One of the huge issues this week was the ongoing conversation (and sometimes argument) about eBooks and libraries. As you may know, OverDrive (the primary seller of eBook services to libraries) sent out a letter late last week with some concerning news: namely, that Harper Collins wanted to significantly change its ebook terms, so that once you ‘buy’ an ebook to be distributed via Overdrive, it could only circulate 26 times, and then no more. (And in addition, that it would remain checked out for the full length of the loan term, even if the reader ‘returned’ it, and could not be read by multiple readers at once – in other words, not taking advantage of the digital nature of the product.)
Lots of people have great posts on this.
All have some additional good points in the comments.
I’ve seen some people ask where the 26 number comes from. I seem to recall from my library school days that that’s the average number of circulations a hardcover book gets before it needs to be retired for practical reasons (the binding’s falling apart, pages are missing, it suffers an unfortunate mishap, etc.) However, as anyone with basic statistics knowledge can figure out, a lot of books circulate a lot less than that (and therefore do interesting things to the average), and therefore some books also circulate many more times than that, without problems. Picking it as the number for an ebook circulation is therefore even more problematic than it first appears.
Brian at Swiss Army Librarian notes that the Copyright Clearance Center has released a new video called “Copyright on Campus”. He also links to several past videos they’ve done. These are a great resource, and about as fun as anything about copyright is probably going to manage to get. (Note: there’s stuff they don’t address, but there’s only so much you can do in 5 minute videos.)
Other interesting notes:
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (my favorite new quiz show) has a fascinating post on their blog on why they spell “Gadhafi” that way (as opposed to the 36 other variations out there – the challenge of translating from one alphabet and language into others.) The answer goes back to a letter from Minnesota school children back in 1986.
Doug Johnson has a great post about ways to make research assignments more interesting to students that are very much along my own preferences in this area for two reasons: first, boredom does not lead to great learning, and secondly, learning how to research and evaluate topics you’re interested in has much broader lifelong learning implications than learning how to do academic papers.
(It’s not that academic papers are a bad skill – I still think we ought to teach it, and ask students to do it on an ongoing basis. But that shouldn’t be the only kind of research we teach. Realistically, how often do you do that kind of academic-paper research once you graduate, unless you become an academic? Compared to how often you’re going to get interested in a subject and want to learn more for your own pleasure, or do research to improve your health, or because you’re travelling somewhere, or whatever else?)
Doug also has a post about whether we’re communicating in places where people are listening – something I want to take on here in the near future. (I’m a big believer in the idea that different kinds of technology do different things well, and we should pick the ones that work.)
Dear Author, one of the major romance genre blogs, takes on the question of “When does a reader know too much?” – in other words, how is the reading experience affected by having seen an author interact online, whether that’s a problematic way, an overly personal way, or even a very positive way?
And finally, Cassandra, writing on the DailyKos (not a place you normally expect to see this) has a lovely ode to the role of the public library in her rural Appalachian community, and why the internet access the library supplies is so critical in particular.
A few links for this week:
Why do we use this tool?
I’ve been reading a lot of back posts from Havi Brooks this week, whose stuff I adore and recommend on the productivity/doing stuff better front, but found one from her from 2008 about Twitter that I really liked and wanted to highlight – it’s a great focus on “Why use this tool, what is it best for?” that I appreciate a lot as an approach.
On Borders and bankruptcy:
I’ve been reading various commentary on this (as one does when one’s personal and professional blog reading includes a number of authors naturally interested in the topic of where their books might be sold and what that means), and have been hoping someone would come up with a really great link roundup. Writer Beware has done so! There are some interesting additional links in comments.
(If you write, or are thinking about writing for publication, especially in genre literature, I recommend reading them in general: they bust publishing scams and all those ideas that seem tempting, but don’t quite add up.)
Library stuff :
Welcome to this week’s installment of interesting links! Coming soon, another post on file management – naming conventions (I’m about halfway through a draft.)
Credit where it’s due: Do you use Creative Commons materials? Do you get frustrated figuring out what you need to cite and how? The OpenAttribute project is designed to help: it’s a browser add-on that looks for information on the page to formulate the citation.
What should people know about dinosaurs? Ok, I admit, I never entirely outgrew the “dinosaurs are neat!” phase of my childhood, but I’m actually equally fascinated by the question of “What *should* people know about a particular subject, and how do we figure that out?” So, imagine my delight in getting a pointer to a post that combines the two. Tom Holz (a paleontologist who focuses on the tyrannosaurus rex) has written a guest post about that very topic, with both general and specific things he thinks people ought to know about the field and why they matter.
A follow-up from last week – namely the bit about BitchMedia’s 100 Best Feminist YA list removing some titles. This week, I bring you Scott Westerfeld on the topic (author of many things, including the Uglies/Pretties/Specials series, and more recently Leviathan
On the issue of diversity, there was a fascinating article from a professor, Margaret Price, about the ways that academic hiring processes are particularly challenging for people with particular learning styles, or disabilities. The article also makes some interesting points about how a gruellingly lengthy interview day (of 8+ hours with very limited breaks) is not actually showing you someone at their best – or as they’d be during a regular teaching day. As more and more schools recognise the importance of diversity and pluralism in all directions, I hope that some of these ideas will become more common.
I know that I’ve deeply appreciated interviews that pay attention to these things, including sharing names of the people on a committee in writing before or during the interview (so that I can match the name and the person and their role as we go rather than try to sort out names and their correct spelling afterwards), and that give reasonable breaks to collect my thoughts and remind myself of what I want to focus on for the next conversation.
As a librarian, how I talk about things with faculty is often different than what and how I want to talk about things with technology staff, for example – and both are definitely different than how I interact with kids.) Obviously, I’m good at changing modes on the fly (that’s part of the job, really), but I do better at it with a moment to get a drink of water, gather my thoughts, look at my notes, and take a deep breath (all things that I’d plan into a typical workday on the job.)
Looking for a good guide to Facebook settings? Mashable has just come out with a really nice, new summary of settings to be aware of. I like to keep an up to date (last month or three) in my bookmarks because they do tend to change things, don’t they?
What technology changes: Henry Jenkins has a great post about how open book exams must change in a wired educational setting – all excellent points. Personally, I’m convinced that it’s possible to design exams (and other projects) such that online resources are helpful – but only if you already know the subject pretty well. This does mean moving away from simple identification questions (which are trivial if you have online access to resources), and moving into questions that require you to understand those terms, but which focus mostly on doing something else with them.
Joyce Valenza is also thinking about this general topic, but from a different direction, in her post about creating a new Research Tools resource online (as she’s moving her materials to LibGuide)
I got to thinking recently that there are a whole lot of information literacy skills we’re really not teaching at the moment – many of which are actually quite useful (or potentially so.)
[edited to add: I did get a question about ‘we’ in the above, so it’s probably worth noting here that when I write on this blog, I’m writing from the general perspective of a librarian with strong experience in the secondary school setting, and a general background in formal educational settings (high school, college). I certainly know individuals who are teaching some or all of the things I talk about below, but I know of very few where all of these things are clearly a part of the structured learning expectations, or taught/discussed in any sort of clear way (maybe beyond a few minutes of “Remember to back up your files” kinds of things.
Also, because I’ve had about three people go “I wish someone would talk about that” I’m going to make it a priority to write up some of how I do these things (and why I do them that way) in the near future.]
Tagging and other folksonomy issues:
Tagging is a lovely thing – being able to put labels on things, so you can find them again later. However, it’s also painfully easy for a tagging system to get unwieldy, especially after a year or two. What would happen if we talked about the process of creating a system (figuring out which tags are likely to be useful to you later), and also about maintaining a system (reviewing it every so often to make sure it’s still working well.) Plus, things like how they work on different systems: tagging someone on Facebook, for example, has different implications than tagging a particular book on LibraryThing.
I don’t know about you, but how I manage my files continues to change and grow. I’m still prone to organizing things in folders, and to creating quick links (via aliases, my dock, and other options) to the files I use most frequently. But at the same time, I also know that there’s some powerful search tools built into my computer these days (that weren’t there in the dawn of time, when I started using an Apple IIc, way back when.)
Searching is great, but like all searches, it involves some knowing what you’re looking for (for example, when the file was last edited, the name, a reasonably unique search term.) If I search on my computer for files containing the word ‘librarian’ or ‘book’ or ‘writing’ for example, I get hundreds, sometimes thousands of files, so I have to pick different terms. There’s also the question of maintaining different versions of files, and keeping them straight. And when we start sharing files – either by emailing an attachment, uploading to a central server (or something like GoogleDocs), it gets even more important to pick meaningful file names.
There are all sorts of techniques for these – but I know a lot of people don’t really know about them. We should change that, somehow.
Making thoughtful choices about time:
One of the real challenges of the online age is .. well, there’s so much to do. It’s so easy to get distracted by some interesting link, and lose track of time. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can build the pattern of self-awareness into more of our online interactions, but I think talking about it is a good start. Where do we spend time online? Why?
Doing something because it’s fun is often fine, but sometimes we stay in online spaces that are no longer fun, because we’ve got the habit. What happens when we change that? All these questions – and many more – are conversations I very much want to see in broader conversation, not just with current students, but with everyone. (And it’s in my list of topics to blog more about here…)
One thing I kept pointing out in discussions about the 1:1 laptop initiative at the previous job was something that seems like a small change, but can be huge. What happens when every student in the class has reliable access to class resources? When a teacher could, say, create a calendar with deadlines and reminders, and have every student sync to it, so they’d know about deadlines or other details?
We’ve taught students about analog calendars for years – but what happens when students can tap into the wide range of productivity and task management tools out there, and use them to manage their assignments? Not only will they be better off now (and hopefully, a bit less stressed), but they’ll be learning great skills for the future. (Even though the tools will certainly change, the basic process of getting used to entering it somewhere, managing lists of tasks, etc. will probably still be there.)
(There will be a return of the links posts on Friday: over the holidays, I was getting many fewer links I really wanted to share, but I’ve got a nice collection again.)