October 9, 2009    |   Vol. 2, No. 33    |   ISSN: 1943-1457
Above the Fold
A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums
Dear readers—this is a double issue covering two weeks of reading recommendations. We've taken this approach because last week was one of two weeks each year when the entire staff of OCLC Research gets together for planning, coordinating and general face-to-face interactions. This has taken all our attention. Back again next week. Thanks for reading. Jim

In this issue:

The Relationship Between Public Libraries and Google: Too Much Information  (External site)

First Monday   •   September 7, 2009

Post-romance reality check. Although superficially it would appear that libraries and Google have much in common in their desire to satisfy information-seekers, their goals are very different. While libraries perceive the role of information as an underpinning of democracy, Google views it as a vehicle for advertising. Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) Research Fellow Vivienne Waller explores the complicated relationship between the two and calls on libraries to reassert their role as quality filters and a counterweight to commercialization.

This is such a sensible and useful review article until the conclusions. We agree only at our peril with the author that, "the suggestion here is that libraries should not rely on Google for information provision. Libraries should resist the Taiga Forum's claim that all information discovery will begin with Google. They should teach library users, through example, about the difference between freely flowing information and balanced information." Normative notions must be discarded. Discovery happens elsewhere. But you already knew that. ( Michalko)

College for $99 a Month  (External site)

Washington Monthly   •  September/October 2009

Creative disruption hits the ivory tower. An education startup called StraighterLine is offering self-paced online courses for a flat $99 per month, with no restrictions on the number taken at any given time. And while accreditation issues must still be resolved, education policy expert Kevin Carey notes the traditional institution is highly vulnerable to the twin threats of debt-fueled price inflation and ever-cheaper information technologies. But while there's certainly some boondoggling on today's campuses, colleges play an important role in local communities and legitimate research and scholarship — and online education can't replace those functions.

This is a good overview of alternatives to the four-year college education. It's pretty clear that what you get will be different. In all the debates about online education I hadn't really considered the enormous surround of other deliverables and infrastructure provided to society by the US higher education system. The fabulously expensive elite university experience will certainly persist, as Carey argued recently on NPR, because "exclusive institutions offer a brand name, they offer social networking. Exclusivity never goes out of style." ( Michalko)

Transparency Triumph  (External site)

Trendwatching.com   •   September 2009

Finding your doppelsumer. In this month's trendwatching.com, the issue focuses on the new transparency that's fast becoming a requirement of online presence, and is based in part on consumers' reviews and recommendations about an organization's products or services. But who are these people? A crop of new services is compiling and analyzing reviewers' demographic information and dishing up reviews written by people just like you.

How you can work yourself breathless in writing an overview article like this mystifies me. Skim this. The point about reviews and recommendations shaping personal, organizational and institutional online presences is very well-taken. My colleague, Lorcan Dempsey, has observed that most searches for working academics turn up links on ratemyprofessors.com. Tending their online presence isn't yet a professorial priority. ( Michalko)

Data Sharing: Empty Archives  (External site)

Nature.com   •  September 9, 2009

Build it, but they won't necessarily come. Most researchers agree that information-sharing is a good thing, but several efforts to launch data repositories have been less than successful — victims of technical, legal or cultural barriers. One commenter notes the distinction between data repositories and publication repositories is not made clear in the article, but the real issue is how we can better encourage open access to data of all kinds.

Those of us in the LAM world are well aware of the modest progress (failure?) of institutional repositories. What's interesting here is to view these developments from the perspective of the researchers we hoped would fill the repositories. My colleague, John MacColl, has an interesting blog post on this topic comparing the stunning rise of Mendeley.com to these institutional experiences. ( Michalko)

Europeana and Digitization: The Collaboration is Only Beginning  (External site)

Information Today   •  September 10, 2009

Praise for Europeana. A recent EU assessment gives Europeana high marks for its efforts, but calls for more collaboration, a plan for dealing with digital rights and sustainable funding. This article provides an overview of the "Next Steps" report and summarizes some of the stickiest issues, such as U.S. vs. European copyright laws. Written comments on the report may be submitted by November 15.

Go and explore the Europeana site. Make your own judgment. Decide for yourself if it's reasonable to conclude that long-term funding solely from the public sector to sustain might be justifiable because the site is a "vehicle of cultural policy," as well as a possible generator of "creative and economic activity in areas such as learning and tourism." ( Michalko)

The iPod is Dead  (External site)

Slate   •  September 10, 2009

Why Jeff Bezos should worry. Slate pundit Farhad Manjoo says feature creep is a fact of life and devices designed to do just one thing — like Amazon's Kindle — are destined for failure. Witness the iPod — originally designed as a music player but now a touch screen, phone, Web browser, GPS, compass and even a video camera, not to mention the myriad functions you can add on via the App Store. As Steve Jobs notes, general purpose devices generally supplant everything else — and where does that leave the Kindle?

Steve Jobs is a master of dissembling to a purpose. Maybe this is just one of those moments. I pretty much don't care as long as the devices evolve to their purpose. ( Michalko)

Turning Up Volumes  (External site)

The Boston Globe   •  September 6, 2009

Grab-bag for wordies. Searching for a gift for a fellow word-person? Read on for quickie reviews of the latest crop of language books — everything from Patricia O'Connor's Woe is I to Jesse Sheidlower's The F-Word. There's something here for everyone.

I'd love it if these books were online as searchable Web destinations. I have a recollection that the original f-word book came from Random House's displeasure at the decades-long production cycle of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang. To make a bit of money they extracted the entry on the f-word and released it as a stand-alone volume called f***. ( Michalko)

With Science Journalism in Retreat, Universities Try New Strategy for Informing the Public  (External site)

San Jose Mercury News   •  September 15, 2009

Battling ignorance. With the science beat an early casualty of newspaper struggles, universities are now taking the lead in feeding information on the latest developments coming out of their research departments directly to top news Web sites such as Yahoo and Google. Thirty-five universities have formed their own nonprofit wire service, futurity.org, with the intent of keeping the public informed on scientific advances that could play a major role in important issues such as global warming and healthcare.

Whether this rises above vanity journalism is a legitimate question. As is, where would this kind of knowledgeable and informed writing originate otherwise? ( Michalko)

Scribd Sued Over Copyright... by Jammie Thomas Lawyers  (External site)

Ars Technica   •  September 21, 2009

Content publishers on notice. A prominent IP law firm is seeking class action status against Scribd, claiming that the DCMA's "safe harbor" provisions place too much responsibility on copyright owners to conduct their own searches in order to have their copyrighted content removed from Web sites. And while up till now most of the cases against publishers of user-generated content (such as YouTube) have been brought in technology-friendly California, this case will be decided in Texas, which may set a new legal precedent on user-generated content.

Just what we needed — more chill directed at the few willing to innovate. As it is, risk aversion already rules in our domain. We don't take full advantage of the "safe harbor" provisions. ( Michalko)

This Is Your Brain on Kafka  (External site)

Miller-McCune   •  September 16, 2009

The importance of being absurd. It turns out that absurdist literature makes us smarter, at least when it comes to memorizing random strings of letters. Who would have thought?

This article would be here for the title alone. I liked his short stories, could never finish the novels and, thankfully, have never felt compelled to memorize random strings of letters. ( Michalko)

America, the Beautiful (America, the Ugly)  (External site)

Salon   •  September 22, 2009

Just for fun. Check out this review of A New Literary History of America — with entries running the gamut from mastodon bones to Linda Lovelace, this anthology would be right at home on every information junkie's nightstand.

Here's another review of this Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors compilation from the Wall Street Journal. I haven't seen the book yet but it sounds like an ideal candidate for iPhone reading as each of the 220 entries is a stand-alone piece of around 2000 words. It's available from Amazon for $29.21. No Kindle version yet. Rats. ( Michalko)

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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Research items are supplied by staff in OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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