Thursday, March 31, 2005


So on Wednesday, I was in Houston, doing a scan report for the Houston Area Research Library Consortium (HARLiC---sorry, no current URL that I could uncover). HARLiC has been around since 1978, and has, like many library consortia, worn many hats during its existence. Part of this meeting was to consider the creation of some new special interest groups to focus on issues on the library horizon. Bonnie Juergens, the executive director of Amigos Library Services, facilitated the event. She did a terrific job keeping the meeting focused and rolling. Somehow, she was tougher on time than the people who produce the Oscars, but she did it in such a charming way that no one objected!

The audience was, in some ways, the mirror image of the students I described in my previous post. These Texans were experienced librarians working in some of the biggest, most comprehensive institutions in the Southwest. But they had the same excited (and exciting) drive to find new ways to serve. The discussion was effervescent, full of exploring for possibilities, and refreshingly free of the kvetching about how we're all victims. No pity parties for these Tall Texans!

The prize for the best line of the day definitely went to Nita Schriver from
Houston Public Library. She was appointed to report on her group's discussions, and when Bonnie handed her the microphone, she said, "We were the virtual reference group, so if you want to know what we talked about, send me an e-mail."

And if you happen to be in Houston, make sure to check out the
M. D. Anderson Library at the University of Houston. Their major building project is nearly complete, but even in its not-quite-finished state, it's nothing short of magnificent. We had the HARLiC program in a gorgeous conference room with a splendid view of the heart of the campus. Kudos to Dana Rooks, the indefatigible dean of the library!

LIS Students and the Scan

On Monday evening, I spoke to a Library Automation class in the Kent State University LIS program offered here in Columbus. Nancy Lensenmayer, the Program Officer for Education and Professional Development in the OCLC Member Services team, teaches the class and invited me to speak about the scan.

This was a fun, feisty group. We had several delightful detours into areas I hadn't planned, such as the pros and cons of self-service (the verdict: occasionally overrated, but getting integrated in our lives in surprising ways), the role of libraries in easing the digital divide, weighing the possibility of misusing ILS data by government agencies and private industry against the ability to mine data to improve overall service, and the dependability of wikis as a source of information.

The best thing about this class was that they were ready to think about library automation beyond the integrated library system. They were looking for ways to expand the possibilities. They were deeply inculcated with the best library values of service and preservation, but they didn't seem to be as hidebound as some other groups that I've worked with. They were also more than willing to challenge my preconceptions, making me think more deeply about what I was saying.

If you're one of those library directors who wrings your hands over the state of library education, relax. I've seen the future, and to quote Arthur, it doesn't suck!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die"

A very good essay by Jay Rosen at the very good PressThink on the state of newspapers (at least as a print medium) and journalism. Lots of links to other interesting material. I kept thinking about libraries and possible parallels as I read...well, not possible parallels. There are clear parallels.

I liked this comment, from a journalist working at a small town newspaper because I am finding more and more that what gets printed in the newspaper delivered to my house is news I have already read in a web-based news source--except for the local news that isn't of much interest outside our community:

The discussion on whether newspapers are dead always seems to focus on the bigger papers, while smaller papers that focus on community news, community events, and community people, seem to thrive. You can't get the information anywhere else, and very few people in the global market want to read about how Billy Smith hit for the cycle in a local Little League game. And, as much as people like our local news, they also like the lists of names we run ... birth announcements, who got convicted of drunken driving, who got divorced, our sports agate, etc...

So, it seems to me that there's a niche to fill there, a product that local papers can offer that's unique from the bigger dailies.

Will we eventually go the way of the dinosaur? I'm not so closed minded to think that we won't, but I'll bet that your small, local dailies will live longer than the big ones that offer news product you can get almost anywhere.

Thom Hickey's Blog

Another OCLC staffer has a blog. Another Blog Person.

Our Chief Scientist and all-round nice guy, Thom Hickey, has started Outgoing. Thom says, "I expect to write about some of the projects we have going in OCLC Research, the techniques we use, and the occasional post about some trend that looks important to libraries."

Welcome Thom!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Todd Lockwood and The Brautigan Library

I dangled this story in front of you some days ago, after my husband and I got back from a few days at The Point. I needed to get permission from Todd to tell the story because it's his story.

The Point is close to Lake Placid, and a reasonable drive from Burlington, Vermount. There are only ten rooms in winter, and eleven in summer when the fabulous unheated room over the boathouse can be used. If you're checking out the website, we stayed in Mohawk.

With only a few number of guests even at capacity, meals are served "en famille" so the atmosphere is like a country house weekend. Or at least, to this solidly middle class person, what I imagine a country estate weekend would be like. I got my education in this from such impeccable sources as Agatha Christie, John Galsworthy, and P.G. Wodehouse.

One of our dinner companions was Todd Lockwood, a very interesting guy, although there was a tableful of interesting people that evening. But Todd told a story that I thought was of interest to the library world. I asked him if I could share the story and he kindly sent me the version below. I've added links. Thanks to Todd for being an honorary librarian.

Todd's story.

Here is a piece I wrote for the first issue of the Brautigan Library
newsletter, The 23, which basically tells the story I told you at


The Brautigan Library got started, in spirit, about twenty years ago
when Richard Brautigan wrote his fourth novel, The Abortion: An
Historical Romance 1966. Among other things, this book helped redefine
romance for the sixties counterculture-- breaking away from simplistic
gender roles, and offering up the possibility of relationships founded
on mutual respect and communication, not just passion alone. It was a
book that tended to have a profound effect on those who read it,
evidenced by the "this book will change your life" inscriptions one
often finds scrawled in old copies of the novel.

And, of course, Brautigan's book described a library-- a weird little
library where unknown, unpublished writing could find a home. As
Brautigan put it, "This library came into being because of an
overwhelming need and desire for such a place. There just simply had
to be a library like this." When I first read those words in the
mid-seventies, I couldn't have agreed more. Such a library seemed like
a splendid idea. It seemed perfectly plausible to me that someone,
somewhere would one day open such a library, using Brautigan's story as
a model.

Well, life nearly began imitating art shortly after the novel was
released: Brautigan had given his readers an actual library street
address in The Abortion, right down to the zip code. As it turned out,
the address was indeed the address of a library -- the Presidio Branch
of the San Francisco Public Library. They were subsequently flooded
with inquiries from all across America, wondering if they indeed
accepted unpublished manuscripts. Sadly, the answer was "no."

Years ticked by as I pursued a career in photo-portraiture, and in 1980
started a music recording studio in Vermont. The Abortion continued
to own a space on my bookshelf, and it got a rereading every year or
so. With every reading, I would be reminded of the library idea. By
the mid-eighties, I really began thinking of the library as "something
I was going to do." It was simply a matter of when.

Brautigan's suicide in 1984 was a terrific blow to thousands of readers
whose ideals survived the cynical seventies with the help of
Brautigan's insights and humor. Coming to grips with the reality of
his troubled life-- a life perceived as fun-loving and well- founded--
has not been easy. His death made the library idea seem a bit trivial,
so it stayed on the back burner for another five years.

In August 1989, I happened to go to the film Field of Dreams with my
wife. I had no idea what the movie was about, but before long it
became clear that, for me, the movie was about building the Brautigan
Library. Somehow, I knew the time had come to get things rolling. The
very next day I called Brautigan's literary agent, and off we went.

The Brautigan Library idea has not been greeted with universal praise.
A number of published authors have declined invitations to be advisory
trustees to the library. In fact, one poet had her lawyer send us a
cease & desist letter, to insure that her name wouldn't be associated
with the library. The fact is, even when Brautigan was at the peak of
his career, his own work was not held in high esteem by the literary
community. He was an outsider. Academics thought his writing was
trivial, yet his popularity was undeniable. He was writing for
readers-- not for writers.

Perhaps it was Brautigan's unpretentious approach to writing that made
him such an inspiration to new writers. Probably no other American
author since the sixties has inspired so many people to write down
their story for the first time. Brautigan shows us that ideas need not
be wrapped in layers of grammar and vocabulary to be relevant; that
vision is the seed that makes for a moving piece of writing.

A few months ago, we received a two-page manuscript from a woman who
drives a school bus. It was filled with spelling errors and incomplete
sentences. While trying to decide whether or not to send it back for
corrections, I finally just read it, as it was written. The short
story tells of sunlight beaming through a snowstorm "like a diamond
patch." So beautiful was this moment that she pulled the school bus
off the side of the road so her passengers could enjoy it. I learned
something in reading her story: Ideas with vision will usually survive
a less-than-perfect presentation. But the most elaborate presentation
in the world is no substitute for vision. In an era when technique is
the most discernible asset one finds in most art and literature, this
is indeed a concept worth pondering.

We already have all kinds of writing in the Brautigan Library, but the
vast majority is writing which shares a personal vision. Many of our
books are written in first person, which is, to me, a signal that we
are already building an archive that will distinguish us from other
libraries; that will be of use to historians; that will offer a unique,
grass-roots view of America.

-- Todd Lockwood, November 1990


And here's a link to a story from the Boston Globe about the disposition of the collection which is being kept safe at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington until it can be moved to the Presidio branch of the San Francisco Public Library. I did tell Todd that if this didn't work out that OCLC would welcome the Brautigan Library. Even though OCLC and its members focus on published material for the most part, almost all libraries have special collections of unique material, and I think it would be really fine to have the Brautigan Library at OCLC should it need a home--not that I have one zot of authority of make this so. But George does!

Funny old world, eh?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Oxford, et al.

I love cowboy music, and the old Gene Autry song "I'm Back in the Saddle Again" keeps running through my mind today. I've been away from the office, my e-mail, and this blog for about 10 days. I'll be back in the office on Monday, but I decided to jump in to do some work on my e-mail before then. Thanks to my wonderful assistant Susan, most of my listservs, CNN updates, daily New York Times, broadcast e-mail jokes, and other materials had been excised, but I still had about 300 items to go through. *sigh*

Last week, I gave a scan presentation at the Staff Conference 2005 for the Oxford University Libraries. I was on the agenda early in the day, and then was invited to participate in the rest of the conference. Oxford, like most other universities on this planet, is going through a number of convulsions. Funding and purpose seem to be huge challenges. The vice chancellor of the University, Dr John Hood, gave the opening address. He talked about the difference between being a"great university" and being one of the "best universities." His take on this was that being a great university is about history, what the institution has done in the past. On the other hand, being one of the best universities in the world is about performance, what the institution is doing now and in the future. He gave a pretty fearless talk and he truly set the tone for much of the rest of the day, for good or ill. (Dr Hood has been at Oxford for about six months, and spent many years of his career in the private sector. I got the sense that his ideas are, to be generous, controversial, such as can be seen in this article: "Mutiny at Oxford?")

The theme for the day was "Are They Being Served? Supporting Our User Base: Changes, Challenges and Champions." After ensuring with my host that this title was truly cribbed from the old BBC sitcom "Are You Being Served?" I used a Grace Brothers Department Store theme as my intro. Audience members over 45 chuckled charitably at my comments. But the discussions throughout the rest of the day were what really fascinated me. Electronic versus traditional materials, the definition of service, distribution of resources, conservation versus access, difficult users---all of these were topics for the day. These are some of the brightest people in our field and they are struggling with change, so that should be either reassuring or terrifying for the rest of us.

Incidentally, the speaker just before lunch was one of the best speakers on library marketing I've ever heard. His name is Antony Brewerton, and he's at Oxford Brookes University. I was scribbling notes like an undergraduate in a survey course during his remarks. One might not think of Oxford as a hotbed of library marketing, but Mr. Brewerton gives the lie to that. I even learned something during his introduction! He's also hysterically funny in a sort of Graham Norton way. If I could figure out some way to bring him to the States to do a series of programs on library marketing, I'd do it in a New York minute.

The rest of my time in England was vacation. Three plays in five days, Stonehenge, the changing of the guard, the Tower, the British Museum (which, despite Ira Gershwin's contention, has most definitely NOT lost its charm), the new Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern---I never wanted to leave. OK, I could have afforded maybe three more days there before taking out a second mortgage on my house, but it would have been worth it!

Yahoo! debuts Creative Commons search engine

Most cool! On Wednesday, Yahoo! released a beta search tool called Creative Commons search that allows the searcher to scope a search by "content I can use for commercial purposes" and "content I can modify, adapt, or build on." Yet another positive development from one of the majors in helping people locate relevant material. Thanks to The Long Tail for the news, and also to linking to Larry Lessig's comments on this.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

No News is...News?

Over the past year or so of blogging, I have discovered 2 main reasons I am slow to post to IAG. Either there's no news, or there's way too much of it. Isn't that a brilliant insight?

I agree with you, it's not.

This week seems to be one of way too much going on and so I suffer paralysis. I find myself mildly envious of the librarians I encounter when I give presentations who have never heard the term "RSS" or who ask, "what's an iPod?" How come I got blessed with a major curiosity gene that kept me restless and often frustrated as a real, working librarian? And as you readers know, I don't work as a real librarian anymore although of course my education and work experience are very important to my current position.

So, I was interested to read at Library Dust, (one of George's favorite blogs) Michael McGrorty's post about Jessamyn West. Michael began by writing:
In an old house in the wilds of Vermont lives a woman who may hold the keys to the future of the American Library—the one with the capital ‘L.’ There, far from the epicenter of library affairs, she ekes out a marginal existence working part-time for a local library, awaiting a call to greater service. You have probably heard of her; she is Jessamyn West and her story tells a lot about the pace and nature of progress in the institution with and without the capital ‘L.’

He goes on to write about the nature of hiring in librarianship and why it is, in our profession, the restless, the square pegs in round holes, are very often not heading up major libraries.
Jessamyn asks the hard questions, the ones with the answers nobody wants to hear. You don’t get a long way in the library world by inquiring whether the library, as found, is a good idea; what you get from that is a library that is a good idea, but only after a lot of change. Libraries like to claim they want change. They don’t. Change in the library world comes when it is forced by circumstances: when somebody invents a computer to replace the card catalog, when the Internet comes along to nudge the print world; very few of the crash-bang innovations in the library come from librarians.

So it was appropriate that our colleague Eric Childress forwarded me this link to a piece from a company/resource site called LeaderValues, about innovation called Can Bad Attitudes Lead to Good Business Innovation? It's short and worth reading (and there are other things worth reading there). It ends with this:
So if you want innovators in your team look for people with some particular bad attitudes – the ones with rebellious, contrary and divergent views. These are people who some might label as troublemakers. They are not negative or cynical – on the contrary they are passionate about their ideas. They do not defer to authority, they are dissatisfied with the status quo, they are impatient for change and they are angry about the obstacles put in their way.

Hmm, I know quite a few librarians with "bad attitudes" who no longer work in libraries.

Stopping by blog on a snowy morning

Hello from New England! I'm in this mod hotel called the New England Conference Center and the view is absolutely gorgeous. The rooms are hexagonal--bounded by windows on three sides. It's a bit like being in a tree house. Wish I had the camera to share the view with you.

Robert Frost comes to mind, as I watch the snow fall from my sixth floor perch...

One of the topics at the conference I am not attending is data visualization software. Of course I get all excited, thinking they're talking about things like Antarctica or Thinkmap. But no, they're talking about x,y coordinates and how to turn a lot of numbers into a picture of the ocean floor. Challenges are similar for both industries, though. The presenter talked about the importance of having good metadata and adequate funding. Some things cut across all industries!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Kudos to our own Chip Nilges

George is in the UK, Alice is attending a conference as 'spouse of Val' and I have been in and out....these are the excuses anyway, for not noting any earlier that our esteemed OCLC colleague and pal Chip Nilges has been named one of the 50 or so "Movers and Shakers" of 2005 by Library Journal. He is honored as one of the "Change Agents", a title that definitely suits him, and which most recently refers to his efforts bringing library metadata to the web with the Open Worldcat program.

LJ said of Chip and his fellow Change Agents: "Their actions—large and small—have an impact on people. Open a building at seven a.m. and the library becomes a part of commuters’ lives. Challenge library students to think about race and the next generation of librarians will provide better service. Make a deal with Google and library content is suddenly visible."

Chip is quoted as saying: "We must always begin with what the user wants and work backward from there." Amen, Brother Nilges.

The only quibble I have with Chip is that he still hasn't been skiing in western Canada despite my PR work of years about great snow, short lift lines, favourable exchange rate and Canadian beer.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Mobile phone novels

You know the old saying about watching Japanese schoolgirls for technology trends?

See the latest story from CNN's site, A mobile page turner. (Note: Article expires 4/20/2005.)

With this new development, we may have to reconsider the inflight cell phone long as your phone is silent while you read.

France and cultural patrimony

From this morning's Chronicle Daily Report:

GALLED BY GOOGLE? French cultural officials hope to develop a library-digitization project for European literature. Full story (login required).

Here's my question--> Has OCLC PICA (the European arm of our worldwide library cooperative) had any discussions here?

CIL - final post

There were lots of other presentations and lots of interesting exhibits and conversations in the hallways. At the hotel the place where wireless connections worked best was the lounge/bar off the main lobby, and it was fun to see all these supposedly stuffy librarians in the lounge with their laptops tapping away on keyboards. I spent a lot of time there between presentations, and met a lot of interesting people. There is another blog about this conference with links to even more blogs at It was fun and entertaining, and interesting and challenging, and I would LOVE to go back again. I recommend it to all of you.

CIL - Web project management

The presentation on Web Project Management was by Jason Clark, and he's obviously been there and done that! He understands what it is to work in a real library where you can plan your day to get lots of "things done!" and have it demolished by one involved reference question, or more likely a series of involved reference questions! He understands schedules and interruptions and priorities and impossible situations. And he understands how to deal with them constructively. The main secret is documentation: Document every decision, so you won't have to make them again. Document every change so you will remember why you did it, and your team members will know why you did it. The phases of a web project are: discovery, research, design, execution, deployment. You have to determine the critical path and not swerve from it. And most of all be flexible! And we all certainly know about being flexible.

CIL - last morning keynote

The keynote on Friday morning was by Mary Lee Kennedy & Stephen Abram on Personas. They called it delighting the real user. And it was about amazing things. They suggested that we should do in-depth analysis of our users to determine what they want. I'm not sure that is practical in the average library - actually I'm sure it is not practical. But we can all get some idea of who they are by watching them and talking to them, and pooling the knowledge all the staff already have about the people they work with. Mary Lee and Stephen did personas for a corporate library that involved 50,000 employees - and they represented them with 5 personas. The bottom line for this group boiled down to how long the person had been with the company, their age (which correlated to what technologies they were comfortable using), and how mobile they were in their work - where they were located. The focus is on what is valuable to the user - not what the library has available. It's an interesting twist!

Friday, March 18, 2005

"Getting Thousands of Hits" - Ban This Meme

Our colleague Lorcan Dempsey's post to his blog yesterday was about library strategic plans and searching from library web sites. One commenter to Lorcan's posting worries about (my words, not his) dumbing down the library's search interface to the simplicity offered by Google, fearing the result would be "thousands of hits."

I have often heard this sentiment expressed by librarians with regard to ordinary people using generic search engines. Indeed, the president-elect of ALA did that in his piece on Google Print. (abstract only here...spend $$ to see the whole article) The notion is that, because of the size of the web, using simple search terms, or imprecise ones, yields way too much information, undifferentiated and untethered from helpful structures such as LCSH.

I am announcing my official renunciation of this needlessly binary view of searching. It's unhelpful, breeds complacency, and is myopic.

Pretend you've never ever been in a large library. Pretend you know absolutely nothing about taxonomies. Pretend you don't know the difference between a magazine, a journal, an index and a book. Pretend you don't know what you don't know, and don't know how to articulate your unknowingness. Once you've pretended all this, make a pretend visit to a very large library for the first time.

And then tell me why it would be easier to find information in this situation than it would be to find information in a set of Google or Yahoo! search results? If you're pretending to be in a physical large library, maybe you'll ask for help, but there's a good chance you wouldn't. And if you're pretending to visit this large library virtually, chances are you can't see any human presence at all. In both places, the pretend you might wander around a bit, poking this button or looking at that printed object. But in the absence of any knowledge of how the "thousands of hits" in a library may be found, let alone investigated, the ordinary searcher might leave the library with nothing. A scarcity of information.

Yes, people get thousands of hits when they search Google, and they do because it's easy. But, it is a convenient fiction librarians tell themselves that nothing of any use is found this way because of the abundance of information. It just isn't true. I say so in the introduction to The Environmental Scan: almost all of the 250+ references in the bibliography were found using Google, using keywords. So, let's get past this unhelpful "us vs them" mentality and work a lot harder at making the valuable information we curate easy to find.

In November 2004 I blogged about Google Scholar and wrote about a post from a blog called Dog News. I said: "This is how scholarly material is going to come to "the people" rather than the people coming to scholarly material which is the current paradigm at work in libraryland, and one that consistently fails to be attractive to searchers."

Dog News caught my mention and commented on it, saying, in part, this:

"I GET this, why not make a real world example of it, so everyone else, those of us who aren't brilliant librarians, can GET it too. Google Scholar can change the world! and I can help to point the way... knowledge is power, leveraging knowledge to your goals is even more powerful."


Ontology....a 300 year old hack?

According to Clay Shirky, ontology is nearing the end of its useful life. Now, I've only read the program description of a presentation called "Ontology is Overrated: Links, Tags, and Post-hoc Metadata" he made on March 16 at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. But, I think you'll agree that even the description is packed with more than a few interesting and challenging notions for librarians, including this "the Library of Congress's classification scheme exists not because concepts require consistent hierarchical placement, but because books do."

I'll bet there were either none or very few librarians in the audience at this talk so it's fascinating to me that a talk every librarian should listen to was presented to people outside our field. Wonder if we can find a place for him to talk about his ideas to librarians? I wonder if he's made such a talk at LC...I know he's been doing some consulting to LC.

And when you've read the description of the Shirkey presentation, check out the other speakers at the Etech conference. A rather distinguished set of people. I really wish I'd a community, we should be present at these kinds of conferences. We talk among ourselves too much.

Thanks to The Long Tail for the link.

I had a lovely 3 day vacation here, and met some very interesting people. I have a story to tell as soon as I get permission from the storyteller.

CIL - LISNews - Collaborative Blogging

The highlight of yesterday for me was a presentation by Blake Carver of LISNews explaining how it got started and how it runs. I knew that there were several authors, but there are dozens! He says it's like a really big dysfunctional family, then adds that it's really a community with mostly common goals and values and very different ways of expressing them. He is a charming speaker and seems surprised that this venture he started very simply has become a force in our world.

Last morning ruminations

This is the last morning - I'm sad to see it end, but eager to get back to my own bed and my own routines. As I always am when I travel. But I want to reflect on some of the reactions I have come across - to my being from OCLC.

In the opening keynote I sat next to a woman who looked at my nametag and said, You're from the MotherShip! She meant it quite positively and went on to talk about what OCLC has meant to her in her professional life. Then I came across a vendor who initially refused to talk to me. He said, You're the competition. I'm not going to tell you about our product! I started to leave the booth because I had come across that attitude at ALA and wasn't going to arguie with him. He called me back, said he was kidding, and gave me a detailed demo of his product, comparing it very knowledgeably to ours. It was a wonderful time.

Those are the two extremes - - awe and disdain (though pretended!) But the attitude I've come across here that surprises me most is ignorance. A number of the vendors who scanned my badge asked what OCLC is! I wanted to tell them to do their homework - instead I said that we're a library membership organization and let it go. Most of the vendors know who we are and were eager to show me their products - one even gave me his card and asked me to pass it along to the right people - he wants to partner with us!

The non-vendor participants I've met are all extremely positive about OCLC. It makes me feel good to be able to represent an organization that is seen as helpful, listening and caring by the wider library community!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

CIL - Social Software

Social software was a new term to me, and the presentation this morning by Matthew Dames introduced me to a lot of new ideas. (He actually prefers the term digital collaboration which makes more sense to me. He defines it as a system of software and social interaction that allows people to work efficiently across distances. It's browsers like Safari and that allow for collaboration and sharing of bookmarks. It's RSS feeds and blogs, Instant Messaging systems and P2P file sharing. It's VoIP, Mp3, gaming consoles and smart phones. It's all those new techie things my grandson understands and patiently explains to me. Matthew believes libraries as places will not be funded in the future - a pretty scary thought to me! - and that librarians will be needed to help create digital communities and to provide context for information that is floating around loose.

I still like to curl up with a physical book, so some of this seems a little extreme to me. But the idea of being to work with someone whose brain I need to pick, no matter where they are, is very attractive!

CIL - Information Innovation

This morning's keynote by Bruce James of the USGPO was fascinating. The USGPO is the largest printing & information processing facility in the world. They employee 2500 people, but that number is going down as they automate and innovate.

Mr. James presented the rich history of the GPO from the 1813 passage of a bill declaring that information belongs to the people to the present. And he made it sound like he was there and was taking us all along for the ride!

Since he started at the GPO in 2003 he has been on a mission to modernize the organization from the core. They now have a strategic vision in place - that is the music. They are working on the words - the new structure, business units, business practices, etc. Great progress has been made.

Last month 50% of the GPO output was born digital and will never be printed by the government. And last year they made $11 Million - after years of losses. 256,000 documents are now available online and 3M will be digitized. The users of GPO data have asked for digital formats rather than paper, and that is what they are now delivering.

He also understands and worries about all our library concerns - preservation and authentication - who will assure that this digitized text is the real thing? - access, indexing and all.

What an exciting time we live in!!

Alice and George talk with Wayne State MLS students about blogging best practices, this blog (It's All Good), and how to set up their own blog! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

CIL - the future of the special library

Another presentation I went to was titled "The Future of the Special Library" by R. James King from the Naval Research Library here in Washington. He began by thanking his staff for all their work, a lovely touch! Two of them were in the session and we all applauded for them. And then he quoted Isaac Asimov: No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be. And he invoked the often repeated phrase that the only way to deal with the future is to invent it.

An interesting concept that he brought out is that documents are talking things. Before there was writing people sat and learned from the talk of their elders - aristotle & plato come to mind. Manuscripts extend the voice - printing goes further - digital and web dessemination even further. And each time the format changes we require new means for authentication of the content! We get further and further from the original speaker. And as we move forward everything also becomes less durable: vellum to paper to digital.

Fascinating things to think about! Talk at you tomorrow (I hope!)

Today at CIL - Opening keynote

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth - it's been an incredible day. (And I was unable to connect to the internet for several hours, so this is really late!) We learned several things about CIL this morning. The conference was first called "Small Computers in Libraries," with small meaning microcomputers which we now call PCs. How the world and our terminology have changed!. There are over 2100 people here representing all 50 states, 10 other countries including Canada, Egypt, Nepal, the UK, Sweden and Slovakia. There are 139 speakers and 62 companies exhibiting. What a group to be part of.

Clifford Lynch's opening keynote was exciting and inspirational. His purpose was to relect of what's happened in the last 20 years and project into the future. He spoke a little about the big trends he has seen that we all lived through but seldom think about in an organized way.

He talked about arpanet in 1969, the internet emerging in the mid to late 70s and the web in 1994. 1985 was the beginning of the era of online catalogs, ATM began in the early 80s and were many people's introduction to computers. In the mid 90s the Internet burst into the public scene and there was a huge adult education problem that libraries stepped up to address. I never thought about that role for libraries, but I used one in a library before I had one of my own, and I was proud that I could manage the catalog fairly quickly.

The trends he spoke of include moving from scarcity to abundance, from hard-to-find information to more than we can cope with. Moving from surrogates to digital representations that stand by themselves, from bibliographic records to full text.

And he spoke of the long term trend from scriptoriums in monasteries to printing presses that belong to organizations to PCs that belong to individuals. The power has shifted immensely. The web is for authoring as well as consuming - BLOGS, for example.

Information is paradoxical - it is fragile and must be preserved with care. And it is impossible to get rid of when you sent one angry email in 1982 that is still on the web and comes up every time someone Googles your name! EVerything embarrassing will persist!

He talked about security and privacy and the issues we still need to sort out there.

He predicted with certainty that CIL at 30 will be an interesting thing!!


My wonderful-yet-crazy friend Arthur Smith (who also happens to work for OCLC...he currently helps us be savvy in the Middle East and Arabic countries) sent me this link.

Of course, you guys know I love Manifestos. Pretty much just the word itself makes me want to leap off my chair in a frenzy of impassioned Activity! on behalf of A Good Cause! And you all already know about the Cluetrain Manifesto. Of course.

Here's my current manifesto that I am going to post all around our space, here in the Creative Services area: This I Believe! Even if you're not in a creative role, people will think you're creative if you post manifestos outside your office.

Go ahead, be daring. Be risky! Be bold, in search of adventures!

(just watch the chair you leap off of..mine has rolled out from under me before and it was very un-fun...)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hello from Computers in Libraries

I'm here! Checked into the hotel, snug in my room and ready to sign in at 7:30 in the morning. There are more than 2,000 people registered for this conference which starts at 9:00 with a keynote address by Cliff Lynch. This is the 20th annual Computers in Libraries conference. There are 4 tracks going here: search & collaboration, web design, tools & people, e-resources & learning, and critical issues & planning. I will be moving back and forth between tracks, so you're likely to hear some strange combinations of new ideas as I come across them. I will post when I can - there are several wireless networks sort of available, but I'm new to wireless and not sure how it will work. I feel more secure on the ethernet cable in my room. I'll talk at you soon!!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Wayne State

We had a lovely conversation with the Wayne State library science students this afternoon. It was like George and I were the blogger celebrities or something! Very cool.

Photo will be soon as they send it to us! (hint, hint...)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Guest Blogger

It's my pleasure to introduce "It's All Good's" first guest blogger, Ginny Browne. Ginny is OCLC's Knowledge Management librarian. She runs our internal website, called C-Web, and manages internal knowledge transfer. Ginny also is one of the three editors of this nifty little glossary that we have behind our firewall (sorry) that defines library jargon, acronyms, initialisms, and, especially, OCLC-speak. (I just went to check this and realized the glossary needs some serious updating. As one of the three editors, this just makes me shiver...) For her day job, Ginny works in our Library and Information Center, and serves as the recorder for the Members Council's State Academic Libraries group.

Ginny will be attending the Computers in Libraries conference in DC next week, and she'll be bringing us news of what's new and interesting there. If you run into Ginny and you say something profound, you might just end up on this blog.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Visiting Miami

Yesterday I flew to Miami, FL, in the morning and came home at night which made for a very long day...entirely my choice, mind you. I had been invited to speak to library staff of the combined Miami Dade College campuses by Thom Saudargas, a librarian (and funny guy) who is the Campus CIO for the Medical Center Campus. It was the first time I've given a presentation in a real theater...I stood on the little proscenium and delivered my oration although there were times I wished I could tap dance as we had a hard time getting my slides up on the screen so I was holding up the print-out of my presentation, saying, ok, now we are moving to slide 3 that looks like this...

All was good in the end.

And today I got a nice email from an attendee who thanked me and said...not only were you full of thoughts, you filled me with thoughts of what we could do. This kind of feedback is why I spend 20 hours of one day on the road. Not that my thoughts were so marvy but that I could help one person at least think in new ways about doing the job. It's not important to me if my ideas are ones that are used...what is vital to me is that people working in libraries think outside of their usual practices and assumptions.

Off the soapbox now. I am taking a few days vacation so George and Alice are "on". And we're going to have a guest blogger...more on that to come.

Tim Bray's Ten Reasons Why Blogging is Good For Your Career

Go read the 10 reasons here...and recall that Sun (Tim's employer) has a) one of the few blogger CEOs and b) a publically available policy on Public Discourse that includes blogging. And by the by, if Sun's CEO says "Web services may collapse under its own weight" in his blog I am likely to give that opinion some weight.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Google-eyed over Google's digitization

Mark Herring, dean of libraries services at Winthrop University, wrote a short piece for the Chronicle's Mar. 11, 2005 Point of View column. [login required]

Best part, IMHO:
Digitization is big news; it's a good idea; and it's inevitable. But let's not get all goggle-eyed over Google right away. Here are five reasons not to tear up your library card quite yet.

Go Mark. I may have some additional ideas about things--but this is valuable dialogue nonetheless.

I'll second the idea that we live in an "AND" world: digitized books (eBooks) and printed books (pBooks) are both valuable formats for information consumers.

Yes, sometimes I snuggle up with my laptop, PDA, iPod. But often I cozy up with my hardback that I can dogear and scribble on. By the same token, when I look for that "Poor Yorick" quotation from Hamlet that CSI made reference to last night, a digitized version gets me there a heck of a lot faster.

And check out Herring's poster. Anyone like to comment?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

More Than I Know

Welcome to Peter Binkley, to the Blog People. Peter is the Digital Initiatives Technology Librarian, University of Alberta Libraries in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. And I suspect he's more capable of reading complex texts than most of us...if I recall correctly Peter has a Phd in Medieval History.

As a Canadian librarian, my professional world is smaller than that of US librarians...there's a lot less of us! Peter is one of the luminaries of the Canadian library community, as was his brother Dave, who passed away too young very recently. There's no six degrees of separation for our small community--it's two, maybe three.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Official blogging

As our readers know, It's All Good describes itself as "A blog from 3 OCLC Online Computer Library Center staff...purely...personal reflections..."

None of the three of us are in the least bit naive or ingenuous so we know that our "OCLCness" is part of everything we write. Not surprising also, because most of what we write is about things related to our jobs at OCLC.

At the moment, however, there is no official policy at OCLC regarding participation in blogs, either almost official ones like IAG or personal ones of people who happen to work for OCLC (there are two I know of). OCLC does have policies on participating in electronic discussions but as far as I know they are division-specific, not company-wide.

And I am also not aware of any policies about being interviewed, public speaking, letters to the editor, being photographed wearing official OCLC clothes in funny situations and so on. I do think if The New York Times called an OCLC staff member up and said, "tell me what you think about Google Scholar" any of us would be savvy enough to refer the caller to our PR people--who have facts as well as opinions handy.

I am guessing most of you readers do not have policies for blogs, even if you have started one for your institution. I am going to share with you some of the resources I am gathering for our own internal discussion about blogging--and if you have ones to share please send them on! And if you have nothing but ideas to share on the topic of institutional blogging, we're all ears and eyes.

- is maintained by Fredrik Wackå, from Malmö, Sweden. It's written in English. He says, "Blogging can play an important role in both external and internal communications of your organization. But to find out exactly how, you need an overview. You need a place where many different questions on participatory business communication can be answered. That's what this is. You will find basic facts, examples and testimonials, and an eye on the current discussion."

And right at the top of the CorporateBlogging page is a free 16 page document available for download called "Beginners' Guide to Corporate Blogging."

- The Gilbane Report v.12 no.10 is called Blogs and Wikis: Technologies for Enterprise Applications. The introduction says: "But, being dismissive of blogs and wikis because of how they are most often used, and talked about, today is a mistake (PCs and web browsers weren't considered as serious enterprise tools at first either)." A completely irrelevant but interesting piece of info: the author of the report is Lauren Wood who happens to be married to Tim Bray.

- "Corporate Blogging" is a short article by Frederik Wackå published in July 2004, on what I think is a Danish web site called Kommunikations forum. The article and links are in English, but all the other links are in the native language of the web site. "But most of all, blogging challenges the organisational hierarchy. The blogger becomes a very visible individual. The blog can give this person a position in the eyes of important target groups that don’t necessarily match the organisation scheme. And that requires an open corporate culture."

- Harvard Business Review has published this year's "HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas for 2005" and the business implications of blogging is number 10. This 29 page special report is available for purchase...I bought a PDF version for $6USD and it was available immediately. Steve Rubel, a PR guy with a blog, has a nice summary here if you'd rather not find the whole thing. And the blog bit is a small part of the total, so unless you care to read about all 20 ideas, I wouldn't suggest you purchase the report.

Finally, any comments you'd care to leave about the value to you (or not!) of this blog or any other blog affiliated with a business/institution would be much appreciated.

Library audiobook programs - part 2

Our local daily paper, The Columbus Dispatch, had a long article this morning on the front page of the Connect technology section on digital books available for download from 9 area public libraries. This article was preceded by a spiffy ad in Thursday paper announcing the program, called the Mid-Ohio Library Digital Initiative.

Of course, many libraries have had e-books in their collections for some time but e-audiobooks are newer and people who don't regularly visit libraries may not hear about. What I particularly liked about the Mid-Ohio initiative is the advertisment in the paper...all kinds of companies advertise in newspapers, why not libraries?

Wired magazine notes library audiobook program

The ever-astute Wendy McGinnis, Director of PR for OCLC, sent me this clip from Wired magazine: Library Shuffles Its Collection.

It's a program from the South Huntington Public Library on Long Island, New York.

This program is cool for so many reasons. South Huntington Public has been able to:
1. Attract the attention of national technology media outlet. Awesome.
2. Make creative use of existing commerical resources. The library saw what they wanted in the consumer marketplace and adapted it for library use. Score two for creativity. What's that old saying? Improvise, adapt and overcome.
3. Put devices in people's hands. So there's only 10 devices. So what? It gives people a chance to experiment with new technology, new devices with no risk. No risk significantly lowers the barriers to community adoption.

So kudos to the library director who said, "Hey, let's try it. What's the worst that can happen? We have 10 iPod Shuffles that don't circulate. Big deal, I'll take the risk."
NB. I'm not even going to shamelessly toot our own horn about our Downloadable Audiobooks program. Nope. No tooting here! :)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Whose News? Media, Technology and the Common Good

"Whose News? Media, Technology and the Common Good" is a conference going on right now (March 3-5) at Harvard, and there is loads of really interesting stuff being said (lots of video clips available), as well as links to interesting content, made accessible through morph, the Media Center of the American Press Institute's blog. Journalists and bloggers are participating and the bloggers are commenting on their blogs, here, here, here, here and here, providing a fascinating commentary on the formal events.

I've said this before--maybe not here, but whenever I do presentations--the best way to get a grip on the trends that will be/are rocking our world is to pay attention to what's happening and being said in the media arenas. Music and news are two I think are particularly apropros. You don't have to be an Arthur C. Clarke to make some leaps from the predictions about journalism or music consumption to the future of the relationship between libraries and their communities of users.

And here's part of the road map. The aforementioned Media Center has a "Thinking Paper" available called We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of Media and Information that I would say is a "must read". From the introduction:
"There are three ways to look at how society is informed.The first is that people are gullible and will read, listen to, or watch just about anything. The second is that most people require an informed intermediary to tell them what is good, important or meaningful. The third is that people are pretty smart; given the means, they can sort things out for themselves, find their own version of the truth. The means have arrived. The truth is out there."

Librarians, journalists, DJs, film makers...we're all "informed intermediaries" and our professional worlds are all being impacted by the arrival of the third way of society informing itself. None of us own "the means" anymore.

Thanks to Rafat at for the original link.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Codex Redux

Thanks to all the people who have left comments here on the Scanblog, and to the many more sent me e-mail directly, about my little piece "Revenge of the Codex People." What a blast I've had reading what you've had to say!

All of these comments explain why blogs are not only fun, they're important. They allow us to have a dialogue with people with whom we might never have a chance to interact in person. We actually do learn things, skeptics notwithstanding, and learn more about our colleagues. I loved learning that there really was an abbot who repsonded to Gutenburg; I've frequently said that the first time I saw a Macintosh, in February 1984 in Columbia, SC, I felt like a monk seeing a printing press for the first time. (Incidentally, at least as of 5:00 Eastern today, if you enter "In Praise of Scribes" in a Yahoo search box, the top return is a WorldCat entry. Thanks, "pbinkley!")

My main concern is that I see the world being polarized in yet another way, among those who think electronic resources are a panacea and those who think they are a plague. We need to create and inhabit an "and" world, not an "or" world. It doesn't have to be print or digital, it can be print and digital. It's not Encyclopaedia Britannica or wikipedia, it's EB and wiki. And it doesn't have to be fountain pens on vellum or e-mail and blogs; I would be as hard pressed to live without my fountain pens as I would be without my laptop.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Boulder visits

We have a visitor to our creative group this week, Sean Gallagher. Between the two of us, he and I write much of the NetLibrary marketing content. (He does the lion's share!)

His being here has reminded me once again: there is a tangible benefit to getting people in the same room once in awhile. Everything goes smoother.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Odd Opportunities

I went to have periodontic work done this afternoon (translation: rotor-rooter work done on my gums) and the hygenist is relatively new so we made the usual small talk. She says (in a politically correct way, seeing it was mid-day) "Do you work outside the home?" and I said, yes, I work at OCLC. She perked up..."how do I get into OCLC's database?" Now, this is not the usual yakkety-yak one has with people.

Even here in Dublin, OH (and I know you'll be shocked) most citizens have not one clue as to what OCLC does and even if they have the vaguest, the details escape them. So, to be asked about access to the Real Thing is always surprising. But this woman's spouse is a chemist and she and he do lots of research, related to lipids. For her, the Holy Grail is WorldCat. It was odd for me to be doing a pitch for Open WorldCat through Google and Yahoo! Search while I was tilted back in the chair. I relish, though, any opportunity to spread this particular good word.