Tag Archives: librarianship

New year new library

10 Jan

… sort of, since the library I came across while leafing through a magazine actually dates to 2011. Yet I found it such an inspiring building that I couldn’t resist the temptation of using it in this first 2014 post.

LiYuan Library interior

The LiYuan Library, in the Beijng district of Huairou, is the work of Li Xiaodong Atelier and amazingly succeed – as the pictures show – in the designers’ aim of using «architecture to enhance the appreciation of the natural landscaping qualities. So instead of adding a new building inside the village center, we chose this particular site in the nearby mountains, a pleasant five minute walk from the village center […] Because of the overwhelming beauty of the surrounding nature our intervention is modest in its outward expression. We can’t compete with nature’s splendor» (pictures and quote from Archdaily.com).

The use of locally sourced wooden sticks on the library exterior and the intimate play of light and wood in the interior are but two of the fascinating solutions adopted by the architects.

Have an inspiring new library year!

LiYuan Library exterior


The abyss

20 Dec

A busy schedule at work, a new blog to (partially) take care of, an end-of-the-year mood which has to do with some concerns expressed earlier on this blog. What better opportunity for writing this post than to rely on:

– someone else’s blog, yet properly dealing with libraries and the idea of the “common good”;

– Marguerite Yourcenar’s wonderful novel L’oeuvre au noir – whose English translation has the same title I have chosen for this post, and where the following quote – aptly dealing with numbers and men – comes from: «Man is as yet an enterprise, beset by time and necessity, by chance, and by the stupid and ever increasing primacy of sheer numbers.[…] It is men who will kill off man» (from Farrar, Straus and Giraux’s edition of Yourcenar’s book, found here; as for the French original: «L’homme est une entreprise qui a contre elle le temps, la nécessité, la fortune, et l’imbécile et toujours croissante primauté du nombre […]. Les hommes tueront l’homme», p. 305 of Gallimard’s 1968 edition, available at the UvA Library).
scuolapubb_altan smallAltan privatizzare small
– a thorough inquiry, from the Department of Mathematics at the University of York, on the origin of the well-known saying “lies, damned lies and statistics”, which is to the point of this post’s mood as well;

– two witty cartoons from one of Italy’s best known and most appreciated children book’s illustrators and political cartoonists, Francesco Tullio Altan: not only a gripping visualization of some of the above mentioned concerns, but also a convenient link to a forthcoming post on the Blog Nostrum. As for the cartoons’ texts: the two ladies (found here), “We stand for State schools. You really are a bunch of losers!”. The two gentlemen (source), “Water privatization: it is just like privatizing air! Keep calm: one thing at a time”.

Season’s greetings from Amsterdam.

Sakai and the UvA: abbreviate… and tremble!

4 Jun

hardin and sakaiLike many other academic institutions in the Netherlands and abroad, the University of Amsterdam is currently developing better practice and guidelines with regard to research data management (take a look at the website of the British Digital Curation Centre for an example of relevant high-quality information source).

Being the topic not only quite new to most of us library professionals but, at first sight, rather technical stuff as well, I am just the more grateful that colleagues Janneke Staaks en Mariëtte van Selm invited me to give a speech (and therefore to learn more) on the UvA’s Sakai-based research data management tools at last week D-Day Sociaal Wetenschappelijke Informatie, with Sociaal Wetenschappelijke Informatie, i.e. SWI, standing for Social Sciences Information and referring to the eponymous work group of the Royal Dutch Association of Information Professionals, the KNVI). And where UvA, needless to say, stands for Universiteit van Amsterdam and Sakai…

GOTCHA! It’s abbreviations, I realised while working at my speech, that often make me uneasy, both as a general rule, but all the more so if I’m dealing with any ICT-related topic of the information profession (research data management included): acronyms superfluously help increase the imperviousness of the technical jargon. They are available “in all sizes and shapes”, devised with or without associations to literary characters or historical figures, to natural phenomena or (unintentionally) foreign words with completely, and sometimes amusingly ambiguous, different meanings.

Here follow some of the abbreviations I came across while setting my speech, having omitted the ones not strictly related to RDM Research Data Management: Chef CompreHensive collaborativE Framework, Jasig Java in Administration Special Interest Group, Fedora Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture, VRE Virtual Research Environment, VLE Virtual Learning Environment, Fluor Functionele Laagdrempelige UvA Communities Onderzoeksdata Repository (or Easily accessible functional UvA Communities research data repository), CARDS Controlled Access to Research Data Stored Securely, DANS Data Archiving and Networked Services. A nice overview for me to fall back on in the future.

As for Sakai: inspired, just as ‘Chef’ above, by the Japanese television cooking show Iron Chef, it originally was meant also as acronym for Synchronized Architecture for Knowledge Acquisition Infrastructure… «too big a mouthful!», stated Joseph Hardin, one of Sakai’s initiators, in his welcome speech at the 2005 Sakai Conference. «It is just a nice word. We like the sound»… Hiroyuki Sakai being one of Iron Chef‘s contestants (it’s him and Hardin in the photo above, taken from the afore mentioned 2005 Conference speech powerpoint).

As for the Venetian photo below (found here), being uva the Italian word for grapes, and me utterly in love with Venice, the Passageway of the University of Amsterdam was too big a temptation to resist for ending this post!


Once upon a time (2) : library catalogues

28 May

Posterity, which was the closing note of my previous ‘once upon a time’ post, will judge on library discovery tools («a single interface, providing integrated access to the multiple information resources […] to which a library has rights») as an appropriate development in the world of academic information retrieval: James Madison University Libraries colleague Jody Fagan‘s recent article in the Journal of web librarianship might prove a nice starting point for further analysis.

At present, what several recent discussions on the UvA-discovery tool have triggered me to do is a brief search for literature on the use of library catalogues at academic institutions in the pre-digital era. The question I am curious to give an answer to (haven’t yet managed, I will concede) is if we can tell how big the pre-digital students’ population was that actively used library card catalogues, and if that population was correspondingly much bigger than present-day (rare) digital catalogues’ users.


The bibliographic references of the articles I collected are in any case provided further below, should any colleague be interested ;-), yet the one publication whose title definitely catched my attention and inspired this post – having myself completed my university studies still using library card catalogues – is the following (bold is mine): McSean, T., & Smith, N. (1989). As simple to use as a card catalogue: can you put your library catalogue on CD-ROM?. Vine, 19(1), 25-30 (article abstract on Emerald’s webpage for VINE: The journal of information and knowledge management systems).

Isn’t this a nice reminder of how both ‘simplicity’ and ‘technical innovation’ are very much products of their age? I still have quite vivid memories of the hours, day after day, month after month, that I spent browsing not such simple card catalogues when working on my MA-thesis. As for CD-ROMs as an appropriate medium for storing library catalogues… We are now some 25 years on and fully engrossed with discovery tools: things might indeed change quickly, and a fair share of historical perspective can do no harm when faced with that powerful siren of Western culture represented by the idea of ‘progress’… an idea under whose old-fashioned spell we still seem not seldom to fall when dealing with present-day vertiginous digital developments.

Panwar, B.S., & Vyas, S.D. (1976). User’s survey of the women college libraries. Herald of library science, 15(1), 3-25.

Hafter, R. (1979). The performance of card catalogs: a review of research. Library research, 1(3), 199-222.

Pangannaya, N.B., & Poornachandra, H. J. (1982). Library catalogue as a dependable tool for retrieval. Study of the use of library catalogue at the Mysore university. Herald of library science, 21(1-2), 8-14.

Broadbent, E. (1984). A study of the use of the subject catalog, Marriott Library, University of Utah. Cataloging & classification quarterly, 4(3), 75-83.

Osiobe, S.A. (1987). Use and relevance of information on the card catalogue to undergraduate students. Library review, 36(4), 261-267.

Pinsley, L.J. (1988). Making the card catalog a more vital resource in the Academic Law Library. Law Library Journal, 80, 447-457.

P.S.: discovery tools’ definition comes from Joan Reitz’s ODLIS Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. Photo is a still from Ghostbusters library scene.

Ten stories that shaped 2012: library dogs

21 Dec

Threapy Dog Cooper
From the Top-10 list published by LISNews, regarding exclusively the world of Library and Information Science, I choose – as a way to close the year – the Honorable Mention given to therapy dogs adopted at both Public and University Libraries in the USA whether to calm children involved in reading programs or to help homesick students (for medical research on therapy dogs you can have a look at a november post on Harvard Health Blog).

In the photo, from the Harvard Gazette, are Loise Francisco, senior research fellow at Harvard Medical School, and Cooper, a 4-year-old Shih Tzu and registered therapy dog who can be checked out from the Countway Library of Medicine (where Cooper has even been given… an entry in the catalogue! See screenshot). See you in 2013!


Rick Anderson en PDA

12 Oct

Amerikaanse collega Rick Anderson van de J. William Marriott Library, University of Utah, trakteerde ons (=UBA-introducés op de NVB-bijeenkomst voor de afdelingen Hogeschool- en Wetenschappelijke Bibliotheken) afgelopen 22 september op twee levendige lezingen rond collectievorming en de opkomst van PDA Patron-Driven Acquisition.

Aansluitend op de presentaties van Rick Anderson – meer daarover op Zeemanspraat, de blog van UvA-collega Bert Zeeman – kwam ik een interessante preprint tegen in het vakblad College & Research Libraries.

Give ‘em What They Want: A One-year Study of Unmediated Patron-Driven Acquisition of E-Books heet het verslag dat collega’s uit The University of Iowa Libraries hebben gedaan over hun PDA-experiment met ebrary en YBP, waarbij een aantal e-titels van deze twee boekenleveranciers werden via de bibliotheekcatalogus beschikbaar gesteld voor Iowa studenten, docenten en onderzoekers.

Van de aangeboden 12.000 titels werden er 850 daadwerkelijk geraadpleegd (=aangeschaft), en op basis van de analyse van «usage, cost, subject, and publisher data» (deze gegevens werden anoniem bijgehouden) zijn de Amerikaanse collega’s o.a. tot de volgende conclusies gekomen. Eigenlijk vooral vragen, zoals te verwachten is met een opkomend fenomeen en ivm de algemene «roiling cauldron of change now being felt by academic libraries».

«How does the library responsibly budget for selection decisions being made unknowiwngly and on the fly by an unidentified subset of our 40.000+ users?»

Het panorama van mogelijkheden, als het gaat om collectievorming, is breed en voortdurend in verandering: «individual titles and bundles […] multi-publisher collections […] e-book content through such e-reader devices as Kindle and Nook […] leasing models». Welke kan de rol van PDA zijn in deze context, met name in vergelijking met

«consortially negotiated purchases of bundled publisher content (Springer, Brill, Elsevier, Wiley), where all or a substantial portion of a publisher’s list of titles, both front and backlist, is acquired at a highly favorable price per title» (maar tegen de goedkopere prijzen opweegt het relatief laag aantal raadplegingen). PDA e-books zijn duurder, maar worden dan ook pas betaald op het moment dat zij daadwerkelijk gebruikt worden. In andere woorden:

«Are these two approaches to collecting e-books complementary, or mutually exclusive and competing models, one of them doomed to obsolescence? What of the emerging aggregations of university press e-books being offered by Project MUSE, JSTOR and others?»

Foto hoort bij anitahkart’s photostream op Flickr.


7 Apr

Via via krijg ik van mijn collega en actieve blogger Bert Zeeman de aankondiging van het driedaagse symposium The Unbound Book: reading and publishing in the digital age.

Op 19, 20 en 21 mei a.s. gaat men het (snel) veranderende landschap van het boek bespreken, vooral in verband met de opkomst van e-readers, (open access) online publishing enz. Het symposium vindt plaats in Den Haag (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) en in Amsterdam (Hogeschool en Openbare Bibliotheek). Ik heb me opgegeven voor dag twee, in Den Haag.

Op de symposiumsite is de volgende video mij verder opgevallen:

Het gebruik van het Spaans – ook nog op een rustig aanlokkelijk tempo – maakt ongetwijfeld de helft van de videofascinatie, alleen al voor de dubbelzinnigheid die het woord ‘book’ als product daardoor krijgt.

De rest van de fascinatie (voor mij, weer een aardig ontmoetingspunt tussen bibliotheek- & communicatiewereld) ligt in de voorbeeldige toepassing van marketingtechnieken op de promotie van een ouderwets ‘product’ als het boek.

Kleine bloemlezing (uit de Engelse ondertiteling 🙂 ): «… a new device, a bio-optically organized knowledge centre… a revolutionary technological breakthrough… the forerunner of a new wave of entertainment… the era that will transform your way of understanding the world … compact and portable… can be used anywhere… a simple finger drift leads us to the next page… an environmental friendly product».

Uiteraard, niet alles wat van een nieuwe ‘product’ gezegd wordt, hoeft ook nog waar te zijn: boeken milieuvriendelijk? Voorlopers van een nieuwe tijdperk die onze wereldvisie zal veranderen?

Hmmmm… dit doet mij eerder denken aan andere ‘producten’ van de laatste jaren, die ons leven radicaal hadden moeten veranderen, met Secondlife wellicht als bekendst voorbeeld en, als wij ons tot de boeken willen beperken, met een hele familie e-readers die keer op keer het bovenstaande ‘boek’ echt/uiteindelijk/definitief zal doen verdwijnen.

Het woord hype, licht het Oxford English Dictionary toe, werd voor het eerst in 1926 gebruikt met de betekenis van «short-changing; a person who does not give the correct amount of change», waaruit later de bredere en nog actuele zin van «Deception, cheating; a confidence trick, a racket, a swindle, a publicity stunt».

Het boek als hype in 2011: fraai!

P.S.: de tekst van de Spaanse video is oorspronkelijk in het Portugees geschreven, door een Braziliaanse striptekenaar, humorist en toneelschrijver, Millôr Fernandes.