Archive for: October, 2009

Twitter & blogs as ways of knowing

Oct 13 2009 Published by under acad lib future, academia, librarianship, social media

A silly title to reflect some overhyped posturing found, guess where, on the Internet.

First up, Joe Murphy on librarians and their proper relationship to Twitter: "it's reprehensible for information professionals not to be on Twitter."

A loaded and diva-dramatic statement like that is a sure sign that Twitter has jumped the shark. Time to pull a Miley Cyrus, if you ask me. (Friendfeed discussion here, here and here)

On the other end of the spectrum, from Steven Bell over at ACRLog, on the use of social networks by librarians:

A passionate academic librarian would be so immersed in their work that he or she would not only not have time for such questionable diversions, but would be so caught up in their work that they would hardly even contemplate stopping for a little break. I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with the occasional social network visit - it may even be beneficial in giving our brains a needed rest. A truly passionate academic librarian just wouldn't go there. (Friendfeed discussion here.)

It seems we have two "experts" both looking at the same issue -- the use of online social networks by librarians. One says that to ignore a particular example is professional suicide, the other says that they are time-wasters, implying they have no worthwhile professional use.

I know where I stand -- in the middle.

How about you?

14 responses so far

Library Access to Scholarship

I rarely mention here when Walt Crawford publishes a new issue of his very fine ejournal Cites & Insights, mostly because I sort of assume you all read it already.

Of course, that's probably not true so I'll remedy the situation partially with this post.

The most recent issue is completely (html) devoted to giving a selective overview of the last year or so's (mostly) blogospheric writing on open access -- think of it as a detailed review article from a volume of an annual review series. The emphasis is on covering important developments and interesting controversies. I was familiar with the vast majority of the material before and I still found an awful lot of value in this kind of after-the-fact big picture summary.

Given the way Walt intersperces his own commentary with extensive quotes from the posts and articles he's highlighting, it's not really possble to exerpt something short from the issue and have it still make sense. So, you'll have to trust me on how good it is. I can give a little of the flavour of it all by saying that in a weird sort of way, It's kind of like Stevan Harnad vs. Dorothea Salo with Peter Suber as special guest referee. Harnad, Salo and Suber being three of the most quoted in the issue.

In the conclusion, Walt discusses the possibility of dropping the section:

Why I'm considering dropping the section

Value added: I've never felt I could add much value to Peter Suber's commentaries or, for that matter, Dorothea Salo's (when she was focusing on these issues). I've given up engaging Stevan Harnad or directly discussing his monotone writing. Lately, I'm not sure my synthesis and commentary are adding much value to any of this.

Effectiveness: Most Cites & Insights readers are within the library field, I believe-and that's only reasonable, since that's my background and the focus of most topical areas. So I'm probably not reaching many scientists-or, if I am, I'm probably not doing much to convince them to do more about OA and access-related issues. As for librarians, I'd guess that my readers are mostly already convinced-that I'm neither educating nor convincing much of anybody who doesn't already get it. (I'd guess 1% to 3% of librarians read C&I, spiking to 25% or more for one particular issue. Those who need educating are mostly in the other 97%, I suspect.)

Futility: Given what I'm reading from scientists as to how they relate to libraries and librarians, and given what I'm reading as to how they make decisions on where to publish and where to exert pressure, I'm feeling pretty futile about the whole effort. Not necessarily about OA as such-but definitely about my ability to make a difference.

To these, I would respond that an annual summary seems about right. Also, that the value added is in the summary and the after-the-fact perspective, which is very effective to the 1-3% who benefit. As for the futility of reaching scientists about library issues, at some level that's probably not a realistic goal anyways so not acheiving it isn't really a "failure." Progress there, slow and halting when it happens, is in the trenches.

2 responses so far

Friday Fun: Melting Ice Caps Expose Hundreds Of Secret Arctic Lairs

Oct 09 2009 Published by under friday fun

Yes, The Onion again. It's only been two weeks since the last one. I just couldn't help myself.

There's just something about global warming humour that appeals to my sense of the absurd.

ZACKENBERG RESEARCH STATION, GREENLAND--Claiming it to be one of the most dramatic and visible signs of climate change to date, researchers said Monday that receding polar ice caps have revealed nearly 200 clandestine lairs once buried deep beneath hundreds of feet of Arctic ice.

"We always assumed there would be some secret lairs here and there, but the sheer number now being exposed is indeed troubling," said noted climatologist Anders Lorenzen, who claimed that the Arctic ice caps have shrunk at the alarming rate of 41,000 square miles per year. "In August alone we discovered 44 mad scientist laboratories, three highly classified military compounds, and seven reanimated and very confused cavemen. That's more than twice the number we had found in the previous three decades combined."


"You spend your whole career concocting a brilliant scheme to wipe out all of mankind, and what happens?" Dr. Raygun continued. "They bring about a major global catastrophe completely on their own, those fools!"

There's something faintly Lovecraftian about all this of course, kind of like At the Mountains of Madness done by Judd Apatow. And you just have to know a movie version would switch poles, too!

One response so far

Open Access Policy for York University Librarians and Archivists

On October 1, 2009 librarians and archivists at York University Libraries voted unanimously to adopt the following policy:

York University Open Access Policy for Librarians and Archivists
Librarians and archivists at York University recognize the importance of open access to content creators and researchers in fostering new ideas, creating knowledge and ensuring that it is available as widely as possible. In keeping with our long-standing support of the Open Access movement, York librarians and archivists move to adopt a policy which would ensure our research is disseminated as widely as possible and available in perpetuity through deposit in York's institutional repository, YorkSpace.

Policy Statement
Academic librarians and archivists at York University commit to making the best possible effort to publish in venues providing unrestricted public access to their works. They will endeavour to secure the right to self-archive their published materials, and will deposit these works in YorkSpace.

The York University academic librarian and archivist complement grant York University Libraries the non-exclusive right to make their scholarly publications accessible through self-archiving in the YorkSpace institutional repository subject to copyright restrictions.

This policy applies to all scholarly and professional work produced as a member of York University academic staff produced as of the date of the adoption of this policy. Retrospective deposit is encouraged. Co-authored works should be included with the permission of the other author(s). Examples of works include:

  • Scholarly and professional articles
  • Substantive presentations, including slides and text
  • Books/book chapters
  • Reports
  • Substantive pedagogical materials such as online tutorials
  • Works should be deposited in YorkSpace as soon as is possible, recognizing that some publishers may impose an embargo period.

This policy is effective as of 01/10/2009 and will be assessed a year after implementation.

Yay us! You can see the Libraries' YorkSpace community here and what I have deposited here.

6 responses so far

IT Professional on Ontologies, OWL, and the Semantic Web

The IEEE Computer Society's magazine IT Professional has a special issue on Ontologies, OWL, and the Semantic Web (v11i5). There's lots of very cool-looking stuff, mostly pretty basic.

A couple of other non-semantic web articles that look worth checking out:

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Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants

Oct 07 2009 Published by under book review, music, science books

Here Comes Science by the alt-rock band The Might be Giants is a delightful CD/DVD set of kids music and video about...Science! The set comes with both a CD with all the music and a DVD with all the videos wrapped into a show with animated, light-hearted commentary and introduction by the two Giants, John Linnell and John Flansburgh.

Here's a list of the tunes, so you can get an idea of the breadth of topics covered. TMBG has a channel on YouTube where you can find many of the videos.

Overall, they're great: lively, interesting, educational and fun, with a good variety. The music is a breezy folky sound that will definitely appeal to most kids -- and most adults too. The science content is very good too, accurate and yet engaging. The videos were each created by different artists, so each has a different feel. But at the same time, they're not so different that there isn't an unified feel.

My favourites? Science is Real, Electric Car and Roy G. Biv.

I recommend this set without reservation. Your kids will love it, your friends' kids will love it, your kids' classmates will love it. It's aimed at kids younger than, say, grade 4 but older kids with a sense of fun will also enjoy it, although it may lose some of it's attraction during the "too cool" teen years. School and public libraries are a natural fit as well as resource libraries for education programs in colleges or universities.

The only thing I would have done differently would have been to add a karaoke option for the videos. I can easily imagine wanting to have family or class sing-a-longs!

It's also worth noting that TMBG has also produced a couple of other kids CD/DVD sets: Here Come The 123s and Here Come the ABCs.

(CD/DVD set provided by the artists.)

2 responses so far

Friday Fun: Panda poop, beer bottles and Icelandic banks

Oct 02 2009 Published by under academia, friday fun

Yes, it's the IgNobel Awards for 2009!

Let's take a look at a couple of the more amusing ones:

PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining -- by experiment -- whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
REFERENCE: "Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?" Stephan A. Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael J. Thali and Beat P. Kneubuehl, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, vol. 16, no. 3, April 2009, pp. 138-42. DOI:10.1016/j.jflm.2008.07.013.

ECONOMICS PRIZE: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks -- Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland -- for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa -- and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid -- specifically from tequila.
REFERENCE: "Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila," Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano, 2008, arXiv:0806.1485.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Javier Morales and Miguel Apátiga

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.
REFERENCE: "Microbial Treatment of Kitchen Refuse With Enzyme-Producing Thermophilic Bacteria From Giant Panda Feces," Fumiaki Taguchia, Song Guofua, and Zhang Guanglei, Seibutsu-kogaku Kaishi, vol. 79, no 12, 2001, pp. 463-9. [and abstracted in Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, vol. 92, no. 6, 2001, p. 602.]
REFERENCE: "Microbial Treatment of Food-Production Waste with Thermopile Enzyme-Producing Bacterial Flora from a Giant Panda" [in Japanese], Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, Yasunori Sugai, Hiroyasu Kudo and Akira Koikeda, Journal of the Japan Society of Waste Management Experts, vol. 14, no. 2, 2003, pp. , 76-82.

Some nice coverage in the Daily Mail.

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Students: Give your CV a digital makeover

Oct 01 2009 Published by under academia, blogging, librarianship, social media, web 2.0

In a reputation economy, social media can provide a powerful set of tools for establishing and enhancing your reputation. An enhanced reputation can lead to enhanced opportunities, in the form of job offers or other professional opportunity.

Academia is a reputation economy, of course, but really any knowledge economy/creative class job is going to be easier to get if you have a good reputation. Which brings us back to social media.

It seems to me that in a competitive job market, students can really make their own applications stand out if they can refer potential employers to a really solid, professional online presense. That presense can include standard CV-type material but it's also going to include a lot more -- the record of that person's online professional interactions. And that's hopefully going to give the student a leg up.

Now, let's take a look at Service aims to build professionals: helps students grow an online presence and personal brand, an article I saw about a month ago in one of Toronto's free daily newspaper.

Select students at three post-secondary schools will soon have an extra digital component to their studies -- they'll learn how to build a professional online presence by melding their education, work and life experiences with social media.

This fall, Algonquin College and Carleton University in Ottawa and Toronto's Centennial College are incorporating as part of the curriculum in certain business classes.

Those two schools are actually going to use a particular service to help their students establish a positive online reputation.

Part of that entails taking the traditional resumé and giving it a digital makeover. allows users to integrate blogs, photos, videos, news feeds and Twitter along with their online resumés on one interface.

As an instructor at Algonquin, Patti Church said she saw there was a need to help students branch out beyond crafting portfolios and resumés. Part of that included adding technology.

"I was in a first-year marketing class teaching them about positioning products and services, and then basically looked at them and said: 'You know, you have an opportunity to position yourself strategically over the next three years or you can sit back passively and assume the paper's going to do the work for you,'" she said in an interview with Andy during a recent Toronto visit.


Recent graduate Sarah Ormon was among the students involved in the pilot, and admits to some initial resistance. A job interview last winter where she was asked what she knew about blogging and Twitter helped lead to a change of heart.

"Up until that point it had kind of been a hypothetical," said the 28-year-old. "That's when the little green light went off in my head like, 'I better get on this.'"

Amazing! To me this seems like the thing that career centres should be getting into in a big way -- helping students showcase the best of themselves in a modern, technologically rich, social media saturated context. This certainly the kind of thing I tell library school students when they ask me for career advice: get yourself out there, get yourself know. It's never too early to start.

Some of my other related thoughts on this topic:

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