Friday, May 27, 2005

OCLC Symposium: ALA Chicago

If you regularly check the OCLC web site (what? you don't?) you many have already seen a brief description of the OCLC Symposium for ALA Annual in Chicago. The title is Mining the Long Tail: Libraries, Amazoogle and Infinite Availability, and we are pleased as all get out to have as our main speaker Chris Anderson who wrote "The Long Tail" article that has had such huge resonance since it was published in October 2004. Chris is the Editor-in-Chief for Wired Magazine. Before he joined Wired in 2001 he was the US Business Editor for The Economist, and he's also worked for Nature and Science. He has a BSc. in Physics.

In a long tail, a huge number of events occur very rarely in the long skinny part of the tail (occurance could be popularity or circulation or sales) while a small number of events occur very often in the fat "head" of the tail.

Put another way, a DaVinci Code is going to be borrowed or bought a lot more frequently than Buddenbrooks, or Ulysses, or Mrs. Dalloway. And this is not a surprise to librarians because we know this to be true of library collections. But what is new is the significance of what Chris proposes.

I oversimplify but essentially The Long Tail suggests that new discovery and distribution mechanisms (such as Google or Amazon or eBay or Netflix) bring goods (be those books, or music or bicycles) to consumers in such a way that The Long Tail is "mined" much more effectively than it could be before, and that this infinite availibility has enormous implications for generating use and revenue in the long part of collections. So, we think this is all most relevant to libraries and is why we asked Chris to speak to ALA attendees.

And in an effort to address the "so what?" factor, we asked three clever people to respond to Chris's presentation. These responders are John Blossom, President and Senior Analyst, Shore Communications; Chuck Richard, Vice-President and Lead Analyst, Outsell; and Nancy Davenport, President, Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

Outsell and Shore are two sources for me about the information and content industries. They both have blogs as well as some free reports, here and here. CLIR also publishes reports such as the February 2005 report, Libraries As Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space and links to their own symposia.

If you're not familiar with the notion of The Long Tail, here's the Wikipedia entry to explain it all.

Chris's blog The Long Tail is a good place to find all kinds of links to comments and writings, and to keep up with Chris's thinking on TLT. Also, if you want to take a break from LibraryLand when you're in Chicago, Wired is hosting its annual really cool NextFest event June 24-26 at Navy Pier. Day passes are a deal at $15 at the door. Kids under 12 are free. Last year there were more than 100 hands-on exhibits including robots, flying cars, private space planes, homes of the future, unmanned aerial vehicles, hypersonic sound beams, invisibility coats, and other fun stuff. Take the kid with you or the kid in you!

If you'd like to register for the OCLC Symposium and other OCLC events at ALA, do so here. The Symposium will be held Friday, June 25th 1:30 - 4:30 pm, at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, Grand Ballroom. We think this is going to be a really thought-provoking session and there'll be plenty of time for questions and discussion. Please, plan on joining us!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Best Practices Sought

Tuula Haavisto, a librarian in Finland, is looking for examples of Success Stories in libraries "as builders of the Information Society" for inclusion in a database of information being developed for the World Summit on the Information Society (known to its closest buddies as WSIS), the second plenary session of which will be held in Tunis in November 2005. The call for contributions is available in English, French and German on IFLANET at

If you have an example that proves that "It's All Good," this could be your chance to get some recognition on an international stage! Even more important, getting stories about how libraries are serving as important players in the burgeoning infosphere in front of the participants in this conference (who are overwhelmingly NOT librarians) would be beneficial to the whole profession.

Pride of Profession

Tomorrow is the last day of the 2005 IFLA/OCLC Early Career Development Fellowship Program. Tomorrow night, Nancy and I will take Selenay, Thomas, Xiaoqing, Edwar, Lela, Muhammad, and Gillian to BD's Mongolian Barbecue, which for some reason has become our restaurant of choice for the last group meal of the Fellows' stay. Is it possible to be nostalgic for something that isn't really over yet?

In the scan, we talk about how collaboration is the librarian's secret weapon. We know how to work together to serve our customers in a way that is not natural behavior in other industries. And other the last four weeks I've gotten to see one type of that collaboration in action.

We've met some of the leading lights in the library field this month. In Chicago, Karen Danczak-Lyons, the acting Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library, welcomed us to her library's annual staff in-service day and taught us about the Fish Philosophy from Seattle's Public Market. Paula Kaufman, the University Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, spent an hour telling us about what it means to be a research library director in the US today, and Barbara Ford and Susan Schnuer of Illinois's Mortenson Center for International Librarianship gave us a tour of the campus's libraries and the grad school of library and information science, despite the fact that they were leaving the next day to do a 20-day consulting trip to Africa. Leaders of ALA and American Theological Library Association took time from their days to talk to us. We heard Judy Krug talk about the work of the Freedom to Read Foundation.

At the Library of Congress, Deanna Marcum and Beacher Wiggins spent the morning with us, telling us about the challenges and pleasures of managing the collections of the largest library in the world. Then we got jaw-dropping tours of LC's Jefferson Building and the scanning center tucked away in the Adams Building.

Joe Branin, the Director of Libraries, and Jim Bracken, Assistant Director for the Main Library at The Ohio State University, Don Barlow, the director of Westerville Public Library, the staff at Columbus Metro Library, and Belen Fernandez, Director of Franklin University Library, spent many more hours with the Fellows.

Delegates to OCLC's Members Council volunteered to serve as hosts for Fellows, to help them understand the sometimes arcane business of the Council. We heard exhilarating talks at Members Council by Kurt De Belder from the University of Leiden, and Stewart Bodner of New York Public Library, as well as concepts for the future from Lorcan Dempsey. (Lorcan's presentation is available on the OCLC Research site; the other presentations will shortly be available on the Council's web site.) Sjoerd Koopman, the education director for IFLA and one of the members of the Fellows' selection panel, flew in from The Hague to attend Members Council, to offer a program on international library activities for OCLC staff, and to meet the Fellows. And Karen Whittlesey, who is soon to depart ATLA, also joined us in Council.

OCLC staff offered their time, their experience, and their insights, and, in many cases, opened their homes and families, to the Fellows. This helped them get a better sense of what living in the US is like, Desperate Housewives and Friends notwithstanding.

As I was driving home tonight, it occurred to me that there probably aren't many fields where a group of young professionals from seven countries from around the world could be welcomed by the top leaders of that profession, and given the royal treatment these librarians received. Silly or sentimental as it sounds, all of this reminded me of why I wanted to be a librarian in the first place. I wanted to be in a profession where people matter more than borders, where ideas matter more than things, where sharing matters more than owning, where what one holds is freely offered to all. We don't always live up to these ideals, but for the last month I've seen what can happen when we do. And it renews my faith in the whole bloody thing.

The other stunning realization is how much we learn from the Fellows while they are here. Of course, we learn about the libraries and the educational culture in these countries, but we also learn an immeasurable amount about how we as an organization (OCLC) and how we as a profession (American librarians) are perceived beyond our own borders. This is invaluable. Hanging out with these seven people for the last month has been a post graduate education in the old Robert Burns stanza.

If you know of any institution or association that would be interested in joining OCLC, ATLA, and IFLA in sponsoring this program, please contact me. Jay Jordan, our CEO, said at lunch with the Fellows on Tuesday that he wishes the program were much larger. If we can get more co-sponsors, that can happen. (Of course, Nancy Lensenmayer and Susan Saggio might kill me for suggesting this today!)

Bloggers at ALA

I am still in avoidence mode....too many Big Things happening and my ability to be pithy has taken a vacation. Off on a small tangent: I find this to be a pattern and I suspect is a way I deal with what some refer to as "information overload." Every now and then, my capacity to scan, synthesize and make sense of stuff fades, and I have learned I have to mentally lean back in my chair, gaze out the window and not try and make sense of the things I appreciate but don't quite get (tagging, folksomies) or that portend "shift happening" events (pick one). What I've found is that I catch up when I have to, or when the volume is cranked to a level where I finally hear the main message. So, I don't quite get social tagging yet but I will, and I am not worried about that. In the meantime I'll post about other stuff.

OK, long prelim.... George, Alice and I extend an invitation to any libraryland bloggers attending ALA in Chicago, to join us for a gathering on Sunday, June 26, beginning at 5:30pm. If you've read Marylaine Block's interview with us, you know that George nicely espressed his sense of the value of our blogging efforts and his appreciation of the blogging community. We've got to know lots of stellar colleagues through blogging and we deeply appreciate each and every one of you. So, we thought, how about we host a salon where we can meet, nosh a bit, have some beverages, adult and otherwise, meet one another F2F and discuss library blogging.

Please come if you are attending ALA.

The event will be in the OCLC Blue Suite. And the exact location of that is a secret. It's a secret that isn't divulged until much closer to ALA because we don't know the answer. OCLC always books three suites at the main hotel all the OCLC staff stay at, that we use for meetings and gatherings. We don't get the actual numbers of the suites until our conference staff arrive at the hotel. So, how will you get the secret room number? We'll post it here. You can ask at the OCLC booth. And you can ask at the hotel--which I believe is the Hyatt McCormick.

If you can't wait to eat some pretzels and drink a beer with fellow libraryland bloggers, would you leave an RSVP in our comments here, please? We'd hate to run out of pretzels.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Ordinarily, I wouldn't be this immodest (yeah, right...) but Marylaine Block just published an interview with Alane and Alice (OK, and me) in her weekly e-zine, Ex Libris.

There is lots of news about the last few weeks of the IFLA/OCLC Fellows visit and hope to find some time to blog tonight. In the meantime, here's a nice article about our visit on Monday to the Westerville Public Library.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Blogrolling In Our Time

There are many weighty matters I mean to blog about but because they are weighty I need to be coherent and thoughtful as I write and I am not feeling either so will resort to an ouroboros post. We have here remarked on our collective uselessness at adding some of the features many other blogs have such as trackbacks and a blogroll.

I was happy to see a conversation about blogrolls on "Walt At Random" because the sum of it gave It's All Good absolution from having a blogroll. So, I declare on behalf of George and Alice that IAG is never going to have a blogroll.

One less thing to fret about.

Some things are the same, the world over

Librarians love acronyms.

I just went to a panel presentation by some of the IFLA/OCLC Fellows and there were lots of acronyms.

It was strangely reassuring, to think that there are some aspects of librarianship--the urge to self-organize, to collaborate, and to gather together to think collectively about knowledge dispersement--some aspects may be quite universal in our profession.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The (Education) Apprentice

Donald Trump has launched Trump University. I guess he wanted to beat Richard Branson to the punch.
Anyone else think this non-degree-granting online institution is a bit curious?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Economic value of libraries

Stephen Abram has gone to town (again). This time with demonstrating economic value in libraries. I first saw his article--thanks to Alane--in the Spring 2005 issue of Letter of the LAA, the magazine of Alberta libraries (Canada).

Then today one of our trusty Information Center librarians sent me a link to his (longer) article online, entitled The Value of Libraries: Impact, Normative Data, & Influencing Funders. What's great about Stephen's article is that he's taken a lot of valuable efforts that have been gathering steam (including our own advocacy initiative) and combines them into a powerful article with plenty of hard facts and statistics. Quotable facts you might have on hand for your next library board meeting.

And he's addressed many of the library types individually--so schools, you're in there. Corporate libraries, you're there, too. It's a great resource.

I am pleased to say that bibliographies work. We put our bibliography out on the Advocacy section--and sure enough, Stephen looked at the same sources we did. Feels good to know that other people are benefitting from the work you've done and shared.

Stephen's article in February LJ about Google and the opportunity for libraries.

Rock on and keep going!

Cell phone research

Seems to be, someone else is thinking along the same lines we are. Chemical Abstracts Service, to be specific. ChemAbstracts is one of our fellow research organizations here in central Ohio, and I'm so excited that they are in a pilot to test making abstracts available to handhelds and cell phones.

This story will be in the Chronicle print issue for May 27, 2005. So consider my blog posting a prequel. Full story (subscription required). You can, however, read the original press release from CAS.

Speaking of prequels, has anyone seen Episode III yet?

Publishers fight back

Just saw a story about Google Print on the Chronicle's daily newsletter: university-press publishers have banded together to compile questions and complaints.

Google Print "appears to be built on a fundamental violation of the copyright act," say the publishers. Read the whole story on the Chronicle's Web site.

Friday, May 20, 2005

My Gig at MLA

While Alice was in Cleveland, and George was off somewhere (Washington, DC, I think) with the IFLA/OCLC Fellows, I was in San Antonio at the Medical Library Association conference. I participated in a panel presentation for the final plenary session of the conference--so there were "only" 600 or so people in the audience instead of the 2000+ at the early conference plenary.

My co-panelists were Anurag Acharya, principal engineer, Google Scholar, and Jonathan Handler, physician at the Washington Hospital Center and Associate Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

No slouches here, I tell you. I had to preface my remarks by saying, unlike my co-panelists, I don't actually make anything.

I spoke first about the characteristics of people under 35 who are staff in libraries and who are served by libraries and used Marc Prensky's "digital natives, digital immigrants" meme to frame my 25 minutes.

Anurag spoke next about--what else?--Google Scholar. Now, I don't know what ideas you all have about the motives of the people who work at Google but I can tell you that Anurag is an idealist. He began his presentation by saying that the goal of GS was to provide the best possible scholarly search experience. He wasn't claiming that this goal had been achieved--just that this was the goal. And clearly, he believes that expanding access to scholarship can only benefit everyone, scholar or not, which I wholeheartedly agree with. In fact, Anurag referred to something I'd written about this here back in November.

He closed with this quote from Vannevar Bush's thought piece "As We May Think", "Mendel's concept of the laws of genetics was lost to the world for a generation because his publication did not reach the few who were capable of grasping and extending it; and this sort of catastrophe is undoubtedly being repeated all about us, as truly significant attainments become lost in the mass of the inconsequential."

Amazingly, Google Scholar has exactly two people working on it, and as far as I could tell, this means both the technical work and the laborious work of negotiating with publishers for content.

Jon Handler gave a really interesting presentation on a medical informatics system that he had a hand in developing--in his spare time when not being a professor, an emergency physician, a dad and bow tie aficionado. When you read about the system which is called Azyxxi you may feel as I do--that anyone working in a large organization would love to have access to such a robust comprehensive information tool. It did occur to me while I listened to Jon describe all the disparate forms of content brought together in one search interface--using simple off-the-shelf software--that we maybe make the federated search issue way too complicated. If Azyxxi can bring together bib records, test results, echocardiograms, x-rays, clinicians' notes, patient records, MRIs AND require absolutely no training to use...what do Jon and his colleagues know about data architecture and delivery that we don't?

I most often give presentations as the sole speaker and I must say it was fun being on a panel--especially as my co-panelists were such smart, interesting people. Linda Walton, Associate Director, Galter Health Sciences Library, Northwestern U, was the clever person who put the panel together.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

NextGen Librarians

Rachel Singer Gordon posted a piece earlier this week, called "Revenge of the NextGen People" on the Library Journal site.

Rachel, I'm with you on the clue train and have felt for years that you had to have 20 years of service before you were taken seriously in the library community. What I've found recently, however, is a renewed commitment to the younger generation of up and coming professionals. Maybe I've just passed that magic threshold of I've-been-here-long-enough, but it seems like Boomer librarians are waking up to GenX/Next Gens and the energy we bring to the profession.

Mostly I want to say YES to the TV commercial. I'd love to be a part of it. I'd love for OCLC to be a part of it. Sign me up!

When do we show up?

Yesterday was fun for me--I was a panelist for the Cleveland Area Metropolitan Library System (CAMLS) Annual Meeting.

The program was on Building Brainpower: The Role of Libraries in Regional Economic Development. Fellow panelists include Jack Ricchiuto our facilitator, Ed Morrison of the Center for Regional Economic Issues from Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management and Paul Williams from the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce.

It was cool because we had librarians AND economists, mayors, city councilpeople and library board members--a great group for dialogue about the region and the role of the library as an economic engine.

We talked about what it means to build brainpower in a local region, from an economist's point of view, in the global economy. The World is Flat is a good book on this--from Thomas Friedman, the same writer who brought you Longitudes and Attitudes, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Here's Wired magazine's recent interview with Friedman.

It boils down to knowledge as a competitive asset in the global economy. The ability to handle and make sense of massive amounts of knowledge...well, librarians (and library staffers) have this skill in spades. And we can help our local businesspeople work more effectively with global supply chains.

We talked about the physical and virtual spaces of libraries and the generational aspects of how to serve the Boomers and Gamers on your staff, in your stacks and on your Web sites. Where they are.

For example, Cleveland is well-known for its medical facilities. Why not stock each hospital waiting room with information about the library? And why not develop prepackaged collections to meet those patient's needs, before they even ask for them?

The group did an Open Spaces workshop after the panel discussion, which was cool. People threw out questions on whiteboards and then you nomidically clumped with the questions you were most interested in thinking about. Check out the opportunities we uncovered together.

What came out of the workshop was the realization that the people in the room formed significant brainpower. And that we as librarians tend to wait until asked to volunteer valuable information. We no longer need to wait--we can start to assert our role right now, today. We can start to say, "When do we show up?" and designate staff to serve on City Council, Chambers of Commerce, economic development groups, small business meetings. We assume they need us--because they do!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oil and Libraries

It's a matter of perspective. Gasoline prices at the pump in the US make headlines. Compared to what's paid in other parts of the world, US prices are still low but compared to what's been paid in the past, current prices are painful to many.

But it's most defnitely a matter of perspective. I was in Alberta a few weeks ago, and the place is awash in money just as it was in the mid-80s. As an oil producer, refiner, and broker, Alberta benefits while the rest of us cringe as we fill up our gas tanks. Now, my pals in Alberta may cringe too when they fill the tank but they see wages increase and real estate value increase. One of my long-time friends bought a house several years ago for less than $200K CN and now has it on the market for $700K, fully aware that whomever buys it will tear it down and put up a much bigger more costly house on the lot.

What does this have to do with libraries? In the last big boom, not much benefit overtly flowed from the government to "public goods." This time, it's different. In March, the provincial government of Alberta tabled a bill called the Access to the Future Act which proposed $4.5 billion CN in new and expanded post-secondary endowments and scholarships.

Some of this funding is to be allocated to the Lois Hole Campus Alberta Digital Library, a digital library that will provide access to material currently held in the individual libraries of Alberta post-secondary institutions. So libraries in Alberta can expect funding of approximately $30 million over 3 years towards the acquisition of digital information products, implementation of infrastructure to deliver information to the entire post-secondary system, and the development of four regional Digitization Centres.

And for US readers...the government that allocated all this money to scholarship and libraries? It's Canada's version of a dyed-in-the-wool right of center party.

The OCLC connection: Ernie Ingles, Vice-Provost (Learning Services) & Chief Librarian at the University of Alberta is a delegate to OCLC's Members Council and was this past weeknd elected as Vice-President/President Elect of Members Council....the first non-US delegate elected to this position and I know for sure, the first M├ętis to be elected.

I've known Ernie for almost 20 years and his resume is extensive and impressive. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and also a recipient of the Queen's Jubilee medal as is my dad (although for different reasons.) The medal acknowledges those Canadians who "have made an outstanding and exemplary contribution to the community or to Canada as a whole."

Lucky OCLC.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Rare Event

It's Members Council here in Dublin, Ohio and so George, Alice and I are not at our computers much. George does have a Blackberry and Alice and I have smart phones but we just haven't made that step into moblogging and so aren't doing a very good job of posting.

Last night, Kurt De Belder, University Librarian, Universiteit Leiden in The Netherlands gave a speech to delegates and OCLC staff, covering some issues regarding the future directions of academic libraries. It was nice to hear from a librarian from outside the US for two reasons: things are very different, and things are very similar. Kurt used a term I liked to describe issues in the landscape libraries inhabit. He called them "fault lines" which I took to mean places where there's tension and potential for disruption, if not full-scale disaster. One issue among many was that of the unintegrated nature of the "integrated library system". Integrated with what? Itself. Not the Web, not other systems and certainly not integrated with users' experiences. Of course, ILS vendors are beginning to address this but much faster would be better.

Lorcan has a long and very thoughtful essay on "the user interface that isn't" over at his weblog.

After Kurt spoke, Stewart Bodner spoke. He's the Associate Chief of the General Research Division at the New York Public Library, and a funny guy. He gave his presentation in the form of questions to our community. My favourite was (I am paraphrasing from my scribbled notes), "Can we all stop planning for the rare event?" His point was that we librarians spend a lot of time worrying about the "what ifs", identifying the rare event and then building a system for that rare event. I thought of the soulessness and lack of personality that our catalogs have because we have always planned for the rare event of an invasion of privacy. Lorcan comments on the space in his post "The Prisoner and the Catalog."

Sounds like a novel by Kafka.

Friday, May 13, 2005

It's All Interesting - Google Scholar

On May 10, Google announced that the pilot project that had about 30 libraries provide direct links to articles found through Google Scholar had been opened up to any library that cares to participate. Rather than repeat what others have written, read Gary Price's good summary and comments here, the announcement on the Google blog here, and here from the free version of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

There hasn't been--that I've found--a great deal of dialogue about this in librarywebland yet.

It is so very interesting that Google continues to introduce stuff (what are they? programs? services? features?) that are significant parts of the business we're in. And by that I do mean the business libraries are in as well as the business that OCLC is in. Of course, OCLC is playing a role through the Open WorldCat program that exposes library monographic collections through Google and Google Scholar.

When there are discussions among librarians about Google almost always someone says or writes something like: "we need to make sure people choose us first instead of Google." Which I happen to think is a really silly thing to say and want. This "us versus them" attitude is Don Quixotian. Don Quixote mistakes windmills for giants sent by evil sorcerers and so attacks them (hence the term "tilting at windmills) which of course is spectacularly unsuccessful.

Here's a piece from blogger Fred Wilson who muses on Google as the Starbucks of the Internet that I found fit into the messy jumble of thoughts I am trying to sort through to come up with something amazingly articulate about the place of Google, libraries, and OCLC in the world. I really do believe this isn't a fight between might and right. People go to Starbucks for many reasons: they prefer the coffee, or it's predictable and convenient and everywhere, or it's the closest provider, or they like the ambience. But people still frequent other coffee places, some of which are chains and some of which are stand-alones, for many reasons: they prefer the coffee, or it's the closest, or they like supporting a community resource.

As Mr Wilson comments in his posting: "But size is the enemy of efficiency and innovation. And Google has become a very big company very quickly. They are in Starbucks and McDonalds company now. That's great for them but its also great news for the little guy like Joe who can make a better cup of coffee or a better web service."

Shouldn't libraries offer different and higher level services than does Google, not compete for the easier quick reference business? Rather than focus on beating Google and other search engines at a game we clearly do not dominate, we all need to focus on our place in the world and decide what it is we do that provides unique and complementary services of value to our communities.

Mary Chapin Carpenter is a favourite singer-songwriter of mine and I think her lyrics for her song "A Place in the World" are a perfect accompaniment to a non-Don Quixotean quest for our place in the world. The door is open wide.

A Place in the World
Mary Chapin Carpenter

What I'm looking for, after all this time
Keeps me moving forward, trying to find it
Since I learned to walk all I've done is run
Ready, on my mark, doesn't everyone
Need a place in the world

Could be right before your very eyes
Just beyond a door that's open wide
Could be far away or in your own backyard
There are those who say, you can look too hard
For your place in the world

Takes some of us a little longer
A few false starts gonna make you stronger
When I'm sure I've finally found it
Gonna wrap these arms all around it

Could be one more mile, or just one step back
In a lovers smile, down a darkened path
Friends will take our side, enemies will curse us
But to be alive is to know your purpose
It's your place in the world
Your place in the world
Your place in the world

©1996 Why Walk Music. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


I came home from the OCLC CAPCON meeting yesterday evening, flying out of Reagan National airport in Washington, DC. Even though we were meeting in a central city hotel, we had no indications of the airspace violation that resulted in all sorts of excitement. Security was slow--but it often is.

Most puzzling to me was the requirement that umbrellas be removed from bags and suitcases and placed into the same bins computers, shoes and jackets have to go in. Clearly this was new because all my fellow travellers were rummaging madly to find their umbrellas of mass destruction. My leopard-print umbrella made it through the x-ray machine without further scrutiny, but the somber blue number owned by the fellow behind me was yanked off the belt, examined closely and then opened. Whatever the TSA person thought might be in there, wasn't and the blue umbrella was reunited with its owner.

So, I did what most of us do: I googled "umbrellas TSA" today and found that umbrellas and walking canes are supposed to be inspected to make sure prohibited items aren't hidden inside. Oh. And the TSA list is date 2002. That means I've carried potentially dangerous umbrellas on about 50 flights without them being inspected.

Seeing I am on the topic of mass destruction....

As I have no doubt said before in this space, I really get a lot out of my subscriptions to Fast Company and Business 2.0. Several notable articles from the May issues of both magazines. From Fast Company, "Change or Die" and "Learning from the Jurassic Office Park." And from Business 2.0, "Stuck in the Spin Cycle", "Breaking Through Excuses" and "How to Beat Wal*Mart". I read all these through the lens of libraries and suggest that you do them all as if they were all about us.
Another good read, "Mass-media meltdown" article from the New York Post about the sharp--perhaps even precipitous--decline in consumption of the products of the mainstream media: movies, newspapers, TV, radio and the recording industry. Yes, I read that too through my library lens.

Change or die, indeed. Here's how our blogging pal Karen Schneider put it in a posting yesterday on LITA-L, adding to a robust and long thread on whether libraries expect too much from users trying to navigate physical and virtual library spaces (my mega-synthesis of the topic).

I can riff on the evils of Google all day, but I admire their secret sauce. Is it our business? You bet your sweet brink-of-extinction bippy it's our business. At least it's my business. Y'all who wish to, feel free to exit the bus in the Mesozoic Era.

Bill Gates on iPods

Just saw this piece in which Bill Gates purportedly trashed iPod's popularity.

"I don't think the success of the iPod can continue in the long term, as good as Apple may be," Gates was quoted as telling German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview.

Trust Mr. Gates to stir things up. Maybe it was when he invited Bono over to his house and saw his cool U2 iPod.

More music news
Yahoo is getting into the music scene (story) and plans to charge $7/month or $60/year for unlimited downloads of more than 1 million songs--which is about half the price of Napster To Go and way less than iTunes's model of paying $0.99/song.

Of course, I love my iPod so much...and I have all my CDs burned into iTunes already. So for now, the price is right but the convenience is wrong (for me). If I hadn't already gone down the iTunes yellow brick road...I would SO be on Yahoo's doorstep with my $7!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Adventures with Alice

Hey gang.
Two new adventures I've done this week:

A loyal IAG reader just tipped me off to the ALA Annual 05 wiki for Chicago. I'd never actually (don't laugh) wiki'ed before, and I am pleased to report, it's as simple as everyone says it is.

Along the same lines, I finally got around to signing up as a seller on eBay. I know, I know, millions of people have done it. But I hadn't.

And now I have. Now 4 people have a Columbus Crew hoodie sweatshirt on their watch lists. And 70 people have looked at it in the past 2 days! It blows my mind. It's so big, yet the system totally knows who you are, tracks what you're looking for and when you're looking for it. Lets you talk to other sellers and learn communally from the group...

Plus, get this--the more metadata you have, the better your chances as a seller. Now how's that for Cataloging 101 coming in handy?

Sounds spookily like some of our library-future-is-now conversations.

On to more meeting up with the IFLA Fellows while they are here in Dublin and the May Members Council meeting.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Fellows and More

Alane isn't kidding about us being busy.

I spent four days in Illinois with the IFLA/OCLC Early Career Development Fellows (hereafter, "the Fellows") last week. We had a great reception Wednesday at the Chicago Public Library All Staff Institute Day. The highlight was when one of our Fellows, Muhammad Rafiq of Pakistan, won the fish toss contest. He was presented with his prize by Karen Danczak Lyons, the acting commissioner of the CPL, who is wearing the coolest octopus hat you're ever likely to see. Incidentally, please check out that linked CPL site to see a truly wonderful public library web site. It's as clean as Google, while making it extremely easy to jump into whatever you need, including a very nice federated search system that lets you search the catalog, magazines, newspapers, and databases simultaneously. Sweet.

After the staff day, I was able to accomplish something I've always wanted to do. I rode "The City of New Orleans." I've been playing the song (badly) on my guitar for 30 years, but I finally got a chance to take the train from Chicago to Urbana/Champaign. What a great trip. The train is modern, clean, fast, smooth, and staffed by some wonderful people. Anyone who thinks Amtrak should be terminated should be ashamed of themselves. (Full disclosure: my beloved grandfather Joe Duffy worked for the New York Central line as a yard bull for 37 years.)

We also spent a most informative day at the Mortenson Center at the University of Illinois, led by our good friends and colleagues Barbara Ford and Susan Schnuer. They created a day jam packed with tours, private discussions with leaders including Paula Kaufman, the University Librarian, and a tour of the library school. Barbara and Susan were off for a 20-day trip to libraries in Africa the next day, but you would have thought we were the only people they had to be concerned with while we were there.

Back in Chicago on Friday (after a Thursday evening trip on the "Illini," an Amtrak train that's not quite in the City of New Orleans class, but still most serviceable) we visited the American Theological Library Association, one of the sponsors of the Fellows program. Karen Whittlesey, the director of member services for ATLA, and I had worked together at ALA in the 1990s, and so it was a pleasure to make contact with her again in our 2000s roles. ATLA is involved in many more publication activities than the average library association, and we were treated to a very interesting program about how ATLA staff index the literature of their discipline. Kevin Stephens showed us ATLA's micrographics lab. And we got to see what has to be the only meditation room in any library association offices.

After lunch, we visited ALA. This was a nostalgic trip for me; after all, when I worked there, my office was one of the stops on these tours. (I got to stop by and see Greta Southard, the current PLA Executive Director who is responsible for all those wonderful things PLA does now.) Michael Dowling, the director of the International Relations Office and a dead ringer for Fred Willard without the smirkiness, gave us a tour of 50 East Huron and arranged for complimentary ALA memberships for a year for the Fellows. Michael's low key, even droll, delivery made the visit a treat.

Friday night, several of us went to Pizzeria Uno and Howl at the Moon; consider these unsolicited plugs for both when you are in Chicago for ALA next month. In case anyone from OCLC is reading this, the expense for dinner is going on my reimbursement request form, but not my bar tab at Howl at the Moon.

Saturday was given over to a city tour, a visit to the Art Institute, and then the trip home. Except for an untoward incident on the L on the way to O'Hare, it was a great visit. (Tips for those of you going to ALA: keep your wallet as close to your body as possible at all times, and be especially careful if you travel on the L with your luggage),

Today, we had a conference call for all the speakers for PLA's preconference "Creating a Library Sales Force: It's Easier Than You Think!" My presentation at that event is going to focus on how to do an e-scan for your own institution. Details to follow.

This week, I'm back in Chicago (actually, Itasca) briefly for a board meeting of Learning Point Associates, then on to Seattle for a WebJunction Advisory Committee meeting Thursday. But they have their own blog now, so we can cover that there!

OCLC Members Council opens for me on Saturday with our early arrivers' dinner. Sunday is my wife Joyce's birthday---does ANYONE have a suggestion for a gift for her? She deserves the world, but we don't have anywhere to keep it. If you can think of something more practical, I'm game!

The point (and I do have one) is that even if I don't show up here for a while, I am thinking good thoughts about all of you!

Busy, busy...

We are all "heads' down" busy and so have not been here much. That's the paradox of blogging. Being busy often means we might have interesting things to comment on and point to, but....we're too busy to do it!

The OCLC/IFLA Fellows are here and that takes some of George's time. Seven librarians from developing countries, selected as Fellows by IFLA, OCLC and the American Theological Library Association, are spending May at OCLC's Dublin campus. The Fellows interact with OCLC staff, travel to local libraries, visit the Library of Congress, attend the OCLC Members Council May meeting, and participate in many OCLC-sponsored activities. This year the Fellows are from Turkey, Malawi, China, Colombia, Georgia, Pakistan and Jamaica. Unfortunately, I haven't met them yet because I've been....busy!

Tomorrow I am speaking at the OhioNet Annual Membership meeting and then on Wednesday, I'll be moderating a morning panel titled "How the Gamer Generation Will Reshape Libraries Forever" for the OCLC CAPCON Annual Meeting in DC.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Tomorrow is May 5, 2005.
So that's 05/05/05.
Anyone else besides me think that is Cool?

Green ribbons everywhere

Today is National Library Legislative Day. (as was yesterday...)

ALA has organized a physical rally in Washington, DC and a Virtual Legislative Day that we can all participate in. There are great pieces on the site, like a 2005 issues checklist, advice on how to tell your library's story and more.

The campaign rallying cry is "Fund America's Libraries." Let's all fax and e-mail our Congresspeople. Best place to get that information is in the ALA Legislative Action Center.

Washington won't know what hit 'em. Go team!