Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thinking out loud: Library Strategic Planning

Please forgive the length of this. This a bit of thinking out loud (read slightly disjointed thoughts) in regards to some things I was contemplating this week about the direction/strategic planning of the library. I appreciate your comments.

The reading for this week of class in Academic Librarianship revolves around the accessibility of digital materials and the budget issues involved with the 'renting' of these items. These readings are alsmot enough motivation to pile the enecyclopedias in a large pile on the front steps, douse the pile in gasoline and toss a match. Unfortunately I need those encycs for volume count (accreditation) and until I can replace them with something else they need to stay on the shelf. My library currently reflects the thinking about libraries that was prevalent five-ten years ago. That philosophy can be summed in one/two hypenated word(s): 'double-up'. Buy two of everything. This is not just dropping one copy in reference and one copy in circulation but often two, three or sometime four of the same volume in circulation. (To be fair, I'm not sure nor have any way of knowing which of these were donated and which of these were bought. I am more understanding of adding a second volume of a donated work but less understanding of buying a second work especially without confirmed use.) Hence why I have 2 complete sets of the Biblical Illustrator and 3 complete sets of Calvin's Commentaries. The library is rather unequipped to deal effectively with the changing needs of students in their research. I was thinking about this today and I think a good model to pursue is the plug-in model of programming. What is first required is an outline/foundation that can be abstracted out enough to accommodate foradjusting to multiple situtations, both planned and unplanned. Once that outline/foundation is tested and solid different objects can then be plugged into it.
How I think this model plays out in my library:
What's the goal of the library? To provide scholarly, solid informational resources to the students, staff and faculty in an efficient and cost-effective manner. (This needs some tweaking)
What are the current plug-ins (the items that are going to be doing actually/supposedly the work)

1. Digital resources (subscription database/open access stuff/ other online tools)

2. Circulating Print resources (Circulating books. Our collection keeps suprising me both with what students find and what I find in both good and bad ways.)

3. Serials/Journals: (I cannot begin to describe to you how much of a waste of money journals are and how much street cred they carry with administration and accreditation. I'm fairly certain that all of 5 people a year read these journals and yet this is a major item on any accreditation sheet. Also the fact that most/many of our journals are available in full-text online.)

4. Reference resources (I received a 1300 page book in the mail for a test-drive yesterday on the world's major religions. The publisher wanted $371.00 for it. The book is sitting on my desk waiting to be mailed back. The odd thing is I didn't even ask for this one; it just showed up and the spine was crushed on the bottom. This pricing is typical of reference works which get used even less than circulating items especially with stuff from Sage/Gale.)

5. DVD/CDs (Both of these are good esp. as DVDs have a high circulation rate but they get scratched easier than sunburn victims at a cat convention which means you have to buy new ones.)

6. VHS/Cassette Tapes (Same burn pile as the encycs. out of 5,000 tapes under 200 circulated last year with less the year before. Sounds like a good use of space to me.)

7. Microforms (The library had purchased 9,000 titles from TREN which five to ten years ago would have been a huge shot in the arm. Now it simply causes issues as the microfiche just confuses the nonsense out of the students because the catalog records don't explicitly state that these are microforms so they wander around teh library until I ask if they are looking for sometihng. Sad but humorous.)

Based on my reading and talking with students the best plug-ins are Digital Resources, Circulating Books and CD/DVDs. However the area of digital resources is the most expensive one, even with consortium help. Also the idea that you are renting access with nothing to show for it if the company goes out or raises their prices that you cannot meet. The renting model for digital resources frightens me quite a bit especially as we (libraries) are buildling our library access around them. In terms of circulating books, I really love buying books for the library. It is like Christmas when new orders come in. However trying to balance not a lot of money across a large subject area especially whne including keeping sections updated is a bit tricky and I'm definitively still learning that process.
This article * talks about creating a "new competitive attitude" when it comes to thinking about the purpose of libraries. The reason I want to focus on my top three plugins is that these areas give the best versatility and flexibility in approach to reaching the needs of the student population. I don't have enough storage room to hang onto every book that comes into our door. I don't think that approach fits the strategy of the institution as well. By eliminating archaic and outdated medium the library will be, and I think appear, more relevant and approachable.

*Ross, Lyman; Sennyey, Pongracz "The Library is Dead, Long Live the Library! The Practice of Academic Librarianship and the Digital Revolution" The Journal of Academic Librarianship Vol. 34 No. 2 pages 145-152 2008.
Via Peter Enns' blogI was introduced to Ken Schenk's blog today. Schenk posed/is posting a series of chapter by chapter reviews on NT Wright's work Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision.

Chapter 1: What's it all about and why does it matter
Chapter 2: Rules of engagement
Chapter 3: First Century Judaism: Covenant, Law, and Law Court

I sincerly wish to write one day as Schenk does. He possesses a keen pen and distinct intellect that communicates well and interacts well with material that he disagrees with. This is the mark of a good critic to be able to handle matierla one disagrees with correctly without attempting to flay it out of existence. His writing is informative, direct and backed by some serious erudition.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

PEW Report: Twitter and status updating

Pew/Internet released their report on Twitter and status updating today. You can find the report here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The aura of the original

I got to do one of the coolest things in my life today. Right now it is definitely in the current top ten. I was given access to the Liber Chronicarum by Hermann Shedel. This work is also known as the Nuremberg Chronicle in honor of the town in Germany where it was printed. The work is best known by that name today. It's first printing was in Latin and was published on July 12, 1493. 1493; one year after Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Only 50 years after printing was born. After the work was printed an individual called the rubricator went through the index and most of the work highlighting the important words and where to take breaths indicated by a red paint stroke on the correct letter. The entire index is treated like this and in the "L's" where there are approximate 10-15 "L's" in a single-spaced sequence the rubricator treats them all with a single slash.
Please note the same brush strokes made by the rubricator in 1493 was the same ones that I was able to touch/see today. The book that I had the distinct privelege of spending two quality hours with was the original as published on July 12, 1493, according to the colophon on the last page. The BU library staff left me alone in the room with this magnificent work. Not that I was going to do anything untoward with it but the sheer weight of the historical value of the moment seemed to assume greater security than was being applied.
I was also given access to a German facsimile of the work published about 10 years later. Schedel meant to publish his work in German but in 1496 Augsburg printer Johann Schonsperger, pirated the whole work, publishing a German edition in small folio format marketed at a lower price. Unsuprisingly the cheaper version captured the market and Schedel lost out on a decent chunk of change.
This work is historic for several reasons. One reason is the sheer amount of illustrations. Another important reason is how well the work balances the incredibly high number of illustrations (woodcuts) with the text. Modern day readers assume that the text will bend/frame the illustrations but for early movable type printers, this was a big deal. Previous to the actual printing of the Chronicle was a work called the Examplar which was basically a rough draft/working copy of the Chronicle and allowed the wood cutters wohlgemut, Pleydenwurff and most likely Dürer (who looks a bit like DFW) who was serving as Wohlgemut' s apprentice at the time.
As an object the bound work is brilliant. The font is Italian Rotunda and the spacing closely resembles our own current use of spacing so the words flow quite nicely together. While my knowledge of Latin could be contained in a child's thimble, I can definitely pick up alliteration and was able to track what cities and people the author was talking about.
The Chronicle is a vast compilation of information, mainly Biblical and mythical, and illustrated with people in period costume. Thus Samson is strutting about with two doors over his right shoulder and clothed in what seesm to be the clothes of a burghermeister or other some such fairly well-dressed nobelman. This is another very important aspect of this work. While it is a poor representation of the dress of what Samson would have really worn, it is an excellent record of what the people of that time wore, not disimilar to the musically decorative work of the Santiago de Compostela. Of course, 53 woodcuts of cities/countires were used to depict 101 different places and 96 blocks of emperors, kings and popes were used 598 times or an average of six times each. This was a common practice

Nuremberg Chronicle at Morse Library, Beliot College
If you select the Book Contents link, you can seem the digital scans of the entire work. It's worth checking out.

Wilson, Adrian. The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle. A. Asher & Co. Amsterdam, 1976. 253 p.
This is the definitive work on the Nuremberg Chronicle and is really well-written and very well-researched.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Aristotle and accuracy

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

On Friday afternoon, a student swung by my door and asked who was the author of the above quote. Having absolutely no idea, I looked it up and, as the student guessed, was attributed to Aristotle.
If the reader could take a moment and look up the quote above and ascertain the seriously amazing amount of hits this quote returns. (It is also slightly ludicrous to note the amount of sites/pages that are dedicated to quotations which is clear by selecting any one of the links to the above quote and seeing how many other quotes are listed on said pages.) It is truly a large amount of times that people have found this quote to be _________ (insert adjective of choice) and also have attributed it to Aristotle. As none of the sites listed the origin/source of the quote I went looking for it. I don't have a good reason for it except being slightly irked by the fact that there seemed to be a gigantic assumption that Aristotle was the author of this quote with none of these pages quoting him particularly caring whether or not Aristotle had actually uttered/written these words. After a bit of Internet hopping, including a quite jaunt through GoogleBook, I found this site (the quote is approx. 3/4 of the way down the page and states as follows "It is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs. (I.1094b24)" )
 Within Google books I had found a selection in the Nicomachean Ethics that looked close to the quote above but not what one would refer to as exact. Using the verbage from the Google Book quote, I changed up my search query and found the link which is the aforementioned link. mentions the Nicomeachean Ethics Book 1 1094b line 24 as the spot where this quote originates. Having beomce a serious doubter of internet information quote sources, the library catalog was consulted and the library's two copies of different translated editions/copies of Aristotle's Ethics were pulled and consulted.  Those quotes follow below and the second quote is probably the better translated of the two:

(Book 1 of the Nicomachean Ethics 1094b24)

"We must be content, then, in speaking of such subjects and with such premisses to indicate the truth roughly and in outline, and in speaking about thigns which are only for the most part true and with premisses of the same kind to reach conclusions that are not better.In the same spirit [], therefore, should each type of statement be received; for it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each [25] class opf things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning froma matehtmaticisn and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs. (pg. 340 Great Books of the Western World N. 9 Aristotle II Robert Translated by W.D. Ross Maynard Hutchins, Ed. in Chief, 1952)

"...when the subject and the basis of a disucssion consist of matters that hold good only as a general rule, but not always, the conclusions reached must ve of the same order. The various points that are made must be received in the same spirit. For a well-school man is one who searches for that degree of precision in each kind of study which the nature of the subject at hand admits: it is obviously just as foolish to accept arguments of probability form a mathematician as to demand strict demonstrations from an orator." (Pg. 5 Niomachean Ethics, Aristotle The Library of Liberal Arts Trans. by Martin Ostwald, 1962)

while this might be a gigantic waste of time, I think it might of some interested, if possible, to trace how the initial quote was cannabalized from the two translated items directly above. At best the initial quote is a paraphrase, at worst it is an outright lie and should not be attributed to Aristotle but to the poor soul who managed to wrest this half-starved meaning from these two rich, though brick-dense quotes. It is possible that as not all edition of the Nicomeachean Ethics were consulted that there is a translation that utilizes this usage. If anyone knows what it is I would be interested in knowing it.
in the interim, I'm fairly convinced that the initial quote has nothing to do with being attributed to Aristotle. Also I'm convinced that the quote is pretty much nonsense. Let us examine this quote a little more closely. "It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it."  One of the problems with these quotes is that there is no context to help the reader. The main issue is the context of the word "entertain". Simply, entertain is used here as a verb; thus, the OED is consulted. Entertain as v. has a rather broad spectrum of meanings. A few are listed below 2nd ed. 1989 from the online version of the OED.

1) To take (a person) into one's service; to hire (a servant, etc.); to retain as an advocate.
2)To engage agreeably the attention of (a person); to amuse. In recent use often also ironical: = ‘to try to entertain’ (with something stupid or uninteresting).
3) To admit and contain; to ‘accommodate’.
3.1) To admit to consideration (an opinion, argument, request, proposal, etc.); to receive (an idea) into the mind.

Based on this snippet view of the definition of the word entertain the reader could reasonably ascertain that 3.1 is the meaning of the word. However, I would argue that there is a certain level of acceptance in both 3 and 3.1 definitions. If the OED is once again consulted for the word "accept" the definition retrieved is "to take or receive (a thing offered) willingly, or with consenting mind; to receive (a thing or person) with favour or approval, e.g. to receive as a prospective husband. Also, to take or receive with patience or resignation, to tolerate." The third definition: " To receive as sufficient or adequate; hence, to admit, agree to, believe."  I would argue that the definitions of the words "entertain" and "accept" are actually too close to make this quote accurate, helpful, useful or worth perserving in its current infantile state.
Please feel free in joining me, as a quote snoot (courtesy of D.F. Wallace)  in rejecting the use of all such unattributed quotes from your future papers, speech, discussions or mind. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Check it: Derrida the Movie

Derrida the Movie

yes I would like to see this. It came out in 2002.
you can buy it here. I look forward to receiving it from you.

Self-Censorship and Content

A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship

How do we, librarians/readers, balance reading broadly and recommending works broadly and/or including the works into a collection that have content that is potentially difficult/dangerous/challenging? I have little to no problem including Van Til and NT Wright next to Scofield and Ryrie or including fiction by Barthelme, Brautigan, Wallace or O'Brien. I think that students, especially at the college level need access to these works, especially for research purposes. I don't think that having gender-role issue stories or sexual abuse stories are being used for research within school libraries. The argument is made in this article that books need to be included that support the curriculum. There is also the argument that states that are lableled conservative seem to have a marked absence of these perceived works which the author immediatley assumes means self-censorship. I'm not a school librarian and this is one of the reasons why, but frankly it's not your problem. If the school library doesn't want to include a book why should they have to? The ALA is not a ruling body and it is seemingly becoming more and more invasive, especially in realms of kid's lit. About 3/4 of the way through the article the author quotes
"Scales, a First Amendment advocate and former school librarian, offers these words of advice: don’t put restrictions on kids, because they’ll regulate themselves if given the freedom to read. “Children will put down what they can’t handle or what they aren’t ready for,” she explains."

Really? Because if these are the same kids I've had the pleasure of spending 8 consecutive summers with and have as siblings, then this is a body of individuals not particularly well-known for their self-regulation. As a kid, I would read anything. There was a Dracula book in our public library that I would read on the sly and it scared me. I couldn't walk into the bathroom without pulling the shower curtain back to make sure there was nothing there to pounce on me. It is possible that I am not the most prime example of the self-regulating child but I can't believe that children as a whole have matured to this extent and indeed it would a shame if they had. Arguing this from the aspect of the self-regulating child is weak at best and laughable at its worst.

If donated, would I include one of the books above in the librayr's children's lit/YA section? I am not sure and it is an area that I would need to give significantly more thought. We have a unique situation as a fucntioning academic library that married students and their familiies use. I am not required to support a curriculum with the children's lit/YA section but these are important issues being raised that will affect the world the kids will be interacting with.

People, especially parents also react horribly in these types of situations, and in my opinion need to place their hand over their mouth and think about what they are saying. If the school library gets a book you don't agree with and it is of nomical impact, keep your mouth shut. You talk to your kids about how it's not quite ready for them and/or you read it together and move on. Don't cause librarians more pain then they need.
for example I do not think Harry Potter is the devil. I enjoyed/continue to enjoy the series and will share it wholeheartedly with our children when appropriate/of age.(Once children are actually born to us)
We will read around the breakfast/lunch/snack/dinner/dessert table and exegete/discuss/argue around the same about the work to make sure understanding is thoroughly fleshed out. (Hopefully there will be a big whiteboard in our dining room and/or den for comments and diagramming for this purpose.) This wil hoepfully set the tone for family reading in future as well as establish clear methods of reading through our, as yet future, children's lives.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Quote from " A History of Reading"

"As we read a text in our own languge, the text itself becomes a barrier. We can go into it as far as its words allow, embracing all their possible definitions; we can bring other texts to bear upon it and to reflect it, as in a hall of mirrors; we can construct another, critical text that will extend and illuminate the one we are reading; but we cannot escape the fact that its language is the limit of our universe.
Translation proposes a sort of parallel universe, another space and time in which the text reveals other, extraordinary possible meanings.
For these meanings, however, there are no words, since they exist in the intuitive no man's land between the language of the original and the language of the translator."
Alberto Manguel A History of Reading Pg. 276

It's here

KINDLE 2.0 released
There's a whole lot of better info out there than this post. Simply Google "Kindle 2.0" and a whole host of information should be available. For myself, until these readers are much, much cheaper ($50-$75) I'm not going with them.
Kara and I were in Binghamton's local indie bookstore on Saturday and it smelled like ideas (really weird ideas but ideas) coffee and print. It has lovely hardwood floors, big plate glass windows so a lot of natural light comes streaming in. While the bookshop is small, the content is awesome! The very fact that they had Grass and Wallace in the same place endears them to my heart. There was also a decent showing of graphic novels, theology, philosophy and a great kid's section. The tactile experience of the shop, picking out your book, purchasing it, eschewing the plastic bag and stowing it, in my case a man-, purse, and carrying the new cargo home to be enjoyed, annotated and glossed is as of yet an unreplicable experience. I finished Shea's Reading the OED and in it he says "I'm not anti-computer, I am pro-book." That is my stance as well.

I would highly recommend A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel. This guy read to Borges as a kid for two years; how is that for a writing apprenticeship. Manguel also wrote The Library at Night which, while I have not yet finished it, is also pretty good. The book itself is interestingly formatted as it is somewhat narrow; I'm not sure if the publisher was trying to push the page count higher so the buyer thought he was getting more for his money. Also Manguel re-uses some material from A History of Reading in The Library at Night. This is fairly forgivable as Postman does the same thing. There are worse thing a writer can do such as resuing materail from someone who is not himself.

*Personal note*
Went for a 2 mile run this evening. Ran the first mile successfully; ran/walked the second mile back. No stomach contents left on anyone's lawn.
Run judged a success.

Good Monday Morning: N. T. Wright on Resurrection

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Mystery Revealed or concealed

The library received a self-published work in the mail today entitled The Mystery Revealed: A commentary on the book of Revelation in the Holy Bible by Larry Edwards. The book was self-published via XulonPress.

Larry Edwards was a medical doctor and does not attempt to mislead the reader that he is established as a theologian. In his preface he states his disagreement with much of what he has read on Revelation. This book is his offering of extensive study and thought on Revelation. Unfortunately this book fits and confirms the stereotype of self-published works. Words are misspelled, even on the back cover, wording is awkward, voices change in the middle of paragraphs, incorrect words are used, "than" instead of "then" (pg. 317) and while the formatting/binding of the book is professionally done the content does not match the container.

There is also the issue of a self-published commentary. Of all works, it seems to me that commentaries are some of the most important to be passed through the editorial process especially when dealing with prophesy or future things as Revelation seems to do. Not having the work passed through an extensive editing process results in writing and thinking that is logically and textually weak at best and misleading at its worst. The author attempts to support a reading of Revelation from an OT/NT understanding but Edwards gets in his own way by offering out-of-context citations and then suggesting direct present-day correlations.
While his readings are somewhat dubious they are easier to believe than Edwards' attempts to calculate or draw the reader's attention to present day items. Truthfully, I was immediately skeptical that any commentary on Revelation would proclaim with the title that all mysteries have been addressed but I wanted to give it a fair shot. I read through the preface and sections of each chapter. My favorite part of this book is when the author addresses the number 666. To give some context the author is working through Rev. 13:16-18 and is discussing the mark and the number.
"The number (666) is to be calculated. Since the custom of using letters of the alphabet to represent numbers was prevalent at the time of the writing of Revelation, the calculation may refer to the use of letters in an name to add up to 666 or the substitution of letters for the respective numbers. (My note: This is somewhat believable; in Potok's The Chosen there is one example of the number/letter correlation in the Hebrew langauge.) Many suggestions have been made. One has to decie whether the Greek of Hebrew alphabet should be used for such calculations. If the Lord was dictating (???) to John in Hebrew, that language would make more sense in Hebrew, the sixth letter is waw; the equivalent of 'w' in English. Thus www would be 666; this raises question of control of the international economy by using the world-wide-web." (P. 353-354)
My knowledge of Hebrew is null but even if www does equal 666, it is a enormous leap of logic to suggest that the internet would be used to control the economy. This is not to say that it cannot happen but I think it is dangerous and somewhat fruitless to attempt to assign direct meaning to items that are as ambigious as understanding 666 to be.

This work does nothing to help readers understand Revelation and does not contribute to the scholarship of the book. If anything, it adds to the large number of works that attempt to cram Revelation into a small, manageable package. While I appreciate the author's gesture this is not a book that I will add to the college library or my own library.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Personal bit: Tonight I tried something I don't think I've done in about 9 years. I went running. Frankly, it was rather horrible in terms of performance, distance and anything else that makes running a successful venture by anyone's standards. My goal was to run a mile, .5 out and .5 back. I got about .4 out and walked the remaining .1. On the return, I ran .05 and walked the rest. The whole run/walk journey took about 15-18 minutes. The recovery period took about the same amount of time, most of which involved lying flat on my back in the apt. living room breathing deeply and hoping my lungs didn't burn through my chest as they seemed to be threatening to do. Not a proud day especially as I left most of the contents of my stomach on someone's ice-encrusted lawn slightly covered up with a well placed mound of snow. One of the less morbid highlights was that as the temperature was approximately 27 degrees what snow had melted on the sidewalk during the day was starting to freeze which caused footing to be quite exciting at some points.
Hopefully future outings will be much more successful, i.e. I will be able to run the whole time rather than resort to some walrus-like puffing and walking like an escaped geriatric patient.