Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Long live the anonymous Annoyed Librarian

I occasionally visit the "The Annoyed Librarian" blog, and have included it in my handy dandy Netvibes list of library blog rss feeds. I think some of AL's comments about web2.0 and other consensual trends that drive our profession are spot on, and often hilarious. I'm also a bit envious of all the attention she gets; for example, 175 people commented on her excellent post, "Librarians, Amuse us to Death", while only one person bothered to commented on my own post which made some of the very same points a good month before she did - about libraries neglecting their public duty, Huxley and Orwell's respective dystopias, etc.etc. (also, her post wasn't illustrated, while mine had a prominent and interesting picture in it!) I did not realize until very recently, however, how annoyed some librarians are by the AL, and what a contentious issue her anonymity is. A few weeks ago the blog was picked up by Library Journal, and is now hosted there. What a change of AL characteristically put it "Just think, a few weeks ago I was sitting in my lonely writer's garret writing the AL. Now I sit in my beautiful new corner office on the thirtieth floor overlooking the park looking for things to be annoyed about. Selling out to the Man? I highly recommend it!" The other day as I was trolling through my Netvibes list to find something to blog about (my life in a nutshell), I stumbled upon some speculation about who the AL really is. Evidently, that discussion has been going on/off for some time, but resurfaced with a vengeance with the publication of a special issue of Journal of Access Services that consists entirely (except for intro by Wayne Bivens-Tatum) of contributions by the pseudonymous blogger. To get a sense of what the debate is about, see posts at Free Range Librarian , Academic Librarian and Being a professional, certified librarian, it took me about 20 minutes to figure out who the AL is - and my first thought was to publish that information here - not out of malice, since I really agree with much of what she says and find much of her writing entertaining (though I don't share her contempt for "liberals"), but to generate some traffic for my own blog. Why should a handful of celebrity bloggers hog all the attention? However, after reading some of the pompous, self-important screeds of those who rage rather than chuckle and/or reflect, I realized one commenter was probably right: Once “he” is unmasked it will be like one of the old wrestlers who aren’t so interesting anymore once they’re revealed to be a boring old bald guy. So, my lips are sealed, and long live the Annoyed Librarian. (I will send her an email and ask her to link to this post, however. But if she doesn't , that's OK too...)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

World Digital Library

Few people are less attuned to what will tickle the public's fancy than I am, so it's not surprising that Europeana - which I reviewed unenthusiastically here - turns out to be a big hit. Indeed,  a victim of its own success according to The Digital Eccentric,  and the stampeding masses tha ran its servers aground should serve as warning to the even more ambitious World Digital Library, set to launch in April 2009:

The World Digital Library will make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials. The objectives of the World Digital Library are to promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness, provide resources to educators, expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet, and to contribute to scholarly research.

The music on the intro video is good - much better than "These Boots are Made for Walking".

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tracking the transition

Peggy Garvin's "Tracking the Transition" provides a wealth of information about how/where to follow the transition.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Let me Google that for you! (you idiot!)

It really is astonishing what people ask for sometimes, especially young people who you'd think might know a thing or two about finding information online. Sometimes the young whippersnappers are insolent, too, and forget to approach the libarian with the reverence we expect. That's when its gratifying to have a helper like to turn to. When the whelp writes "I need something about the geology of Alabama by this afternoon. I look forward to your prompt response. John 4D" you can just send him this.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Kalima asks "Which books could help build mutual understanding between the United States and the Arab World?", and solicits your nominations. If there's a novel, short story or poetry collection that you think "captures American dreams, opportunities and challenges", let Kalima know. The UAE sponsored project aims to translate 100 books per year into Arabic.
(from the website)
About Kalima
Kalima (“word” in Arabic), is one of the Arab world’s boldest and most significant cultural initiatives. Kalima seeks to widen access to books and knowledge by funding the translation, publication, and distribution of classic and contemporary writing from other languages into Arabic, each year. Currently in most Arabic countries, many works of world literature or academia are available only in their original language, making them inaccessible for most readers. To put the scale of the problem into perspective, Spain translates in one year the number of books that have been translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years (2003 Arab Human Development Report, UNDP).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Print what you like

Infodoodads says: allows you to eliminate sidebars, advertising, and anything else you don’t want from a web page before sending it to the printer. It also allows you to decrease (or increase) text size and widen columns of text. This helps save paper, obviously, but it will probably be equally as exciting to patrons for the $.07 they save for every page of “junk” they don’t have to print.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blog reading & writing

Andrew Sullivan writes in the November 2008 Atlantic Monthly about  blogging & writing & reading. Memorable quote.."Blogging is writing out loud." 

Monday, November 10, 2008


Just a day after looking for and finding the preview tool CoolPreviews, I was perusing TechBlorge's list of Top 40 Firefox plugins  (lots of interesting stuff there) and found InterClue, another Firefox addon that provides preview information of the site. Unlike CoolPreviews, which preserves the look and feel of the blog and essentially replicates it  in a pop-up window, InterClue displays the page in a standard format that puts a thumbnail in the upper right hand corner, various statistics about the site in the lower right, and the blog's postings in the left half of the pane. Both previews feature live links, a scrollable window, and the option of emailing a page or link without leaving the window. This is how CoolPreview and InterClue, respectively, display a preview of a link to Knowbodies (had to search high and low on the internet to find such a link, sniff.) InterClue refuses to display https sites, which do not seem to stop CoolPreviews.

Slow Reading

As a follow-up to the post on Nick Carr's  Is Google Making Us Stupid article this summer, here is some additional reading about reading:
In Online Literacy is a Lesser Kind,  Mark Bauerlein (Chronicle of Higher Education, 09/19/08) argues that "advocates of e-learning in higher education pursue a risky policy, striving to unite liberal-arts learning with the very devices of acceleration that hinder it."  I found Bauerlein's article via John Miedema's Slow Reading blog. Miedema will publish a book about slow reading on Litwin Press next spring.

In an article in the 10/17/08 Chronicle Review (Assign Books, and Students Will Read) - available at the CC blog -  Nancy Bunge, a professor of writing at Michigan State,  discusses her experiences of assigning difficult texts (e.g. Kant, Buber) that require a sustained concentration and analysis of the reader that departs dramatically from "web reading."  She concludes that students will rise to the challenge, and even enjoy grappling with such turgid material.

Bunge also cites Caleb Carr's New Yorker article Twilight of the Books (12/24/07) which in turn discusses Maryanne Wolf's book “Proust and the Squid: the Story and Science of the Reading Brain

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Is it just me?

Many thanks to Charlie for this most helpful comment to the previous post...
In order to be sure a site is actually down, I like

Network problems

Usually, when I can't access a site, I assume there's a problem at the other end...and that the owner of the site will do what s/he can do get it back up and running. It's not always that simple. For about 2 weeks now I've been unable to access Knowbodies' famous and indispensable Pageflakes page of library and technology feeds...from home. But from my computer at work, I have no trouble getting through. The problem therefore, must not be with, but with the route that takes me there. This is tricky, because although Pageflakes - like any other website - wants people to come and visit, there's only so much it can/will do about traffic problems along the way. In this case the problem, according to Pageflakes, was this: "We tracked down the cause of this problem. It turns out Sprint has depeered Cogent so traffic is not flowing between the 2 backbones and essentially broke part of the web. Our data-center is trying to re-route since we're on Sprint." So, until Sprint and Cogent iron out their problems, or until Pageflakes manages to re-route, which may not be high on their agenda if not a lot of people are affected, the site is as good as gone for some of us.

In the meantime, I've replicated the incredibly useful "Knowbodies - libraries and technology" page over at Netvibes. It's pretty much the same as the Pageflakes page of the same name, but with some additional blogs pulled from from Walt Crawford's list of library blogs. The page now sports feeds from 50 of the blogs I find most useful - but suggestions for other pages that should be added are always welcomed.

For me, services like Pageflakes, Netvibes, Alltop and BozPages - metagators that aggregate many RSS feeds on one page - provide the most convenient interface for scanning great quantities of information. The instant mouseover previews that these sites provide are an additional feature that is indispensable for filtering out irrelevant info when scanning through the feeds (e.g. the yellow note in the image of the open widgets below) Here are shots of the new Knowbodies -Libaries and Technology Netvibe page in open and collapsed mode... Note that each widget can be opened/collapsed by using the little arrow that appears to the left of the icon when you mouse over it. There is also an arrow in the upper right corner of the page that allows you to collapse/open all collectively, but that feature appears to be disabled until you log in/sign up with Netvibes.(I've sent them a message suggesting they open that feature to everybody....) Go check it out! Are the images slightly out of focus? Just click on them!


There are many mashups that combine news and maps - some map the news, and others locate the news on a map.  A particularly impressive and handsome example of the former is Newsmap.

Another example, and one that appeals to the morbid interest New Yorkers have in the misfortunes of others is Gothamist Maps, "the best way to see what's going on where right now."  The "what"  includes "overturned auto", "tripple stabbing", "person under train," "fatal all hands" (fire), and other ticklers of the imagination.  (actually, to be charitable, although the map only covers NYC, this kind of service would probably find an audience in other cities/nations as well...)

Bad Librarianship Now

I'm not into comics but I know some librarians are, and I thought the  "Bad Librarianship (Better Living Through the Dewey Decimal System" blog deserved a mention here; great banner, smart writing, and thanks for introducing me to Easy Star All Stars!

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Most of the time, when I come across something I find worth posting about here, its because I've been looking for something worth posting about here...absence of necessity, or boredom,  is the mother of  invention, as the saying goes (and, come to think of it, the mother of many of our activities. Take for instance shopping:  shop⋅ping [shop-ing] –noun 1. the act of a person searching for an object to desire.) But occasionally, even in our day, one does look for something to fill a real need, and such was the case today when I was looking for a tool that would return a thumbnail preview of a webpage when you hover over its url. You can enable this kind of service on your own blog or website using Snapshots, which we decided to reimplement after our latest board meeting here at Knowbodies, and there are also add-ons that generate thumbnails for Google and Yahoo searches (Google preview) and previews for the tabs in your Firefox browser (Tabscope). I had to hunt around a bit for a tool that would provide previews for urls on pages that are not enabled with SnapShots or Thumbshots (another such service), but CoolPreviews is an add-on for Firefox that does just that. It can be useful if you want to quickly inspect a list of websites without visiting each site. For example (here comes the necessity - relatively speaking - that got me started on this), I wanted to do a very cursory examination of the many blogs listed in Walt Crawford's impressive "List of Blogs in the Liblog Landscape 2007-2008", in order to determine which of them are worthy of inclusion in the Knowbodies blogroll and soon-to-be-launched Netvibes portal to library blogs (although Knowbodies itself was deemed unworthy of inclusion in Walt's list, that doesn't stop me. I'm not that kind of person) By using CoolPreviews, I could  get an impression of the blogs - e.g. how often they were updated - without visiting each one of them. CoolPreviews appends an unobtrusive blue icon at the end of the link when you mouse over it; if you want to see the preview, you just move the cursor over the icon. The preview is actually more like a fully functional resizable pop-up browser window, with a scroll bar and enabled interactivity. You will digress, but I guess that's what the internet is about! You can also use CoolPreviews to email the link of a site without leaving the current browser window.  CoolPreviews is a very cool addon indeed! Below is a screen-shot of Walt's list in the background, and on the right  a preview window to Phil Bradley's blog on the right.

Thursday, November 6, 2008