September 15, 2009    |   Vol. 2, No. 31    |   ISSN: 1943-1457
Above the Fold
A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

In this issue:

NPR — At a Tipping Point?  (External site)

Fast Forward   •   August 18, 2009

Have it your way. At a time when many news outlets are closing their doors or consolidating, NPR is gaining audience numbers and expanding its services. This is a good example of how a large, publicly funded organization planned and executed a major shift in structure through long-term planning, partnering and consensus building.

There are some really nice graphs in this post that show how NPR managers thought about the challenges and the imperatives for change that the Web presented back in 2006. Their concerns about pushing the Web and losing the stations (the way they gather listeners and financial support) have some echoes for the enterprise I serve. ( Michalko)

Labeling Library Archives Is a Game at Dartmouth College  (External site)

The Chronicle of Higher Education   •  August 25, 2009

Open source tagging. This is an interesting take on an old academic ploy — using students to get work done for free. A professor at Dartmouth is creating an online game that allows players to tag images in the library's database with metadata. Players receive points when their tag matches another's. The concept has potential for chaos, but with a little crowd control could be a cost-effective way to improve library search results.

As one of the comments notes, this isn't different than the Google Image Labeler (to which some of my colleagues were briefly addicted). This kind of effort leads quickly to bigger questions — does anybody really use our metadata for discovering rather than locating? We know tags are useful to the user that generates them — how useful are they to others? What are the motivations that get users to paint our small backyard fence? Etc. ( Michalko)

Good Books Don't Have to Be Hard  (External site)

The Wall Street Journal   •   August 29, 2009

Pulp fiction goes mainstream. This essay touts the emergence of a postmodern fiction that is entertaining, easy to read and is often found on supermarket book racks. Witness Thomas Pynchon's latest work — a detective novel that signals a significant departure from the weighty Gravity's Rainbow. Book critic and author Lev Grossman predicts, "Lyricism is on the wane, and suspense and humor and pacing are shedding their stigmas and taking their place as the core literary technologies of the 21st century."

Okay, a lot of you are librarians. All of you are readers. This probably isn't telling you something that has escaped your notice, but it is interesting to find this kind of commentary in the mainstream pages of The Wall Street Journal. And the examples he chooses aren't just "young adult fiction" playing up; they are titles you might enjoy. I made some similar observations about the lack of "high" public culture in a recent blog entry. ( Michalko)

Clive Thompson on the New Literacy  (External site)

Wired.com   •  August 24, 2009

Debunking the illiteracy myth. Stanford professor Andrea Lunsford studied 14,000+ students' writing skills from 2001-2006 and declared, "I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization." Not only that, but the fact that kids are almost always writing for an audience (texting, blogging, Facebooking) means they're becoming experts on kairos, defined as "assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across." These are very different results from the dire predictions that term papers would be riddled with texting speak and emoticons.

Some people did mistakenly confuse new modes of organizing writing and a nuanced understanding of audience with an age of illiteracy. What makes this more than another Web 2.0 pundit debate is the underlying evidence. It's worth clicking through to the Stanford Study of Writing on which Lunsford bases her observations. ( Michalko)

More Lessons from Childhood: The 5 Whys  (External site)

Innovation Tools   •  August 18, 2009

Question everything. Innovation consultant Mike Dalton says businesses need to get in the habit of asking "why" with the persistence of a three-year-old stalling on bedtime. His example of Toyota going beyond the first set of "5 whys" to root out the underlying causes of maintenance neglect is instructive for organizations intent on designing more responsive customer relationships.

The first time I made a board presentation as a finance professional I didn't perform very well. The treasurer took me aside and said I needed to think like a board member (given their responsibilities where would their attention go?) and then be able to answer three "why" questions in a row about those topics. It was some of the most useful advice I'd ever gotten. This is a more structured (and enthusiastic) expression of that same advice. ( Michalko)

Online Archives to Save Cultures  (External site)

Telegraph.co.uk   •  August 24, 2009

Preserving oral history. Cambridge University's World Oral Literature Project is archiving poetry, folktales, myths, chants and songs from indigenous cultures around the world, giving struggling tribes a way to preserve their history and make it available to younger members when village elders are no longer around. The article notes that of the world's current 6,000 languages, around half will cease to be spoken by the end of this century.

The project is of interest but what jumped out at me was the usual "project is currently seeking sustainable long-term grants to make it a permanent fixture in the University's research agenda." There's your oxymoron — sustainable long-term grants. Notice of another UK-based archival sound recording project arrived in my email this week. It had the memorable subject line: " Rowdy pub sessions in England and ceremonial chants in Fiji." ( Michalko)

Textbooks for the Disabled  (External site)

Inside Higher Ed   •  August 28, 2009

Consolidated effort. The Association of American Publishers and the University of Georgia have developed a database called AccessText that provides a central processing point for university requests to make specialized textbooks available to college students who need them. The system's development was funded through contributions from eight major publishing houses and will be sustained by charging colleges a nominal fee to participate.

Apropos the "sustainable long-term grants" mentioned in the previous article, here's a very specialized database whose creation was funded by eight major publishing houses and which will be sustained by annual billings to member colleges that use the database. Its success is very probable because it solves a real problem for both the publishers and the schools. Even better, it makes the experience for the student who has a special need much less frustrating. ( Michalko)

OCLC Programs and Research advances exploration, innovation and community building for libraries, archives, and museums.

Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Programs and 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. Programs and Research items are supplied by staff in RLG Programs and OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
  • Subscribe to Above the Fold
  • Sign up to receive e-mail updates directly from OCLC.
  • OCLC respects your privacy
  • Read our privacy policy or contact us at privacy@oclc.org.
  • © 2009 OCLC
  • OCLC   6565 Kilgour Place, Dublin OH USA 43017-3395    oclc@oclc.org   1-614-764-6000   1-800-848-5878 (USA)