Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Talk: How Did You Get This Number

How Did You Get This Number is the sophomore effort of author Sloane Crosley. Her autobiographical essays about life and love (mostly set in New York City) are fresh and insightful, causing me to want her life and to be her friend. These essays talk about growing up, learning disabilities, dating, shopping and even Sarah Palin in a way that makes you think "that's hilarious" and "I've totally been there" at the same time. Her vignette about her ex-boyfriend Ben is especially moving.

Book Talk: Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary is the latest book of short stories by David Sedaris. Like his other books, this one tells harsh truths with scathing and weird wit, but this time through talking animals in human-like relationships. I really enjoyed this book because of the dark humor and social viewpoints with commentary on everything from race relations to sex. I don't know if this book is for everyone, but it's certainly worth a try.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Cause Tonight is the Night

My digital archive uses Dublin Core and I’ve been looking into best practices. This led to the realization that we currently violate one of the central tenets of Dublin Core, the One-to-One Principle:

In general Dublin Core metadata describes one manifestation or version of a resource, rather than assuming that manifestations stand in for one another. For instance, a jpeg image of the Mona Lisa has much in common with the original painting, but it is not the same as the painting. As such the digital image should be described as itself, most likely with the creator of the digital image included as a Creator or Contributor, rather than just the painter of the original Mona Lisa.

Like many cultural heritage projects, my digital archive has cheerfully ignored the One-to-One Principle for years, combining metadata about both the digital file and physical original in a single record. I’m not planning to change this because--abstract principles aside--mixed records make more sense for both our users and our local situation.

In an article on current practice and the One-to-One Principle, Steven Miller of the University of Wisconsin gets to the heart of the problem for me:

…many practitioners, including those who are well aware of the One-to-One principle, come to their digital collection projects with the intent to create records only for their digital resources. They are creating metadata for an online collection of digital resources, not a database or catalog of both their analog holdings and their digitized files.

My archive doesn't even have real physical material (all of our documents are photocopies or scans from other archives), so why go to the trouble of creating two separate records for each item? Not to mention, double records would be a headache if we ever exposed our metadata for aggregators.

In the same article, Miller recommends a compromise solutions:

  1. Follow the One-to-One Principle as much as possible, with the bulk of a record focusing on either the digital or the original,
  2. use the source field to explain the relationship between the digital and original versions (i.e. “Digital reproduction of photographic print in the So-and-so Collection, located in the Such-and-such Archive.”)
He goes into more detail in the article, but that's the basic idea. This is similar to what we are doing now and I think I'll follow his suggestions, keeping in mind what our metadata records will look like when stripped down to simple Dublin Core.*

*One caveat: I’m not crazy about some of Miller’s DC mappings in his examples. For instance, in one he uses the "Contributor" field for the name of the institution holding the original physical document, which I don’t think is right. It makes much more sense in the Publisher or Relation field. See Arwen Hutt and Jenn Riley, “Semantics and Syntax of Dublin Core Usage in Open Archives Initiative Data Providers of Cultural Heritage Materials,” p. 6.

Monday, November 22, 2010

PDF/A Link Dump

I’m considering using PDF/A at my digital archive and thought I’d drop some useful links here for anyone else interested.

PDF/A is a new(ish) file format. It’s a long-term archival version of the classic PDF format we all know and love. Basically, it’s the same as regular old PDF, but it’s guaranteed to look exactly the same years from now when you open it on your holographic iPhone. It should be super easy to implement since the scanning software we currently use, Adobe Acrobat Pro, already has settings for scanning/converting to PDF/A.

White paper from the PDF/A Competence Center which explains the standard in easy-to-understand language.

Report from Ohio State University Library which discusses different options for converting documents using Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Great Adobe Acrobat Pro tutorial which explains exactly which features are and aren't PDF/A compliant. (Note: The narrator has a very soothing accent.)

Uses email to verify attached PDF/A documents.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"No soup [library service] for you!"

I really enjoy the "Soup Nazi" from Seinfeld. At times, I find I act a lot like the Soup Nazi, especially when patrons don't behave the way I want them to, like following basic rules. I work at a private academic university, and I feel we have a community patron problem. Why do we even have community patrons, you ask? Mainly because we are a partial federal depository library, and we are legally required to allow community users access to our materials. Also, academic libraries generally allow patrons outside the campus community to look at their books, periodicals, etc.

Our community patron, R., doesn't make use of our books. He monopolizes a computer - a computer from which he runs a business. He doesn't understand why he cannot use his cell phone right next to the library computer, in case, as he terms it, of conference calls. When he's on a computer, we have to kick him off so students can use it. He has figured out the student login (not as though that was difficult), so now he has unlimited printing. He never brings his own pens or pencils, so he is always using ours or a student's. One time, he asked to use the reference desk phone, then our personal cell phones because he was having trouble with his. When we all refused, he asked a student to use hers. He constantly has technology problems, which he then needs help solving. We have to constantly remind him that he cannot use the lab, to please take his cell phone calls outside, stop pestering the students, and so on. (As you can tell, he has been the fly in my ointment for a while).

There are all sorts of theories flying around about what he is actually doing. For a while, we were convinced he was running a spam operations because we had to help him with pdf problems. Then, we thought he was running a phone scam because he is constantly asking for and promising large sums of money to people. (He'd also like us to find the number for Goldman Sachs).

I have really worked on my attitude (although it doesn't seem like it). I don't want to be the only librarian who constantly complains about R. My colleagues try to remind me that it isn't my problem; my boss has made a decision to let him stay. For some reason, I find this unhelpful. I can't see a problem like this, where someone is disrupting library service, and not do anything about it. On the other hand, I did not decide to work in a public library, so all I really want to deal with is snotty college students. Upon further reflection, though, I realized that even a public library would not put up with his behavior. I think the problem I'm having comes down to valuation of library services. Apparently, my colleagues and I have a difference of opinion.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I caved and bought an iPad

As the headline says, I recently caved and bought an iPad. As the lovely Gwen suggested, I am blogging about its capacities as an e-reader, because "inquiring minds want to know!"

I was totally skeptical about the iPad when it came out. I'm not a huge Apple fan, I was worried about there being a lack of options for where I could buy stuff, and I thought the name was annoyingly reminiscent of sanitary napkins. I started to come around when I read more about e-readers and the relative environmental impacts of buying paper books or using an e-reader. I also discovered that while I don't like audiobooks, I can READ a book in nearly any format - although something I can take to bed with me is best. Then, my little sister got an iPad for free (I know!) and LOVED it. She convinced me, and might have inspired some serious jealousy.

So I bought one. I considered other e-readers, but the iPad appeared to do books reasonably well while also doing lots of other interesting stuff. I won't cover all the other stuff now, because this is about books!

To start with, my worries about where I could get books were pretty unfounded. I currently use the iBooks ap, which is intended for iPad use, and I also have the Kindle ap and I'm experimenting with a few others. From what I've seen, there are tons and tons of e-book aps and stores available to iPad users. Some of them seem more usable and aesthetically pleasing than others, but they are definitely available.

I actually really like the iBook ap, because I can change the font size and brightness and turn on a sepia effect, all of which help prevent headaches (one big difference from other e-readers is it doesn't have that "real paper" look, so it is like reading a computer screen). The touch screen is pretty awesome in the iBook ap, because it makes turning pages look amazing - although I still occasionally turn pages I didn't mean to turn. One thing I find totally awesome is the dictionary - I can tap a word and then have the option to, among other things, look it up in the dictionary. I have actually used this tool several times already, which is not to imply I have a poor vocabulary!

My biggest concern currently is getting access to books, regardless of which ap I use, without paying for them. Buying books is easy - I bought one from the iBook store and it worked just like buying something from iTunes. I don't have a Kindle account, but I assume it is equally easy to use that if you don't want to give Apple more money. Books are generally also a little cheaper than they would be if you bought the physical object. I've downloaded a number of free Project Gutenberg books from the iBook store, but it takes a little more searching because Apple really does not like presenting all the free stuff right up front. I've also downloaded a few from sites online that provide EPUB books for free. These are, of course, all older books, because of copyright issues.

Getting newer books for free has been harder, because dealing with the library has been the most challenging part so far. Unfortunately, part of that is because the library's selection is a little unimpressive. The other part is because I have yet to figure out the perfect way to get the books actually onto the iPad. My techy boyfriend got it to work on another ap, and he says the problem is a DRM issue. I've had multiple awesome librarians respond to my cries for help with more information, which I need to check out - I want the process to be as quick and easy as possible, and I want it to be on an ap that I like.

So, this is an epic post, but here's the bottom line: The iPad is really expensive if you're only using it as an e-reader, but as an e-reader I think it's pretty darn good. Since it also does other stuff, I think it justifies the price, but be prepared for a few struggles with library books especially, since it hasn't been around as long as other e-readers.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Ever since my friend Lauren made me a summer meal of salmon and quinoa I've always wanted to try making another quinoa dish. So, I adapted this recipe and used quinoa instead of bulgar. My, is it tasty and super easy!


  • 1 cup of quinoa (I found it in the rice/pasta section of my grocery)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups diced plum tomato
  • 3/4 cup shredded cooked chicken breast (I used the packaged kind)
  • 3/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced English cucumber
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional: 1 garlic glove, minced (I love garlic)


1. Combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes (or whatever the box says).

2. While the quinoa cooks, combine all of the ingredients. Once the quinoa is done, put it in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and combine well. I didn't even wait for the quinoa to cool. Eat!

book talk: Caught Dead in Philadelphia

I've been trying to read more mysteries to improve my understanding of the genre (and therefore make the one I'm writing (?) better), but I'm not sure this one really helped...

Caught Dead in Philadelphia, by Gillian Roberts, introduces English-teacher heroine Amanda Pepper right before her flighty fellow teacher is killed in her Philadelphia home. She investigates the murder with a handsome detective. This is just one step up from a "cozy," without much on-screen violence, and would be good for tame readers who like female heroines and want something more modern than Agatha Christie.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paperless Libraries?

I am still in library school, and lack the depth of real-world experiences the other Katalogers have encountered on the job. So I am going to do what academics do best, theorize.

If you are as addicted to google reader as I am, I'm sure you come across several articles each week discussing the end of the Public Library. If not, here are a few examples

New Library Technologies Dispense With Librarians, Wall Street Journal
Digital Underclass: What Happens When the Libraries Die? ZDNet (Thanks for sharing, Gwen!!)

You can find lots of related articles/blog posts if you complete a simple internet search. (Don't know how to do that? call your local public library!) They all say the same thing. Digital books and technology are going to make public libraries and librarians irrelevant. The author of the ZDNet article thinks public libraries will suffer a slow death as the proliferation of digital materials makes printed materials outdated. The problem is these articles all seem to be written by people who have not been in a public library since they lost the 1982 summer reading program to a child that would one day become a librarian.

Yes, libraries have books. They also have e-books, DVDs, computers, programming, databases, periodicals, etc. To argue that printed books are the only thing keeping the library open is a gross misstatement. Even if the entire world went digital, we would still need libraries. There is a significant portion of the population that does not have internet access at home, cannot afford (or chooses not to purchase) an e-reader or computer, and wouldn't know what to do with one if they could. Government documents, job applications, customer service, and many other resources we need to live are solely available online. Where will citizens gain access to and learn to navigate these resources if the public library died? I'm pretty sure the post office or city hall would not step up to the plate.

Even if public libraries were just buildings full of books with stuffy librarians shushing more often than helping, they still would not die. E-books are simply not going to replace printed materials. Have you heard about the paperless office? Businessweek first mentioned it in 1975--35 years ago. I have yet to encounter an office that fits that description, because people LIKE to have a hard copy. The National Association of College Stores recently completed a survey and found that 75% of students would rather use a printed textbook over an e-book, and this is from a population that grew up with technology. In a Mashable poll, twice as many respondents indicated a preference for printed books over e-books (35% like both). Mashable provides content on social media, technology, and the internet. If surveys of digitally friendly populations are coming back with these numbers, imagine what a comprehensive survey of the nation would turn up.

Even though I am terrified to start the job search process, I am in no way afraid that my chosen profession will disappear or become irrelevant. In fact, I think librarians may be more essential today than they have ever been. While there are many threats to public libraries--inadequate funding, the prevalence of the belief that libraries are simply rooms full of books, lack of advocacy, etc.--technology is not one of them. Digital materials are as much of a danger to the public library as the paperless office is a reality.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I'm not sure to what extent we are truly wanting to delve into our jobs here, but I thought I'd share a truly humbling experience I had at work today.

There are three or so main areas I supervise. They all have great people on their teams and have obviously been doing just fine without me. However, there is always room for improvement, and I often play the role of conduit between upper administration and various departments.

In my eagerness to help "fix" things, I didn't realize I was actually muddying things up and inadvertently stepping on toes. One of my employees - Jane Doe - asked to speak with me today and point blank asked me who, exactly, is supervising her department. Is it her or is it me? I had spoken with one of Jane's team members yesterday about some changes I was thinking about making, and then she told Jane (innocently, I think) about them; Jane got upset that I was confusing her employees and not communicating clearly with her at all stages of the change making process.

It was one of those moments where I was utterly caught off guard because I had no idea I was causing problems. I saw an issue and wanted to fix it. But I could also see Jane's perspective because she has a system that has been working for literally decades and there is still a lot I don't know.

I apologized to Jane and there were no hard feelings. Yes, I feel a little awkward, but that will have to pass because I am an adult and she wasn't doing anything out of spite. I appreciated her coming to me before she got really upset and I am pleased with myself that my employees know they can approach me to work through challenges.

So, what are the lessons I learned today?
  1. Even if you have nothing but good intentions, something can (and probably will) throw you off guard when you least expect it.
  2. Honest communication is absolutely amazing.
  3. Your work will always find opportunities to humble you so that you can grow from it. These small instances hone your instincts (and will allow you to have your day in the sun someday, too).
  4. While we solved the current issue, this allowed me to pinpoint more of my weaknesses AND my workers'. I am often overly gung ho and trip over my feet like a puppy. My team members have been doing this a long time and can be territorial and slow to change. Neither of us is wrong, but rather we have rough edges to work on. 
  5. As a leader - and you're a leader no matter your position on the totem pole - you set the tone for how problems get solved. Empathy, patience, active listening and humility are the keys to survival. It's just as bad to fly off the handle as it is to cry as it is to shut down (and the list goes on).
  6. People talk, both innocently and maliciously. Plan how you unveil ideas carefully, even if it makes you feel crazy or paranoid.
  7. Be the bigger person. Choose your battles and get over the idea of being a martyr. You should do what is right simply because it is right and nice guys and gals often (always?) finish last. I'm getting pretty comfortable under the bus.
I hope this post isn't obnoxious and I'm sorry if it is. This situation is interesting because there are so many facets - chain of command, opinions on workflow, age differences and new versus old. I'm a fool if I expect everything to be as solved as calmly as this but my organization is a fool to think I'm not going to implement some changes. I hate the idea of people being unhappy, but my greater allegiance is to the ideals of librarianship and service and NOT my personal comfort.

What was I thinking when I went into administration?!

Introductory Post

Hello Klub Katalog Blog readers! This is my first post. Last week I started a new job at a digital archive and I'm currently feeling out my new role. It’s a brand new position and they’ve never had someone on staff with an information/library science background before. At this point, there’s no set job description, nor does anyone know exactly what I should be doing, including me. This is both exciting and terrifying.

I guess you could call me the Klub Katalog digital librarian, or the digital archivist, or, god-forbid, the cybrarian.

Right now I’m feeling like the Accidental Metadata Librarian. My archive is developing a whole new database and content management system. Part of the process (my part) is revamping all of the old legacy metadata. They’ve been using Dublin Core, albeit an idiosyncratic local interpretation of Dublin Core. There are no controlled vocabularies or authority lists. There are only minimal formatting and syntax guidelines. Student interns have been doing much of the cataloging for 10+ years. They want to expose their metadata through OAI-PMH.

It's both exciting and terrifying.

Book Talk: One Day

One Day by David Nicholls follows the intersecting lives of two characters, Emma and Dexter, from college graduation night into adulthood. Their friendship goes through periods of strength and weakness with the triumphs and trials that occur in their separate lives. I liked how I could relate to their relationship (witty banter, sexual tension, and comfort in knowing each other’s past). The author is involved in television and fiction that can easily be adapted to film (think Nick Hornby) and I totally read his words in my head with a British accent.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Today was a day for the history books.

I officially felt like a librarian. (Finally.)

It wasn't just my awesome new outfit. It wasn't just the cardigan I wore. It wasn't just that I had taken the time to brush my hair.

No, today I felt like a librarian because I weeded the shit out of our audiobook collection.

I have a lot of responsibilities at work, but since I am administration I miss out on some of the very basic elements of public librarianship. I often feel very inadequate about the work I've done so far and quite often confused by concepts I haven't learned yet and have probably bypassed. (And then I remember I haven't even been on the job two months.)

Today I utilized our (awful) library system, ran a report, manipulated it in Excel, printed it off, then weeded our entire adult audiobook collection! I started with the fiction, then the non-fiction, and in between I re-organized our cassettes (don't even get me started) and Great Courses section. I also added shelving units and dusted.

My criteria for weeding was fairly simple (which almost made me doubt myself). I looked at items older than 2008 and that hadn't circulated in a year OR hadn't gone out more than three times in the past two years. If there were double copies I kept the one in best shape and got rid of the beat up one. Now all our shelves have about 25% free space and everything has been shelf-read!

I was shvitzing all over the place, but had such a feeling of accomplishment after. The only thing left for me to do is run some numbers about the size of the collection before and after and put a report in our collection development manual.

I'm a grown-up! I'm a librarian! Hear me roar!

I am not a student, d***it!

I am a relatively young librarian, as I went straight from undergrad into grad school. I am not much older than my students; in fact, many of them are the same age as my younger sister (which makes it weird, because my sister is my best friend). Anyway, I was at a function the other day (ok, ok, church lunch), sitting at an adult table, and everyone who sat down wanted to know if I was a student, and how my studies were going. The same thing happened with my student workers: oh, are you a new student here? No, I'm not.

Whenever I talk to my co-workers about it, I receive the typical "adult" response: well, enjoy it while you can, that won't last long, let's talk when you're thirty. These responses irk me probably as much as when I am mistaken for a student. The reason is probably not what you think. I am not concerned about my peers taking my abilities seriously; there is one thing that I am really good at in life, and that is academia. I am not concerned about students taking me seriously, because they're students. What really worries me is that I won't take myself seriously.

I have been a student for the past umpteen years of my life. It is what I know. I am concerned that I will fall into old patterns. I don't really see myself as an adult at all - in fact, sometimes I worry I act like I'm still in high school. This job is important to me, and I don't want to mess it up because I cannot act like an adult. So every time someone asks if I'm a student, I wonder: am I student? Wait, no, I'm a librarian.

Friday, November 5, 2010

someone call Zuckerberg

Does anyone have any great ideas for a Facebook contest? My library's FB page just reached 800 fans or "like"-ers or whatever they're called, and in my overwhelming joy and sheer exhileration, I rashly promised that when we get near 1,000, we'll have a contest that includes prizes.

We've been talking about a FB contest at work for a while, but the ideas never get beyond vague things about library trivia and favorite books and virtual scavenger hunts mumble mumble. Even though I really do believe FB is a good (the best?) communication tool with a few of our audiences, especially undergrads, I am kind of sick of it personally and not coming up with much. Ideas?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Booktalk: Bonk

Everyone is doing booktalks, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. Besides, I recently did something I rarely do now that I'm out of school: I read a non-fiction book, cover to cover, and really enjoyed it. It was also fun to carry around because it's just slightly shocking. Without further ado, Bonk!

Bonk, by Mary Roach, is subtitled The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and is a general history of the scientific study of sex. The book is highly informative and really funny, as if the best sex-education teacher ever got sloshed and started dishing on the really interesting stuff. I especially enjoyed the upfront way Roach presented her responses to her research, making a non-fiction book feel more personal. Mary Roach is known for her serious research but lighthearted writing on scientific topics, especially in controversial areas like death and sex.

Booktalk: Red Snow

I must apologize, but my first post is going to be a Japanese literature geek-out.  While obsessively reading all of the graphic novel section of my local library (yes, guys, I'm the one who took out thirty volumes from this section alone two days ago-sorry), I stumbled upon something new and significantly different than my usual diet of bad shoujo and even worse re-adaptations of Shakespeare's works.  So, I decided to share with the class.  Never having actually taken a formal reader’s advisory class, I decided to follow Gwen’s formula.   This turned out to be harder than I thought it would be and I failed marvelously.  I’m not exactly known for my brevity, having once talked for over three hours about the significance of the cat in early Little Red Riding Hood stories, and I have a feeling that I didn’t chose the easiest genre to start out with. Hm… here’s hoping I improve.  This is quite a bit different than telling a four-year-old why they will really like a particular book about princesses even if it doesn’t star Ariel or Belle.   
Here you go: 

Katsumata Susumu’s Red Snow is a compilation of the famed manga-ka’s (manga creator) short manga works.  The stories evoke traditional Japanese literature themes and folklore, with stories ranging from a beleaguered village getting revenge through a Kappa-lord’s own offspring to a young boy’s relationship with a girl and the origin of a blind musician’s apprentice.   I like his simple art style and love his portrayal of kappa and tanuki, while the stories themselves remind me collectively of Buson Yosa’s haikai (the formalized precursor to haiku), Basho, and  Akinari/Kijin’s Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain).  
As an ending note, beware: Katsumata’s work is not intended for kids; like most Japanese literature, it contains adult themes and images.

Before I go I would like to state that while I may kinda look like Sailor Moon, my hair is never worn in bun-pigtails and I fight evil in my day clothes, thank you very much. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On this day in history...

On November 2, 1815, George Boole was born, the English mathematician from whom we got Boolean operators. I teach Boolean operators by elaborating on this joke that I read somewhere in my first semester of library school:

If you send a librarian (or a database, as I tell students) to the store with a shopping list for sugar and flour and butter and chocolate chips, the librarian (or the database) will come back from the store with a cookie.

Sure, it's a nerdy joke, but it's a good jumping-off point and involves lots of pictures of delicious baked goods (flour AND chocolate = brownies, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate croissants). I find this particularly effective when the class is right before dinner.

So, thank you, George Boole, and happy birthday! Read more about him here.