Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rethinking the catalog, scholarly publishing, digital delivery ...

We got our scholarly communications blog launched this week. The Scholar's Space -- focused on academics and the processes we use for our research, and to collaborate, share our results and start it all over again. And of course, the big thing is the pace of change. Actually, it's glacial compared to the pace of change at a place like Google. I just returned from my second Library Partner's summit. I love hearing about what all Google is up to, new products and services. Their approach to everything is so very different from academe. How on earth do we survive like we do?

So, it's summer, only 1 month left before school starts. I can't quite believe that I will be totally geared back up in a month. I am enjoying the relaxed summer pace so much. So un-Google like. The last time I had a summer off was right before law school, 19 years ago.

But enough of that. Things are perking right along. The blog launched, as mentioned. I had been agonizing every day over the news items in the blog scope that I couldn't say much about because the blog was not launched yet. But I knew that it wouldn't really matter. No matter when it launched there would be a flood of things to talk about because that's the way it's going in scholarly communication right now -- news floods the blogosphere. Just since launch there have been major pieces of news. It's wonderful to have a blog specifically devoted to this subject where I can sort of collect my thoughts and pointers and then refer back to the entries later for ideas for the papers I'll need to write for school.

I have a Google project now that will involve my job and working with a graduate research assistant from the iSchool, and probably evolve into a paper for a class. Our Benson collection has many works in the public domain, but Google's conservative algorithmic estimate of which books they are leaves room for us to apply brute force manpower to make finer determinations if we want to. So, we'll probably join other Library Partners in contributing more precise data to a collection of public domain facts about our books. It's great to be collaborating with the other libraries this way. There's not nearly enough of that.

I'm rewriting the Crash Course in prep for moving it to the UT Austin Libraries website, and also to tailor it more to fit with the scholarly communications set of issues.

The UT Press project is progressing. So is the School of Nursing project, where we're working with the department to increase deposits to PubMed Central. And then there's digital distribution of course materials where we're trying to streamline and integrate 3 different systems for providing access to course materials to students, with permissions taken care of in the background. This will likely take a year or more just to design it. All of these have kept me quite busy this summer, but somehow, with no classes, I feel like I'm "off" for the summer. How is that? I think it's because I love what I'm doing and I'm still having way too much fun to think of it as work.

Well, finally, what I started out to say, as evidenced by the title of this entry: I've read so many articles lately that announce major rethinking of this or that or the other. This one is about Rethinking the Catalog; this one is about rethinking Scholarly Publishing in a Digital Age. All this thinking. But I want to move things along at my library, so I will just concentrate on my projects, report out results when I can, and encourage others to use tools like the ones the ACRL's Institute on Scholarly Communications gave us to shepherd projects along. Life in the slow lane...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

So you have a perfect match in some book somewhere...

Hmmm. I haven't read this book, but according to Blue Pyramid, it's my perfect match. I can't say that the description is "off the mark" (Off the Mark being the blog where I learned about this little I'net quiz), but I'm not sure it really captures me either. Maybe my friends could validate it, or not --

You're A People's History of the United States!

by Howard Zinn

After years of listening to other peoples' lies, you decided you've
had enough. Now you're out to tell it like it is, with all the gory details and nothing
left out. Instead of respecting leaders, you want to know what the common people have to
offer. But this revolution still has a long way to go, and you're not against making a
little profit while you wait. Honesty is your best policy.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Musings on Library Education - Life as I Know It

A reference to fellow grad students' "Musings on Library Education" at Life as I Know It got me to thinking about what I'm learning from my iSchool experience. Granted, I'm only 1 year into it, and I've only taken 8 classes. One of those was in the French department and another in the College of Education, so I've only taken 6 in the iSchool. So, what is it like? How useful is it?

Unlike Jennifer, I don't need the degree, so I wouldn't feel compelled to stay with the experience if it truly were a waste of my time. But I do agree with her that it's ok to blow things off: worrying about grades or how well you do in a class is absolutely not a priority. I think, however, that she is coming at that conclusion from a very practical perspective -- she just can't always give it 100% and that's got to be ok because that's life. For me it's more a matter of conscious choice not to waste my time. It's the most valuable thing I possess. If I am going to spend a considerable part of it in a class, I'll do my utmost to get as much as I can out of the class, but if I find that some assignments do not further my goals and are not worth (to me) the time that they will take to complete, or to complete well, I am quite willing and able to draw the line at how much energy I put into them. I am there to learn and I pretty much know what I want to learn about.

I like choice. I love choice. I make choices all the time, very consciously. Today I'm choosing very carefully where to put my energy, my time and my attention. Here on this blog, for example. I am spending time this morning *instead* of doing other things that I could do, because I think that reflection is important and the blog facilitates that. Later today I'll go to the Library and listen to a presentation about a software product that the Library is considering buying, a product that I think has very important implications for the Library's ability to serve its clients/customers/patrons. And I'll pay a visit to my mom's doctor's office to secure some meds for her. And I'll work on a draft of a paper for the Center for Intellectual Property (effect of mass digitization projects on copyright law and policy). Among other things. But those are my priorities for today.

School fits into this quite well. I have learned valuable things from every one of my classes. The structure works well for me. I love the reading and writing. The thing I'm disappointed in is the lack of opportunities to discuss. Not the focused discussion of a classroom, but the wide-ranging discussion that informed individuals can have when they share a common core of information and values and places to be in and just pass the time talking. This is no doubt partly my own fault. I don't spend a lot of extra time at school. It is just one part of what I do and so I'm in and out of the building. I need to hang out more. But I think it might also be due to a lack of the place element. There's no place really *to* hang out at the iSchool. The IT lab is the only place that comes to mind, but that's because Carlos works next door and is likely to be there and so I know I can usually find him there, and other people too (people who are into technology, which, incidentally, was sort of the lead-in to Jennifer's post on Musings), but really, we need a lounge, a nearby Central Perk, or some place where we know we can show up and others of us will be there and we can talk. I think I'll work on this.

Now it immediately occurs to me that maybe this could be accomplished virtually. I think it could, but not exactly in the same way. Online conversations have this linear quality that inhibits seeing the big picture, for me anyway. While it might be nice to set up a virtual place too, I really want a real place. Yes, I'm going to work on this.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Summer session is over and maybe I'll have some time to think now

I just read an email from a fellow iSchooler, Maggie DeBaldo, asking about Marshall McLuhan, in particular, which of his books would we (any of us) recommend. I hadn't read his books, though of course, having grown up while he was most active, I knew who he was and what he believed. But, just to see what I'd get, I Googled him and there it was: everything I could conceivably want to read about him, as well as pointers to everything he ever wrote.

I just finished my first summer session course on Systems of Human Inquiry (a prelude to more focused doctoral research methods courses) and for my class presentation, I chose to talk about Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard. It turns out that Baudrillard counted McLuhan as one of his influences. I was fascinated by Baudrillard and loved having the opportunity (ie, excuse) to learn more about him. I'll put my powerpoint online later. But, this prepared me to take more interest in McLuhan as a result of Maggie's question, so I read a little of a review of a 2002 book that contrasted "regular expressions" with McLuhan: O'Reilly Network: Marshall McLuhan vs. Marshalling Regular Expressions. Near the end of the review, I came across this quote by the author:

Given open standards, easy scripting languages, and cheap, versatile devices, digitization could allow users a degree of control over content never before imaginable in history. Conversely, given welded-case devices and access controls, they could allow the owners of content a degree of control over users never before imaginable in history.

Only 5 years ago, this was theory. Now it is fact. It's reason enough for me to pursue open access. It's not just about reading stuff for free. It's about processing stuff in new, unexpected ways. It's about putting together disparate parts into a new whole. Isn't that what libraries are about facilitating? A book on a shelf is not the same research resource as an open, accessible text (or other presentation format) online.

By the way, the review is fascinating in itself. It got me interested in things I didn't know existed 30 minutes ago. And it sends me off in new directions.