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March 21, 2007

Library Agitprop Reality Check - (Follow-up) Commentary by Cindi Trainor

.: Recently I posted about my pal Cindi Trainor's recent editorial, called Library Agitprop. Cindi has written a follow-up piece titled OK, A Reality Check. She sums up how many of us feel with this statement:

I am mortified every time I get a research question that involves showing a student how to use the OPAC. The time for having to think about *how* to execute a basic keyword search has long past.
When I am working with a student, if I can avoid our online catalogue, I do so. One of the most painful things with which to deal is when SFX kicks in - a user is on a db, clicks on the link (here it's a colourful button with the words "Get It! ualberta". When the system works, it pops up a window with one or more links to the publisher's site, then to the journal article, and then to the pdf of the article. If it doesn't work (and often when this happens, we DO have the full-text but the link resolver can't find it for whatever myriad of reasons), the user is given the option of checking in the online catalogue to determine if we hold the publication in print (or online, if it be the case.) Next would come the difficult steps of trying to interpret the catalogue record for that publication (assuming the user actually chose the correct one), which would include finding the appropriate volume in the holdings, etc etc etc. Cindi includes a few screen shots that illustrate the difficulty in correctly interpreting detailed catalogue records.

MIT Faculty and Libraries Refuse DRM; SAE Digital Library Canceled

.: This is making the rounds quickly. MIT has cancelled its subscription to the SAE Digital Library because of its severe DRM restrictions. Excerpt:

At a time when technology makes it possible to share research more quickly and broadly than ever before, and when innovative automotive research is a matter of global concern, SAE is limiting access to the research that has been entrusted to the society. In addition to imposing DRM on access to the papers for paid subscribers, the SAE also prevents information about its papers from being found through any channel other than the ones they control.

What does this mean? In contrast to information about research published by other engineering societies, which can be found in databases such as Google, ISI’s Web of Science, or the Compendex engineering database, information about SAE papers is only made available through SAE’s proprietary database. Such policies severely limit access to information about SAE papers, and are out of step with market norms.

March 16, 2007

Two Centuries of Civil Engineering Knowledge Made Available Free to UK Colleges and Universities

.: From an e-mail that is making the rounds:

Laying the virtual foundations of engineering research and practice - Two centuries of civil engineering knowledge made available free to UK colleges and universities

A new JISC Collections agreement makes the largest collection of full text civil engineering papers in the world available free of charge to all further and higher education institutions. Some of the most important articles on civil engineering are now available in perpetuity to those communities.

An agreement between JISC Collections and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) now makes ICE’s massive archive of some 18,000 illustrated papers and over 200,000 pages easily accessible to all further and higher education institutions. The Institution of Civil Engineers Virtual Library contains every peer-reviewed technical paper published by the ICE between 1836 and 2001.

Some of the highlights include Transactions of the Institution of Civil Engineers; the Life of Telford; Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers; Engineering Division Papers; Journal of the Institution of Civil Engineers and Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. This relevance of this collection goes far beyond civil engineering to subjects such as the architecture, the built environment, building and construction, environmental studies, land management, property management, planning, transportation and urban design.

The JISC Collections agreement, which contains works from almost every leading British or British-trained engineer ever published follows a successful consultation with librarians and academics and will save institutions the £12,000 each it would normally cost them to purchase this essential resource.

One of those who responded to the consultation was David Buri, Architecture and Design Librarian at the Glasgow School of Art, who said: “I feel that the Institution’s collection would be of particular interest to our Architecture students when exploring the history of the subject. There was a considerable overlap between architecture and civil engineering in the nineteenth century, and a well-illustrated resource such as the ICE Virtual Library would be of great benefit particularly for understanding Victorian architecture, and the construction methods and materials of the time. The Virtual Library’s worldwide coverage would help to fill gaps in our own collection, and would be helpful to urban design students seeking to understanding the built form and infrastructure of many of the world’s major cities. The last decade or so has seen a re-convergence of the skills of architects and civil engineers, as witnessed by the work of people such as Santiago Calatrava, Nicholas Grimshaw and Peter Rice, and our students are constantly looking for information on these individuals. Again, the ICE Virtual Library would be very useful, but this time for information on contemporary design methods.”

Roddy MacLeod, Senior Subject Librarian at Heriot Watt University, said: "I'm delighted that JISC Collections has negotiated a licence in perpetuity to the Institution of Civil Engineer’s (ICE) Virtual Library. The Virtual Library provides access to almost two centuries of knowledge. It is a major information resource for those involved in civil engineering, the built environment, environmental studies, transportation, planning and urban design and architecture, and will be invaluable to colleges and universities with courses in these, and related, areas."

According to Leon Heward-Mills of ICE publishing company Thomas Telford: “With much of the world’s Victorian and pre-war infrastructure coming to the end of its useful life, the archive provides an invaluable, rapid resource for those planning refurbishment or replacement projects. Even for more recent works the archive may well prove to be the only source of reliable, as-built data.”

For further information, please go to: Institution of Civil Engineers Virtual Library at http://www.jisc-collections.ac.uk/catalogue/coll_icevirtuallib.html

March 14, 2007

Library Agitprop - Commentary by Cindi Trainor

.: My friend Cindi Trainor has written a passionate and well-informed piece on the future of libraries. Her observations appeared on her own site a few days ago. To a degree, Cindi picks up where Karen Scheider left off last year (see below), when she wrote statements like, "The OPAC is not the sun. The OPAC is at best a distant planet, every year moving farther from the orbit of its solar system." Cindi writes about issues that as a profession if we choose to continue to ignore, we may do so at our own potential collective peril. Endgame Librarianship, anyone?

Here is an excerpt from Cindi's post:

I first read about Karen Schneider about 10 years ago, when she was a frequent poster to (and perhaps more key, I a more frequent reader of) the web4lib listserv (remember listserves?). I found her frankly irritating and annoyingly loquacious. I cannot remember now why I had this attitude, but it got to where I was hitting the delete key anytime I saw her name.

Funny how things change...

A couple of years ago, I started seeing blog posts, magazine articles and other writings attributed to Ms. Schneider that started to resonate with me. Then she posted the famous (or perhaps forgotten, ymmv) "The User is Not Broken: the Meme Masquerading as a Manifesto." I don't think I've nodded my way more enthusiastically through a blog post since.

Yesterday, Karen Schneider wrote on ALA's Techsource blog:

It is both ironic and poignant that librarians are still worrying about “bibliographic control,” after ceding so much of the same to the companies that now rent them journal access per annum at usurious rates, digitize their book collections into DRM obscurity, or sell them ponderous, antiquated “management” systems that on close inspection do little more than serve as storehouses for the metadata specific to the formats of bygone eras, bold days when we saw our central roles as defenders and curators of our cultural heritage.


Never have I seen a more eloquent indictment of the ILS as it is today. I was going to wait until I officially leave my current employer before posting something that's really been eating at me about libraries, but I really feel compelled to weigh in, here.

Please read Cindi's entire post here; it is well worth the time to do so.

March 7, 2007

ABC (Australian Broadcasting System) Creates New Sitcom: The Librarians

.: From the ABC Web Site:


The humble suburban library takes on a whole new meaning in the ABC TV's new comedy-drama The Librarians, which starts production in Melbourne on March 5.

A co-production between ABC TV and Gristmill Pty Ltd, The Librarians is the brainchild of actors/writers Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope. Married in real life, Butler and Hope will also star in the production.

The six-part series centres on the trials and tribulations of Frances O'Brien, a devout Catholic and head librarian. Her life unravels when she is forced to employ her ex-best friend, Christine Grimwood - now a drug dealer - as the children's librarian. Frances must do all she can to contain her menacing past and concentrate on the biggest event of the library calendar - Book Week.

The Librarians will also star Roz Hammond (The Micallef Programme, Welcher & Welcher), Bob Franklin (BoyTown, The Extra, The Craic), Kim Gyngell (The Comedy Company, Love and Other Catastrophes), Kate Kendall (Stingers), Heidi Arena (Thank God You're Here, Blue Heelers), Stephen Ballantyne (Corpse Bride) and newcomers Josh Lawson (BoyTown, Blue Heelers) and Keith Brockett.

Butler and Hope joined forces in 2004 to write and produce 13 short films called Stories from the Golf for SBS. Butler, who will play the lead character Frances, has starred in feature films including BoyTown and Crackerjack, as well as numerous television series. Most recently she teamed with Mick Molloy on the Triple M's successful ToughLove program.

"We are thrilled to be making The Librarians. With 25,000 books on set we have fabricated the perfect excuse to extend our summer reading, added to which, the children's library is very handy for cheap childcare, " said Robyn.

Hope, who will direct all six episodes, is a seasoned performer with feature films such as BoyTown and many television roles including Stupid Stupid Man, Crashburn and TheMicallef rogramme to his credit.

ABC TV's Executive Producer for Drama Miranda Dear added: "It's great to be working with such a dynamic comic team. With this series they bring their acute eye for social satire to bear on the world of the library in the most surprising ways. Borrowing a book may never seem as safe again."
For further information contact:

Kelly Davis
Ph: 03 9524 2629
E: davis.kelly@abc.net.au