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Thinking more broadly about scholarship

Dan Cohen on Wired, “To Make Open Access Work, We Need to Do More Than Liberate Journal Articles“:

“We need a sensible shift towards an acceptable form of post-publication, rather than traditional pre-publication peer review. This is especially true given the growing numbers of digital genres and options for scholarly publishing directly to the web — multimedia scholarly sites, sophisticated digital collections, vast online paper repositories, long-form academic blogs, and the like.”

Faculty status and librarians

From the AAUP, Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians (Jan. 11, 2013):

“As the primary means through which students and faculty gain access to the storehouse of organized knowledge, the college and university library performs a unique and indispensable function in the educational process. This function will grow in importance as students assume greater responsibility for their own intellectual and social development. Indeed, all members of the academic community are likely to become increasingly dependent on skilled professional guidance in the acquisition and use of library resources as the forms and numbers of these resources multiply, scholarly materials appear in more languages, bibliographical systems become more complicated, and library technology grows increasingly sophisticated. The librarian who provides such guidance plays a major role in the learning process…”

Source: ACRL

Watch your language, Skynet

Apparently, the machines that will take us over one day have filthy mouths.

“Watson couldn’t distinguish between polite language and profanity – which the Urban Dictionary is full of. Watson picked up some bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well. In tests it even used the word “bullshit” in an answer to a researcher’s query.”

Source: The Atlantic

Interdisciplinarity and Academic Libraries by D.C. Mack and C. Gibson, eds. (Review)

It is not often that one encounters a collection of essays so thoroughly aligned in their approach and perspective as to merit reading the collection from cover to cover; yet such is the nature of this recently published collection in ACRL’s Publications in Librarianship series (no. 66). Edited by Daniel C. Mack, Head of the George and Sherry Middlemas Arts Humanities Library at Penn State, and Craig Gibson, Associate Director for Research and Education at the Ohio State University, this work brings together 14 authors from across the landscape of academic librarianship, including administrators, department heads, catalogers, technologists, reference and instruction librarians, subject specialists, and professors of library science…

You can read my full review in this month’s College & Research Libraries.

Inventing the future: finding the adjacent possible in libraries

Because if 100% of your time is devoted to maintaining the status quo, when do you invent the future?

-Andromeda Yelton, You Say You Want a Revolution: ebooks, licensing, and the future

This quote comes at the end of a discussion of ebook licensing and the future of digital text. The topic is important in its own right, but I want to focus on the bit at the end regarding Google’s 20% time, or as it’s technically called, “Innovation Time Off.” Much has been said about this practice over the years and at the risk of spending my 20% time (i.e. my lunch break) beating the proverbial horse, I want to draw your attention to it.

If you are not familiar with the idea, Google’s Innovation Time Off is based on a practice at 3M that allows employees to spend a certain amount of their time at work focusing on whatever they feel might be beneficial to the company. According to a 2007 article from the NYTimes, staff form “grouplets” to work on pet projects, “these grouplets have practically no budget, and they have no decision-making authority. What they have is a bunch of people who are committed to an idea and willing to work to convince the rest of the company to adopt it.” The only stipulation for using Innovation Time Off is that employees must keep the company updated on the progress of their project.

NPR has a similar practice called “Serendipity Day.” According to Andrew Phelps of the Nieman Journalism Lab, “Serendipity Day is actually spread out over three days — and for something labeled as spontaneous, there’s a lot of planning. The staff is given two or three weeks to think about what to build. The ramp-up begins the afternoon before Serendipity Day, and the presentations happen the morning after. That way, all eight hours of the main day are spent building.” Because Google’s model would not work for NPR given its size and budget, Serendipity Day is a less resource-intensive alternative to 20% time. Yet it still gives staff the ability to exercise innovative thinking on a regular schedule and to share the results with colleagues.

And there is, in my opinion, the gem of the idea: sharing. It is not so much the scheduled time for innovative/creative thinking that matters. It is the required show-and-tell that follows. Both Google and NPR ask only that their employees share the results of their creative work. It doesn’t matter if the ideas are good or bad. That isn’t the point of the exercise. The point (and the hope) is that the ideas, once out in the open, will collide with other ideas, other hunches, and hopefully become part of what Stuart Kauffman calls “the adjacent possible” : the entirety of possible connections that make innovation possible and help ideas to “level up” (see also, Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From (2010), Chapter 1).

Library leaders current and future should take this practice to heart. Not only does it relieve you of the responsibility of being the lead innovative force in your institution, but it allows your organization to remain flexible, helps you to identify unexpected solutions to essential problems, and more efficiently utilize the creative potential of your employees. Ask yourself: “When will we invent the future?”

Special thanks to Janel Kinlaw (@jcwlib) for bringing the NPR story to my attention. 

It was only a matter of time

So this year I’ve decided I’m going to enroll in a MOOC to learn more about online learning. Additionally, I’m going to use the hell out of my institution’s subscription to I spent part of my morning making of list of courses to listen to over the next few weeks. I guess it didn’t take long for me to want to be a student again.

You are what you do

Good thoughts from Gina Trapani (someone whose work I greatly admire). This year, let’s define ourselves by what we do instead of what we like or how we feel at any given moment.

“Your todo lists, and at higher levels, your project list and life list say more about you than the movie you saw last weekend… Think of your todo list as less of a list, and more of a map. It’s a map of where you are now that points you in the direction of where you want to be in the next few days or weeks. Your done list is the route you’ve taken in the past few days or weeks. Your projects list is the next few months or years, and so on. Dissatisfaction is the difference between where you are and where you want to be, and your lists are the map plotting the route ahead.”

Source: Smarterware

It depends, but I would go with metadata

Article: To take cataloguing or not? Thoughts?

tl;dr: skipping out on cataloging won’t significantly impact your ability to be a great librarian.

Like many questions about libraries: it depends. Depends on your future plans, depends on the type of library you work in, depends on what you already know, depends on what the class covers. For example, if the class only covers Dewey and LC, you can learn the basics of those systems on your own and unless you plan on becoming a full time cataloger, that’s all you need to know. IMO, you would benefit far more from a class on metadata and the intricate details of database systems (e.g. how different search algorithms work).

The future of libraries will not be found in the organization of information: we’ve moved beyond that possibility (cf. David Weinberger’s book, Too Big To Know). It’s now our job to help people find it.

PS- Cataloging is my primary job responsibility.

Why your desk has wheels…

The following passage comes from the Valve Handbook for New Employees [pdf] which, according to the gaming website Polygon, may be legitimate. It is fascinating nonetheless. Special thanks to Andy Woodworth for bringing it to my attention. This comes out of a discussion on Facebook regarding my recent post on library work spaces, concerning which I’m planning a follow up post based on all the feedback I’ve received so far (which was passionate and often strongly worded!).

Why does your desk have wheels? Think of those wheels as a symbolic reminder that you should always be considering where you could move yourself to be more valuable. But also think of those wheels as literal wheels, because that’s what they are, and you’ll be able to actually move your desk with them.

You’ll notice people moving frequently; often whole teams will move their desks to be closer to each other. There is no organizational structure keeping you from being in close proximity to the people who you’d help or be helped by most.

The fact that everyone is always moving around within the company makes people hard to find. That’s why we have http://user—check it out. We know where you are based on where your machine is plugged in, so use this site to see a map of where everyone is right now.