Christina's LIS Rant
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
  Ok, spammers, knock that $%%^ off!
I've got work to do!

Regrets to the regular audience -- you may see moderation get turned on, I'm currently under attack.
  Octavia Butler, 1947-2006
via LISnews.

She was really very young. When I heard this I thought of the wonderful episode of Closer to Truth on PBS where she, Brin and Crichton discussed science fiction. The host asked her how she wants to be remembered:
How do you think you'll be remembered?
They're going to say that I'm a black science fiction writer, or I'm a feminist scientist fiction writer or something, you know. People have to have these labels because it's a shorthand way to, well, failing to think. You know, you don't have to read my stuff if you already know what I am. Comfy.
I like this quote, too:
Did you major in science in school?
Oh, I don't have a science background, but I do know where the library is, and that's pretty much what I've leaned on all my career
  Applied Mechanics News
Cool - ASME International Applied Mechanics Division has a blog (as of Jan '06). Pointed out (in German) by Netbib. Wow, check out all the links on the side bar -- apparently there are quite a few ASME-related blogs.
Monday, February 27, 2006
  Data Obsessed: Carnival of the Infosciences #26
Is posted. Great job!
Sunday, February 26, 2006
  Yay, j!
The fabulous j is profiled in February's Information Outlook (hey, why did my issue only get here on Thursday?) in the SLA Member Profile section. Cool -- except... that is the worst picture I've ever seen... horrible, really. Here's a better one, she's second from the left. (see and this way I link myself with the celebrity!)

  The reference interview in a scientific research setting: question pairs establish intellectual identity
(This is thinking out loud stuff not approved scientific paper stuff ;) )
In library school, we're told that we don't need to know the subject, we just need to know how to find it. Yet in real life reference situations, we see customers making quick decisions on whom to ask and what to ask based on some assumptions of common ground. Librarians try to establish common ground in the reference interview by asking open questions first, then closed questions, then confirming questions. On the other hand, librarians with some scientific background know that there's a secret handshake thing that goes on when talking to a scientist customer -- she'll test you and if you don't answer correctly, then she'll ask an easier question or stop trying. Librarians are not expected to know the field, but we are expected to play the game. How we respond to the answers we get from our questions or the questions receive are key establishing common ground with the customer. Those of us with science or military training do this without even thinking about it.

Yesterday I read a really interesting article on establishing or altercasting intellectual identity through questioning in intellectual discussions (Tracy & Naughton, 1994). The article was specifically about brown bags or colloquia in a university communications department, but I think there's something of use here for public services librarians in research settings. The authors break down the facets of intellectual identity that are "made visible through questioning practices" into three parts 1) knowledgeability 2) originality (are you just reiterating everything that's been done) 3) intellectual sophistication ("recognize the intellectual tradition within which they work, to grant its limitations while articulating its advantages, and to reveal awareness of what is entailed by and inconsistent with their framework") (Tracy & Naughton, 1994). The lexical choices of the questioner and question recipient place them in a framework (these are smaller than disciplines -- these are what methodologies are used, what schools, what invisible colleges...)

My thought is that while the reference librarian is trying to find out what the scientist needs, the scientist is questioning the librarian's awareness of the appropriate framework. Also, the questions the librarian asks can be taken as challenges to the intellectual identity -- after all, the scientist has built this up over their career.

So -- if you come from the same intellectual tradition as the scientist (are homophilous) then you probably won't have as much to share because you'll know what they know. OTOH, if you aren't sophisticated enough to understand their tradition, you won't get to the heart of the problem. Hmmm... have to stop this wandering now -- homework to do!


Acknowledgements: Thanks again to Pengyi for assigning the article and to Lois for thoughtful comments via personal communication. Also, to a senior chemistry librarian and a library student at Maryland who provided food for thought.

Tracy, K., & Naughton, J. (1994). The identity work of questioning in intellectual discussion. Communication Monographs, 61(4), 281-302.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
  Ignorance of the literature is no excuse...
via aphophenia
{this is a rant, but I'm entitled, look at the name of my blog :) }
I mean really. To post an article complaining about the lack of scholarly work in a field without having searched the scholarly literature (even on Google Scholar) is like complaining about the lack of availability of milk without going to the grocery store (or farm, for that matter). Yeah, if I could assimilate the current state of the research literature by having it magically appear in my brain then it would make my doctoral work much easier. Did he do a search, did he ask a librarian? He even complains about how unrealistic it is to expect him to drive to a local university to gain access to the literature. Hello? That field is littered with e-prints and self-archiving. Ever heard of google or citeseer? Doesn't his company have a librarian? ew... maybe not?
Friday, February 24, 2006
  Burger's Blog: The LIE, BQE and ALA
Via FRL... I blogged the bad, so now I'll blog the good :)
"How do we build on the concept of a social network, the speed and ease of communication and information sharing of the bloggers? How do we make ALA a more attractive outlet for people who want to make a difference, for those who need help and ideas to bring back to their libraries, and make it a more welcoming, social organization.

I don't have all the answers to these questions but I do know that if we don't address these issues we run the risk of losing a whole generation of librarians who are the future leaders of ALA."
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
  Kojo Nnamdi Show: Wiki Sites
Audio archive will be available later this afternoon.

He's currently talking to Ben Bederson more generally about the democratic web.
  Laughing Librarian Blogging Song
(turn down volume if clicking at work :) )

Monday, February 20, 2006
  Online: The New Life Cycle of Business Information
Vol. 30 No. 1 — Jan/Feb 2006 by Marydee Ojala

I'm more familiar with the cycle of scientific information (and how it is changing) but I know a little about business information, too, as every special librarian should. Marydee does a great job at summing up how business information works now. I hope that library schools jump on this with both feet and train MIM and MLS students to access and use this kind of information.

Times have changed. Information no longer appears linearly. Rather than a tempered sequence of events, business information flies at the researcher like asteroids bombarding a space ship in a science-fiction movie. It can come from anywhere—a blog entry, a professional discussion list, a company message board, a rumor mill—rather than the traditional press release.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
  heh, heh, heh....
Popular Mechanics is giving away an earthmover. Entered!

Picture me behind the controls... that would rock. Oh and the looks on my community association's faces would be priceless.
Friday, February 17, 2006
  Computer Networks: A short walk in the blogistan
Boy, that Compendex feed brought some good stuff today :)

A short walk in the Blogistan
f/t via Science Direct (subscription required) doi:10.1016/j.comnet.2005.05.027
Abstract: The increasingly prominent new subset of Web pages, called ‘blogs’ differs from traditional Web pages both in characteristics and potential to applications. We explore three aspects of the blogistan: its overall scope and size, identification of emerging hot topics of discussion and link patterns, and implications both to blogs and applications such as search. Beyond blogs, we develop a general methodology of mining evolving networks and connections. The first part of our study is longitudinal—based on a five-week continuous fetch of a seed collection of nearly 10,000 blog URLs. The second part is based on a successive crawl of pages suspected to be blogs leading to a larger collection of several million URLs. The collection is examined for a variety of properties. We characterize blogs and study different facets of the link structure in blogs and its evolution over time, attributes of servers and domains that host many of the blogs including their IP addresses, and how blogs behave with respect to various HTTP/1.1 protocol issues. Inferences from our in-depth exploration are relevant to applications ranging from mining to hosting of blogs and other issues of relevance to the measurement community.

There are some really nice things about this article. First, they describe blogs almost exactly the same way I do - as a format more than particular content. Second, their methodology in finding and selecting blogs seems more through and to show a better understanding of the blogosphere than some of the others. They really *get* time as a factor (see Mary Hodder's talk) and linking. They had a way to limit the number of splogs and duplicates. They are trying to create a method for awareness of emerging information... yes, very good. Hmm all the graphs are Rodgers-like S curves hmm... Actual main data from October 2003.... Points out something that never occurred to me-- blogs on hosted domains (like mine) are candidates for denial of service attacks... Hm, web search for inurl:blog as another way to identify blogs...
  Applied Surface Science: Blog-based research notebook: Personal informatics workbench for high-throughput experimentation
Very interesting article...
Blog-based research notebook: Personal informatics workbench for high-throughput experimentation

f/t via Science Direct (sub req'd) doi:10.1016/j.apsusc.2005.03.235

Abstract: In this age of information technology, many researchers are still conservative in keeping a log of their activities in paper-based notebooks. This style of log-keeping brings about the situation that our experimental data and their descriptions are recorded separately into hard disks and papers, respectively. Such a data separation is likely to be a serious rate-limiting factor in high-throughput experimentation from the view point of getting feedback on each researcher’s work from what he has done. We propose to utilize a blog (Weblog) as an electronic research notebook and discuss technical requirements for maintaining it, on the basis of the blogging experience for 4 years by one of the authors. We need a user-installed blog server with authentication function for personalization and network infrastructure enabling us to “blog anytime, anywhere”. Although some knowledge-sharing systems have similar electronic notebooks as their front-end, the present blog system is different from these because it stores personal information which is not meant to be shared with others. This blog-based notebook cooperates with these e-notebooks by promoting hyperlinks among their contents, and acts as a personal informatics workbench providing connections to all the resources needed.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
  Attention sci/tech publishers and university electronic resources librarians:
Immediately check to see if you have content that's been ripped off and put on http:// reddy dot wordpress dot com

University e-resources librarians: check to make sure there aren't holes in your proxy systems and that individual users haven't posted their user info on the site.

Sci/Tech publishers: Safari (O'Reilly), Gale, Elsevier (and Mosby), Taylor and Francis (and CRC Press) and Books 24x7 -- your content has been ripped off and is being provided by this site. One or all of you need to get your lawyers to do a cease & desist or go to the ISP and have the site shut down....

(first found on LISnews.org)
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
  Everyone wowed about NCSU, how about HCPL's Aquabrowser implementation?
(pointed out in e-mail from CSB) It's from TLC, and it appears to rock. On the LHS it's got a visualization of the subject and on the RHS it's got facets. Well, it's just plain pretty. And yes, it rocks.

Update 2/17/2006: HCPL - Howard County (Maryland) Public Library. The title of the post is hyperlinked, but I'll repeat it here: http://aquabrowser.hclibrary.org/aquabrowser/ . Also, on the TLC web page there is a list of libraries (http://www.tlcdelivers.com/aquabrowser/customerlists.asp?type=ab) who have purchased the technology. A few, so why haven't I seen this in the biblioblogsphere yet?
  Cosmic Variance is collecting bad math and science jokes
I've seen some of these before, but I still love them.
Monday, February 13, 2006
  Unofficial CIL2006 Wiki
Meredith Farkas has created an unofficial wiki for the upcoming conference. (Pointed to by Dave)
Sunday, February 12, 2006
D.C. officially got 8" of snow... in my front yard we have 21" -- yes, twenty-one. Cool, but sigh, have to go shovel.

Waiting for the spouse to get moving so as to at least halve the load :)
Saturday, February 11, 2006
  EPA Libraries face an 80% cut....
(pointed out by an anonymous colleague)
And they were already suffering. Basically, EPA needs to have scientists to adequately regulate, right? I mean, how are they supposed to know how much arsenic or mercury can safely be in the water or what air pollution is allowable? Just listen to industry and take their word for it? How about specifying what analytical methods and setting analytical chemistry standards? So this means access to expensive chemistry and biology databases (which they might have already cut).

The agency says this won't hurt anything -- why, because they've already eviscerated the libraries? Why, because all of the scientists already travel to local state universities like Maryland and North Carolina to use their resources? The state university science libraries are supposed to pick up the slack? Or do we want government scientists (those who don't run out the door screaming) to be unaware of new developments that might affect their choices?
Thursday, February 09, 2006
  Yay, Gary! Way to go!
I would have written him an e-mail, but with all of his alerts, he'll probably see it here first :)

Gary Price of SEW Blog and ResourceShelf fame (and all around fabulous librarian and speaker), has accepted a full time position as Director of Online Information Resources at Ask Jeeves.

Found in his ResourceShelf weekly newsletter, and on the SEW blog.

BTW- ResourceShelf will continue, and remains a must-read for librarians in all settings.

Congrats, Gary! See you at CIL2006.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
  Purse Lip Square Jaw: Forget-me-knots
In the PIM session at ASIS&T, we talked about the importance (& difficulty) in forgetting. Anne Galloway of Purse Lip Square Jaw (linked at the title) has posted her article for CHI 06 on forgetting.

Collective remembering and the importance of forgetting: a critical design challenge by Anne Galloway.
[author abstract] This paper takes the position that if the goal is to better understand designing for collective remembering, we cannot afford to overlook the importance of forgetting. Memories are understood as relations of power through which we, as individuals and groups, actively negotiate and decide what can be recollected and what can be forgotten. And without being able to decide what we can remember and forget, we are effectively left without hope of becoming different people or creating different worlds. Furthermore, these choices and decision-making processes not only relate to content generation or what data gets remembered (stored, displayed, etc.) in any given application, but they are always already embedded in our research and design cultures and practices. Ultimately, this paper argues for creating and supporting assemblies for deciding collective actions on collective matters-of-concern.
Monday, February 06, 2006
  Communities of Practice Learning Center
I guess we're allowed to link to it now since it's linked from the College of Information Studies page. CoPLC was the class project last semester for the Communities of Practice class. The intention was for it to be an ongoing online community for anyone interested in learning about communities of practice. There's lots of content there and even a forum to ask questions of other community members (and wiki glossary and other goodies).
  So what if you are an innovator?
Another good thing about blogs is that you can find other people who are in your same boat -- no matter what that is. (Well, maybe not fear of typing?) A problem is when you are in frequent conversations online with innovators and early adopters but spend your life in meatspace with laggards (or at least early or late majority adopters). I was introduced to a blog post via the Carnival of the Infosciences of a librarian who seems to fit this description. I guess she's just blowing off steam, but there's really some care and feeding that has to be done of enthusiastic young employees to harnass that power for good. We've talked about this before in the biblioblogosphere, but it needs to be repeated. You will get blank stares, you will get turned down (even when it's an awesome idea), you will get fear of change... you may get good advice from someone who has a different point of view. After all, your boss cares about the customers, too. You win some and you lose some, let it go. If you find that you just can't get anything done and there are no reasons why, then think about changing jobs. You don't want to burn out. IMHO.

Update 2/7/07: While I was walking the dog, I was thinking that I should add... even if you do work in a place that is all about innovation and supports you 100% (like I do now), there are some projects you won't get to do. There are questions of who will maintain it? How does it work with other programs? Maybe it's just not the right time? You pretty much need to build consensus for big projects because you can't go it alone so try not to alienate anyone.... so take a deep breath and come back to it in a week and see where it fits in on the scale of things.
  Pity the Scientist Who Discovers the Discovered - New York Times
Here's the link if you have PQ full text online.

Article by Gina Kolata, New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Feb 5, 2006. pg. 4.4. Pointed to by Alan on CHMINF-L.

Pity? No. Frustration? Yes.

I just love this part"
It may seem odd that scientists in the Internet age spend years on a line of research, even bet their careers on it, without having first determined that their mountain had not already been climbed. But Dr. Stigler said that scientists often are ignorant of the work being done by others in their field, and searches of scientific literature can be hard to conduct. Web search engines, for example, look for words, not ideas, and Dr. Vohra said he discovered that every researcher who had made his discovery had given it a different name and description.
Yeah, hm. Wouldn't it help if someone invented a system to control the vocabulary so topically similar articles could be retrieved? Oh, right! They're called thesauri and classification codes and all of the databases I use have them. Nice.

Update: 2/7/06
I would like to respond to the super patron. With all respect (and I have a *ton* of respect for the super patron-- in fact it borders on love but anyway), please don't assume all controlled vocabularies are like library of congress subject headings! We all love to beat up on LCSH and it totally deserves it. A few key reasons: headings do not correspond to the artifacts they describe, the language used is not the common language/usage of the people using the system, it has failed to keep up with the world. LCSH really don't work in public libraries, but nobody's got the money to do something different. ON THE OTHER HAND -- MeSH headings are awesome, are frequently updated, have lots of cross references, and use terms that specialists in the field agree are appropriate for the use. Likewise, the PACS codes, the CA terms, the EI terms, .... maybe not as much so as the MeSH but. Also, and more importantly, you do not need to know or keep up with this. You just need to know when it's time to call for help. Librarians love this stuff, all you have to do is give one of us a call and we'll help.

And another thing (copied from my comments to CHMINF-L). Reading Derek J. deSolla Price this morning over my cereal (life of a grad student), he (in the early 1980s) basically said that there will always be this duplication and it will be blamed on publishers, editors, and librarians, but that it will have more to do with the fact that scientists prefer claiming to reading and that they can't read all of the relevant work in the field due to the volume. We all like to grumble that they need to use libraries more (and they do!) but perhaps some of this is to be expected because even if we find the previous work, we can't do the publicizing of it or the application of it.

I can't find it now in the time I've got, but somewhere he quotes a famous scientist saying something like ... When I discovered it, it stayed discovered.

Price, Derek J.de Solla. (1986). Little science, big science-- and beyond. New York: Columbia University Press.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
  Kinda wondering about blogs catching on... and reading the famous Rogers book
Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.). New York: Free Press.

We have an assignment for the week after next to read a couple of chapters from Diffusion of Innovations. We were warned, however, that we ought to read the whole book for our comps. So I got it from the library (and since have put the new ed. on my Amazon wish list), and started at the beginning, reading it before bed. Fascinating. Instead of putting me to sleep, it woke me up with all kinds of interesting things... and I'm only halfway through the first chapter!

We all kind of whine a bit when our fabu ideas don't catch on. I am a concept person -- I think of big things and plan them out and get discouraged when everyone doesn't rush to follow. Of course, there's a lot of work on how innovations catch on, but it hadn't occurred to me to read it. Since the original work in this field, people have used the ideas to study how IT projects catch on. Also, one of our new professors did his doctoral dissertation on IT company failures. It may be valuable for the champions of library 2.0 to take a peak at some of this...

From the Preface (p. xvii):
Information about an innovation is often sought from near-peers, especially information about their subjective evaluation of the innovation. This information exchange about a new idea occurs through a convergence process involving interpersonal networks. The diffusion of innovation is essentially a social process in which subjectively perceived information about a new idea is communicated. The meaning of an innovation is thus gradually worked out through a process of social construction.
He also talks about homophily and heterophily -- essentially, you're more likely to pick up an innovation from someone very much like you. Of course, if they're exactly like you they won't have tried the innovation yet...

Also, from p.12
A technology is a design for instrumental action that reduces the uncertainty in the cause-effect relationships involved in achieving a desired outcome... Technology is information and transfer is a communication process, and so technology transfer is the communication of information (Eveland, 1986)
Very importantly, from pp. 15-16

Characteristics of innovations... The characteristics of innovations, as perceived by individuals, help to explain their different rate of adoption.
  1. Relative advantage is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the idea it supersedes.... [economics, satisfaction, prestige, convenience]
  2. Compatibility is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters...the adoption of an incompatible innovation often requires the prior adoption of a new value system...
  3. Complexity is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand and use...
  4. Trialability is the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis...
  5. Observability is the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others. The easier it is for individuals to see the results of an innovation, the more likely they are to adopt it. Such visibility stimulates peer discussion of a new idea, as friends and neighbors of an adopter often request innovation-evaluation information about it.
Eureka -- so think about blogs and blogging. The people who picked it up first attended a lot of conferences like CIL and saw others doing it (observability). They also were attracted by the ease of starting up a blogger blog (complexity), even if they quickly abandoned it (trialability). We haven't gotten there, necessarily, with relative advantage over, say, listservs.

The other problem is that early adopters may not be seen as similar to the audience. How many times have I heard -- "well I can't do what you do"? I'm sure Aaron "walking paper" (I always forget his name :) ) , Michael "Tame the Web" and Steven "Library Stuff" get this, too. Why was I able to take this from them when other librarians haven't? I'd like to see stats for % of Steven Cohen's audiences who have since 1) tried blogging or 2) taken up blogging. He got me started at Maryland Technology Day in 2003.

When we're doing user instruction, there's definitely some value in presenting yourself as a subject expert and professional, but you also have to be effective in information transfer. Hm.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
  Physics World (Feb 2006): Physicist Bloggers
Cool! I'm a little behind in reading feeds so just saw this now.

See the Editorial: Rise of the bloggers
and the article, Blogs Add a New Dimension to Physics

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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

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