Yes, I'm back! I'll give updates on the conference later on this week; for the moment I have a lot of work to catch up on, and conference notes to type and post to my wiki. Ah, how I've missed the internet!

lar Voting is a week from tomorrow,
November 7th!

Texas Voters' Information
Collin County Info (can also look up your precinct number here)
Be forewarned about absentee, early, and mail-in voting. There was a debate this morning on the Diane Rehm Show (NPR) in which several guests said that these forms of voting are typically more error-prone than regular voting.


The Burden of Information

It strikes me that I've recently been dealing with "archival" issues in my personal life.

Before I proceed, let me admit here: I am a pack rat. My husband is a pack rat. We were both born of pack-rat parents.

For the past few months, I've been going through our house, room by room, labeling things as "Goodwill," "trash", "eBay," or placing them in a location where--gasp!--they actually belong. (Maybe I should call it Personal Weeding.) Last week, I got to a box labelled "notebooks." I opened it and found it filled to the brim with the fodder of undergrad and graduate courses alike; the undergrad notebooks peppered with doodles and the grad notebooks carefully labeled with print-outs stating the course title, number, and date. All my digested knowledge, right there in one box.

Have I opened that box in the past decade? Yes--but only to determine what it was before moving it to another room. Do I plan to reread my notes--particularly my undergrad ones? As funny as some of those doodles are, are they worth the square foot of space that the box occupies? Are they worth transporting to another house in a few years? It was a surprisingly easy decision to toss them in the "trash" pile.

The grad notebooks were harder. They're recent, they're relevant, they're nicely labeled and organized (miracle of miracles). I hated to toss notebooks that I could easily line up in chronological order.

But then... when will I need to use these? If I'm working on art research, won't I be looking up actual articles and books? Will I really care what I thought about Whistler's "gentle art of making scandal" five years ago? Isn't this all just ephemera?

I made a historic decision, I who still have grade-school notebooks and mixed tapes from the early '90s stashed somewhere. I tossed the entire box. All of it.

As I drove home from my Digital Libraries course on Tuesday, I realized that I've experienced quite a shift in my archival tendencies. Just as I used to be a religious pack-rat, I used to believe that we ought to keep every scrap of information, to preserve the human record. This belief didn't come to me when I started library school; it was born of an education in the humanities that emphasized history. Every diary, every list of household expenses sheds some light on the historical record.

But library science is a practical discipline; that's the reason it's in the sciences. In my early classes, I panicked about how to save ephemera, how to save emails, how to preserve these scraps of information for centuries. And to some extent, being a digital archivist, I still have those concerns--how will we preserve information on CDs when our CD drives are gone, how do I adequately archive a website, etc. But, ironically, taking a course in preservation shifted my view (as you can see in this previous post). As I mentioned there, that class showed me that if we save every bit of ephemera, it's going to get awfully difficult to discover and to access relevant information.

And that's my new shift of thinking at home, too. If I don't get rid of a few of those boxes I only open once every few years, then I won't be able to reach my bookcases--because there will be a veritable wall of labeled boxes in front of it. Not that this is the current situation in my guest room. No, there are just a few boxes--it's the rows of paint racks that are really blocking the bookcases.

Notes on Travel & Blogging:
  • Starting tomorrow, I'll be on the road for ten days, so I thought I'd give my readership a heads-up now. I'll definitely post irregularly, I may post infrequently, but I have not abandoned my bloginess. I'll be at the FDLP Fall Conference in Washington, DC until 10/25, then Abilene, TX for my alma mater's Homecoming celebration. Regular blogship should resume by 10/30.
  • Also, you may or may not have noticed that I finally switched this blog over to my Google account--hence the fancy changes in the sidebar. If you have trouble posting comments, this may be the reason.



Jill Hurst-Wahl recently posted about new books in preservation and digitization. One of them was Archiving the Web: A Guide for Information Management Professionals, about which she mentioned, "Hopefully this books conveys some of the lessons being learned from the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program." ...Which reminded me that I don't think I've posted an update on the NDIIPP Web-at-Risk project.

I'm the curator for UNT's collection in the project, and over the summer, my boss and I developed our Collection Plan (the CDL and ourselves were asked to provide plans early to act as examples for the rest of the group, who created their plans this month). So far, the first test release of the WAS (Web Archiving Software) was released a few weeks ago for us all to play around with it. It went pretty smoothly, and I was able to capture all the websites I listed in my URL seed list.

Unrelated Banter
  • I found this article on Museum Visitor Studies quite interesting. Museum staffers follow visitors around the museum, taking notes on which exhibits they take time at, pass by, or talk about. I like that they notify the visitors, but still try to remain hidden. That would be a neat idea to implement in a library.
  • The DLC Vision Document is final! You might want to read the FGI commentary on the document, as well.
  • Now I've heard it all: a NORAD podcast! It details how to put together an emergency preparedness survival kit and have a plan.


Digital Iconography

I really, really love when I get to use Photoshop for work purposes. It's work that feels like play!

...Except, of course, when Photoshop crashes three times in a row because my computer lacks sufficient memory to support it. Sigh. Between that and trying to load pdfs in a reasonal amount of time (since, you know, that's like 50% of my job), my boss and I are looking into possibly improving that situation with part of the annual materials budget. Here's hoping. In any case, here are the fruits of my Photoshop labor:

So tell me, does this icon indicate "CyberCemetery" to you? I wrote this criteria before I designed the image:
  • simple
  • little or no text
  • indicate that it's an archive ("cemetery")
  • indicate that it archives government info
  • indicate that it archives websites
I started out with the idea of having a headstone read "CyberCemetery" and then be shown in a computer screen--but that was far too complex an image. And I wanted something more than just a headstone, which by itself doesn't really indicate what the CC is (I couldn't come up with any better representation of an archive than the headstone, though). Then it seemed obvious that ".gov" was the solution to the last two points, and made for a much more easily-read image.

Unrelated Banter:


A Bulletin of Bullets

  • Our hunt for a department head is officially on, and I'm on the search committee. Let the applications begin!
  • "The Librarian" is a great (and unintentionally amusing) 1947 film on the vocation of librarianship.
  • I love this post about "sucking up to librarians." Hee, hee. (And Green's speech makes me want to read his book.)
  • Need a guide on creating a good CV? Here's a handy guide specifically for academic librarians. (Thanks, eclectic librarian!)
  • Today has been a second-cup-of-coffee kind of day. I look forward to taking time tomorrow to clean, work on my archive project, and pack for DC/Abilene.

Follow-Up to Banned Books Week

"Alton Verm's request to ban 'Fahrenheit 451' came during the 25th annual Banned Books Week. He and Hines said the request to ban 'Fahrenheit 451,' a book about book burning, during Banned Books Weeks is a coincidence."

Best line in the article:
"It's just all kinds of filth," said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read Fahrenheit 451.

I was glad to see, however, that the offended student proactively recommended her own substitute, "Ella Minnow Pea."

Thanks to BoingBoing and Wandering Eyre.


Card-Carrying Member (as soon as it comes in the mail)

I'm now an official member of ALA, LITA, and GODORT--all for the this-time-only reasonable price of $135 (don't you hate to call anything over a hundred bucks "reasonable?"). Next year on this date, my checkbook will weep, I'm sure.

Last year, there was a lot of frustrated talk among NextGens about ALA, some of which has now quieted. But it seems a little hard to be active in the library community without the membership--first of all, I wanted to be in LITA and GODORT, and second, if I'm going to attend a few ALA conferences a year anyway, then I might as well get a slight discount.

Speaking of professional activity...
  • Whew! I just submitted a presentation proposal--my second in two weeks. The first one was a lot easier than this one, on which I procrastinated until the deadline loomed, and then just forced myself to write it and send it in. Sometimes I can spend a week crafting and perfecting a proposal, and sometimes I just blurt it all out in desperation. My philosophy is, at the very least if I just finish it and send it in, I've got a chance.
  • It's only a week and a half until DLC--I've got to start planning what to pack! (I'm finding it's hard to pack light when you need a laptop, hairdryer, and iron just for starters...)
  • I'm pondering harnessing the power of RSS for the CRS archive and the CyberCemetery. The problem, as a colleague quickly pointed out, is that the batch-uploads to CRS (often 100+ at a time) make for a messy feed. So we're thinking about creating a feed for each of the browse terms (which are actually LIV top terms). I think this would be a great way not only to help researchers, but to market our department's digital collections. I'd love to have links to the feeds on the GovDocs homepage... guess I'll add that to my project wishlist.
And now, for something completely different (but, um, still library-related):


My Not-So-Neutral Net

I've had my own scuffle with the erosion of Net Neutrality recently. After having endured unreliable wireless for a year and a half--when it was good it was very, vey good, and when it was bad, it was horrid--we switched to SBC Yahoo DSL. A year and a half ago, wireless was the only option available in our semi-rural area--and even when unreliable, it was light-years away from the dial-up that had been the only thing in our area for years. (Keep in mind, I worked and took classes online for years. I never did learn that "patience" thing.) Two months ago, DSL finally reached us, and we were so glad to finally have some options, particularly since our wireless was in one of those "horrid" moods.

It turns out that Yahoo doesn't like our Gmail accounts that much. You can get to Google's homepage without much trouble, and gee, Yahoo pages sure do load fast, but try to get into your gmail account and you'd think you were trying to download the entire Star Wars sextology at once. In HD. Including special features.

Hmmm. Now wait a minute... who's one of Yahoo's biggest competitors? And who's the new hottest free-email account provider? Riiiight.

I strongly encourage you to read Charles W. Bailey Jr.'s article, "Strong Copyright + DRM + Weak Net Neutrality = Digital Dystopia?" in September's Information Technology and Libraries (a preprint is available here). I particularly like his last sentence:

"These issues may well determine whether the much-touted information superhighway lives up to its promise or simply becomes the 'information toll road' of the future..."

Exercise Your Freedom

Don't forget to register to vote--tomorrow's your last chance!


"Unbound, Unabridged, Uncovered..."

Oh gosh. How could I have forgotten?

Yesterday there was quite a mirthful stir in the office when a copy of the Texas Library Journal arrived... complete with cover image and inside advertisement for the "Men of TLA Calendar."

Unfortunately, the cover image (hairy legs in cowboy boots) and inside image (now jeans-clad but bare-chested, lying on a bearskin rug) aren't online that I can see. Just take my word for it. It's a concept that makes "Calendar Girls" seem tame... and serious.

Yes, the title text is taken directly from the order form.

Reading and Regurgitating

And now, for your pre-digested biblioblogosphere updates:
  • According to this AOL jobs article, the average librarian salary is quite a bit higher in government positions ($74,630) than the nationwide average ($49,110)—but you probably knew that already.
  • The Laughing Librarian points out a stellar Gilmore Girls quote: "Don't underestimate me, Luke. I read books. And I watch Battlestar Galactica."
  • Just in time for your costume parties: get your librarian costume.
  • Check out the 5 Weeks to a Social Library preliminary list of programs/presenters (check out week 3; yippee!).
  • Lori Smith has the awesome distinction of having created, quite possibly, the first/best MySpace profile about government information.
  • Want free? Want open source? Then listen to your dental hygenist and FLOSS!
  • Can't remember who's already been an LJ Mover & Shaker, but you'd like to submit a nomination? Refer to this handy list of past honorees.
  • If Apple was as smart as they claim, wouldn't they realize that everytime someone uses the term "podcast," they're getting a free advertisement? Like "Kleenex," the use of a branded term as a generic one is a compliment of the highest order: your product defines the entire class of that product. C'mon Apple, get a clue!
  • Nerd-alert: The Chicago Manual of Style is now online! And--gasp--reasonably priced enough for individuals ($25/year) that, were I still working on my Art History thesis, I'd subscribe in a heartbeat. (There's also a Quick Guide for us cheapskates that aren't working on a project that involves 100+ citations.)
  • I was reading a post by La-La-Librarian that mentioned SingingFish, and now LiB's also blogging about A/V search engines--fantastic!
  • So you're at another library conference, and you're looking for some diversion? Here's the Library2.0 drinking game, for your "networking" pleasure.
  • ACRLog is calling all academic librarians--go post your blog, personal or professional, at the Academic Blog Portal!


Debating the Doctorate

I've debated the value of a doctorate for a non-teaching librarian in my Academic Librarianship course, with library school students, and with my boss. All these conversations came back to me today when I read Jill Hurst-Wahl's post about further education (she asks some great devil's-advocate questions). She mentions this valuable book aimed at we in the over-educated (or the desire-to-be-over-educated) category:
"Getting What You Came for: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning a Master's or a Ph.D."

I love this quote at the beginning of the second chapter:
"Graduate school is a ritual humiliation in which novice academics are initiated into their respective disciplines."

During the Dark Times between researching my thesis and writing it (a year in which I had little guidance, a fruitless job hunt, and a frantic scramble to find an alternate career to teaching), I certainly felt the heavy truth of that statement. I pondered getting out of the Art History program completely (I'd already taken the core courses for library school) and cutting my losses. But I was encouraged by the then-head of SLIS's digitization program (thank you, Dr. Hastings!) and my new major professor--my previous one having left the university--(thank you, Dr. Donahue-Wallace!) to persevere. After Dr. D-W took over, I began and completed my thesis in less than five months--which proves that, as this book professes, you don't have to spend forever on it--but I discovered this only after a year and a half spent fearing it, avoiding it, feeling lost, and having regular nightmares about one of the professors on my Thesis Committee (part of that "ritual humiliation" thing).

I'm blessed now to be in a position at an academic library where second masters' are encouraged, rather than at a public or other position, where I might feel that my time, effort, and money were wasted. I'm even currently taking a class that I'm very interested in, albeit at non-degree-seeking status. But as I don't currently have the desire to teach, I can't see any purpose to starting a PhD, in any subject. I don't think I can justify the time, money, and effort not only for myself, but for my husband and family. I already spent 5 1/2 of our 6 years of married life in school; the first two years in particular, I'm sure my in-laws thought that "I've got homework" was just my periennial excuse. I did schoolwork all the time--every holiday, family dinner, weekend, evening. Much as I love this class, I'm immensely relieved that the pressure and burden of school is (mostly) gone.

Of course, there's then the small fact that after spending 24 out of 28 years in school, it's still bizarre to try to think of myself outside of the student-mindset. Not a small portion of my (and my husband's) decision for me to enroll this semester was due to the belief that if I quit school cold-turkey, my brain might break.

And now you understand why I work on a university campus. It's all because my parents spent my formative years stressing the importance of a college education--eleven years of higher education later, it's the only place that feels right.

Update: Yikes. Five of my last six post titles are alliterative. Maybe I took that English degree a little too seriously...


Wild for Wikis!

Well, all of a sudden my spring schedule's turning wiki-tastic. My "The How of Wikis" presentation was just accepted for the Five Weeks to a Social Library course in February. Then an off-hand mention of this sparked a conversation with an art history prof (whom I TA-ed for six years ago), who is now interested in using wikis for a grant project and asked if I'd be interested in acting as their wiki consultant. If the project is funded, I'll be working on that next June.

We've got plane tickets for DC; now it's time to make some hotel reservations (despite my own reservations about the meaning of the phrase "budget hotel" in the DC area).

While visiting my parents in San Antonio this weekend, I went through the house, trying to find as many items for the digital family archive as I could. I came up with quite a list, which my Dad has apparently already been tackling; he called Sunday night to ask what detail shots I wanted of Grandma-the-Great's (GTG) quilts. Those are actually some of the objects I'm most eager to see in the archive; I plan to use the shot of the entire quilt as the "top" picture (they'll be hierarchically-arranged compound objects). Then I had Dad take detail images of individual quilt blocks--specifically, ones that he could identify the fabric's origin--for instance, scraps from his and his siblings' pajamas, and from his mother's aprons. Growing up, I was fascinated that the quilts were tangible bits of family history, not only because they were made by GTG, but because they featured scraps of their daily lives. I want a record of that for future generations, both in image and in text.

Loving Lewis

So far at the GovDocs reference desk, I've had a few art questions, and some general literature ones, but so infrequently that each one seems like a special occassion. I just had a student come up looking for works by C.S. Lewis--fiction, nonfiction, theological, diaries--whatever we had. I asked if it was for a class, but it turns out that just like me, he grew up reading C.S. Lewis, and had left a lot of Lewis books at home that he wanted to read. I gave him my card, just in case he ever needed more help finding something Lewis-related. It's questions like that which make me miss the downstairs reference desk a bit.

But when I've answered four "Where's the bathroom?" questions in a row, I'm ready to escape to my office to dance with metadata.

Update: He came back to ask for some fiction by George MacDonald; he's reading one of my favorites right now, Phantastes. It does my heart good to know that someone most likely a decade younger than me is reading these amazing works. (And if you want a gorgeous work on MacDonald's life, check out this book, with photographs from my HSU English prof Larry Fink, who taught the CS Lewis class I took my senior year--naturally!)