Live and Learn

The New Yorker • June 6, 2011

Where's the magic? College professor Louis Menand chronicles the changing academic experience and expectations of college students over the past century. The transformation of the university from Ivory Tower to public commons will continue to affect the needs, requirements and functions of academic librarians. Read Menand's thoughtful examination of the underlying issues summed up in one student's question: "Why did we have to buy this book?"

As suggested here it could be that the debate about the value of a college education is being joined now because we are at the end of an exceptional phase in the history of American higher education that will result in a complete reconfiguration of the institution. There's plenty to debate about the reconfiguration but the positive economic value of a college degree seems indisputable. Something else is going on. ( Michalko)

Is There a New Geek Anti-Intellectualism? • June 6, 2011

Geek chic. Blogger Larry Sanger says anti-intellectualism is transitioning from the fringes of evangelical conservatism to a favorite rant of today's digerati, which wouldn't be such a problem if the digital elite didn't wield the power to steer the conversation on education, both politically and culturally. Sanger notes that, "The digital world is now on the cutting edge of societal evolution, and attitudes and behaviors that were once found mostly among geeks back in the 1980s and 1990s are now mainstream." The premise is a bit alarmist, but Sanger's essay is worth a read.

And this article might capture what that something else going on around the higher education debate might be. This anti-intellectualism is certainly evident in various digerati rants c.f. Clay Shirky but I think it also fuels a lot of the crowd-sourcing enthusiasm and wisdom from big data assumptions. ( Michalko)

Transparency, Relationships and Other Things Corporations Could Learn from a Small Bookstore

O'Reilly Radar • June 1, 2011

Data rules. This rumination on human vs. algorithmic relationships raises questions about the data we share with others every day. In the end, it all comes down to trusting others to do the right thing. Read on for Jim Stogdill's essay on the ethics of data-gathering.

This isn't another paean to the local—it's a very interesting reflection on what assembling big data means and the implications of what we do with it. Stogdill asks his fellow analysts to apply a different kind of test to their work: would they be embarrassed to show it to their neighbors?  ( Michalko)

Combating Four Innovation Lies

Harvard Business Review • June 3, 2011

Grain of salt. These enthusiastically misleading assurances from customers, salespeople, developers and executives will sound familiar. As you're making decisions about future projects, just remember that what people say and what they do are often two different things.

Short but worth a quick review. These are applicable to our own efforts to build new distinctive library services. We already have some experience with building things that people said they’d use only to find they get no attention from precisely those same people. ( Michalko)

Positive Black Swans

Slate • May 17, 2011

Risky business. Check out this excerpt from Tim Harford's Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure—the author tracks the innovation records of projects funded by the National Institutes of Health vs. the privately funded Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The results make a case for tolerating riskier ventures as a tradeoff for potentially bigger payoffs: "Here's about the thing about failure in innovation: It's a price worth paying . . . In the statistical jargon, the pattern of innovative returns is heavily skewed to the upside; that means a lot of small failures and a few gigantic successes."

I'd never seen this comparison or even knew much about the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. A fascinating complement when paired with NIH. Take baby steps and speculative leaps say the complexity researchers. ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, where is this year's LIBER conference being held?

Get the answer.