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Supporting digital scholarship

February 25, 2013

Thankfully, there’s more to my professional life than fending off nuisance lawsuits. I have a great job here at McMaster, where I get to do many wonderful things. One of the most exciting is serving as the Administrative Director of the Lewis & Ruth Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship.

In that role, the Montana State University Library invited me to their campus recently to speak on digital scholarship and meet with various groups, including one charged with developing a plan for offering similar services. They filmed the talk and put it up on the Tube, so I thought I’d post it here since I’m often asked questions about digital scholarship and what we’re doing here to support it.

Thank you for the support

February 21, 2013

As anyone reading this has already heard elsewhere, I’m being sued by a press for publishing a critical review on this blog. For many months, this was a private matter, but it has now gone viral. The outpouring of support reaffirming my right to a professional opinion has been copious and reassuring. Librarians, faculty, and publishers have all spoken out against this suits.

The story does not end with the support. It will continue until the lawsuits are resolved, which may take some time. At this point, however, I would like to express my profound gratitude to everyone who has spoken out on my behalf. There are far too many individuals to name, so I say a simple thank you to everyone. In particular, I’m grateful to those who have written articles, started petitions, gathered links, archived posts/comments, and done any number of other things to help spread awareness and document the results. To date, over 2,600 3400 people from around the globe have signed the petition.

Many organizations have also issued statements, including:

I’ve surely missed some, so apologies for that, and please feel free to send me corrections/additions. I’m humbled by this public support from a wide range of professional and academic organizations.

UPDATE Feb 25, 2012: added AAUP and ALA. Am also adding others as they appear. The list grows!

CNI Fall 2012 notes

January 15, 2013
flickr - proteinbiochemist

flickr – proteinbiochemist

A bit late with these, but hopefully there are still some useful bits here for people. Missed the entire first day of sessions due to a series of unfortunate airline and airport events, with the result being a 12-hour trip to DC rather than just a 90-minute flight. Tuesday’s sessions more than made it worth the time to go despite missing half the content. The three project briefings I caught were three of the better ones I’ve seen at CNI, and that’s saying something since the general quality is high. As always, my editorial comments are in italics to differentiate them from the speaker’s words. Read more…

Access 2012 notes

November 26, 2012

Access has always been one of my favourite library IT conferences. In terms of pure bang for the buck, you just can’t beat its mixture of good talks, interesting people, and stimulating conversations. Plus, this year’s Montreal version featured a conference first: a Sunday-morning bagel delivery service for attendees. Next year, Access will be held in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Don’t miss it.

What follows are some notes I jotted down in various sessions. My editorial comments are in italics to differentiate them from the speaker’s words and thoughts. Read more…

Bad beer, good coffee, grinders, and libraries

July 13, 2012

flickr – pinkangelbabe

Working in a service profession, customer service is on my mind a great deal. Being who I am, beer and coffee are also frequently on my mind. Here’s what happens when they all get mashed together.

One could suggest that the customer service experience is largely driven by two things, getting the small things right and consistency of experience. That oversimplifies a lot of the customer service research a bit, but I think it’s hard to argue that small things matter, a lot, and that one wants to be able to predict how a service entity will respond. We may all crab about cable companies, but really, you have to admit it’s a consistent experience, so we’re all still paying.

Read more…

Can an Arduino change the world?

May 11, 2012

flickr – m4rlonj

Perhaps not, but that’s no reason not to try. An explanation:

For our elder daughter’s 11th birthday,  we bought her an Arduino Uno with which to tinker and hopefully ultimately take over the world. No, really, the idea is to expose her to the simple notion that computers have guts (hardware) and that it takes code (software) to make the guts do something useful. Kids–whether girls or boys–should grow up knowing something about technology other than how to insert a plug into a socket or like a page on Facebook.

As someone who works in an IT environment, it’s also eminently clear to me that there is still a glaring gender gap problem in the workplace. Today a vendor presented their server lines to a campus audience, and other than the two women affiliated with the vendor, there were zero women in a room of 25 or so IT professionals. Zero. This isn’t to pick on my employer, nor is it a dig at the guys in the room (myself included), but rather a general observation about IT work settings, which are still overwhelmingly male in most any organization, particularly the closer one gets to core infrastructure such as networks and servers.

Will programming an Arduino to make an LED blink or play a tune turn my daughter into an IT professional? Who knows? At the very least, though, for her it’s an initial step toward breaking down the shroud of mystery that surrounds higher level IT work. The kid’s great at math and could follow wiring diagrams in grade three, so why not show her how deep the well goes. My hope would be that she develops no concept of girl’s work/boy’s work.

Why libraries should collect books

February 21, 2012

My post about why I no longer collect books demonstrated once again the significant cultural differences between the two nations I know best, namely the U.S. and Germany (still have a way to go with Canada). Describing my own relationship to the book, using my work in library gift processing as a central formative illustration, created barely a ripple on the western shore of the Atlantic. From conversations with readers over here, it is clear that nothing I wrote upset anyone terribly. Not so from the German side. A notoriously dyspeptic German blogger flamed me, slapping the book burner label on me, even going so far as to wish that there might be a special hell for such heretical librarians. More thoughtful German readers wrote with varying degrees of support or disagreement, but my description of mass book disposal clearly touched a sensitized German nerve. For those who kann, here are some of those responses (one, two, and three).

What I did not address in that post, but will do here, is describe my views on the obligations of libraries to collect books, or, as I commented on one of those German blogs, nearly all books. My view is that this is a collective obligation of libraries, an obligation that transcends both borders and library type. In other words, major research libraries do not bear this burden alone, since even with their broad reach there will be myriad titles that never land in their collections. In nations that have the capital and technical means to build and maintain libraries, there are collectively hundreds of thousands of libraries, ranging from a Canadian prairie town public library to the Harvards of the world. There are special libraries with highly specialized profiles collecting items that the rest of us would find mind-numbingly uninteresting. All of this is good.

Read more…


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