CAS Decision Made

I have decided that I will not write my thesis and thus will not finish my Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) from UIUC.

Earlier this morning I emailed my Dean, who is also my advisor, with my decision.

As some of you know, circumstances arose almost exactly 3 years ago that, at the time, I was considering a temporary derailment.  I had just finished my course work towards my degree and was registered for my 8 hours of thesis credit to be completed in the spring semester of 2008.  But I found myself unable to process the things I had learned, and unable to get them down on paper.  I was burned out after 10 years of mostly full-time education.  In consultation with my faculty, we decided I would take a break for a few months and then write the thesis.

Many things happened in the intervening months, some bad, most good. Some even extraordinary. Many have been mentioned on this blog. I now find myself up against a university imposed deadline of defending before the spring 2011 semester is over.  While I would like to finish, and have always intended to do so, I find my heart is simply not in it.

I know that many would counsel that I buckle down and “just do it.”  And while that is a strategy, it is not one that will work for me; not any longer at least.  It has been a couple of years now since I wrote anything “academic” and I am finding it more than difficult to pick up where I left off.

And, No, I did not leave this until the last minute. I have been re-reading and re-familiarizing myself with my materials and my argument for the last several months. This fall I had set myself two tasks. First, draft one, preferably two, chapters and send them to my advisor. It would have been nice to do more but I figured that if I could get that far—back into the groove, so to speak—then the remaining 3-4 chapters would come fairly easily. Second, write an article for a major journal based on my concluding chapter. In fact, if done correctly, it could then easily be retrofitted to serve as the conclusion. The article could have been simple or detailed. It certainly wasn’t a given to have been accepted for publication, but it was semi-invited.

I tried to work on these two tasks but I got nowhere. I put myself in anguish, I tortured myself, I scolded myself. I chastised myself for doing anything besides them, and I generally made myself feel miserable, all the while getting nowhere on them.

This needs to end now!

I even forewent taking any of several classes that I was seriously interested in this current term (Dec-Feb) at Briar Cliff with professors whom I want to study with. A couple of these are nearing retirement, also, so that was a tough decision.

Pros of not writing the thesis

  • Can stop causing myself so much anguish and other negative feelings, all of which have real consequences in my life.
  • Can move on with the many other interests and passions that are calling to me.
  • Will perhaps be freed up mentally and emotionally to finally write one or more papers on my topic, when I am good and ready to do so.
  • I still received—as in took—a great education at UIUC GSLIS.
  • I have the required professional degree required to be a librarian.

Cons of not writing the thesis

  • May need to get a 2nd masters. This assumes I get back in the academic librarian game, at a place with tenure and at one requiring a 2nd masters for tenure, and one which would have accepted my CAS as equivalent.

In a perfect world I would prefer to have finished this degree. While it was a struggle coming to realize what it was that I was going to do and that a decision had to be made, after a while, the decision was an easy one. Taking care of myself is what matters most.

I am still fully coming to grips with the decision but I do know that it is the proper one for me. I already feel a great sense of relief, and release, because this educational journey (the CAS) has been a huge part of my life for almost 5 years now and will take some time to fully process its end.

Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and support over the last several years.  It has meant a great deal to me!  I am still highly interested in Integrationism and issues of language and communication within library and information science. So you may well see more from me on these topics.

“Technology,” definition, history, and multiple uses of a term

In Fall 2005 I took a class with Prof. Chip Bruce on Pragmatic Technology. One of our assignments was to:

Produce an analysis of one keyword of your choice (see Raymond Williams, Keywords A vocabulary of culture and society. Revised edition. New York: Oxford University Press) for examples. This keyword is not just an index term as in the bibliography, but a core concept for the field. The analysis is a short essay (1-2 pp.) on the definition, history, and multiple uses of a term, which is central to understanding a text or a field of study.

I chose “technology.” This assignment represented 10% of our grade.

I found this little piece the other day while poking around my hard drive and decided I was going to put it here for assorted reasons, if only primarily for myself so I might find it easier in the future.

LIS590PT Fall 2005  Keywords Assignment  Mark Lindner  14 Sep 2005
“Technology,” definition, history, and multiple uses of a term

Plato distinguished Techne (art) from empiriae (knack) as having a logos, a rationale which “necessarily includes a reference to the good served by the art” while knack consists of “rules of thumb based on experience but without any underlying rationale” (Feenberg).

Feenberg argues that we moderns have lost the connection between techne and the good.  “We can still relate to Plato’s emphasis on the need for a rationale, a logos, but we’re not so sure it includes an idea of the good. In fact, we tend to think of technologies as normless, as serving subjective purposes very much as did Plato’s knacks” (Feenberg).

What is the history of technology in between, and is Feenberg correct?  The OED lists several senses of technology that are of relevance to us:

1. a. A discourse or treatise on an art or arts; the scientific study of the practical or industrial arts. (1615 BUCK Third Univ. Eng. xlviii)

b. transf. Practical arts collectively. (1859 R. F. BURTON Centr. Afr. in Jrnl. Geog. Soc. XXIX. 437)

c. With a and pl. A particular practical or industrial art. (1957 Technology Apr. 56/1)

2. The terminology of a particular art or subject; technical nomenclature. (1658 SIR T. BROWNE Gard. Cyrus v.)

Oxford American lists the etymology of technology as from the Greek, tekhnologia systematic treatment, from tekhnê art.

Thus, as far as standard English usage goes technology was earliest applied to language about, or the language of, the practical or industrial arts.  Over time this meaning shifted to the practical arts collectively, and then finally as a referent to any of the individual practical arts.

It seems to me that in American usage that technology has come to shift meaning over the last half-century or so from referring primarily to technoscience or applied science to the machines produced and used by such to primarily refer to the electronic gadgetry of everyday life; personal computers, iPods, DVD players, etc.  Most “normal” Americans think of technology as normless, as Feenberg said.  Atomic bombs, depleted uranium shells, land mines—it all depends on what you do with them.  Their development and existence is morally neutral according to this view.

Philosophers of technology use technology differently than in standard usage, but even there the meaning has shifted over the last sixty or so years.  Classical philosophers of technology (Ellul, Mumford, Heidegger; et al.) thought that technology “…must not be thought of as applied natural science, that is less an instrument than a form of life, and that it must be understood as a “system” (in Ellul’s word) or as a “megamachine” (Mumford)” (Achterhuis, 3).  Ellul uses the French word technique specifically due to the narrower connotation of technology with machines.  For Ellul, “technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity” (xxv).

Newer philosophers of technology (Noble, Hughes, Scwartz and Thompson; et. Al.) have pointed out the intertwining of technology and society as “technosociety,” “technoculture,” “network of technological affairs,” and as a “social process that is extraordinarily inaccessible to us because we are so much a part of it” (Achterhuis, 6-7).

Pacey points out in Meaning in Technology that technology has both social and individual meanings.  He also points to the difference between the “political economy” of the use and development of technology and its wider role in society and, the “social construction” of technology through a “variety of “actors” responding to a complex of social pressures” (4).  Pacey’s point about the shift from the “political economy” of technology to its “social construction” is similar to the shift from the early focus on the material and historical conditions for the rise of Technology as a system to the more recent focus on technologies that impact society while being influenced by the same society.  Pacey’s book is an attempt to redirect some of the focus back onto the meaning of technology created by the individual’s experience of technology, not just of society’s experience.

Sources Cited

Achterhuis, Hans, ed. American Philosophy of Technology: The Empirical Turn. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2001.

Ellul, Jacques. The Technological Society. New York: Vintage Books, 1964.

Feenberg, Andrew. “Can Technology Incorporate Values? Marcuse’s Answer to the Question of the Age.” Paper presented at the conference on The Legacy of Herbert Marcuse, University of California, Berkeley, November 7, 1998.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. online, 1999.

Pacey, Arnold. Meaning in Technology. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

“Technology.” Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

The Profession’s Models of Information – some comments

Green, R. (1991). The Profession’s Models of Information: A Cognitive Linguistic Analysis. Journal of Documentation, 47(2), 130-148.

I read this at the coffee shop one morning a couple of weeks ago and, as usual, was quite impressed. She shows that a model of communication is mandatory for information science but that one of information seeking is optional. She also critiques the overuse of ‘information’ and makes the “radical suggestion” that we need a whole new language for library and information science (143). Yes, yes, and yes! [Was cited by Dick 1995; see below for citation. Or this blog post: 2 articles by Archie Dick]

Based on a linguistic analysis of phrases including the word ‘information,’ randomly sampled across a 20-year period from Library & Information Science Abstracts (LISA: 1969-Sep 1989), “establishes three predominant cognitive models of information and the information transfer process” (130, abstract).

Outline of article:

  • Introduction
  • Related Cognitive Models
  • Method
  • Results
  • Analysis
    • Focus of models
    • Compatibility of models
    • Direct communication model
    • Indirect communication model
    • Information-seeking model
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Appendix A
    • A. Direct communication (DC) model
    • B. Indirect communication (IC) model
    • C. Information-seeking (IS) model
  • Appendix B. Syntagms evoking general frames
  • References


In trying to determine the cognitive models within the field the author made two basic assumptions: “(1) the literature of a field incorporates the cognitive models common to the discipline; and (2) linguistic analysis can be used to ferret out what those models are” (131).

Related Cognitive Models

Green discovered three models, two of which take the perspective of the information system and one which takes the perspective of the information user. The first two fall under the critique of

“the traditional paradigm of information transfer criticised by Dervin. In what she refers to as a positivistic or information-theoretic framework, information is perceived as a self-existent and absolute entity, independent of human minds. Information is stored within a variety of types of information systems, which users may approach in order to extract information relevant to their needs” (132).


Pointing out that the phenomena of the information transfer process “is the key event around which library and information science is built,” Green states that

“If the positivistic model of information transfer observed by Dervin is truly representative of the thinking of the profession and if that mode of thinking is as dysfunctional as Dervin suggests (which, no doubt it is), library and information science educators and researchers would have some serious overhauling and restructuring of their cognitive models to accomplish” (132-33/133).

I adore her all over again for that “which, no doubt it is” aside.

There are a couple limitations of the method used that are listed (134). One of them, which is only a possible limitation or less of one than is suspected, would be partially answered if this study were repeated for the period 1990-2010. I would love to see that comparison.


As one can guess from the outline of the article above, the three models found are: Direct communication (DC) model, Indirect communication (IC) model, and the Information-seeking (IS) model (135). I will leave it to the interested reader to delve further into this paper on their own if they are interested in these models and the specific support found for them via Dr. Green’s analysis.


“As noted previously, communication models and information-seeking models are not inherently incompatible. Given that information transfer is the basic phenomenon around which library and information science revolves, the discipline must have a model of communication from information source to information user. Since the information user is often the initiator of the information transfer, we may have (and in general we would like to have) information-seeking models, too. Thus, a model of communication is mandatory; a model of information-seeking, although desirable, is theoretically optional. The upshot of this recognition is that the discipline’s models of communication are more crucial than its model(s) of information-seeking. … Sadly, our models of communication provide little insight as to how information transfer is actually effected” (141, empahsis mine).

While I will leave the concept of “information transfer” stand for now, this idea of a “transfer” is also to be rejected. Nonetheless, whatever fills the role of this so-called “information transfer” will still be “the key event around which library and information science is built” (132-33). Thus, a proper theory of communication is the basis for all that we do in library and information science, whether theory or practice.

Did the information-seeking model that was discovered accomplish its aims? No, it did not. Although ostensibly focused on the user, the IS model still emphasized the information system far too much, along with paying more attention to quantity vs. quality of the information retrieved (recall vs. precision) (141-42).

The issue is that

“the cognitive models of the user are not considered. Moreover, the cognitive models embodied in the information retrieved are also ignored; the relevance of information to a user’s need is defined solely in terms of shared ‘aboutness’, without respect to compatibility of underlying cognitive frameworks. Consequently, matching information retrieved to information needed is perceived mechanistically” (142).

This provides a an exceptional argument for domain analysis and a focus on epistemological relevance and viewpoint. Just because some source is ‘about’ a topic does not mean it will meet the needs of a user; any user much less a specific user.

The next paragraph warmed my heart to no end:

“Unfortunately, such a view of information retrieval, which is in the same vein as the positivistic or information-theoretic framework as criticized by Dervin, is, one may argue, built into our understanding of the word ‘information’. … This leaves us with the question why we have adopted such heavy use of the word ‘information’ throughout our discipline when the cognitive models associated with it are in at least some respects incompatible with what we are trying to accomplish” (142).


“Shortcomings discovered in the analysis … highlight the areas where our focus of research should be: the cognitive structures of texts; and how readers perceive them, re-mould them, and integrate them with the cognitive models they possessed at the outset of the interaction” (142, emphasis mine).

The question of integration is actually the foundation of all of these questions, as it is of the question of communication.

“A second recommendation stems from the observation that the word ‘information’ predisposes us to think of the retrieval process in a mechanistic sense, which goes counter to our modern understanding of how the process should be viewed. (Ironically, the word ‘retrieval’ also carries this bias.) … The recommendation offered here is a radical one: we need to change the basic inventory of words we use to communicate about our field. We should be more concerned with learning and knowledge than with retrieval and information” (142-43).

Change our language? Yes, yes, yes!

This article provides me the following:

  • A theory of communication is mandatory for LIS
  • A theory of comm is prior to a theory of information-seeking
  • An argument for domain analysis and epistemological considerations
  • A critique of ‘information’ as the basis for my discipline
  • A call to radically change our language within the field

Dick, A. (1995). Restoring Knowledge as a Theoretical Focus of Library and Information Science. South African Journal of Library & Information Science, 63(3), 99.

Long time gone

[This post title is, for me, multi-meta in that it refers to several things.]

It has been a long time since I’ve been here. Part of me is sad about this fact and part of me thinks that is just fine.

A lot has happened since I last wrote here:

I quit my job as a serials cataloger at the University of Illinois so I could concentrate on (then) upcoming weddings and our move.

Sara and I were married in late May in a small but wonderful ceremony amongst family and friends in a cabin on the banks of the Sangamon River.

At the very beginning of June I started prepping for our move to Sioux City, Iowa.

A couple of weeks later, my daughter got married in Oberlin, Ohio in an even simpler, but absolutely lovely and moving, ceremony to a wonderful young man that I couldn’t be prouder to be related to.

On the evening of 3 July we left Urbana, IL and headed for Sioux City. As of 4 July we are residents of Sioux City. This is a vastly different place  than Urbana-Champaign, in so many ways. We are still getting it sorted out but we will.

We had a good week and a half before Sara had to start her job and we made good use of it. Sara worked for 3 days and then we took a vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota to spend some time in a couple of cabins with some friends of Sara’s from high school and their respective significant others and children. On the way home we drove through the Badlands. I have a couple of pictures up but I have 100s more to be tagged, labeled, decided upon and uploaded. Suffice it to say that it was beautiful! And being the against much of pop culture fiend that I am, we skipped Wall Drug (unfortunately not the signs though), Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.

Once back Sara got back to work and is enjoying learning the ropes of this vastly different, and vastly smaller, university. I got back to work on organizing the house, merging two large book collections, much of which was in storage, along with merging two large CD collections, of which all of hers were in storage. There is still a bit to do on all the house organizing fronts but it is definitely getting there.

Shortly after we got here we bought ourselves a 32″ LG HDTV with built-in netflix streaming so we’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and some other things.

We’ve been taking an online class on HTML5 via SitePoint and in a few weeks will take one on CSS3. They were $9.95 each! So the last 2 weeks that is what we’ve been doing in the evenings when Sara gets home from work. (And, yes, I know the CSS3 course says it is $14.95 but by signing up for both at the same time we got a $5 discount!) I think that for the price they are quite good. As with any class it is (mostly) about what you put in to it.

Speaking of courses, Briar Cliff University has a 100% tuition remission policy for spouses so I’ll be taking a 1 credit class this fall called Madwomen Poets. About all I know about it is that it includes Sexton and Plath. But who cares what, if anything, else it might be? Who could ignore a class entitled Madwomen poets?

I know. I know. I’m supposed to be doing other things, “more important” things. And I am. But it is 50 minutes, 1 day/week. I figure it’ll help keep my mental chops in order. And at this point I still don’t know if I’ll be taking it for a grade or auditing.

As to that more  important stuff … I am ramping back up the work on my CAS thesis via several angles of attack. I am working on the paper proper and I am also working on a journal article, which will be highly related (as in with a little reworking can become a chapter), and I am thinking about trying to come up with a presentation for a conference in early December. The conference is “Semantics for Robots: Utopian and Dystopian Visions in the Age of the ‘Language Machine’. ‘The Language Machine’ is one of Roy Harris’ early books, of course.

As for conferences, I am really sad that I will not be able to attend ASIS&T in Pittsburgh this year. But seeing as we gave up about $40k in income with me not working there is little means of justifying the expense of travel and lodging. And, honestly, the registration cost is plain crazy for an unemployed non-student, non-retiree.

Sara and I decided that the Integrationist conference in Chicago in December, along with being far cheaper, is really more where I need to be right now. I need exposure to more Integrationists and Integrational thinking and I will get far more out of a small conference (as I always do) than a bigger one. Whether or not I can get something submitted (and possibly accepted) I am highly looking forward to it. Nonetheless, this will be the 1st ASIS&T I’ve missed since I started going in 2006.

And if any of my Chicago friends are reading this, I’d adore an invite to stay with you for a couple days in early December (2nd-4th, or so), especially if you are near the Univ. of Chicago.

Tomorrow night we are, thanks to a surprise from Sara, going to see Jackson Browne and David Lindley and the historic Orpheum Theatre here in Sioux City. I have been listening to (early) Jackson Browne for close to 40 years now. I haven’t really kept up with anything since the mid-80s or so but, nonetheless, I am stoked to finally get to see him live for the first time.

We also have a Super Secret Date night scheduled for Sunday night. Sara had that lined up well before we left Urbana. She offered me the chance to find out what it’ll be last night but I passed. I like the surprises! She’s done so well every time in the past. And it also makes me aware that it is past time for me to step up in the Super Secret Date Night scheduling department.

And in case anyone who cares isn’t aware of it yet, my son is in Afghanistan for his 3rd war zone tour. He left just days after we moved. Grrrr.

I guess I best end this for now. It is getting long and the simple shock of seeing a post from me is probably enough already. With any hope I won’t be gone as long before the next time.

house spouse

a little “mouse”
grew up; became
a new house spouse.

wrote a little ditty
because he is moving
to Iowa; Sioux City.

I posted that little ditty to facebook and twitter several days ago to announce that I will soon be moving.

In the comments on facebook, I also wrote:

I’m going to Sioux City to be a househusband, scholar [write my CAS paper / defend], poet, part-time student perhaps, enjoying other parts of the country (and, I must admit, the Midwest), photographer of late 19th-century brick industrial buildings and ghost signs and real wildflowers and prairie and ….

I get my soul back.

… But I get my soul back. And maybe, eventually, some of my mind.

My lovely partner, and soon-to-be spouse, has accepted a job as the Reference and Instruction Librarian at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa. We will be moving in early July probably; after our wedding and my daughter’s wedding and ALA and ….

We are really looking forward to it. And, yes, I did go with her for her campus visit so I have seen Sioux City. Yes, we will miss many, many wonderful and some taken for granted things here: Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Krannert Art Museum and all of the wonderful, often free, programs put on at both, being able to walk (or easily bus, for free) to pretty much everywhere except major shopping, Crane Alley and other favorite eating/drinking haunts, the Arboretum and Japan House, and on and on. Even moreso, we will miss all of the wonderful people.

What I will not miss is alluded to above. As important as the work is that I have been doing the last couple of years, my job has been killing me. My spirit is completely gone and my soul is being forcibly ripped from my body.

Maybe it is the size of the institution (Library, specifically); maybe it is the myriad and serious problems facing the Library (many of which are not financial).

I really do not want to get into any details because that, as I am told, is unprofessional. Kind of ironic since that is the judgement I make of many here. Do not misunderstand me, please. There are many dedicated professionals in our libraries; professionals at all levels of staffing. Some of the issues derive from our massive size and/or decentralized structure, but by no means all of them do.

I do not intend to look for a job any time soon. But I am also not leaving the profession. There is the important task of writing and defending my CAS paper before May 2011. And I fully intend to do so. That task and being a proper house spouse providing all of the support that I can for Sara to succeed in her new job will be my main occupation.

Other than that, I look forward to writing some articles and conference presentations. I hope to re-engage on my blog; perhaps return to friendfeed. Also high on my list are writing some poetry inspired by the change of scenery, perhaps taking a poetry class [poetry prof was on the search committee and sat next to me at dinner]; learning to photograph the lovely late 19th-century industrial brick buildings that are all over Sioux City, along with the plentiful ghost signs, and real prairie flowers.

By going with Sara on her interview I added 3 states to my visited list; Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. I am looking forward to visiting Omaha, Sioux Falls, Ames and Iowa City and many other towns, from the small to the large.

Being so near to the Missouri River valley and bottom lands makes me feel very much at home. I grew up in the north suburbs of St. Louis near the confluence of the Mighty Mo and the Mississippi. In the summers we’d bike out to Missouri Bottom Road (named literally), especially when it was flooded. We also lived about a mile from a park on a big bluff along the Missouri.

It is a big adventure and we’ll be taking a massive pay cut to go on it. Sara is getting a small increase but it still means losing the vast majority of my salary. Thankfully I get a small bit for my Army retirement; wouldn’t be doable otherwise.

Looking forward to this with all of my heart. I truly am.

Keeping up … with people

The What

Wednesday afternoon I posted the following to my facebook status:

I have recently instituted a personal goal of trying to catch up with at least 1 interesting person a week (or so) just to see what’s rockin’ their (LIS) world, whether there are any areas of overlapping interest, if we can challenge/cheer each other on in our research endeavors, etc. To do this I am asking people to lunch or coffee … so please don’t get freaky if I ask you. If not interested just say No thanks. 😀

Not a perfect message, I agree, but facebook stati do have a character limit and I had hit it. The primary problem with it is that “interesting” word. It means pretty much anything and, thus, nothing. So it is a somewhat lazy but mostly space constrained shorthand for a lot more; including a lot more that I can’t even articulate yet.

The Context

Sometime last week I decided to ask a friend and once fellow student to lunch or coffee to catch up with her. We had taken a couple of classes together and we are both off doing our own CAS stuff now. I do get to see her now and again at the reference desk but if one can imagine how busy the reference desk at the main UIUC Library is then you can imagine that short amounts of small talk is all we can manage.

The classes we had together were all “upper-level” information organization classes and some of the projects she’s been involved in have been in areas like faceted classifications of folktales.

But she’s a reference librarian by bent. And desire. [That is, if I remember correctly from some of those disparate and short snatches of conversation at the reference desk.]

Of course reference librarians can be interested in the geeky, often esoteric intricacies of thesauri, faceted classification systems, indexing, and so on. I wish more were. 😉 But, in my own admittedly weak experience [10 12 years now], I have found few reference librarians, much less LIS students, who are interested in these sorts of things to any true depth.

So I wanted to take some quality time to catch up and see where she is in her studies, where she’s heading with her CAS project/paper, and all that stuff in the facebook message above. We were supposed to go to lunch this past Tuesday but she woke up ill so we rescheduled for next week.

Wednesday afternoon I thought of one of our Ph.D. students who I have met in person only once or so but we now follow each other on Twitter and facebook and I find her and what little I know of her work intriguing. So I invited her to lunch or coffee.

That’s when I realized I was onto something and posted the above status to facebook.

1st Lunch Date

We met at Bombay (Indian food) for the buffet and talk. She was already excited because she thinks my idea is a great one. We had a leisurely lunch and talked about my CAS paper and research, about the Library Student Journal, and about her coursework (last semester of) and teaching. We discussed Integrationism, language and communication, Symbolic Interactionism, Erving Goffman, differences between teaching undergrads and LIS students, and several other things. I’d say it was a success; not that I have any specific measures of success in mind.

Feedback in facebook

I got some good feedback shortly after posting the above status, such as several Likes, and a question or two. I found it extremely interesting that the 1st person to Like my status is the next person in my queue. Another Ph.D. student, she has taken some courses in GSLIS but is primarily in Rhetoric and Writing Studies [again, if remembering correctly]. I am going to wait a bit before trying to schedule this one as I still need to catch up with the original person I asked before I thought of this as a more sustained “program.”

One comment I received was whether I was paying or not. I am happy to do so in every case but will leave it up to the other whether we go Dutch or I pay. This is not a request for people to ask me to lunch so I will pay. I intend to still go to lunch with friends and such as I sometimes do. But if you are one of my closest friends here then, well, sorry but you don’t meet my criteria for this. I see you and talk to you anyway; I already have a good idea what you are up to. 😀

Purpose, Goals

What am I up to? Do I have a purpose or goals for this. Well, yes, and no. It is a work in progress and I am leaving it wide open and flexible.

First, it is and can be a form of professional development. Normally we talk about keeping up with the literature but isn’t keeping up with fellow professionals also professional development? Especially if one is interacting directly with them, yes?

Second, it is networking.

But even more important to me, it is a way to develop better friendships and deeper acquaintances. It is about broadening my horizons. It will expose me to ongoing work and the interests of others in a relaxed environment. Overlapping areas of interest can be discerned and expanded. Efforts to support and challenge/cheer each other on in our separate research endeavors can be drawn up and implemented.  We can clue each other into conferences, journals, books, people, ideas, and so on that might be of interest and value to each other. And there are, no doubt, other benefits that I will discover.

And, yes, one of my primary goals is to be of equal value to my dates for whatever purposes they have in accepting.

The Future

I have another couple of individuals in mind (one mentioned above, and another GSLIS Ph.D. student) but no one in particular after that. But during our discussions yesterday I realized that there are several newer faculty in GSLIS who I do not know at all. So perhaps that is where I’ll start. There are also several 0% faculty appointments in GSLIS with folks from Communications and other departments; they’d be good candidates.

After that I don’t know. I wish I knew more students and faculty in other departments here at UIUC. At ISU I knew people from all across campus. I have been here at UIUC about the same amount of time I was there but there I was an undergrad and an at-large grad student so I took classes all over. As much as I wanted to wander into other departments here I kept focused on my own department and my LIS education.

Certainly there are plenty of librarians I could get to know better here. And I should.


I’m not sure what will become of this but I intend to enjoy the company of some interesting people, learn more about the diversity of work and interests within our profession/discipline and in other disciplines.

If anyone has suggestions I am certainly happy to entertain them. If you are here and read my blog but we don’t really know each other and you’d like to change that then feel free to contact me.

Might this idea work for you? Only you can decide that. But I think that on a campus where everyone is busy and many come and go so quickly (Yes, 2-6 years is quickly) this may be a good corrective to that feeling of “I sure wish I could get to know so-and-so” or of “Boy, their research is really interesting; I wish I knew more about it” or any similar wistful desires.

If anyone else implements something similar I’d love to hear about how it is going/went, either here or directly via email, etc. Myself, I have no specific plans to blog about these dates. That will be on a case-by-case basis and only after I have cleared any such blog mentions with the affected party.

So, who have you had coffee with lately?

Is someone trying to tell me something?

Twice in the last week I have been disappeared from assorted campus directories.

Recently the Library debuted a new website for staff, including a new personnel directory. The personnel directory is available in 3 versions (that I noticed): Faculty by name, Staff by name, and by Department. I was in the old directory. I have been Visiting Faculty since Aug. 2008. Just completely disappeared from the new one.

This morning I discovered that I was no longer in the GSLIS directory. Not as a CAS student, which I still am. Nor, period. Now keep in mind this directory includes alums. Disappeared completely from it, I did.

No doubt these are coincidences. But I’m beginning to wonder.

If you want me gone UIUC then just have the cojones to tell me it’s time to go.

habitually probing generalist

Change of blog name

I have changed the name of my blog. Again. This time it should not break any of the Internet nor should you need to change feeds; I hope.

3 years ago tomorrow I moved my blog to WordPress and renamed it Off the Mark. This was after a few years of blogging at Typepad under the name …the thought are broken…. I had put out a call for suggestions and for slightly different reasons both Walt Crawford and Richard Urban recommended Off the Mark. For those and other reasons I liked it. But over time various (possible) connotations have been bugging me. I was certainly aware of them then but I dismissed them, at least in my own mind.

A few months after renaming my blog I read an article for a class and my tagline was born. That tagline is now being promoted to the name of my blog. Henceforth, this space is to be known as habitually probing generalist.

I feel that that far better represents me and how I’d like to be known. For now, Off the Mark will be my tagline.

In the interest of disclosure, I feel that the primary reason for this change is that which I stated above—Off the Mark carries certain negative connotations which I no longer am willing to ignore and habitually probing generalist better represents the external face I want to present. Secondarily, though, I cannot deny that the phrase “off the mark” is heavily represented and used on the Internet. There is a greeting card company with that name (I have enjoyed giving a card or 3 to others from that company; check them out) and at least another blog or two, besides being a common phrase in its own right. “Habitually probing generalist” appears to be only used by me and a few others who have referenced my tagline. Thus, I am laying claim to it. Carole Palmer deserves a boatload of credit for it but I alone am responsible for this specific formulation.

Working toward this change I made myself a new favicon about 2 weeks ago. No longer is my favicon barely distinguishable pink flowers but is a blue background with a whitish “hpg” in it. I still need to do a little code editing so the fonts are switched for the name and tagline on the blog but that can wait. A looming physical move takes precedence.

With my blogging output over the last year a few of you might well ask “What is the point of a name change for a moribund blog?” Sadly, that is a valid question. I cannot make any promises but ….

CAS project

Friday I met with my academic advisor, Dean John Unsworth, about my CAS paper, for the first time in about 11 months. The gist of what we discussed is that things are settling down in my life (as much as possible for someone with a temporary job) and that I am ready, and looking forward, to beginning on the job of writing and defending this paper.

First, I must get physically moved across town and somewhat unpacked but then I should be able to devote far more time to it than I was willing to over the last year. The love of my life and I will live together and there will be no more of that whose apartment are we going to?, are you/am I spending the night?, blah blah. Perhaps more importantly, I will have research time once my 2nd year Visiting Professor appointment starts 16 August. This should make a major difference in my mental ability to focus on the task at hand. Also, S will be majorly busy and working many hours in September and October so I hope to use some of that time to get back in the flow of reading and writing towards a directed end.

My time over the last year has by no stretch been a waste! I have read far more broadly in a vast array of disciplines, topics and genres, which has better prepared me to think about and critique the actual use of language and communication. I was on a panel at ASIS&T last year where I spoke about Integrationism in regards to tagging. I also attended the 1st Ethics of Information Organization conference this May.

I now have an idea for a draft proposal for a presentation at the 2nd Ethics conference next year. This also forms a small but core portion of my critique of the uses of the concepts of language and communication in LIS. Thus, working towards fleshing this out will be a big help in a key premise of my argument. I might also be able to then expand on it or shift it a bit to present at ASIS&T or the SIG-CR preconference next year in 2010.

I also have an idea for a way to have interested parties work with me to compile a “listing” of theories of language and communication used in LIS and citations of works that explicitly use them, well or not. On this head, though, I am first doing a bit of research to seed the list and to determine what might be the best tool to use for a (small, I assume) group to manage it while making it publicly available. Stay tuned.

… and this means what for the blog?

Well, I hope that I will blogging much of what I get up to. I will need to reread many things and refresh my memory of what they say. Summarizing these for the blog is a possibility, as is comparing and contrasting ideas. Bouncing ideas and/or draft paragraphs/sections of my paper or my conference presentation ideas off of my readers are distinct possibilities, too.

No promises. But. I hope that I can claim that—for the near future, at least—I am back.

Sing a song with a friend
Change the shape that I’m in,
And get back in the game,
And start playin’ again

John Prine. Clay Pigeons.

Books read in 1st half of 2008 (and some)

Taking a cue from someone else’s post which I saw a month or so back here is a list of the books which I have read in the 1st half (plus) of 2008. I imagine I missed recording one or two and I know I failed to record one or two which were re-reads. I also have a few books in progress which were started sometime earlier but aren’t finished yet.

Doing this now will make it simpler come the end of the year.

As anyone who knows me only (or primarily) through this blog can see, my reading took somewhat of a turn this year so far. As it stands I am about to return to something more like the back half of last year and first month or two of this as of today. Summer is fast winding down and it is time to concentrate on finishing my CAS paper and prepping for the panel I am on at ASIS&T (Oct.).

Before we get to the list, though, I’d like to mention a conversation I had with my friend the other day. We were discussing my love of [much of] our literature and she expressed some concern over my ability to find something to read for edification and enjoyment when I am done with my degree and school.

I assured her that that is not in any way an issue. Just because I am done with school won’t mean I am done reading the literature of my profession. There are too many gems from the last 100+ years waiting to be read (and critiqued). I also have hundreds of non-fiction and a score or two fiction books to be read already in my possession. There are 1000s more I do not own. There are books to re-read. And there are genres which I have barely even begun to consider, such as poetry; of which she has a decent collection to get me started.

My reading habits—especially whether I can find something to read once I back off some on the LIS stuff—should not concern anyone. There is too much too know to not be able to find something to read, and after almost a lifetime of actively avoiding literature there is much to make my own.

Some of these were talked about, or at least mentioned, here earlier in the year but I am far too lazy to try and link them now.

So far there’s 29 books read, 3 of which were re-reads. There is poetry, fiction, literature, philosophy, and assorted non-fiction, most of which is language and communication, and LIS.

8 January

Harris, Roy. 1978. Communication and Language. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

January [re-read]

Harris, Roy. 1998. Introduction to Integrational Linguistics. 1st ed. Language & communication library series. Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Pergamon.

14 January – 11 February [re-read]

Harris, Roy. 2005. The Semantics of Science. London: Continuum.

25 – 30 January

Harris, Roy, and International Association for the Integrational Study of Language and Communication. 2006. Integrationist Notes and Papers : 2003-2005. Crediton, Devon, England: Tree Tongue.

10 – ? February

Maxwell, Robert L. 2008. FRBR: A Guide for the Perplexed. Chicago: American Library Association.

18 – 21 February

Harris, Roy, and Indian Institute of Advanced Study. 2003. History, Science, and the Limits of Language : an Integrationist Approach. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

23 February

Richards, Jennifer. 2008. Rhetoric. New critical idiom. London: Routledge.

2 – 10 March

Aitchison, Jean. 2003. Linguistics. 6th ed. Teach yourself. Chicago, Ill: McGraw-Hill.

15 – 23 March [re-read]

DeLillo, Don. 1986. White Noise. Contemporary American fiction. New York: Penguin Books.

18 March

Shiga, Jason. 2007. Bookhunter. Portland, Or.: Sparkplug Comic Books.

16 – 28 March

Swift, Jonathan. 1996. Gulliver’s travels. Unabridged [ed.]. Mineola N.Y.: Dover Publications.

31 March – 4 April

Critchley, Simon. 2001. Continental philosophy : a very short introduction. Vol. 43. Very short introductions . Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

9 – 28 April

Austin, Michael W, ed. 2007. Running & Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind. Ed. Michael W Austin. Malden: Blackwell Pub.

20 – 24 April

Lodge, David. 1992. Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses. New York: Penguin Books.

28 – 30 April

Forster, Michael N. 2008. Kant and Skepticism. Princeton monographs in philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

8 January / 1 – 10 May

Wilson, Patrick. 1968. Two Kinds of Power : an Essay on Bibliographical Control. Librarianship 5. Berkeley: University of California Press.

4 April – 12 May

Budd, John. 1992. The Library and Its Users: The Communication Process. Vol. 71. Contributions in librarianship and information science. New York: Greenwood Press.

approx. 6 – 13 May

Barnes, Bill. 2007. Read Responsibly: An Unshelved Collection. Seattle, Wash: Overdue Media LLC.

19 – 30 May

Chia, Mantak. 1997. The Multi-Orgasmic Man: Sexual Secrets Every Man Should Know. 1st ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

27 – 30 May

Kressley, Carson. 2004. Off the Cuff: The Essential Style Guide for Men and the Women Who Love Them. New York: Dutton.

16 June

Dubberley, Emily. 2006. Sex for busy people : the art of the quickie for lovers on the go. New York: Simon & Schuster.

?? June

Stone, Ruth. 2002. In the Next Galaxy. Port Townsend, Wash: Copper Canyon Press.

26 June

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Task Force on Guidelines for OPAC Displays. 2005. Guidelines for Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) Displays: Final Report May 2005. Recommended by the Task Force on Guidelines for OPAC Displays. Approved by the Standing Committee of the IFLA Cataloguing Section . Vol. 27. IFLA series on bibliographic control. München: Saur.

29 March – 3 April / 4 June – 14 July

Budd, John. 2008. Self-Examination: The Present and Future of Librarianship. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.

14 – 25 July

Bright, Susie, ed. 2008. The Best of Best American Erotica 2008. Ed. Susie Bright. London: Simon & Schuster.

25 July

Gardner, John. 1976. Gudgekin, the Thistle Girl, and Other Tales. New York: Knopf.

?? – 5 August

Carlson, Ron. 2002. At the Jim Bridger: Stories. 1st ed. New York: Picador USA.

5 – 8 August

Foskett, D. J. 1984. Pathways for Communication: Books and Libraries in the Information Age. London: C. Bingley.

10 August

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isaevich, and H. T. Willetts. 2005. One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

What is it with UIUC and this guy

Tomorrow, Wednesday, 18 June 2008, 2 – 3:30 PM

Library Colloquium: Michael Gorman : Are Libraries Still Vital to Research?

Why do we keep bringing him here?

And, yes, I am well aware of his connection to UIUC. But, honestly, you’d think people might have outgrown him by now. Perhaps if more of our students could learn to think for themselves and to read a bit more widely ….

This quote from the news announcement I find particularly ironic:

If you need a refresher on Michael Gorman’s fascinating career, check his entry in Wikipedia which also provides links to some of his publications and other biographical sources.

There’s something just a tad bit too delicious to think about when someone links to Wikipedia to reference Gorman’s career. Don’t you think?

Part of the lecture is supposed to be on core competencies for LIS education, a major platform of Gorman’s ALA Presidency. I am assuming this post at Doc Martens’ theorywatch is in reference to them.

What a nice laundry list that. I will be interested in hearing how and to what depth they will be measured/evaluated. Or will it be enough for ALA as accrediting agency—as it is now—for programs just to claim that they address them. Actually, now, programs only have to claim that they address what they think is valuable [Yes, it isn’t quite so simplistic I know. But honestly that’s about what it reduces to.]. Not sure if this is much of an improvement but I need more details first.

I could just as easily pick on any set of these competencies, but I’ll choose those particularly close to my heart:

3. Organization of Recorded Knowledge and Information

3A. The principles involved in the organization and representation of recorded knowledge and information.

3B. The developmental, descriptive, and evaluative skills needed to organize recorded knowledge and information resources.

3C. The systems of cataloging, metadata, indexing, and classification standards and methods used to organize recorded knowledge and information.

Is it going to be enough that prospective graduates of accredited programs can list some principles, some skills and some “systems” used, or will they actually have to understand these principles, apply the skills, and demonstrate knowledge and ability to apply these systems?

Here’s a cite from an email about Gorman’s visit:

Michael will address the continuing importance of libraries to researchers and will cover the nature of research, the nature of the human record today, the skills of modern librarians (this will touch on the proposed “core competences” for ALA accredited LIS programs), and the importance of the bibliographic architecture of research libraries.

I have no doubt that Gorman will address these topics. My concern is with what qualifications anyone thinks he has to address these topics, or some of them anyway. The nature of the human record today. The skills of modern librarians. This is just funny. In a sad way.

Yes. I will be there. Who could resist such a show? And, honestly, as someone highly interested in the education of “modern librarians”—whatever the heck those might be—I’m dying to hear more about the ALA version of No Librarian Left Behind.

Update: Before any comments came in I realized I ought to say a bit more but instead went for a run. While I was out 3 comments came in [for reference sake].

I want to add that I do have some respect for Michael Gorman, or more accurately for some of the things he has done, said, and written. I have read several of his books and many of his articles. I hold many of the same values as he does, particularly values in relationship to the profession of librarianship. I just think they can and should be espoused and embodied differently than he does. In fact, if you search this blog you will find several cases where I defended or, at least, supported him.

But I also lost most of my respect for him over the last couple of years based on many of the things he has said and written. I do think he has much to offer our profession still. I just have no faith that he will stick to those things, nor that he will realize that he is failing at many of the things on the proposed list of core competencies; things which are critical to the future of the profession.

And while I agree with all 3 of the commenters so far, I do not agree with jenny’s 1st point. Having been president of ALA in no way whatsoever qualifies any one to speak on the issues he is supposed to be addressing. It may “certify”, allow, or more accurately, entitle one to speak on them. But then I didn’t realize this is an entitlement profession. In fact, are not entitlement and profession, at least in the senses I mean them, exclusive of each other?

So, lest any one get confused, I am not a Michael Gorman hater. I just do not think he is qualified to address, or even willing to properly engage with, many of the issues at hand. I am also fairly certain that I can back those statements up to anyone but the most die-hard MG fans or the ostriches of the profession.