According to the Library Journal, Congress is debating whether to put a 10-year limit on the position of Librarian of Congress.
It has been a life-position since 1802.
According to the article, the Senate has already passed the bill unanimously – which has then sent it to the House to vote.
Curious, what do people think about this?
Supposedly, ALA is supportive of the change.
Thank you for reading.
I went to Philadelphia in the snow and the cold to meet and learn at American Library Association’s Mid-Winter Conference.
(Image courtesy of http://alamw14.ala.org/ <accessed 27 January 2014>)
The conference was held in the Philadelphia Convention Center right downtown on Market St and 11th St. I met many great librarians and library advocates from all over the United States. Besides searching for academic library jobs, I also got to talk about my own start-up, Metamedia Management, LLC and our work as 21st Century Librarians in document management and technology solutions to that end.
Besides meeting all my library colleagues and learning about applications being put into action in libraries and archives all over, I also took in an important discussion on the social construction and intersectionality of gender, inclusion, race, ablism, hiring practices and technology in libraries. I heard from people such as Coral Sheldon-Hess, Eric Phetteplace, Cecily Walker , Chris Bourg and Myrna Morales from Community Change, Inc. I live-tweeted from @meta21st (our company Twitter acct) and @jlibraryist (mine) as the discussion went back and forth between live-in-the-room to Twitter. I was happy and impressed to see librarians and library advocates bring together such important notions. Don’t hesitate to get involved in the ongoing chat on Twitter with the hashtag #libtechgender.
I learned about so many important technology and standards in use, but I want to draw attention to two intriguing online educational companies: First, JoVE, Journal of Visualized Experiments, a video collection of science experiments meant to bring lab results and processes into the open in order to encourage continually tackling those processes to double-check, rethink and verify results.
The second company I got to hear about was EducationonDemand, a K-12 subscription service meant to deliver time-saving video education collections to teachers. They can be likened to a mix between PBS Learning Media and Khan Academy.
Take a look at either of these sites and see if they will work for you. It is good to see so many people adopting so many approaches and platforms toward connecting library work and education. These notions go together.
It was a good conference.
Thank you for reading.
In the era of budget cuts and making the most of existing cash flows for academic libraries, the recent attention drawn to the possibility for serious services cuts at University of North Texas’ library, the news and the petition filed at change.org, have shown how many people are interested in libraries – students and life long learners.
The heavy issue remains about funding. There are open debates about how to convert libraries into content producing entities, how, if it all, libraries should “compete” in the market (which is a pretty serious presupposition given the nature of democratic reading in the John Stuart Mill mode of free intellectual pursuits) and where to move funds in the structure of the university for reasons of fairness.
The thought creeps into my mind, given the recent articles, say at The Atlantic, on high school sports, but still quite relevant, that one mode of funding is to turn a percentage of revenue generated from college sports, which are nonprofessional, toward the university’s research goals. I am sure most institutions have thought about this and currently have a policy in place. These funds could be used for collections, innovation and paying those increasingly expensive subscriptions to journals. I am simply thinking of a way to unify the university, not split it between academics and everyone else. Isn’t this why we emphasize university education in the first place – to pursue reading and thinking habits that enable life-long learning, a cultural and personal need that will last much longer than anyone’s ability to maintain top tier abilities in a physically demanding sport?*
Many universities, University of North Texas included, charge fees to each student enrolled that go directly to fund the university library. Most universities have more than one library – which are oft times subdivided into disciplines and are built into spaces closer to those majors. I don’t know how these subdivided libraries are funded even within the same university. Though this could be a research project by itself. Athletes who play university sports represent, surely, every possible major within the university and revenue could thus be shared, if not with the library directly, then at least for various research resources and database access costs that are currently part of library services.
Believe me, I’m a fan of sports. I personally put hours of my life weekly into bicycle riding and I enjoy live baseball. I’m just thinking about this issue of money and am trying to do so without setting up any divisions or dichotomies within the academy. I am really wondering about overlapping interests in which the stakeholders represent a diverse population across the entire university or college. I’ll entertain any angles of response.
Reply here or at Twitter.
Thank you for reading.
*These thoughts are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. ☺
The Library of Congress’ Center for the Book is not a sponsor, but has endorsed the week-long promotion.
I find it interesting this celebration, attention producing event, is the week after National Book Festival.
– which is squarely hosted by the Library of Congress. It marks a blur between the abstract notion of being free to read, a general celebration of reading and print culture and the world of authorship. It works as a federally funded library event for the whole family on that Saturday and Sunday. At the same time, both events have investments by retail-based organizations. American Bookseller Association in the case of Banned Books Week and big companies like Barnes & Noble Booksellers at National Book Fest. As far as I know, the book selling tent is coordinated by Barnes & Noble most years.
In no way am I criticizing B & N’s involvement in these events. It’s a great thing to be a large bookseller and to be able to promote literacy events on a national scale. But the book selling tent at National Book Fest is not a store per se – it’s a table full of books featuring the authors at the festival (and a few other sundries published or distributed solely by Barnes & Noble). It is my belief the National Book Festival, given its prominence on the mall, should be an antagonistic force drawing attention to authors who may not often get such a large platform to get noticed. If not authors, then smaller presses carrying high quality authors. I think about presses such as Talon Books, Dalkey Archive, New York Review Books and the fabulous Melville House. As it stands, the list of featured authors at this year’s book festival contains high quality writing from people attached to much larger publishing conglomerates.
These authors, such Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates, James McBride and Linda Ronstadt are published by Scribner, Ecco/Harper Collins, Riverhead/Penguin and Simon & Schuster respectively. These are not independent publishers by any stretch of the imagination. And if we take this festival into context with Banned Books Week starting just the day afterward – a celebration of alternative visions judged by communities as too alternative to be accepted – we find a strange contradiction of terms. On one hand, we find a quieter education model of thinking designed to link the history of culture and oppression of ideas to other ideas discussed in American schools and libraries. The ALA, as a whole, is very supportive of the freedom to read. Banned Books Week is often used as an alternative teaching tool in public schools.
In tandem, Barnes & Noble Booksellers often displays a Banned Books promotion table in honour the same week. In other words, corporate Barnes & Noble is playing both sides of this issue in the name of the dollar. And bless them for doing so. In addition, each of the authors featured is talented in his or her own right. There is no dearth of great writing in every genre at the book festival. I want to be clear, I am a big fan of many authors doing readings and signing this year. And each publisher featured has a roster of real artists in its ranks.
There has to be a better way of unifying NATIONAL BOOK FEST with Banned Books Week. The reason for said position is the scale of ambition implied by the name of the festival itself. It’s called National Book Fest, not Recently Featured on New Release Shelves Fest. Unless that is the point. There is something to be said about using such a large event to promote newly published books each year from the same spot on the National Mall annually. It does not have to be an activist festival. But with a title like National Book Fest, I must admit I keep hoping for a more philosophically well-rounded festival agenda – similar to that of Library of Congress’ Center for the Book mentioned above.
Banned Books Week on the other hand, a promotion of alternative reading and ideas, a celebration with a narrower focus offers a much more philosophical relationship to books, reading, education, literacy and libraries. Center for the Book HAS endorsed Banned Books Week because maybe their relationship to reading is more philosophically rounded than the Book Fest – which seems to be a festival steeped in the NOW. In my humble opinion, National Book Fest could embrace a slightly different rhetoric in order to realize the scope implied by its title.
Just a thought.
Thank you for reading.
PS: I am starting a new #hashtag this year on Twitter to promote bicycling to the National Mall for the Festival: I am calling it #biketobookfest. I see this hashtag as one reusable from year to year. Promote it. Use it. Thank you.
Depths of the Phantom Library:
Jacques Bonnet Reaches for the Unreachable.
Jacques Bonnet writes in, Phantoms on the Bookshelves, of a vast library. No, not the Borgesian library of “The Library of Babel” or “The Book of Sand,” but a personal library he has collected for his own use – some 40,000 + volumes. Massive. I am a fan generally of books describing avid readers and collectors (though I am mostly of the first type) – books such as that fabulous pair of titles by Nicholas A. Basbanes, A Gentle Madness and Patience & Fortitude.
I have been recently rereading Jacques Bonnet’s book. In my progress through that book, I also found this essay/review piece of writing by Alonzo McBride called, “Phantoms and Personal Libraries,” which made stylistic sense to me and by acknowledging the metaphor of books and libraries as phantoms, I thought it perfectly appropriate to bring to light the essay and the book again. In a previous post of mine, I mentioned a quote setting up Bonnet’s premise of the blurred line between what makes a personal library and an institutional library.
The quote is, ““…to return to the library. Once it has been established, it [the library] tends to become an unavoidable transit zone for reality, a sort of vortex that sucks in everything that happens to us” (100).
The library is a cultural heritage space as much as it is a personal heritage space. Sometimes these spaces are the same in space and sometimes they are not. The focus for Jacques Bonnet’s book is the personal library as memory collector for his own life. Even with that “narrow” focus, the book tackles nearly every issue institutional libraries must tackle except maybe ones related to archival technology such as finding aids or physical handling best practices, code such as XML and its publication on the web with CSS or anything having to do with web archiving. Bonnet certainly brings up the internet as it relates to text encoding, information searching, book buying experiences and the like. And in this humble blogger’s opinion, all the above technical services could be extrapolated to take account of Bonnet’s collection. Or…he could reissue the book with all the ways be built a homegrown OPAC for his personal use. 😉
Specifically, Bonnet discusses issues of categorization (the eternal question). He mentions the French OULIPO writer, Georges Perec, when he makes his “brave attempt at listing the possible methods of classifying one’s books: “alphabetically; by continent or country; by colour; by date of acquisition; by date of publication; by size; by genre; by literary period; by language; by frequency of consultation; by binding; by series” (37). One sees from this list how several of the categorization headings would be preferred by a person over an institution – “by date of acquisition” as the best example. Yet, even this category system applies to libraries that have a “recently arrived” or “new” section to encourage library users to catch up on what’s current. Except, even this classification does take into account the difference between newly acquired due to recent publication or newly acquired due to replacement for damage etc. Some of the other categories (which obviously fails to take into account anything like LC Classification or Universal Dewey) are well suited for research libraries – such as “by literary period” or even “binding” in a rare books special collection. The largest flaw, however, in Perec’s classification is the total lack of subject access (which has to be the single most challenging classification of them all) – though some of the other categories work with subject access.
Bonnet does bring to light one aspect of his own classification I will write as ABSTRACT vs. CONCRETE (102-103). In the first he puts subjects such as theology, religion, philosophy, literary topics and science. It is interesting he defines “science” as abstract instead of concrete. In the second category he drops in history, anthropology, biography and documents (though it is not clear to what this term applies). One can appreciate the presuppositions necessary to refer to one subject as abstract and another as concrete even though both may be examples of humans thinking and writing their words. I recommend everyone reading this also go out and take a look at the subdivisions within Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), Dewey, and thesauri such as the one for art and architecture published by Getty by first examining the depth and granularity of each system within its own rules and then by looking through World Cat and Library of Congress catalog records.
I fully understand Bonnet’s book is personal – not designed to be an institutional best standard for understanding large collections. But even from this personal point of view, it is not without meaning (I recommend this book be on the curriculum for all ischools). Other examples of meaning come through his acknowledgment of the internet’s impact on not just information as a whole as it relates to libraries, but also the procedures by which a person or institution acquires new materials – scaled digital content in the form of periodicals searchable through aggregation technologies or the purchasing of new print items such as monographs from academic presses (though he talks about how collectors use the internet to search for titles unavailable locally).
The truth is the book is simply pleasurable to read. And it asks the same questions all libraries ask themselves: how long should a title be kept in a research collection (or a public library) if it circulates infrequently?; how does one best use space limitations (of which every library has a few struggles as such)?; and what happens in the event of the death of the collector or a fire in the library?
Bonnet includes a quote by Petite Larousse (a lexicon) of the term, “fantôme [phantom]” – a sheet or card inserted to mark the place of a book removed from a library shelf, or a document which has been removed” (110).
The remainder of what was there before… What was there before? Was it a resource that got weeded from the collection? Was it a library that became underfunded over time? Was it a trace of an object that was reformatted as a digital object available on the open web or behind a subscription pay-wall? Something is missing. For Bonnet, even if he chooses, as do so many other librarians (personal and institutional), not to lend any out any items from his collection, the fundamental missing feature among such ideas as not having time to read every book in the library, not having enough shelf space to best hold each item and not having a perfect classification system of either knowledge or objects is lack of total control of the library. The library, as the first quite implies, is made of a river of occurrences that enter and exit the way time and life itself enters and exits at varied and uncertain rates. I would say Jacques Bonnet’s fun little book for book geeks revels in, and still tries to make sense from, the powerful uncertainty in this world.
One must be willing to change as the collection itself changes.
The question arises then if anyone will be able to insert a fantôme in every changing moment life as it changes into something else so we’ll be reminded of what used to be.
Thank you for reading.
Reference: Bonnet, Jacques. Phantoms on the Bookshelves. Trans. from French by Siân Reynolds. NY, NY: The Overlook Press, 2010.