Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


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would tenure pressures in public libraries make good changes?

This started out as a response to a comment in the comments (thanks for the inspiration Laura!) but went so far off track from the original post that I decided it deserved it’s own post.

Laura and I were discussing cataloging of genre fiction series, especially burdensome to public libraries. While I am a librarian, when it comes to public libraries, I am a consumer, a patron, a supporter, a friend. Definitely not very familiar with the inner workings and struggles of public libraries

So, as a librarian but not a public librarian, I am often surprised at the ways that public libraries have not apparently grappled effectively with the challenges posed by fiction, series fiction and especially genre fiction. This has often led me to consider that tenure — with it’s emphasis on research and thus innovation — may be better for the profession than I might always otherwise think.  In this case, would tenure pressures in public libraries have led to better grappling with these cataloging issues (and let’s not talk about the role of, say, cataloging professors in LIS programs and the roles they could or whould or ought to take in this kind of process. Let’s just not, and say we’ve washed our hands.)

To make clear my assumption here: since public librarians are not pushed to produce in the same ways that tenure track academic librarians are pushed, little time, space, resources are provided to resolving thorny issues in public librarianship. Or so it seems?

What do you think? off the mark completely?

also, I am a fan of being faculty (and will fight for it if challenged). I will produce and be professionally active whether required to or not, it’s my nature. But I do think, from time to time, about whether tenure track pressures best serve the profession, or do not. This should be no surprise to my readers, who probably have noted that I tend towards philosophizing, and find the oddest things to be sources of contemplation.


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It’s all in the details

I’m traveling today, not for pleasure, and have become newly assured that I am not cut out for North Country living. Also, newly assured that user-centered, service-oriented is a must for libraries. Because if we don;t do it, we’re gonna leave folks feeling like I do today. And if today is enough to make me want to relocate, imagine what we’ll do to lifelong library users if we treat them without consideration? (note about the NorthCountry: it could be defined as having a core disregard for the needs of folks. Frontier thinking, insular to a crippling point, generally concerned about personal impacts of any and all decisions and behaviors. There are exceptions, but that’s the culture in a nutshell. You may be familiar with it politically, in NH and VT politics. But it ain’t just writ large, it’s business hours, types of stores, zoning,you name it) I’m talking little things, but so many of them, with accumulated resentment. Like the fact that not one single thing I have tried to buy today — including ferry tickets or lunch at a major regional airport — was able to be purchased on credit card. Seriously, I’m doing reimbursable travel here, and I am expected to pay cash for every step along the way? I suppose I’m just supposed to be glad that lunch was for sale at the airport, and that that bagel shop was open (it was after all the second bagel store I tried to shop at this morning). Which is all supposed to make me forget that nobody is feeding me on my noon flight, which I was originally thrilled to have as a direct flight (seriously! when was the last time I had a direct flight??), only to discover that I will be spending three hours smashed into a 44 seater. Life is inconvenient enough these days. Travel is a disaster, from cost to comfort. Add in poor signage, ridiculous stretches of time, and then inconsideration of the details ( um, a carry out only bagel shop on an island between the ferry dock and anywhere else which only spreads half the bagel and doesn’t cut anything through — could they not forsee that their food was gonna be eaten while driving?) So, what can we already tell about patrons lives, and what can we assume about the frustrations they already live with? At minimum, that they already are frustrated, for sure. What details can we come up with to smooth over, to make easier? Because the irritants have longer staying power, and even override the good things (like, for example, the excellent free wifi at the airport I’m currently using)? I’ve got more to say abotu this, but may just be in too foul a mood to think them through right now. And I have to go get chipper for today’s later events…. More on service later, you can be sure.


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Usability wishlist

Thinking like a user, not a librarian:

  • I wish that library catalogs would link together fiction series. This is part of a larger wish for better fiction subject headings, but I want this more.
  • Closely followed by: public libraries (as least PL systems!) buy entire series instead of random titles within series
  • Publishers publish order of series in each book in the series
  • Stepping away from fiction, I don’t understand why publishers do not automatically and without exception list out chapters in edited volumes on the web pages where they advertise and sell those titles.
  • A less imperative wish, but those chapters in edited volumes? list the abstracts on your webpages too! You’ve got ‘em, why are you hiding them? Just makes me think you don’t have any faith in the material, and I can look elsewhere for my information needs
  • All those sites in constant beta? Beta means you want feedback for improvement, right? so where are all the impossible to miss feedback buttons? (If you aren’t looking for feedback, don’t call it beta. just call it under-supported)

That’s all for now. But this will probably become a continuing series. Because I always have “why don’t they just…?!?” responses to things.

What do you wish for?


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Is this short enough?

random thought: does attention span scale to size of screen?

I was just teased for the length of an email I sent. I do tend to send long emails, as I generally think they are less irritating than several short ones. (I do also worry that some points will get lost in longer emails, but for now I’m still favoring 1 over many)

But, as I was sassing back at the GenY fellow who razzed me, I realized he may have been reading my email on his smart phone.

I also realized that I read differently on my office computer (largest screen) than my home computer (a formerly respectably sized monitor, now sufferering from an inferiority complex). And I avoid reading some things altogether on my stylish but teensy eee laptop.

But does the probable rapid adoption of mobile small screen devices mean we will all have to communicate in a length easily readable on a single iPhone screen?? Scholarly communication reduced to twitter posts?

Less apocalyptically apoplectic, I’m going to have to spend some time thinking about the impact of tiny screens on length of discourse. And I suspect I’ll land on the curnudgeon side, the scholalry side, the side that says life and learning and scholarship are complex, and deserve some attention and some time, and some space.

What say you?

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