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... the editorial blog by Marydee Ojala, Editor of ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals. ONLINE Insider intends to extend the reach of the print publication, presenting a more timely commentary on the products, people, and events that shape today's online world. It explores new technologies as they impact the working lives of information professionals, explains resources for specific topic areas, and expounds on information management tools and techniques.

The Other Tasini Shoe Drops

Marydee Ojala @ 9:09 am

On Tuesday, the announcement from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Author’s Guild, and the National Writers Union regarding an $18 million settlement hit the wires. The associations filed a motion for court approval of the settlement in a class action suit they and 21 freelance writers filed years ago. The original case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the writers in 2001 (Tasini vs. New York Times), but sent the decision about an actual amount back to the lower court. Although the Supreme Court case was hailed by the freelancers, many information professionals worried, with good reason as it turned out, that freelance-written articles would simply be withdrawn from online databases. Who’s on the hook for the $18 million? According to the press release, it’s The New York Times, Time Inc., the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Interactive (which is not half of Factiva), Knight-Ridder (which owned Dialog at the time), LexisNexis (the original suit named Mead Data Central, the previous owner of LN), ProQuest, and West Group. Prolific freelancers could realize as much as $1,500, while writers who didn’t register their copyrights could receive only $60 per article.

It’s still not a completely done deal — preliminary court approval is expected “within the next month.” And I suspect, with ownership changes in the information industry, that who exactly is responsible for cutting those $1,500 or $60 checks will be a continuing bone of contention.

Watch for an Information Today NewsBreak on the subject.

Google Buys Urchin

Marydee Ojala @ 7:00 am

Google and Urchin announced yesterday that Google is acquiring Urchin, finanacial terms not disclosed and deal expected to close by the end of April. Urchin is a Web analytics company, used by many bloggers, including me and the Information Today event blog.


Marydee Ojala @ 3:30 pm

What if you were asked to give a presentation at a state library association’s annual meeting and no one showed up? That almost happened to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Economist Dave Lauer, who spoke yesterday at ILF on NAICS (North America Industrial Classification Code). He drove down from his office in Chicago (that’s normally a 3 hour drive, but of course he hit traffic, so it was longer) and brought with him many copies of BLS brochures and copies of his PowerPoint. The room was “full” — with three of us. Apparently NAICS wasn’t as compelling a topic as “The Wireless Librarian,” “The Future of Technical Services,” “Federated Searching,” or “The Problem Employee.” Actually, I’ve never understood how state library associations can program so many tracks at their conferences. ILF tends towards 12-13 competing sessions in a time slot.

Despite the small audience, Dave was great at explaining the background and uses of NAICS. I was particularly interested in the update cycle of the codes. Today, Dave e-mailed me that he’d just received notification that the Census Bureau is seeking public comment on proposed changes to NAICS for 2007. Revisions have been recommended by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. A summary of each specific industry proposal shows the revisions are focused on improving industry descriptions, identifying new and emerging industries, and changing some industry content (such as reflecting structural changes in the telecommunications industry).

It may have been a small audience, Dave, but I feel so incredibly up to date thanks to you!

Gawking at Gorman

Marydee Ojala @ 9:48 pm

I’ve been thinking all day about how best to blog Michael Gorman’s keynote address this morning to the Indiana Library Federation (ILF). Gorman is, of course, ALA’s president-elect and dean of libraries at Fresno State University. I’ve actually been in Fresno a couple of times, albeit not recently, and I confess to having difficulties envisioning this semi-Americanized Brit in that uniquely California environment.

Gorman’s topic for the day was values. What are the values that underly the work librarians do? He expressed some disappointment that ALA task forces had been working on this for way too long and noted that it’s hard to come up with anything that’s snappy and laden with meaning when it’s constructed by a committee. No argument from me there. Then he expressed the dilemmas that strike to the heart of the library profession. What’s wrong when a profession can’t state what it believes in and can’t even agree on a set of core competencies? Wow. Strong words. He then said that the task forces had trouble distinguishing between values and desirable outcomes. That’s a crucial distinction, which Gorman said “transcends semantics.”

Here’s a thought provoking idea. If we don’t have a cluster of beliefs shared by all librarians, are we really a profession? Although I firmly believe that Gorman and I don’t share the same nuances about beliefs and values, I do think that, given the values he articulated during his talk, we can agree on broad principles.

Here’s the nine values he shared:

1. Stewardship

“Only librarians and archivists are concerned with transmitting the past to the future”, ensuring that each generation knows at least as much as the last. We learn by experience, by interacting with people who know more than we do, and by interacting with human record (reading, viewing images, listening to music, etc.).

2. Service

Librarians don’t enter the profession for glory or money. We should judge every action we take in terms of how it facilitates service to our community.

3. Intellectual freedom.

Individuals are entitled to think and believe whatever they wish.
Sedition is making a comeback and blasphemy can’t be far behind
Intellectual freedom is natural to us, censorship is anathema to us

4. Equity of access

Inextricably linked to intellectual freedom, the digital divide is part of a societal divide. Ideal library of future will be one where access will be freely available regardless of money or technological sophistication.

5. Privacy.

Increasingly there are wholesale assaults on privacy. Open stacks are one of the great things about America.

6. Literacy and learning.

Libraries are essential part of culture of learning. Literacy is a lifelong process in which you become more able to interact with complex texts.

OK, here I parted company with Gorman. To equate literacy with printed materials only negates all that I heard last week at CIL about variant ways that people learn. I’d love to hear a debate between Michael Gorman and Stephen Abrams. At least they’d agree on the political jokes.

7. Rationalism

We stand for individual pursuing whatever pursuit he or she wants. We’re a supremely rational profession. OK, and here I’m not so sure he meets his own definition.

8. Democracy

The best antidote to TV is well-reasoned book or article. Libaries grow and prosper in democracy.

9. The public good.

This is the value he did not include in his latest book, but thinks it’s very important. There’s a conflict between unfettered individualism and the public good.

You know, they’re good values. If he just wouldn’t come out with techno-zingers that threaten his credibility, you’d feel fine about all this. He expressed several times his reluctance to embrace digitalization of books and documents. Hey, here’s another pairing opportunity – Gorman with Public Printer Bruce James, who wants to digitize all government documents.

Gorman’s antagonism towards Google I just don’t understand. More people know how to use Google than know where their public library is. That’s not to be laughed at, that’s a real challenge to the library profession. Digitizing things isn’t “atomizing” them. And kids do read. At least mine do.

Oh, and he never said the word blogger during the entire talk.

Clinton to be in Toronto for SLA

Marydee Ojala @ 8:10 am

Announced on an SLA Chapter list this morning — Former U.S. president Bill Clinton will give a keynote speech at the SLA Annual Conference in Toronto. It will be on Wednesday morning, June 8th. All the unit breakfast and business meetings which were to have started at 7:30 a.m. have been moved a half hour earlier, to 7 a.m. It fills what was a funny hole in the schedule. Before the Clinton announcement, the schedule had a big blank space between 9 a.m., when the breakfasts were scheduled to end, and 10 a.m., when the exhibit hall opened. That weirdness is now fixed. It does seem a bit strange to me, however, that I will leave the U.S. to listen to a former U.S. president.

Indiana Conference

Marydee Ojala @ 4:25 pm

Tomorrow I plan to spend a few hours at the Indiana Library Federation annual conference. Why is it a Federation rather than an Association? I don’t know. Michael Gorman is the keynote speaker tomorrow morning so I’m planning on wearing my “One of the Blog People” button. Should be an interesting contrast to last week’s CIL.

Thinking back on CIL, the thing that puzzled me most was why, in so many sessions, when the scheduled speakers finished their talks and the moderator announced it was time for questions and answers, did a sizeable percentage of the audience walk out? To me, the Q&A is the best part. Although I have to admit that Scott Brandt perhaps took that idea to extremes when, in the session on Teaching Roles of Librarians, where neither scheduled speaker was able to attend (both had deaths in the family), he conducted the entire 45 minutes as Q&A. From everything I heard, it turned out to be a great session and I can think of very few people who know the topic as thoroughly as Scott or who can facilitate a discussion as well as he can.

CIL Songs

Marydee Ojala @ 8:35 am

On the InfoTodayBlog is a picture of Scott Brandt and the lyrics to his introduction to the Dead Technologies evening session. If you want to hear him “singing” those immortal words, there’s an audiocast here. Also at the InfoTodayBlog is a Dick Kaser “find,” a song called Library Girl from the Norwegian group Boyzvoice. For the lyrics, try Blisspix, which also has lyrics for other library-related songs. I’m not sure why the Beatles Paperback Writer is included, that’s stretching it, seems to me.

The Web is not the Only Answer

Marydee Ojala @ 8:39 am

Some interesting points were made yesterday by Nicholas Tomaiuolo in his talk titled “Convincing People that the Web is not the Only Answer.” The one that struck me was vanishing Internet references. OK, everybody who regularly searches the Web knows that Web pages come and go. They’re ephemeral and fragile. But most in academia think this applies to general open Web pages, not to those representing scholarly journal articles. I had been pondering this when I ran into Nick at breakfast this morning, so I asked him what his source had been. It’s an article from Science in October 2003 (v. 302, n 5646, which he’d retrieved from EBSCOhost’s Academic Search Premier, and he happened to have a copy with him. Wow, what a reference service — he knew I was going to read it and anticipated my request by having it with him in Washington DC. He kindly went back to his room to get the printout.

His main points in his talk were taken from a survey of students and faculty about use of resources by undergraduates. 55% of respondents think Web information is acceptable, 25.8% think its suspect. What about frequency of Web usage when writing research papers? 55% always go to the Web; 36.7% sometimes use the Web, and only 2.5% rarely use the Web. And how about those subscription databases libraries spend money on? Is that a preference when writing those papers? Only 18.3% strongly agree they should be used, while 4.2% strongly disagree. 25.8% are neutral on the subject, 15% disagree, and 33.3% agree.

Looks to me like some heavy duty marketing is in order to boost the acceptance and usage of subscription databases!

Drawing a Maginot Line in the Sand

Marydee Ojala @ 6:23 am

Following criticism from the head of the French National Library about Google’s plan to digitize major library book collections (those that are out of copyright, we are told), France’s Jacques Chirac has asked the Libary to devise a plan to put French and European works on the Internet. The story is here. Looks like more French-English culture wares. I wonder how long it will take to see any of these digitization projects to fruition. As Google acknowledges, it’s not something that happens overnight. I also wonder if countries other than France feel slighted by Google’s library Print initiative and will similarly order their national libraries to digitize.

SLA Elections

Marydee Ojala @ 3:14 pm

Hang around in hotel lobbies long enough and you hear stuff. So I’m at the Washington Hilton and I hear that SLA has counted the votes for the new board. Rebecca Vargha was elected president, Anne Caputo as Chapter Cabinet Chair, Agnes Mattis as Division Cabinet Chair, and Roberto Samiento and Cindy Romaine as Directors. Congratulations to the winners!

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