djfiander's blog

Variations in Availability of Texts in Google Books

Jessamyn recently wrote about some neat public domain books that she found in Google Book Search.

I was particularly interested in the "Library List", since I have a thing for lists of names, but I can't for some reason. I wonder if it's related to google's fear of potential copyright issues outside the US. Which would be odd, if true, since copyright in Canada is shorter than in the US right now (thanks to Mr. Bono [not to be confused with just plain Bono]).

What's Your Oldest Usenet Post?

That's the question/Challenge that Jessamyn has most recently asked. The oldest one that Google Groups reports for me dates from almost a decade before her's:

C'mon guys!

and is probably incomprehensible to most of the people that read this blog, since it's about a fairly straightforward (but hard to figure out when you're new) detail of C programming. Unfortunately, I'm quite positive that I'd posted articles prior to '86, but they've probably rotted off the tapes Henry kept at utzoo.

Reading Frenzy

On Friday night, after a late dinner with friends, we decided
to go to the local MegaBooks to partake of their air
conditioning. I wasn't paying too much attention when I made the
suggestion, but reality swiftly intruded when we pulled into the
parking lot, which was far more crowded that normal for 8:45 on a
Friday night.

Inside there was a fog machine running, several
"stations" with activities, and large numbers of people
(both small and large) dressed in Potterwear. As long as one was
careful about where one went, it was possible to avoid the
hordes. I just wished that I'd brought my camera.

I should probably make clear at this point that I own all of
the first five books (with the British "kid" covers),
preordered my copy of The half-blood prince a couple
of months ago (from the University bookstore), and have been
actively avoiding all hint of spoilers (for example, somebody has
posted photos of the last page of the book to Flickr with the tag
"potter".

It's interesting how people are reacting to all the hype and
promotion of this book. I heard one twenty-something say to his
companion in the store that he wondered about using all sorts of
hype to get kids to read, and Jessamyn wants to "parlay this love of
reading this one book to learning to love reading for its own
sake"
. Of course, it can be hard to do that; my own
daughter, for example, will gladly tear into the new HP book, but
will otherwise usually read things that are far below her level.

It seems to me that a lot of people, including the
twenty-something in the store and Jessamyn, are forgetting that
this hype is not trying to push something that the kids need to
be convinced of, or that is just the latest fad. The first HP
book had a small print run and sold well when the kids
starting telling each other about it. No, they're not high
literature, and yes, they're becoming a bit formulaic, but not as
formulaic as Colfer's Artemis
Fowl
books became in the third volume (but the first one was
a wonderful new idea in fantasy, I think), but they
are something that the kids found, and the rest
of the world is providing this hype because the kids created the
market. And Rowling is clearly doing things that are exposing
kids to things that they otherwise wouldn't ever think about
(such as the existence of a slave class, and the "House
Unwizardly Activities Committee").

I am interested in seeing what happens after the next (and
last) book is published. Will Rowling really be able to resist
stretching out the series, or spinning off all sorts of other
books set "in the Harry Potter world"? Can you imagine
"Hogwarts: TNG"? "When Harry met Hermione"?
or the prequel, "The Rise of Voldemort"? One can only
hope that Jo doesn't turn into George.

As Jessamyn said, the thing to do is to capitalize on the
interest in this one book and point people to other books that
they might like. Maybe what libraries can do for the people that
are farther
down the reserve list
is targeting marketting to them:
"If you're #70 on the list, you're going to have to wait
a month to get the new Harry. Here are some
suggestions for your wait!"

It's all part of the master plan

The subject of reading very long books has come up on the mailing list devoted to collecting fountain pens. I complained about the problem of reading an abridged version:

The problem I find with an abridged, "good parts", version is that your idea of the good parts may bear no resemblance to my idea of the good
parts.

One of the other members of the list suddenly realized how his adolescent reading habits had been thwarted:

Indeed. I recall that, as a 13-year old boy, few if any librarians could be depended upon for recommendations concerning the "good parts", although I suspect that, even then, they knew where they were.

And another member of the list uncovered our secret plot!

Oooh, now I see it, there's a Great Big Cosmic Struggle between the Good
Librarians and the Bad Librarians. The Good Librarians are working to get
the humans to read the books, and the Bad Librarians are protecting the
books from the humans at all costs. And now the focus of the battle is
which set of Librarians gets to control digital technology.

Michael

who always knew that libraries weren't the quiet places they seem to the
casual observer, but who hadn't before realized they were the focus of an
intergalactic contest.

He must be execute to protect the sanctity of the mission!

Over-specificity in journals

Fortunately, it was short lived, but I suspect that even a single complete volume of Kluwer's Journal of reducing space mission cost is more than enough.

Stupid Patent of the Day, pt II

This is actually probably the last SPotD for a while, but there you go.

Method of swinging on a swing

Stupid Patent of the Day and a cool engineering quote

Man, September's a hard month to get through. And I forget how bad it is every year.

So, here's the patent: Method of concealing partial baldness

And here's the quotation:

Engineers are very good at taking inadequate technology and making it good enough.

"Untangling Ultrawideband." Economist Technology Quarterly September 18, 2004. p. 41.

Stupid Librarian Tricks

Did you ever have a sudden urge to tattle-tape a coworkers briefcase?

2,800 pounds of CD jewelcases

Yup. 1.25 metric tonnes of jewelcases were just delivered to the local music library.

Many years ago, when nobody knew about long-term storage of CDs, the music library decided to save space by throwing out the original cases and storing the CDs in plastic sleeves. Well, now we know how bad that is, so the library has to put everything back into jewelcases.

The skids holding the delivery of cases are too heavy to put on the elevator.

Some poor work/study student is going to spend the rest of the summer taking CDs out of slipcovers and putting them into jewelcases (and labeling said cases).

And the new shelving for the CDs has to be put in a different part of the library; a part of the library that can handle the extra tonne and a quarter of dead load on the floor.

All while the service desk in the (very small) library is undergoing reconstruction.

And it has to be ready for September.

Line-item moderation

Now, I know that the president never got the line-item veto that he wanted, so I'm not holding my breath, but I'd love to be able to moderate parts of comment. Because there's part that's funny and part that's insightful, and I'd like to give the right moderation.

PS: Does anybody else even remember the line-item veto debates?

LISNews Cage match

This week's librarian cage match is between shoe and slashgirl! Who will master the technology?!? Who will master her opponent?!? Who comes up with this crap?!?


Can you tell that it's a slow day between the end of exams and the beginning of intersession?!?

Kurt Vonnegut Angry

Kurt Vonnegut's books are in the library, so this is relevant: Cold Turkey

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.

The ALA Homepage: Worse than I imagined

OK, so I know that the new ALA homepage is a mess, and I know that everybody knows this, but I just tried to use it to find something, and it is impossible!


Where on the homepage do I go to get to a list of divisions? That is, I am at the ALA Homepage and I want to click on something to get to the ACRL homepage. There's nothing obvious, so I tried "Our Association", although I wasn't too hopeful. I didn't see anything, so I continued on to "Profesional Tools", "Libraries & You", and "Issues & Advocacy". Nada. Nothing on any of them.

Just now, while writing this entry, I went back and I found the divisions list on the "Our Association" page, but it's hardly very obvious, given that many members primary interaction with the association is going to be via a division.

Canadian tax time

Man, I am so glad I don't work in a US public library at this time of year. There are (at least) two great things about Canadian tax season:


  • The deadline in Canada is at the end of April, two weeks after the poor Americans' deadline.

  • Tax forms are not distributed by the libraries.


Need I say more?

Stress and burnout in library service / Janette S. Caputo

The "interesting" thing is that this title is in my library, the STM library on campus, rather than in the social sciences library. I wonder if this is related to a perceived need in my library back in the early '90s when the book was published.

Some choice bits include

Libido: A decrease in libido also frequently accompanies high levels of stress.... Because of social conventions and concern about job security, satisfaction of sexual needs is likely to occur outside the library workplace....(p 92)

and

Building a Support System: To build a support network, you need to start seeing your peers as likable people....(p 121)

But not so likable that you start working on your libido within the library workplace, I assume.

Security gates

I always tense up when I walk through a security gate. Not the ones at the airport: I assume that I'm going to set those off, the ones at the library. Even if I'm not carrying any library (or Blockbuster) material. I just tense up. And of course, yesterday I set the alarm off. Not because I was trying to leave with unchecked items (although I have been known to do that), but because I was leaving work with a public library book. The PL never desensitizes anything, since there aren't any security gates at my branch, even though there are downtown.

And, to add injury to insult, our gates don't just make noise, they lock a swinging turnstile. So, instead of swinging out of the way, it hit me. At "waist" height.

I wonder if I can claim workers' compensation.

Book Lust

Whatever you do, don't read this book unless you've got a notebook handy and a lot of time free to read other books. My "To Read" booklist doubled when I skimmed through this.

Interestingly enough, while I recognized a few authors, Nancy seems to delight it talking about authors that you've never heard of in almost all the categories. Which is a Good Thing, of course

Lies and Statistics

One of the less pleasant parts of my job it to produce the monthly statistics for my library. We have datasheets for each class we give, which track number of attendees and contact hours, and we also have reference question counts (based on the NISO definition of a reference question), which depend greatly on the particular staff at the desk, and how well we remember to click our questions on the counter. My job is to take all this raw data and enter it into a spreadsheet (after which, I guess, it must be "cooked data"), and produce some reports for the director.


Last week I was in the local public library, and there was a sheet of paper taped to the circulation desk. Across the top it said "Quarterly Service Survey", and below that there were three columns with headings I can't remember, and an assortment of hash-marks. I asked the person behind the desk who was checking out my books how long they had to count things for.

Rolling her eyes, she informed me "A whole week! And it happens every three months!


She was horrified to learn that we're always counting questions up at the university.

One conference note

This is very much delayed, but that's primarily because it was buried in my notes and I didn't notice it until just last night.


One of the keynote speakers was talking about young people and reading. And getting them to read books rather than screens. He said, quite tellingly that

for most boys, reading is a feminine, activity.

Or, as Dewey put it, "Boys who are into sports tend not to become librarians."

Sequels

I Spend Too Much Time Here II


What the heck am I going to do with fifteen moderator points?!?


Why Every Librarian Needs a Palm II


OK, I now have the USDA Nutrient Database, CIA World Fact Book, and IMDb all on my new Palm. As well as four hours of MP3s (all from CDs that I own, I'll have you know). This just rocks, and the IMDb is the one that gets the most use, I must admit.

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