Redefining the Academic Library

The Conference Circuit • November 6, 2011

In case you missed it. Read this summary of Valparaiso Dean of Library Services Brad Eden's comments ("The Status Quo Has Got to Go") at a recent conference for a review of issues facing academic libraries, plus some useful do's and don'ts. Eden's focus is on facing political realities, taking a teamwork approach to working with administrators, and staying one step ahead of technology transformation. Check it out.

This is the latest in a flurry of thoughtful, calculated challenges to current practice and the pace of renovation in academic libraries. The pace is still discouraging and makes me worry that what we do will be too late. The message has been out there for quite awhile and OCLC Research has been sounding the call and contributing to the change—our Information Context document (. pdf) from 2006 told this story, our work on shared print management established a common vision for the future of collections, and we've highlighted the need for new library services in other strands of our work. The report to provosts on the future of the academic library mentioned in this article is a dead link but a really excellent report by the Education Advisory Board called Redefining the Academic Library: Managing the Migration to Digital Information Services has leapt the paywall and found its way into the wild (might even be the same report).
If you click and read only one thing this issue make it this report.  P. S. There's a nice list of stuff to stop doing in this short article. ( Michalko)


Don't Blame the Information for Your Bad Habits

O'Reilly Radar • November 29, 2011

Use the off button. Author Clay Johnson uses a food analogy to explain that our problem isn't information overload—it's indiscriminate information over-consumption. "Information overload's message is, 'put these tools on your computer, and you'll better manage the information.' This kind of practice would be like trying to go on a food diet by buying a different kind of refrigerator . . . The problem is, we don't need to manage the information. We need to manage our consumption of it." Check out Johnson's suggestions for ways to limit the endless distractions of the Internet and in the process reclaim hours of your life.

I am always ready to assume it's my fault so this article and Johnson's premise appealed to me. But then I read the abbreviated version of his prescription for addressing overconsumption and my heart sank—I already do all that stuff. Which made me think of the Mark Twain anecdote about dining with an old woman who complained of a persistent cough, inability to climb stairs, and constant wakefulness at night. He advised her to quit smoking cigars, stop drinking bourbon, and go for long walks in the country. She said she didn't smoke or drink and already spent hours every day out walking. He declared that he was in the presence of a sinking ship with no ballast. (Okay, that's the way I remembered the anecdote and I now join the legions of others who have perpetrated altered versions of it. For some history of this story check out the QuoteInvestigator entry.) ( Michalko)

Chains that Set Us Free

The Wall Street Journal • November 26, 2011

Inside the box. Sometimes the box is a good thing—the constraints of working within a set of parameters can boost creative IQ, according to a recent University of Amsterdam study. Read on to find out why starting the day with a challenging crossword puzzle or haiku composition can help you become a better real-world problem solver.

Constraints as a prerequisite to creative thinking and freer thought, mmm?  Perhaps, although it's tough for me to see how we might apply this in a daily work circumstance. Does completing every section of that grant proposal form or the new business development playbook really make you more creative? ( Michalko)

The News Forecast

Wired • December 2011

Prognostication pros. A tech startup called Recorded Future has proven remarkably prescient at predicting political unrest, food shortages and stock market swings—all based on publicly available information filtered through sophisticated algorithms that incorporate linguistic analysis, sentiment, and "time and space" dimensions. Read on for a description of this Swedish company's efforts to create what one tech blog calls an "information weapon."

Read this. We are all personally aware of the changes and improvements to customer experiences made possible by big data. This is a different predictive use of big data (the whole Internet—that's big). It made me think about the way these algorithms and ones like them might get deployed against huge aggregations of digital text in service of a different kind of scholarly inquiry.  Maybe future scholarly contributions to their discipline will be the algorithms. ( Michalko)

The Museum Website as a Newspaper—An Interview with Walker Art Center

Fresh & New(er) • December 3, 2011

Rx for redesign. Check out this interview with the folks behind the Walker Art Center's recent website makeover. The team discusses ways to blend the timeliness of a newspaper with local flavor, careful content curation and serendipitous "delighters" to boost a site's "stickiness" factor.

The Walker is a very innovative place and has been for years—this is just the latest. Worth checking out as are the other sites name-checked in the interview (conducted by old acquaintance, Seb Chan, recently migrated from Oz to the Cooper-Hewitt): GOOD and Monocle. Two things to note—this takes serious talented staffing and the technical environment at most institutions won't be up to it. ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, the Faceted Application of Subject Terminology is adapted from what subject vocabulary?

Get the answer.