Archive for October, 2009

Twitterfiction is the latest thing apparently. It consists of writing stories within the 140 character constraints of Twitter. Neil Gaiman who recently won a Hugo award for his latest children’s’ book, “The Graveyard Book” (about ghosts who adopt a toddler, orphaned after his family are brutally killed, and raise him in the graveyard….) is someone who offers these extremely short stories. Apparently it is part of an experiment with the BBC. You can join Neil at @neilhimself

So is Twitterfiction an example of digimodernism? What is digimodernism? Is it a new form of fiction? Or is it just a new way or medium of expression?

Apparently Alan Kirby, a specialist in 20th century literature and culture, is defining digimodernism as “an exploration of cultural shifts in the aftermath of postmodernism”. He has written a book entitled, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. (Continuum, 2009).

I’ve just got my hands on a copy of this book, it hasn’t even been processed yet! One of the perks of librarianship, I guess. In it, Kirby states that digimodernism is a complete break from postmodernism which arose from modernism. Digimodernism is a conceptually autonomous cultural dominant (paraphrasing here).

So what is it? Well, digimodernism is about creating new forms of text, and new relationships between authors and readers. The dominant features include ‘onwardness’ or the growing and incomplete nature of the text, it has a beginning but possibly no end; ‘haphazardness’ describes the possibility of “multiple directions” of the text meaning that it can go off in unknown directions; ‘evanescence’ in short the digimodern text “does not endure” it is difficult if not impossible to preserve or archive; the ‘reformulation and intermediation of textual roles’ which is the “radical redefinition of textual functional titles: reader, author,” etc; ‘anonymous, multiple and social authorship’; ‘electronic-digitality’ which basically means “it’s the textuality that derives from digitization” (pp52-53).

Some of these traits can probably be seen in Twitterfiction, although Kirby doesn’t mention this specifically. In the Gaiman example above, readers can tweat back or comment immediately on the ‘work’ if one can call it that. Readers can become authors themselves by adding to it, like one of those old parlour games.

So why do I mention it here? If cultural forms of text and communication are changing in such a radical way, as we know they are – we can see it all around us – what are the implications for the future of libraries and librarians? If authors are for example “multiple and anonymous” how do we catalogue that? How do we capture a digimodernist text and preserve it? Should we be doing that? Can we do it?

P.S. Neil Gaiman’s twitterfiction tweat?

“Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled and said, ‘We don’t love you anymore”

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I just heard on the news – cabinet has returned a brief for local government which includes libraries as a core service.

Can we take credit?

You bet we can.

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The ebook reader

A quick post reporting back on my view of the Eco Reader which I had an opportunity to look at last week.  First there was a reminder that it’s called an ebook reader not an ebook – the ebook being the content not the hardware.  I knew that but I’m human and like to shorten things.

I have to say that I wasn’t impressed.  I did like the fact that it’s not the same technology as LCD and so is not hard on the eyes.  The actual technology used is very clever but too technical to go into here.   The first text I looked at had a small font but you can enlarge it.  The second was much clearer.  It was not an intuitive device to use.  You really need to read the manual before using an ebook reader and, ironically, the manual is in good old paper book format.

“Turning pages” took a long time – the next page took a few seconds to load and a few fast readers commented on this slowness.  The device then seemed to lock itself so that nothing happened regardless of which buttons you pressed.  The battery however, does last a substantial amount of time because it’s not being used on LCD.  Any light on the ebook reader is natural light reflected off it.

I still think the greatest advantage of an ebook reader would be for textbooks but they’re not readily available yet.  It’s a market that would take off if the cost of the e-textbook is reasonable.  Display of large graphs and illustrations would be an issue.  Would you have to enlarge and scroll around it?

There are still issues surrounding DRM, access, supply and availability.  The ebook reader has a long way to go in my opinion.  Now if they could combine the digital camera, mobile phone, netbook and ebook reader in one, then it might take off.  At the moment it’s too expensive for what it offers.

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It’s only two months til Christmas… Panic! 🙂

Well, maybe don’t panic. But doesn’t the Christmas session seem to get earlier and earlier? Already the festive decorations are on sale, and adverts for schemes to make Christmas easier to pay are becoming more common on the television. Though it seems a bit late.

In public libraryland, coming across my desk for cataloguing are the first of the Christmas themed books, and we are starting the build-up for that dreaded behemoth, The Summer Reading Programme (we are one of the libraries that received funding from the Eastern and Central Community Trust to run the ECREAD’N programme). Soon we will receive our shirts and that feared time of year, the summer holidays, will be upon us.  

You may have guessed that I am not overly keen about this. Now don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that having free Internet in the library brings the school kids in and that the summer reading programme helps promote reading to children, and infuses them with, hopefully, a joy in the written word. Well maybe an enthusiasm for giveaways. 😆

It’s just it gets a bit wearing constantly monitoring behaviour you shouldn’t have to, coupled with having to do a string of report-ins, means that by the end of summer, all those little jobs have been delayed, and one is just plain tired. [End of moan] 🙂

Seriously though, I do wonder at times if the programme has become a victim of it’s own success. It seems too large, with many librarians loosing the objective of encouraging children to read to a competitive desire to have skiting rights over how many kids have enrolled, and how many have completed. I do wonder how much the children get from the programme as they are rushed conveyer  like through the machine that the programme has become.

But anyway it’s 59 Days till Christmas… Panic!

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We recently had a flamewar of sorts on our listserv of record. A very adult, professional one, but one that had a number of the hallmarks of flamewars found everywhere – adult, professional flaming, adult professional grandstanding and adult, professional calls for reason and peace.

Actually that last component of the discussion would have been adult and reasonable in any other setting. Here it had the same effect that calls for calm have in any other internet disagreement – to fan the flames.

Overall nobody was greatly harmed, but few, if any, had their reputations enhanced by it.

My reading? It’s a good thing. As a profession we’re wanting to get hip, but a lot of us have been approaching this internet thing with the casual flair of a Japanese ceremony. Its beautiful and done perfectly, but its not often risk taking. Sharing the opportunity to get a bit hinky together and find that while few, if any, got their reputations enhanced nobody’s got greatly harmed… well it gave us an opportunity to really experience the intertubes as it is for the people who are growing up with it.

What is that experience? Its complex, and its simple. Everybody’s trying to establish and maintain an identity, and then grow a reputation for that identity. The establishment and maintenance comes through the passing on of memes/facebook quizzes/etc. (do you know which Disney Princess you are yet? Me neither.) Simple. I’ve seen entire conversations take place using others’ words, concepts and images.

Or was that in the academic world?

I keed, I keed.

Growing the rep requires risk taking. Not just passing on the meme, but reinventing it, subverting it or even making a new one. If it isn’t finessed right, the meme passers target you – and you are hit with a deluge of images such as the following:

Failure, it is epic.

My friend google tells me that’s there are 2.3 million images for the search terms “epic fail”. Because I care its one of the nice ones. Our hypothetical internaut is likely to be hit with images medical, scatological, pornographical, and sports derived.

Yeah, go figure that last one. I guess it takes all sorts.

What happens next? One wipes the egg off one’s face, and one moves on – to another community, to another identity or to a different role in the current community.

As library organisations engage by joining and creating their own online communities they are going to run into a well known law (warning: this law contains swearwords) of the internet. Some of the people will be accessing our content with the intention, conscious or otherwise, of creating flamewars. Whether we engage through the medium of an impersonal corporate identity or more personally only determines the tactics taken of these people.

If we want to up our reps… let’s take a few risks.

But keep a towel handy, just in case.

Here’s something to soothe.

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Liquorice AllsortsThis is a mish mash post…

1. Shout out to Kris (a co-author of this blog) who won the Nielsen BookData Research Award at LIANZA 2009 – you can see a picture of her here.  Congratulations!!

2. There was a brief flurry of nz-lib emails about APA and their poor production of the latest style manual.  Those of us who have to deal with this finicky stuff will appreciate this post from ARCL blog.  This quote in particular struck a note with me:

what exactly are the learning outcomes of creating an error-free list of references? You learn that research is a pain in the butt. You learn that it’s really, really important to follow pointless rules with utter scrupulousness. You learn that, at the end of the day, you’ll get points off because you didn’t follow the … rules.

While I’m all for a reference list that gives correct information so others can find the original resource I do think the focus needs to be on the actual research itself.  Not the one page list of references at the end of the assignment.  Correct reference = yes, absolutely.  Anal retentive referencing rules = give us a break.

3. My famous colleague Adrian is organising a presentation on the Cephalonia Method of Library Induction here in Auckland.  This session was presented by Simon Hart and Charlotte Brown from the University of Otago Library’s Information Services team at LIANZA 2009.  You can read about the presentation on this .pdf from LIANZA.

Unitec Waitakere Library is delighted to invite interested librarians to a training session where Simon Hart from the University of Otago will demonstrate the Cephalonia Method of Library Induction/Information Literacy and will show how successful it has been at the University of Otago.

TIME:  Tuesday 17 November 2009 – 2.00pm

PLACE:  Unitec Waitakere Campus – Lecture Theatre 510-B007, 5 Ratanui St, Henderson (best entrance off Trading Place)

If you are interested in coming, please email Adrian for confirmation of the times and to RSVP.  We will be offering tours of the joint library with Waitakere Public library after the presentation and there will more than likely be food.  So if you want a slice of cake, please RSVP!

4. One of the librarians who will be presenting at VALA 2010 is wanting  participants in a survey about the relationships, responsibilities and interesting connections that arise between libraries and IT.  More information on Kate’s blog, but this is a brief summary of her request.

If you work with IT in libraries, if you adminstrate a library management system, if you’ve ever implemented a blog or wiki or Facebook page for your library, then we need your input to get a clear understanding of why libraries are looking for alternative models for system and software hosting, and what that means for skill requirements.

If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare, we’d really appreciate you taking the time to complete our survey.

This should be an interesting paper.

5.  We want to redesign our website.  Got any recommendations for web designers?  Let me know – thanks.

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Social networking

I’ve been reading a very interesting book entitled “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom; how online social networking will transform your life, work and world” by Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta.

The book is divided into three parts – identity, status and power. With regard to identity the authors outline the tension between our personal and institutional selves. At work we tend to put on a façade, repressing our social selves. On online social networks we tend to let it all hang out.  There is a distinction between our real-world and virtual world identities. This tension can lead to dilemmas in social networking sites. Many bloggers have faced this dilemma in deciding how much of their personal selves and personal life is revealed. Too much can cause upset to others blogged about and yet the blogger wants to express personal thoughts and feelings. On social networking sites like Facebook, friends are made up of work colleagues and close friends. How much of the self do we want to reveal? Wanting privacy while at the same time putting information in the public sphere remains a tricky issue.Whatever you put online stays there, so when a prospective employer “googles” you they might find stuff you’d rather they didn’t see.

With regard to status, the authors talk about the virtual world as a level playing field where anyone can become famous (or infamous). Reputations can be made or broken as word spreads fast on online social networks. Customers have to be able to trust brands and companies, and will complain vociferously if that trust is broken through phoney-looking blogs, for example. There’s much more about status including closed versus open networks.

With regards to power – social media is disruptive to the power of institutions which is why those institutions, and especially corporations, are resistant to it. Amateurs can get more visibility and power than professionals. There is a powershift towards consumers who can, themselves, become producers. I particularly found the chapter on the toppling of the Big Four music cartel interesting and how they’ve had to adapt to survive the music industry.

Social networking sites are revitalising democracy. The horizontal networks of Web 2.0 e-ruptions (as the authors call them) present opportunities but also difficult challenges as they are at odds with powerful vertical hierarchies.

This book is difficult to summarise (and I haven’t done a good job of it) as so many aspects of social networking are covered. It’s a fascinating read which I highly recommend.

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Well that was a busy week.

I had a fabulous conference, meeting up with many colleagues, including several co-conspirators from here at The Room of Infinite Diligence. I also had several productive chats with the vendors, attended interesting and stimulating presentations, and attended the LIANZA AGM. The keynote speakers were thought provoking, I especially liked the last one by Tim Spalding from Librarything.com, as he made a number of observations about library catalogues that I agree with.

Thursday found me still in Christchurch, at the offices of the 3M Award winning team from the APNK, learning about the Kete we will be implementing. Even though it will mean a lot more work for me, I can’t wait to get our Kete up and running, and to start talking to our local community about getting their unique and precious content up and out there for everyone.

Then it was back to the normal day job on Friday and Saturday, with a large number of books waiting to be catalogued. Sometimes it seems difficult to implement or process all those fabulous ideas when you hit the office.  

So this weeks post is shorter one, and Blonde singing Living in the Real World.

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Massey University library just completed a user survey and the comments make very interesting reading.  The main issues seem to be

  • lack of computers
  • students spending too much time on said computer on Facebook/Bebo, etc and not studying
  • not enough electrical outlets for laptop users
  • lack of study space
  • too noisy

The third one is indicative of the age of library buildings.  When they were built there were no computers or any need for lots of power outlets.

But is this last one the result of libraries becoming too PC and creating a more sociable environment?  Students are uncomfortable with telling others to ‘shut up’ so they can study in peace.  Yet librarians are reluctant to become ‘law’ enforcers.  What’s the answer?

Just my thoughts on a Friday afternoon.  It’s been a long week.

Have a good weekend!

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Rare book thieves

This is an oldish case, and the book thieves were caught. But this is from their appeal:

“The defendants were college buddies (19-20 years old) who hatched a plan to steal rare books from the special collections library at Transylvania University (Lexington, KY) and sell them at auction in New York City. …

In July 2004, after months of idle discussion, these four men decided in earnest to carry out the robbery, which led to months of research (about rare books, auction houses, Swiss Bank accounts, etc.), brainstorming, and planning. The plan involved only certain, rare and very valuable books….

…the robbery was finally at hand and after months of planning, this was the plan: all four men would enter the library, take the books by force, and run for it. They arrived at the library dressed as “old men” — makeup, wigs, hats, and costumes, such as “one would typically see worn in a play or some other type of theatrical performance” …..The costumes were sufficiently ridiculous that two library employees, including Susan Brown, the Director of the Library, noticed them, but merely assumed some sort of college prank or goof…

…Mrs. Gooch  had begun to free herself to call for help. She yelled to Susan Brown that they were being robbed, and Ms. Brown wheeled around to pursue the robbers. She caught up to them in a stairwell where they were attempting to open the emergency exit and, surprised by her arrival and aggressive confrontation, they dropped several objects — specifically, the two remaining volumes of the Birds of North America four-volume set…”

The rest of it is quite entertaining if you want to read the full case


But the best bit on page 4 is:

“Once the robbers had escaped, the police were called, but before the police could document the crime scene, some librarians collected the discarded objects and returned them to their proper places.”

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