Saturday, November 2, 2013

Comments on two posts from Library Babel Fish

I like reading Barbara Fister's blog, Library Babel Fish.  I posted thoughts about two recent items on my new blog, Libraries are for Use:  the first is on OA & tenure, and the other is on the role of books in academia.

Check it out...

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reminder - Follow me on WordPress - Libraries are For Use

Just a friendly reminder to follow me on my new WordPress blog, Libraries Are For Use.

Here's what you may have missed:

  • Commodity- or Special Collections?  A discussion of Rick Anderson's proposal for libraries.
  • Item in the San Diego press that most books at the SD Public Library don't circulate (really?)
  • A presidential library (of sorts) for our first president.
  • Several Scoops, including from Stephen's Lighthouse, Allentown newspaper, and Barbara Fister's Library Babel Fish.
I appreciate all who "listen" to me and my thoughts.  Please continue to follow me at my new home.  You can follow via WordPress, RSS feeds, or email.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

You win some, you loose some...

As I'm finishing my transition from Blogger (a Google product) to (NOT self-hosted, I'm encountering issues I did not expect.

One is...the usage stats are still higher for Blogger than for WordPress.  Why is that?  Could be because what few readers I have still subscribe to the Blogger feeds.  Woops!  I just realized that the RSS buttons are not appearing on the home page of my new site!  Well, this has been fixed.  But, if you subscribe to both - great!  But if you haven't subscribed to my Libraries are for Use site on, please do so's the link: .

I noticed that WordPress shows I have 33 took me a while to look into that - turns out 32 are via my (now professional) Facebook.  I'm not sure that really qualifies - I mean, just because I thrust my postings on my Facebook friends doesn't mean they really follow.  But it is nice when folks mention something that was posted.

And what about my Google Followers?  I thank you for adding me to your Google+ profiles.  It's interesting to see who has shown interest in my ideas.  But Google pulled its app for displaying Google Friends Connect widget for sites (although there is one for the self-hosted sites).  I'm not ready to go self-hosted yet - so I ask my Google+ Followers to, well, follow me to WordPress.  There is a Google+ share button on my posts, though.

Finally, I don't know what to do with the postings on this Blogger site.  Some of the pages are still getting hits - particularly the Ranganathan pages.  But replacing my content with re-directs would be both time-consuming and disruptive to the Google search chain.  For now, I've added a note with the URL in the header of the blog.  I'll check into additional moves later.

I'm not regretting my decision to move - I really do like the template, and I'm hopeful that the WP connection will enable my blog to grow.  Any other ideas?

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Long-Tail in Libraries

Cross-posted from my new blog, Libraries are for Use....

I know, I know...the Long-Tail is not exactly a new concept.  It's been a buzz-word since Chris Anderson's article in Wired in 2004 (I remember that article).  Indeed, it is merely an extension of power-laws that have been known for centuries.  Even librarians have been familiar with these distributions for decades, looking at all those circulation and journal use studies.
This article, however, is pretty intriguing because it extends that concept a little farther than I had seen before (request through ILL if you don't have access):
Petros A. Kostagiolas, Nikolaos Korfiatis, Marios Poulos
A long-tail inspired measure to assess resource use in information services
Library & Information Science Research, Volume 34, Issue 4, October 2012, Pages 317–323
What is most interesting is how the authors applied measures of income disparities between countries to disparities of book usage.  I had learned about these "macroeconometric" measures, the Lorenz curve and the Gini coefficient, in my readings of The Economist, so I was quite intrigued by this application.
So, I've been reviewing the application of "long-tail" distributions in library & information science, reading these articles to get back up to speed:
The problem that I see with applying the long-tail concept to book circulation is that books are physical items, although Netflix DVDs are often included in long-tail discussions.  But libraries have not yet successfully implemented a delivery model that rivals Netflix's.  I would, however, like to look more carefully at applying these models and concepts to journal usage, particularly given the growth of discovery systems.  Has the long tail extended?  Anderson started his inquiry into long-tail distributions when he was told that 98% of all songs available by a particular "digital jukebox" provider were accessed at least once a quarter.  98%!  Book circulation studies have shown much, much shorter tails - the best I've seen was 50% of titles circulated at least once in 5 years.  Can discovery systems lengthen this tail?  Even better, can it "thicken" the tail (getting more usage of our articles)?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Time for a little dissent

A series of blog postings on blogging in librarianship have rattled the library blog-world.  Andy Woodworth started it with his rant (used with the best of intentions) on his own blog, Agnostic Maybe.  In Waiting for Batgirl (am I the only one who saw the reference to Waiting for Guffman?), Andy skewers library blog writers, and even librarianship as a whole profession, as "mostly been either puppies-and-rainbows positive or uncontroversial benign kinds of things."  When referring to the difficulty in expressing discontent, he writes:
Public dissent is considered gauche in a profession that proudly supports the societal provocateurs, miscreants, and iconoclasts but wants to keep discontent in-house. I could easily write a thousand entries about helping people on a daily basis, but the whole library fa├žade will collapse and burn if I was write about my frustrations regarding a policy, decision, or the work environment.
I must admit that I was a bit bewildered at Andy's own bewilderment - at the predominance of "banal" topics that top the library blog-charts, at the "energy" spent pointlessly rebutting that which "people stroke themselves into a self-righteous lather over," and the hypocrisy of the ALA hailing Edward Snowden as a "whistleblower" (the analogy provided in the comments by Shalom is spot-on).  Why is this such breaking news? Are there other professions that are notably better? Isn't this just being human?
OK, I did relate to his comments about waiting - for the right time, the right place, the right people - to tackle problems that stir the passion in me.  Is this just being pragmatic?  Or is that a cop-out?
All of the comments to his post were supportive - interestingly, nobody reproached him, nor provided any rebuttal to his ravings made with very colorful language.  Indeed, it seems almost hypocritical not to be expecting any negative or at least critical (in the highest sense) response.
In this vein, Chris Bourg posed the question, Does the Library World Squash Dissent? on the Taiga Forum.  He genuinely asks (not rhetorically, he stresses) -
(H)ow can we as leaders encourage healthy, honest, public conversations about our profession — the good, the bad, and the ugly? And where exactly is the line between unprofessional trash-talking and healthy, thoughtful critical dissent? Those of you who are afraid to speak out, what would have to change for you to feel safe making your thoughts known? And how do issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and other dimensions of difference and power play into this?
Regarding the idea that librarianship may not be different from other professions, Chris retorts that "librarians SHOULD be different. We have stated values of Diversity, Democracy, and Intellectual Freedom — we ought to be a radically open profession. One that celebrates dissent, and that recognizes that there is tremendous power in disagreements."
Not surprisingly, the Library Loon offered her own answers to Chris' questions.  In Silencing, Librarianship & Gender: A Preface, the Loon delivers her answer in her characteristic third-person, confirming the charges Andy made regarding reprisals and recriminations for speaking out.  When asked how to encourage "healthy, honest, public conversations about our profession", the Loon commands to "not discourage or punish the open expression of anger or frustration, especially while it is still small and remediable. "
The Library Loon then refers to her own numerous writings on silencing dissent, which makes me wonder if the situation is like the weather - everybody complains, but nobody is doing anything about it.  I, like you, had followed the travails of Jenica Rogers' open rejection of ACS and the ensuing discussion that devolved into name-calling and not-so-vailed sexism.  True, the focus was deflected (and rather effectively, I might add) from the issue at hand - notably extraordinary price increases for resources "required" for accreditation by the same body that publishes them (note eyebrow raised) -- to "professional behavior" (how many envisioned the ACS spokesperson as a caricature of a 1930's Lionel Barrymore sniffing at Audrey Hepburn?).
So, after all have added their comments (and Tweets) to all of the blog postings that Andy's post has spawned (including this one), will we be better off?  Or will this be another rant in the wind?

The Performance-based Funding Model: Creating New Research Databases in Sweden and Norway

This article made me wonder about our own institution's impact on research, and notably, how the library could help its members increase their impact.  One of my original 5-year goals was to establish a "Research Impact Measures Service" - a la University of New South Wales in Australia.  This service would not only assist the researchers in their own performances, but also for departments and even university-wide.  I still keep this idea in the back of my mind...and it comes forward when reading articles such as this.
This article refers to national efforts to develop quantitative measures of impact as one (sometimes the primary) decision factor in disseminating funding.  There are, of course, many opinions on the validity and value of such methods.  It does tend to reward success, but, like pure capitalism, this can lead to greater differences between the "haves" and the "have-nots".  It can also stifle innovation by essentially betting on sure things. Many breakthroughs start with research that has high risks of failure.
But it did get me thinking about comparing my university's output with others.  A cursory look at data from Web of Knowledge (a resource with documented limitations) demonstrates that the university's impact has been limited.
2000-Current# ArticlesArticles Ratio# CitationsCitations Ratio# Citing ArticlesCiting Articles RatioAvg CitesAvg Cites Ratioh-indexh-Index Ratio
UT Dallas83670.971068731.66786441.6313.91.681121.30
UT Arlington99721.16925871.44684231.4110.521.27971.13
UT San Antonio56640.66365930.57312000.647.30.88660.77
2008-2012# ArticlesArticles Ratio# CitationsCitations Ratio# Citing ArticlesCiting Articles RatioAvg CitesAvg Cites Ratioh-indexh-Index Ratio
Texas Tech87612.19385172.42293872.365.471.23631.50
This is a puzzle -- UT Dallas published as many articles as UNT, but had over 50% more citations.  I would like to investigate this further - is it due to differences in subject coverage?  UT-Dallas was initially started as a upper-level and graduate school focusing on technology.  UNT was originally a teacher's college - research has been a relatively recent focus.  Could the association with the UT System be a factor?  This could also help explain the how UT-Arlington, which similarly started as a teacher's college, has 40% more citations and a higher h-index than UNT.  This explanation fails, though, in the comparison with UT San Antonio.
This brief inquiry has only raised more questions.  I would like to delve into the details more thoroughly, controlling for number of faculty, subject coverage, longitudinal trends, graduate degrees awarded - what else?  I'd really like to know how my institution could get more respect.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The end of the beginning...

Reminder: This blog is being superseded by Libraries Are For Use.  Please update your feeds.
I've been doing some serious reconsideration about my blog -- are my words being read? (well, a little)  Do I have regular readers? (well, a few)  Am I satisfied with my work? (well, the writing is OK, but the response has been disappointing)  What can I do differently?

For one thing, I've never been satisfied with the name.  I had never read the work on which the name of this blog was based (Being and Nothingness), nor had I explored Sartre's philosophy in any depth...I had just considered the idea of considering librarianship from an existential perspective (what little I know about existentialism). I was particularly interested in bringing together the theoretical or philosophical ideas of, with the practice of librarianship. But the name struck me (even then) as being a little too obscure and, well, pretentious.

Then there is the platform...I chose Blogger because that is what I had used years ago.  I already had my profile set up, I was familiar with the features, and it was easily tied in with my Google account.  However, it is, in my opinion, a little on the old-fashioned side, well, in Web terms.  It just seems so '90's.  When the NTLA blog was set up on WordPress, I liked that platform and decided it was time for a change.

After several weeks of transferring postings, and finally deciding on a template, I think the site is ready for a sneak preview.  I wanted a name the better reflects my own philosophy of my chosen profession, so I harkened back to my early postings about S.R. Ranganathan's Five Laws of Library Science.

Libraries are for Use is my new platform, my new soapbox, which I hope will generate a little more interest. I know, I know...changing blog names is like the character on Parks & Recreation changing his band names.  I could loose what few readers I have - would you leave?  I also know that content is more important than the name or platform.  If I want more readers, I need to write what readers want to read.  I'm working on that, too.  I'll be learning how to make infographics and writing more on more intriguing ideas.  I hope this change gives me some stimulation.

I will keep both blogs going for about a month.  In the meantime, please visit there and subscribe, Like, etc.  I've also got a PollDaddy poll asking for your input.

And thanks for listening.