The Library News

I’ve rebooted http://www.thelibrarynews.com, this time older and wiser. The original site had many pages of many RSS feeds from lots of library sites.
The coverage was awesome but the load times were bad, no fun. This time around the load times are much better and the site is sleeker.

I’ve decided to focus on Twitter pages of North American library associations instead of cool library blogs. I have a space in my heart for cool library blogs but library associations have consistent news while blogger post when they/we can.

The Library News site is a WordPress site hosted by DreamHost, unlike this blog which is hosted by wordpress.com which I have mixed feelings about, stuff for another post. Suffice it to say it is fulfilling when a side project works.

Librarians And Your Odd Questions

As far as I am aware, the public reference librarian is the only job where anyone can ask nearly any conceivable question and get a fair answer. That is an odd place to hold in society.

Yet, there is something of comfort knowing that there is someone designated to answer the questions of the public. A universal need for information necessitated the position, the sheer division of labor in society required a person to answer questions in general. And that lucky person is the librarian.

Librarians of all domains get asked odd questions. By odd I mean a mixture of quirky and tricky to answer that very well might catch the librarian off guard. These are the best questions for some librarians as they require deep dives into unknown information rabbit holes. Whole new worlds can be explored while chasing down an answer. It can be a hell of a ride.

There are limitations to odd questions, for example, librarians cannot locate your lost keys (which you just had in your hands) or tell you where the cat is hiding. However, if you lost your keys in the library, they might be in the lost and found, and there might be books on cat behavior. Librarians also don’t give medical or legal advice but alternatively, offer materials on medicine and law. Deep questions like the meaning of life will be directed to works of philosophy and theology. The goal is never to avoid the odd question, just help the patron along in their quest.

So ask your librarian odd questions, explore the limits of your curiosity. Life can be so fascinating when unusual thoughts are explored. And don’t feel weird about it, the librarian is on your side.

The future belongs to the curious, The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it and turn it inside out

Handy List of Some Library Journal Websites

Keeping track of library literature can be taxing. Here is a list of some library journals websites to make matters easier.

American Archivist https://www2.archivists.org/american-archivist

Archivaria https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria

Cataloging & Classification Quarterly https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/wccq20/current

The Charleston Advisor http://www.charlestonco.com/

Children and Libraries http://www.ala.org/alsc/publications-resources/cal

College & Research Libraries https://crl.acrl.org/index.php/crl

Communications in Information Literacy https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/comminfolit

Evidence Based Library and Information Practice https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/eblip/index.php/EBLIP

In the Library with the Lead Pipe http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/archives/

Internet Research (journal) https://www.emeraldinsight.com/loi/intr

Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship http://www.istl.org/

Italian Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science https://www.jlis.it/

Journal of Academic Librarianship https://www.journals.elsevier.com/the-journal-of-academic-librarianship/

Journal of Documentation https://emeraldinsight.com/loi/jd

Journal of Library Administration https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/wjla20/current

The Library Quarterly https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/toc/lq/current

Library Review (journal) https://www.emeraldinsight.com/loi/lr

Reference and User Services Quarterly https://journals.ala.org/index.php/rusq/issue/archive

Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet

Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet

Life On The Screen was published in 1995, much has changed on the net but the essence of the work is still relevant making it a good book to read in our time.  It merits buying, the section on “Making a Pass at a Robot” is worth the price of admission alone, plus it has as been Cited by 13216 works.

At play is the essence of identity in the context of the early internet, especially in games that allow exploration of sex, gender, and even species. Investigated is the experience of persona personified when limited only by the imagination, revealing the borders we negotiate in our conception of self.  This is more than a psychological investment in a social video game or social media profile, it is a tracing of the edges of what we recognize to be ourselves.

Further than how we interact with technologies that mediate communication is the question of how we relate to technology as a part of the self, what does technology mean for our “aboutness?”  What do the boundaries between human and machine mean in a world where we describe the mind as a machine and a machine as a mind? Tricky and fun to read about.

Here are some links if you would like further information.

Worldcat.org (to get the book at your library) link

Wired.com (nice run down of some ideas) link

A Lesson From Professional Wrestling

When I was a young lad watching professional wrestling, every now and then the heels (bad guys) would get the titles, usually by cheating the face (good guys). In the mind of a kid, it was dark times when the bad guys held the belts, it usually meant good guys getting beaten without mercy, referees distracted long enough for the bad guys to do something dastardly and get away with it, the wrestling universe was in discord. Dark times in the mind of a kid.

But the good guys would keep on fighting the battles with honor and valor despite the fix. And in time, despite all the cheating and tomfoolery, the good guys got the belts back, peace and justice were restored.

Wrestling ethics are mainly deontological (as in rule-based) and virtue (as in good person) framed in a meritocracy. There is a contest with fair rules by which contestants are to abide, let the better wrestler win. The world isn’t naturally a meritocracy, nature is impassive, but there is a human feeling that it should be when it comes to human culture and when it is broken we feel it.

Good vs. Evil is too simplistic a concept in a postpostmodern technocratic information society, and my childish feelings towards evildoers in tights may not be the most imaginative way of commenting on the social malaise of the times. But for some, it feels like we are living in dark times and that resonates with the young wrestling fan in me.

The full weight of history’s unraveling presses on us, the toxification of the planet, the social and economic injustice, and the pressures of technology and more conspire against us. There are tyrannical governments that do not recognize human rights, greedy corporations that exploit all between the earth and the sky, creepy lobbyists greasing the wheels of government, those on the take, and plain old fraudsters. If the world was a wrestling show, it looks like the bad guys are winning the belts.

Hulk Hogan, represented everything good and holy in America, he would battle relentlessly despite the odds. With oversized oiled muscles in stretched primary colors and with the spirit of a street preacher, he raved about the power of Hulkamania to his Hulkamaniacs. I was enthralled, I too wanted justice in the face of bad guys, I also was a proud Hulkamaniac.

Older and wiser I have moved on from hero worship and come to have a critical eye when it comes to Hulkamania, but I can’t shake that sense of youthful empowerment in the face of doom. Perhaps Hulkamania is for the absurdist hero, a desperate rally in the front of the abyss or inspiration for someone who doesn’t care about the odds.

And for me, that is the magic. In the face of crooked managers, blind ref’s, and steel chairs the good guys kept on battling virtuously. The dramatic heroics are cartoonish, I grant you, but none the less emblematic of an absurdist hero.

If we are in dark times, perhaps it is best to muster up some absurdist hope. From years of watching wrestling promos, one can marshal the intonations of a raging street preacher and channel the genuine overriding belief that the good will prevail just because.

Image result for hulk hogan

Humility

I had a great philosophy class on Kant one summer long ago in my undergrad life.  What I recall the most was debating the teacher, on what I don’t really remember but I was pleased that I was being taken seriously.  I know I got crushed, my assumptions of the world torn asunder, my logic exposed as fallacious, but my ego was fine. It was honest scrutiny, nothing personal.  And I took that notion to heart, the idea that examining cherished beliefs is different than judging a person.

It was awesome.

In scrutiny done right, you are questioned into doubting your own assumptions, cornered by your own entailments, and come to a realization of why you are wrong or at least wrong in some view.  And as things become less concrete and more contingent, a taste for ambiguity replaces the pang of angst when confronted by incertitude, yet at the same time faith in your own reasoning becomes more credible to yourself.  You thought it through, you did the maths.

A kind of Taoistic unlearning has to happen, an unwinding of the ego.  A life of understanding requires a humble openness to where the evidence takes you.  It is never a question of being right as much as a question of being less wrong which makes things less of a trial and more of an experiment.

The Journey Begins

As a Ph.D. student in Information Science, I should, in theory, be able to give a reasonable description of the discipline.  The trouble is answering the question in a way that makes sense, at least to the to poor souls that asked me.  

There are official answers, Wikipedia offers the following quote.  

“Information science is that discipline that investigates the properties and behavior of information, the forces governing the flow of information, and the means of processing information for optimum accessibility and usability. It is concerned with that body of knowledge relating to the origination, collection, organization, storage, retrieval, interpretation, transmission, transformation, and utilization of information. This includes the investigation of information representations in both natural and artificial systems, the use of codes for efficient message transmission, and the study of information processing devices and techniques such as computers and their programming systems. It is an interdisciplinary science derived from and related to such fields as mathematics, logic, linguistics, psychology, computer technology, operations research, the graphic arts, communications, management, and other similar fields. It has both a pure science component, which inquires into the subject without regard to its application, and an applied science component, which develops services and products.” (Borko, 1968, p.3).

The description is comprehensive but gives the impression the matter is settled.  

Apparently, there is not a uniform concept of “information science”. The field seems to follow different approaches and traditions; for example, objective approaches vs cognitive approaches, the library tradition vs the documentation tradition vs the computation tradition, and so on. The concept has different meanings. Different meanings imply different knowledge domains. Different knowledge domains imply different fields. Nevertheless, all of them are represented by the same name, “information science”. No wonder that even scholars and practitioners are subject to confusion (Zins 2006).

In the article, Zins makes persuasive philosophical arguments that end in the conceptualization of “knowledge science,” a move from “information science” which is interesting, though doesn’t address my dilemma and embarrassment of explaining to people what “information science” is all about.

When asked to provide an example of information science I think of the applied side of things, specifically Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) user interface testing.  Most people have interfaced with a computer which must have an interface (even you command line ninjas), and the idea of making the interface as good as possible is relatable.  A bit reductive I grant you but we are talking conversation, and I’m aiming for a reasonable gist, not a comprehensive analysis.    

I suppose if forced to give a description of “information science” in conversation, HCI aside, I would say it applies the scientific method to information and how people use it.  That sounds convincing and even references the scientific method so you know its good.  🙂  


Borko, Harold. “Information science: what is it?.” American documentation 19, no. 1 (1968): 3-5.

Zins, Chaim. “Redefining information science: from “information science” to “knowledge science”.” Journal of documentation 62, no. 4 (2006): 447-461.