Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Wednesday, 25 July 2007
The question was asked, and answered: how do young people like to work, what motivates them and how can managers attract and retain them? The three presenters were Andrew Finegan, a Darwin librarian, Lili Wilkinson, a Victorian writer of youth literature working at the State Library of Victoria's Centre for Youth Literature, and Benjamin Tan, an Arts/Student active in the Oaktree Foundation (no blog).
The session was for "managers in the library and information professions" and perhaps for millennials themselves, although the former outnumbered the latter.
I summed up by quoting the famous Italian proverb - "We learn by making mistakes, like the doctors do" ("Imparo sbagliando, come i medici") The session demonstrated the quite unfair proliferation of stereoptypes whenever librarians and libraries are mentioned - it seems that we cannot escape them. And terms like Generation Y and Millennials are stereotypes themselves - I guess that a Generation Y librarian might feel stereotypes crowding in a little
Here's what the Urban Dictionary says about stereotypes:
"A stereotype is used to categorize a group of people. People don't understand that type of person, so they put them into classifications, thinking that everyone who is that needs to be like that, or anyone who acts like their classifications is one.
"Stereotype for Librarians are . . ."
"Stereotype for Generation Y librarians are . . ."
This is not a competition, but please feel free to contribute. (Please do not post to this blog pointing out errors of grammar or syntax in the Urban Dictionary).
I suspect that it is not necessary to create a new concept, Generation Y (impatient, vocal, mobile, outspoken, technologically native, high maintenance, cool, show-offs, not from Frankston) to account for these characteristics in a group of articulate, ambitious and vocal young people.
In the end, as I suggested, despite the identity issues which exist for contemporary library workers, there is a very important set of values which should characterise people who work in libraries, values relating to the free flow of information, equitable access to information, sceptical about copyright and other statutory restrictions, supportive of diversity and pluralism, collaborative and community-focussed.
We are probably destined to live with stereotypes too. Declining attention spans and the dominance of the media with its dramatic tendency to oversimplify and trivialise mean that the stereotype has become a common currency for much of our communication. We cannot develop new library stereotypes which appeal to everyone. As I suggested, three year old boys admire what is big and red, but we can't re-brand everything that way without alienating those people who like their libraries homely and muted, or stylish and hip, or something else other than red.
Disclaimer: I am from Frankston.
Saturday, 21 July 2007
Monday, 16 July 2007
1. What constitutes a 'vintage librarian'?
2. Are librarians better when they've been cellared for a while, or are they at they best when they're fresh off the vine?
Robert L Balliot's email (22 June to Web4Lib) suggests that
For more discussion of vintage librarians, you can browse, of course, but it is a confusing world our there. The Vintage Librarian Shop does not sell librarians, but merely a range of Dewey accessories. Most references to vintage librarians refer to a particular look which one may assume, such as this example or this from Second Life (with illustrations) - stereotypes abound. Perhaps you have your own ideas about how this expression might evolve - a meaning is still emerging, and it is possible to shape it now. Vintage librarians, get online.
Sunday, 15 July 2007
Now, as I walk down the stairs I see the print reference collection every day, in its new location on level 3 - a prime position, although not the prime position. I always count the number of users, and the tally is always the same.
Reference collections have always been under-used, like any other just-in-case collection. They have also, unlike many other categories of printed books, been particularly well-suited to online deployment, where they can be continuously updated, linked to additional information, and made instananeously available. As a result, much reference material has moved online in a pretty dramatic way. Reference books which have not done so are starting to look rather quaint.
I thought these thoughts again while leafing through the book reviews in the latest issue of the Australian library journal, which include several reviews of books about reference. Reference, in academic libraries, is still around. But now, because of the move away from print, a significant part of the work of libraries has been providing systematic access to this mass of information. Michelle McLean's review entitled Reference Reference seems to say that this is what reference is now about. Interestingly, MIT has made available its virtual reference collection online - but parts of it are behind a licence wall. The MIT collection unaccountably omits some new reference favourites, like the Wikipedia and Google Earth.
I have not canvassed the varied and changing meanings of the term "reference", which a blog in part about words should have done. And I have not examined the phenomenon of differing evolution of the idea of reference in different kinds of libraries - it is hard to know what meaning to give the word in an academic library, while traditional reference seems alive and well in public and state libraries.
But I could be wrong, as always. What is the future of reference? Is it www.reference.com (or is this just a monetised site)? Has Google got it under control? Or Answers.com? Can libraries add value in other ways than just paying for access to information for our users? Should we be collaborating in doing this? How?
Let me know what you think.
Thursday, 12 July 2007
Tuesday, 10 July 2007
Interestingly, the Berkman Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School has several references to pieces of journalism about librarians, one of which is the unfortunate NY Times article, and another article from The Chronicle of Higher Education. The first comment on the article provoked what may be a record, with 26 defensive comments by librarians - although many are not particularly defensive. (The Berkman site is really about the Recording Industry Association of America, a militant trade organisation).
There are several questions to be untangled and answered here. What are appropriate images for the 21st century librarian? More to the point, what kinds of people and skills should we have in libraries? What are the dangers - what would be the wrong way to go? How do people envisage librarians now, and why? And behind those questions there are more questions about libraries themselves.
Monday, 9 July 2007
The real problem with this word is in distinguishing between phenomena which are random and unrelated, and those which are meaningfully connected, to paraphrase the definition. This topic is a prolific one for bloggers, as a blog search will show, because what is also called "faulty pattern recognition" is a common phenomenon. Or perhaps that phenomenon itself is an example of faulty pattern recognition, because the reality is that things are interconnected in multiple ways that we don't understand? I guess abnormal meaningfulness and abnormal meaninglessness are both concepts to juggle with, and our natural (and healthy) preference is to find meaning in things.
There was a blog post by Evan Maloney last week on this topic which provoked a small avalanche comments about similar experiences. Maloney points out that "Jung first presented the notion of the meaningful coincidence, or synchronicity, in a quasi-scientific way. Jung believed there was a causal principle that linked seemingly random events."
And Kurt Vonnegut coined a word for apparently meaningful patterns which are in fact meaningless - granfalloon, "a group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless in terms of fulfilling God's design." These are "associations and societies based on a shared but ultimately fabricated premise." As examples, Vonnegut cites "the Communist Party, . . . the General Electric Company, the International Order of Odd Fellows - and any nation, anytime, anywhere."
We mostly prefer meaningful to meaningless, even if the former is just a coincidence which charms and delights us. Except for scary coincidences - they are just examples of faulty pattern recognition.
Sunday, 8 July 2007
Not only does Jamie provide regular reviews of breakfast, but he also includes, in a June post to the blog, comments on the recent restaurant review issued by the High Court (Mr Justice Kirby dissenting) in John Fairfax Publications Pty Ltd vs Gacic in June - read more about the case, which involves defamation, the Coco Roco restaurant, and its limoncello oysters . The blog is well worth looking at, especially if you enjoy breakfast out - and who doesn't?
Moreover, Jamie's day job, which is running a company called Exari, also involves another blog. This is for the company, which is all about a more effective way of putting together legal and other documents, such as contracts.
So there are lots of blogs, and they often leap out at you. You may have noticed some lapses in the appearance of this blog, especially last week. I am inspired by blogging achievements, although just keeping up is sometimes an achievement too. And I have lots of words of the day (or week) sitting around. More suggestions please!
Saturday, 7 July 2007
Dromology means the 'science (or logic) of speed' and is important, Virilio suggests, when considering the structuring of society in relation to warfare and modern media. The speed at which something happens may change its essential nature, and that that which moves with speed quickly comes to dominate that which is slower. 'Whoever controls the territory possesses it. Possession of territory is not primarily about laws and contracts, but first and foremost a matter of movement and circulation.'
I am not sure that the science of speed is very appealing, and perhaps it is matched by the countervailing movements like slow pedagogy and slow food - the Slow Movement, in a word.
I am sure that there is a lesson for librarians in there, but we are going to have to move quickly to seize it. Perhaps that is the lesson? And happy birthday soon, Indra. We all have to have them, and may as well seize the day.
Monday, 2 July 2007
By a curious coincidence I spent part of the day with Kevin Zuccato, Director of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre, at a meeting of the new NetAlert Advisory Council. Kevin definitely has a few concerns. And more about the NetAlert Advisory Council in another post - we have already strayed enough from the word of the day.