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Archive for October, 2008

Thanks to another very interesting library-related blog, Into the Stacks, I have learned of the existence of CLOCKSS. According to its mission statement:

CLOCKSS is a joint venture between the world’s leading scholarly publishers and research libraries whose mission is to build a sustainable, geographically distributed dark archive with which to ensure the long-term survival of Web-based scholarly publications for the benefit of the greater global research community.

When what they call a triggering event occurs, e.g. a journal ceases publication, CLOCKSS makes the content available to everyone for free. You can see an example of this by going to the CLOCKSS website and clicking on Graft, a journal that Sage recently discontinued.

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A post by the Black Belt Librarian alerted me to a story in the Mills College campus newspaper, The Mills Campanil:

 

Some Mills College students have paid their classmates to complete the required online course, College 005, violating the College Honor Code.

College 005 has fulfilled the Information Literacy/ Information Technology Skill requirements since fall 2004.

A current sophomore student said she had enough to deal with without worrying about completing College 005. Fed up, she did what she heard a number of other students had already done: she paid $25 for someone else to complete the class for her.

I guess nothing changes. Even at the dawn of human history, when I was a freshman, library skills courses were notoriously boring– and in those days you actually had to go to a class and turn in assignments!

I have always held that the problem is not that such courses are actually boring but that no one learns anything, until he is good and ready to learn it. Thus, having to take a course that doesn’t seem necessary or to match one’s interests, is, at best, a nuisance. I found this out the hard way years ago as a TA in the German Dept. at a university that required of all undergraduates two years of a foreign language in order to obtain a degree. I remember sailing into my first class all on fire to spread the joy of German. It was a rather rude awakening to face 30 mostly hostile or indifferent students.

I don’t know what the answer is. I can only think that Mills College’s policy of preventing students from registering for any further classes, if they don’t complete this non-credit course during their first year is not going to win many friends for the library.

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Not too long ago I posted a bit about Twitter. While I am still not sold on it, I have discovered Twitter for Librarians on College at Home. The guide discusses why a library might want to use Twitter but also gives a list of libraries that are using it. I checked out the Nebraska Library Commission  which is using it for ready reference. It is found under the tab “Ask a Librarian” at the very bottom of the page. Here is a sample of the questions it received:

I would like a list of all IRS liens filed  in the last month in Nebraska.
How do I find out if I am registered to vote?
Do you know how to find transcripts of state supreme court cases? 

 The Guide appears to be one-stop shopping for those who want and like to keep it short.

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The New York Review of Books published a terrific article called The Library in the New Age back in June. I have only just gotten around to reading it. The author, Robert Darnton, is the director of the University Library at Harvard. He writes:

In fact, the strongest argument for the old-fashioned book is its effectiveness for ordinary readers. Thanks to Google, scholars are able to search, navigate, harvest, mine, deep link, and crawl (the terms vary along with the technology) through millions of Web sites and electronic texts. At the same time, anyone in search of a good read can pick up a printed volume and thumb through it at ease, enjoying the magic of words as ink on paper. No computer screen gives satisfaction like the printed page. But the Internet delivers data that can be transformed into a classical codex. It already has made print-on-demand a thriving industry, and it promises to make books available from computers that will operate like ATM machines: log in, order electronically, and out comes a printed and bound volume. Perhaps someday a text on a hand-held screen will please the eye as thoroughly as a page of a codex produced two thousand years ago.  

Elsewhere in the article I was delighted to find that Prof. Darnton loves the smell of old books, too. While this was quite peripheral to his thesis, it struck a chord with me. As a newly minted librarian eons ago, I told a search committee, when asked what had attracted me to librarianship, that I had always loved walking in to used bookstores (we had a fabulous one in St. Petersburg, where I grew up) and later into the stacks of the University Library and breathing in that unmistakable smell of scholarship. Unfortunately, however, library school had taught me that I was detecting the smell of books mouldering and that was not a good thing. As you can imagine, that remark brought the house down.

OK. I know better now and have for years. But, even so, that odor still says *scholarship* to me and still evokes an emotional and positive response from me. If I must be drummed out of ALA, so be it.

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