Some things read this week, 22 – 28 July 2007

Sunday, 22 Jul

Crawford, Walt. Cites & Insights 7 (9): August 2007 [pdf]

An excellent issue covering the LIS literature; authority, worth and linkbaiting (Britannica, Gorman, et. al.), disagreement and discussion; and ethics and transparency.

I think you did a fine job, Walt. As I said elsewhere (probably as a comment on your blog), I was/am interested in any direction in which you took the topic and continued the conversation. Thank you!

The Good, the Bad, And the ‘Web 2.0′. Full-text version of an Andrew Keen and David Weinberger “Reply All” debate at the Wall Street Journal online.

I would like to say that Andrew Keen is a fool; but, perhaps, he doesn’t actually believe that tripe he was spewing. Of course, if that is the case then I’d have to call him something worse.

Such a shame he argues so much like Gorman. Both men have important ideas that need to be considered and they are either cluelessly or intentionally burying those important ideas in their rhetoric, name calling, and ridiculous argumentation.

On the other hand, I gained a large amount of respect for David Weinberger by reading this “discussion.”

It is rather fitting that I read this piece today (after printing it 3 days ago) after reading the newest Cites & Insights.

I thought this comment from Weinberger fit extremely well with Walt’s (and others) thoughts on authority:

Knowledge is generally not a game for one. It is and always has been a collaborative process. And it is a process, not as settled, sure, and knowable by authorities as it would be comforting to believe.

Sunday – Monday, 22 – 23 Jul

Raber, Douglas. The Problem of Information: An Introduction to Information Science. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2003.

Read ch. 1 – 2.

Pretty good so far, but is somewhat sloppily edited. Some are perhaps a matter of style, while some are just sloppy. I can’t find the most offensive one at the moment, but here is one that is a matter of style, perhaps.

Remember, the indeterminacy of signs and the phenomena they represent do not derive from the fact that they cannot be determined, but they can plausibly and usefully be determined in a variety of ways (24).

Alright. The sentence is fairly clear, but I had to do a double take due to the contrastive clauses (sorry, don’t know the technical terms). In my world I think it would be much clearer to say “…from the fact that they cannot be determined, but that they can plausibly and usefully be determined….” Without the second “that” I feel that the sentence lacks force and that the 2nd clause does not match the strength of the 1st clause. Perhaps you disagree. That’s OK.

Here’s a definite example of sloppiness:

The implication that there exists both good and bad information in turn raises questions regarding the criteria are applied in judgment (42).

That sentence clearly needs a “that” or the “are” changed “to be.” Another sentence in ch. 1 had both an “in” and “of” when either would have been fine, but not both of them. None of this sloppiness has resulted in incomprehensibility yet, but I would argue that when the mind is busy picking out these sorts of things and/or being forced to re-read something just to parse it correctly that comprehension is reduced.

The contest that concerns here us turns on several questions (45).

Despite their fundamental and profound differences, however, there are some important common threads bind these metaphors together (46).

WTF? This text has a serious issue with “that!” I sure hope the editing gets better quick or I’m not reading this much further. What a damn shame as this looks to be an important book on “the problem of information.”

Tuesday, 24 Jul

Raber (above).

Read ch. 3 and began ch. 4.

Neill, S. D. “The Dilemma of the Subjective in Information Organisation and Retrieval.” Journal of Documentation 43 (3), Sep. 1987: 193-211.

Cited by Raber in ch. 2.

Is an attempt to bring “together the views of Brenda Dervin and Karl Popper on subjectivity and objectivity as these relate to information use” (abstract). I wasn’t so impressed and I do not really see how it supports the claim Raber uses it to support, or, perhaps, I should say that I do not think I see it claiming what Raber said it does.

Wednesday – Thursday, 25 – 26 Jul

Raber (above).

Finished ch. 4. / Read ch. 5 – 6

Thursday, 26 Jul

Yee, Martha M. and Michael Gorman. “Will the Response of the Library Profession to the Internet Be Self-Immolation?”

This is Martha Yee’s written testimony to LC’s Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. It was posted to AUTOCAT in multiple parts and then a link appeared to a copy posted on the James Madison University cataloging wiki.

Thankfully, Christine Schwartz posted a link to it on her blog Cataloging Futures.

Friday, 27 Jul

Hillmann, Diane I. “Adding New Skills to our Skillset.” July 2007.

Found at Cataloging Futures.

Raber (above).

Began ch. 7.

I have kept reading this book despite the poor editing — it only gets worse — because I find its message important. I will probably finish the book because of this message. It could have been so much better with some quality editing, though. Words are frequently missing; sometimes they even affect the meaning. There is also some stylistic editing I would argue for in a few places.

My main concern, though, is that “This book was written with beginning LIS students in mind” (Preface, vii). I find that highly questionable. If Prof. Raber is blessed with beginning students who are capable of critically following and engaging with his arguments in this book then he is truly blessed.

I am not saying that beginning students could not gain something from this text, but that for most students to be able to profit from it in more than a cursory manner requires some previous time spent with many of the concepts in the book, whether conceptually, experientially, theoretically, or however you want to say it. That is, the text assumes too much familiarity with a plethora of deep issues; none of which is itself free of problems.

The “problem(s) of information” is deep, perplexing, and highly intertwined with many concepts, most of which are equally deep, perplexing and enigmatic.

Hesitantly recommended.

In an IDEALS world we can keep up with the past

In a recent post I asked why “keeping up” always seems to be forward looking and recommended that we remember to learn from the past.

Wednesday night when I was out to say goodbye to a friend and colleague (Kurt), and Sarah Shreeves, the Coordinator of our institutional repository, IDEALS, gave me some wonderful news based on that post.

The GSLIS Publications Office has decided to put the proceedings of the Allerton Park Institute and of the Clinic on Library Applications of Data Processing conferences in the IR.

Also to be included is all of Library Trends (with an embargo of 2 years) and, eventually, the GSLIS Occasional Papers series.

I got so excited that I sucked down 4 pints of beer in the middle of the week! Seriously, this sort of news makes my year, much less my week.

The Clinic on Library Applications of Data Processing conference proceedings from 1963 – 1995 are already available (472 items).

The Allerton Park Institute conference proceedings (476 items) are also up from 1954 – 1997.

Library Trends is currently represented by 52 (3): Winter 2004 – 53 (4): Spring 2005 (92 items). This is barely a beginning one might say, but seeing as it includes 2 of my favorites issues — one of which I do not have a physical copy of — it warms the cockles of my heart. Oh, The Philosophy of Information and Pioneers in Library and Information Science (have).

I have read a couple of the Allerton Park Institute proceedings already in all their physical glory. I am particularly fond of 1959, The role of classification in the modern American library, and recommend it to all and sundry interested in cataloging, classification, metadata, the LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, and related topics.

Library Trends‘ theme issues are indispensable and the Occasional Papers series has some lovelies, too.

Sorry, but I cannot say anything regarding the Clinic on Library Applications of Data Processing proceedings. I shall have to remedy that, though.

A hearty “Thank you” to all involved in this! I only hope that more schools will do this. Anyone knowing of those who have already, please, feel free to comment here and write posts of your own. We should not just let these things languish in our repositories, nor leave them for the search engines to perhaps index and show to us on the 1st few pages of search results. We need to shout from the rooftops that they are available. So, consider this my SHOUT regarding the work of my institution’s IR. And, yeah, there’s a lot of other stuff — interesting, I have no doubt — in IDEALS also.

As they say, “What’s past is prologue.” (The Tempest (1611) act 2, sc. 1, l. [261], per The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.)

Go forth. Read.  Learn. Keep up.

Which book am I?


You’re The Sound and the Fury!

by William Faulkner

Strong-willed but deeply confused, you are trying to come to grips with a major crisis in your life. You can see many different perspectives on the issue, but you’re mostly overwhelmed with despair at what you’ve lost. People often have a hard time understanding you, but they have some vague sense that you must be brilliant anyway. Ultimately, you signify nothing.


Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Whoa, Nelly! Finally a quiz that gets it right; well, descriptively anyway. Seeing as I haven’t read it I can’t say regarding the work itself.

People often have a hard time understanding you, but they have some vague sense that you must be brilliant anyway. Ultimately, you signify nothing. ;)

Found at Life as I Know It, who found it at John Miedema, who gets to be Siddhartha. Chilling out under a tree and believing in ferries. Now that is the life. Seeing as this is the only one of these three books that I’ve read I get those references.

The newest manifestation of my expressions is a year old today

Off the Mark is one-year old today. I’m not really sure whether it should serve as any sort of “true” anniversary as my public blogging started in a different venue in January 2005. Nonetheless, the current instantiation of my personal and professional raves and faves has been around for a year now.

My own domain is actually a year and 3 days old.

I want to give a shout out to LISHost for great hosting for the past year. While there have been some minor issues once or twice, Blake and crew have been awesome about providing an almost immediate and always personal response.

Including this post, I have made 271 posts here in the last year, with 4 more in draft. February (the shortest month, but also Birthday Month) had the most posts with 31, while March had the fewest with 10. November and May both had 30, while all the other months had 20-25 posts.

As for the domain, I have updated the site a small bit here and there and added some things. I have added a rough CV and a page of past writings, academic and otherwise. Oops, still need to link the CV but will do it this weekend as I have to head out to the dentist.

I still need to convert some of the writings to HTML, provide a bit more context for some of them, add some metadata, and add COinS to a few more where appropriate. As for the CV, I am aware that the dates are wrong/missing for the 2 invited talks. I am having a minor issue finding the correct dates for those since they happened before my hard drive crash. Just where is last year’s paper planner is the important question?

I also want to add more of my LIS work—class presentations, bibliographies and a paper or two. Actually, I can’t add more than a paper or two anyway seeing as I haven’t written more than 5 or 6 (certainly less than 10) papers in going on 80 hours of course work. That is odd.

It has been an amazing year in many ways. I blew it a few times in my quest to learn how to engage with others in the public arena that is blogging, while my reporting on the LC Working Group got me invited to be on a panel at ALA and was linked to from ALA Direct. I do think that I have learned a lot and that is the important thing.

So, to whoever is out there … thanks for the honor of a small bit of your time and attention. To those who have commented I offer a very special thank you for the conversation. Those who have taken me to task when I need it, THANK YOU.

May we all grow together, today, and in the future.

LITA membership update

Perhaps there are “better” ways to affect change than those I sometimes use. The truth is, I did not really expect any change on my behalf; I did want it for others, though. But, it seems my griping was noticed and change is happening.

I got a nice phone call today from Mary Taylor, Executive Director of LITA, regarding some comments I had made about having not heard a word in any manner from LITA for 6 months after I joined.

Proactive steps are being taken to keep this from happening again. Thanks to Mary’s efforts I will be sticking around LITA for a while longer and hopefully even looking to get involved once I sort out this little life of mine.

Some odd current in the ether or something caused a fairly major problem with my LITA membership. None of us are quite sure what it was but, as I said, steps are being taken to prevent it from happening to anyone else and I have been personally welcomed into the LITA family.

It seems like the right thing to do to say this publicly. I am grateful that this might not happen to anyone in the future. Thank you, Mary (and those who will implement the new procedures), for reaching out and for reminding me that there are people who do care.


P.S. I have added a new comment to the few places I commented/posted on this so that others know that I consider this situation happily resolved. If anyone is aware of one I missed please do let me know so that I can set the record straight.

La Tigre e la neve

The Tiger and the Snow – Roberto Benigni, Jean Reno, Nicoletta Braschi and special guest appearance by Tom Waits.

You really should watch this wonderful film! If film can be poetry then this is movie is a very moving poem of the best sort.

Unless you have some sort of ridiculous proscription against watching sub-titled films (and I feel sorry for you if you do) then you should watch this lovely Italian film.

AACR2r is an ALA Bestseller!

Perhaps I missed this in earlier editions, but according to my ALA Editions Spring/Summer 2007 catalog that arrived a few days ago I see that AACR2r is an ALA Bestseller! [That ! is their’s, not mine.]

While I have no doubt that this is factually true—my guess is that it is even their biggest bestseller of all time—just what information is that knowledge supposed to convey to me, or anyone else?

Telling me that Carrie Russell’s Complete Copyright: An Everyday Guide for Librarians, or even that Robert Maxwell’s Maxwell’s Handbook for AACR2: Explaining and Illustrating the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, through the 2003 Update are bestsellers actually tells me something.

I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether and what the knowledge that AACR2r is a bestseller imparts to you and whether it is useful, or positive.

Some things read this week, 8 – 14 July 2007

Saturday, 7 Jul (forgot an evening one)

Harris, Roy. The Language Myth. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981.

Read chapter 1, “Idols of the Market.”

Sunday, 8 Jul

Harris, chap. 2-3, “A Science of Language” and “The Grammarians’ Legacy.”

From chap. 2, “A Science of Language”:

It is part of the romantic amour-propre of science to present itself, wherever possible, as providing long-awaited solutions to problems which mankind has forever been trying to solve without success. Often, in sober fact, just the opposite may be the case. The problem allegedly solved may be one which science itself only recently discovered. Previous ages had not been waiting with bated breath for its solution; for previous ages had been quite unaware of its existence. Sometimes it may even happen that we do not hear mention of a ‘science’ at all, until fortuitous discovery makes available the key to an investigation which no one had ever seriously proposed. Science is, in this respect, a form of intellectual endeavour in which questions may well be preceded by their answers[1].

[1. Both this and Say’s law in economics (‘Supply creates it own demand’) may be regarded as special cases of the more general principle known as Sevareid’s law (‘The chief cause of problems is solutions’).] (38).

Hehe. I think philosophy often falls under this description, too.

From chap. 3, “The Grammarian’s Legacy”:

Near the end of a scathing disembowlment of Chomsky’s supposedly grammatical but nonetheless nonsensical Colourless green ideas sleep furiously we get:

Analogously, someone who is speculatively inclined can, if he so wishes, ask whether, if to utter the words green ideas were to talk nonsense, it would none the less be in conformity with the grammatical rules for English nonsense. But it is difficult to see who decides the grammatical rules for English nonsense, or indeed what point there is in having any. Being able to encode and decode many different pieces of English nonsense is not one of the tests by which we recognise a fluent speaker of English, any more than knowing many possible ways of getting sums wrong is one of the tests by which we recognise a competent mathematician (82).

“… would none the less be in conformity with the grammatical rules for English nonsense.” Harris literally cracks me up. I love this guy! Sometimes (often?) I’m unsure of when he’s actually trying to be funny, but despite the transatlantic gap in humor I find him amazingly funny. Oh, how I wish I could write like this.

Malone, Cheryl Knott, Hermina G. B Anghelescu, and John Mark Tucker, eds. Libraries & Culture: Historical Essays Honoring the Legacy of Donald G. Davis Jr. Washington, D.C: Library of Congress, Center for the Book, 2006. [TOC]

Read all introductory matter and the following essays in the section titled “Library History Education & Research”:

Pawley, Christine. “History in the Library and Information Science Curriculum: Outline of a Debate.” 1-16.

Goedeken, Edward A. “Assessing What We Wrote: A Review of the Libraries & Culture Literature Reviews, 1967-2002.” 29-44.

From the section on “International Perspectives” read:

Cole, John Y. “The Library of Congress Becomes a World Library, 1815-2005.” 163-176.

Monday, 8 Jul

See immediately above; from the section titled “Libraries, Books, & Culture.”

Wiegand, Wayne. “Collecting Contested Titles: The Experience of Five Small Public Libraries in the Rural Midwest, 1893-1956.” 146-162.

Tuesday, 9 Jul

Harris, Roy. The Language Myth. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981.

Read chapter 4, “Form and Meaning.”

Wednesday – Thursday, 10-11 Jul

Harris, Roy. The Language Myth. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981.

Read chapter 5, “Language and Thought.” This was an especially excellent chapter.

Harris so cracks me up:

The other popular line of attack on linguistic relativity is to claim that it makes theoretical mountains out of practical molehills. Curiously, this is a line of attack which seems to appeal to philosophers, even though academic philosophy is a subject which might strike the non-philosopher as a surprisingly vulnerable glass house from which to hurl stones of that kind (146).

Thursday, 12 Jul

Harris, Roy. The Language Myth. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981.

Read chapter 6, “Linguistics Demythologised?.” Finished the book. Another quite good one from Harris. I will have to try and pick these up used somewhere. I can imagine myself spending quite a bit of time with these ideas. I am really wondering about all the implications for our use(s) of language in LIS.

Another favorite paragraph:

Epistemological scepticism is beyond remedy. But it applies across the board. It is as much an indictment of our eyesight, our hearing, our credulity and our scientific methods as it is of our language. If the human condition is such that we can never be sure that anything is quite what it seems to be, then the human race is simply in no position to have a language which is referentially determinate in the sense of guaranteeing our words permanent job-security. A language with job-secure words presupposes omniscience (175).

Friday the 13th of July

Piccinini, Gualtiero and Sam Scott. “Splitting Concepts.” Philosophy of Science 73 (4), October 2006: 390-409.

Machery, Edouard. “How to Split Concepts: A Reply to Piccinini and Scott.” Philosophy of Science 73 (4), October 2006: 410-418.

A reply and another reply. The 1st article is in response to this one: Machery, Edouard. “Concepts Are Not a Natural Kind.” Philosophy of Science 72 (3), July 2005: 444-467. Read 23 March 2007 and re-read 10-11 May 2007. Fairly interesting exchange and, for now, my money is on Machery. I see he has a book forthcoming from Oxford UP, Doing Without Concepts. Looks interesting.

And, yes. PoS has a little problem with their production schedule since I just got this issue in the mail 2 days ago.

Saturday, 14 Jul

Nhat Hanh, Thich. Peace is every step : the path of mindfulness in everyday life. New York N.Y.: Bantam Books, 1991.

Began on this book.