to my analysis, along with Anderson's "Long Tail." We come to slightly different conclusions about how libraries can escape the inevitable failure that results from too comfortable a focus on one's high-end customers' needs, but all the options are on the table for all to see. There's no mystery about it. Still, as I read over Lewis' suggestions, I could see how counter-intuitive they must feel to those who have been operating within the library culture for most of their adult lives, certainly for the span of their careers. From the outside (i.e, to me), it looks like people are having tea on a railroad track with the locomotive in plain view bearing down on them. I just don't know what to think about it or what to do about it.

I wonder if Christensen's newer works focus more on success stories where large comfy corps actually managed to thrive in creatively destructive environments? More to the point, where are the libraries that are embracing innovative low-end services, displacing old expensive little-uses services (whether their prime customers think that's a good idea or not), repurposing space and funding, retraining staff, etc. (all the things Lewis indicates are needed to get from 2005 to 2025 successfully)? Maybe I need to study actual instances of successful transition rather than just be part of the bell-ringing. There must be big, well-run libraries that are finding their way around the mechanisms that Lewis describes, mechanisms that paralyze in most cases. Enough describing the problems. I sure am not interested in chronicling declines. Maybe I should focus on those who have found solutions, not in theory, but in practice. Perhaps I should start with Lewis, though it isn't inevitable that even in his own library he can do what he thinks should be done. Library directors don't hold all the cards -- nobody does. But even if IUPUI isn't there, he may know who is, or who is headed in that direction.

The idea of writing a dissertation seems daunting right now. I can't imagine that I could narrow my interests down to some kind of niche statistical study, but who knows? I'll have to figure that out soon enough.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

if:book: emerging libraries at rice: day one

Nothing like waking up on your "day at home" (ie, day to study at home), glancing at the Google sidebar and seeing, "if:book: emerging libraries at rice: day one," and realizing that there's a fabulous conference going on 2 hours and 45 minutes by car from my house, that I would *love* to be attending, and I DID NOT EVEN KNOW ABOUT IT, and even if I had known, it would have conflicted with my classes and I would have been torn about attending. So, several problems here, along with some great joy at reading Ben Vershbow's summary of yesterday's proceedings. I can, he says, attend the conference virtually in SL, but of course I have lots of things I'm supposed to be doing over the next day and a half that will keep Gee Susanti in her avatar closet, I'm afraid. She's like the doll in Toy Story that gets pushed under the bed and "lost." Well, I'll try to check it out this afternoon.

But for right now, how did I not know about this conference? It is tailor-made for my research interests. I'll go visit the Rice U Website and get on their mailing list for next year, find out how to get the proceedings, etc. And next, what to do about the conflict between really important conferences and other events, and classes. Maybe once I'm in the Ph.D. program this won't be such an issue. I think the class thing is alot less structured there, but I'm not sure. Also, it may be that I've taken just about all the structured classes I'll need to. Well, I know that's not true because I have to take research methods, at least, and I've got to schedule some time with Mary Lynn (my adviser) to talk about summer and fall registration and what to take. I think that I'll need to take some more digitization classes to further develop my digital library specialty. Ok, enough whining.

The conference is going to be Webcast, but apparently not live, because there's nothing on the Website about how to access the Webcast. The page says info will be forthcoming. The lineup of speakers is breathtaking, the subjects, extremely intriguing. Ugh. C'est la vie. Get over it...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ah, Spring...

Today is just incredibly beautiful here in Austin Texas. It's in the 70's, clear, crisp (low humidity), and spring is just bursting out all over the place. I spent a good part of my afternoon sitting outside on the deck, doing readings for class, but allowing myself to be distracted by just about everything. So, I'm not making alot progress through my readings on "machine learning" for my organizing and providing access class, but it's fantastic that I have the prerogative to while away an afternoon half-heartedly studying, and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of spring at the same time. I love gardening and even with a full-time job I always managed to devote enough time to it to create a space where I feel like I'm in heaven on earth.

Spring break and the half-way mark for this semester arrive in just one week. This semester has been so completely different from last. I don't know why I expected them to all be more or less the same, but I did. This semester I don't have any papers to write. I found this somewhat disappointing at first, because I have lots of ideas for papers I want to write, but it gives me more time to reflect on the papers and hopefully, they'll be better for my having spent more time thinking about them and talking to others about them. The projects that have taken their place are of a practical nature, not particularly compelling, but I did come here to learn things that I don't necessarily know ahead of time that I need to learn, so I am into just doing these things and seeing what comes of it (digitization projects, classification projects).

But all that is fading from my thoughts as I contemplate 1 full week off starting in just 7 days, one full week of gardening, walking, hanging out at the coffee houses and reading, spending time with Dennis, who is getting his MFA in Houston while I pursue this degree here at UT. I could not ask for anything more than I have. It is so amazing.