I got back Monday night from a weekend which included ROFLcon and a talk at the Central MA Regional Library System. It was fun getting to do both. ROFLcon is sort of a laugh a minute and the CMRLS talk was particularly gratifying because the people in the audience (who had driven through a DELUGE to get there) were engaged and interesting and brought a lot to the table. CMRLS is also the system for my hometown library in Boxborough, so I enjoyed getting to see their tag for the boxes of materials that went to the library from the regional sorting facility. My talk notes are here
This post is a day or two late because I already wrote this post yesterday, but due to some confusion about how to differentiate between a draft and an actual published post in WordPress 2.5 I managed to delete it before it went live. This is entirely my own fault and yet the interface to the new WordPress [if you haven’t upgraded, do so quicklike] is different enough that it makes certain parts of WordPress operate differently. This, in turn, changes my user behavior because my muscle memory wants to click certain places and look for certain visual cues for things. And again, when I’m wrassling with confusing interfaces — and this one is mostly that way because it’s new and I’m not used to it — my thoughts turn to the OPAC and the small wonder that people even come to our libraries at all sometimes when we make our materials so difficult to retrieve, sometimes.
In any case ROFLcon was a good time not just because it was fun and I got to see my boss Matt Haughey speak on a panel but also because there were a lot of librarians there. It was a pretty small conference but in addition to Casey Bisson who took some great photos, I also got to meet Wikipedian librarian Phoebe Ayers and Nathan from Shushing Action as well as some Simmons library students and just a few people who were like “You’re a librarian, that’s SO COOL!” It’s always gratifying to be somewhere where the nerd and librarian forces are strong.
Between now and Sunday, April 27, Radical Reference invites you to suggest subject headings and/or cross-references which will then be compiled and sent to the Library of Congress. You can either choose one previously suggested by Sandy Berman (pdf or spreadsheet) or propose your own.
As someone who has been the recipient of Sandy Berman’s cc’s on letters to the LoC, I think this is a great idea. Still waiting for SEX TOY PARTIES and TRANSHUMANISM in my classification schemes, I am.
One of the suggestions I frequently make in my library talks is that one of the things that libraries can do to help patrons deal with technology is have many current books about technology for check out, and to bring these books to computer classes so people can take them home when the ideas are fresh in their minds. The whole Web 2.0-as-meme idea came from Tim O’Reilly who was looking for a way to brand a new conference about how the web was changing. I explain this to people and then I say “You probably know Tim O’Reilly, he publishes the best series of tech manuals out there, the ones with the animals on the cover…” and I’m always amazed that most of the librarians I speak to don’t actually know about them.
This isn’t totally surprising, the books cater towards a techie market, they’re expensive and many of the people who would need or want them are buying them themselves. I had them as textbooks in several library school classes. But it’s also interesting to look a little in to what the deal is with technology books and the publishing industry generally. Tim O’Reilly talks about how Amazon sees themselves (according to tax filings) as competing with not just bookstores but publishers. He has a really good follow-up in the comments section.
Let me give you an example of how today’s much more consolidated marketplace makes it harder to place publishing bets. Borders and B&N have largely thrown in the towel on many high end books, saying “Amazon’s going to get that business anyway.” So they’ve shrunk their computer book sections, and are taking zero copies of important books, even from important publishers like us. We recently told them of our plans for a Hadoop book for instance, and both B&N and Borders said they won’t carry it. That leaves us with Amazon. Amazon will pre-order only a couple of hundred copies.
I’ve had to fight with my publishing team to get this book approved, since they’re worried that they won’t make back the investment it will take to bring it to market. It’s a lot easier to be sure of making money on a book like Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, to which the chains will commit an advance order of thousands of copies. Now that’s also good publishing, but you can see how the opportunities are shrinking.
Meanwhile, Amazon is increasingly throwing their weight around. Conversations with the buyers start to sound like this: “Are you really telling me that our books won’t show up in searches unless we agree to contribute to your new merchandising program?” [emphasis mine]
I don’t doubt that in the long run, there will be new long-tail economic models that support investment in specialized forms of content that don’t have the volume to be supported by advertising, but we’re heading for a really tricky period where the old models will be dead before the new ones have arrived.
How do libraries fit into this model? We’re frequently told that we’ve got crazy buying power in the aggregate but what happens when we’re not even given the option to see these books brought to market? O’Reilly also has some interesting commentary on ebooks and their profitability that’s worth a looksee. [rc3]
The ironic thing about National Library Week is that many of the librarians are so busy doing programming that there’s less going on than usual in the blogonets. I’ve been scanning some nifty little projects as they’ve come down the pike here, figured I’d share them.
- WeAreFree2 – not only is the library free as in no cost, it gives you the freedom to… do lost of things. This nifty little project from the San Francisco Bay Area Libraries marks the 50th Anniversary of NLW
- Scott Douglas, the author of Quiet Please, Dispatches from a Public Librarian, was profiled in USA Today and the Orange County Register, though it appears they made him take off his glasses for part of their photo shoot. Do us proud Scott!
- This is something that’s been in the “to post” hopper for a while. Kevin Kelly (of Wired fame) has a great report on his blog about a colleague who took a tour of the World’s Largest Audio-Visual Archive, the just-opened National Audio-Visual Conservation Center at the Library of Congress.
- Five steps for finding content on the ALA website now that they’re in the middle of moving to a new CMS. Timing?
- I went to see Meredith give a talk at a local library the night before last about Web 2.0 and the Future of Libraries. It was a small crowd, but decent for rural Vermont, and it was sort of neat to see the librarians I usually only see at conferences just getting to hang out. Meredith gave a good talk and the follow-up questions were, somewhat predictably, “Well what can WE do?” and I thought she had some decent concrete suggestions, one of the main ones was redesign your website. I’ll be talking more in a future post about things small libraries can concretely do with technology but this “what can WE do” is a question we should always be prepared to answer.