Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians sponsored by
our bulk mail

#228, October 1-8, 2004

SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week

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My resume
Or why you might want to hire me for speaking engagements or workshops. To see outlines for previous presentations I've done, click on Handouts

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My Writings
A bibliography of my published articles and columns, with links to those available online.

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Order My Books

Net Effects: How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet, and The Quintessential Searcher: the Wit and Wisdom of Barbara Quint.

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What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine

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E-Mail Subscription?

For a combined subscription to Neat New Stuff and ExLibris, please click HERE, complete the form, and click on "subscribe." To unsubscribe, use the same form but click on "unsubscribe." To change addresses for an existing subscription, unsubscribe from that form and return to the page to enter the new address.

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Highlights from Previous Issues:

My Rules of Information

  1. Go where it is
  2. Corollary: Who Cares?
  3. The answer depends on the question
  4. Research is a multi-stage process
  5. Ask a Librarian
  6. Information is meaningless until queried by human intelligence
  7. Information can be true and still wrong
  8. Pay attention to the jokes

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Guru Interviews

  1. Tara Calishain
  2. Jenny Levine, part I
  3. Jenny Levine, Part II
  4. Reva Basch
  5. Sue Feldman
  6. Jessamyn West
  7. Debbie Abilock
  8. Kathy Schrock
  9. Greg Notess
  10. William Hann
  11. Chris Sherman
  12. Gary Price
  13. Barbara Quint
  14. Rory Litwin
  15. John Guscott
  16. Brian Smith
  17. Darlene Fichter
  18. Brenda Bailey-Hainer
  19. Walt Crawford
  20. Molly Williams
  21. Genie Tyburski
  22. Patrice McDermott
  23. Carrie Bickner
  24. Karen G. Schneider
  25. Roddy MacLeod, Part I
  26. Roddy MacLeod, Part II
  27. John Hubbard
  28. Micki McIntyre

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Cool Quotes

The collected quotes from all previous issues are at

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When and How To Search the Net

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Wanna See Your Name in Lights?

Or at least on this page, anyway? I'd like to print here your contributions as well as mine. As you've noticed, articles are brief, somewhere between 750 and 1000 words -- something to jog people's minds and get their own good ideas flowing. I'd also be happy to run other people's contributions to the regular features like Favorite Sites on _____. I'll pay you the same rate I pay me: nothing.

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Drop me a Line

Want to comment, ask questions, submit articles, or invite me to speak or do some training? Write me at: marylaine at

Visit My Other Sites

My page on all things book-related.

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How To Find Out of Print Books
Suggested strategies, resources, and finding tools.

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Best Information on the Net
The directory I built for O'Keefe Library, St. Ambrose University, still my favorite pit stop on the information highway.

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My Word's Worth
an occasional column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.

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Book Proposal

Land of Why Not: an Appreciation of America. Proposal for an anthology of some of my best writing. An outline and sample columns are available here.

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My personal page

READER PARTICIPATION TIME AGAIN: I'd like to post some articles about unusually interesting libraries and librarian jobs. Do you run a one person library, for instance? Does it offer an absolutely unique collection, or serve an unusual clientele? Does your library partner with another organization -- a library/museum partnership, for example, or a combined public/academic library, or public/school library? Are you a librarian without a library, who works entirely online? Do you work for a library but spend most of your time out in the community doing outreach or marketing? Are you a lobbyist for libraries, or a traveling library consultant? Are you a librarian working with library vendors? Do you do any other unusual and interesting form of librarianship that hasn't occurred to me to mention here? If you're any of those things, and love how you spend your professional life, I'd like you to write an article for ExLibris. Please e-mail me with your ideas.



by Marylaine Block

Have you noticed an interesting dichotomy between our profession's theory and practice regarding recruitment? While our professional organizations and journals are working hard to recruit the next generation of librarians before we all retire en masse in the next ten years, library administrators and coworkers are treating newly minted young librarians badly -- as Rachel Singer Gordon says, "some of us might cynically think ALA's true campaign recruitment motto is "Recruit, Refuse, Ridicule."

Reporting on a survey of new librarians for Library Journal <>, Ria Newhouse and April Spisak said, "We are new librarians. In our first year, after coming up against bureaucratic brick walls and resistance to new ideas for libraries, we were almost convinced that the field of librarianship was virtually unchangeable."

Happily, there are numerous new resources for young librarians that show them methods for establishing their credibility and gently leading those who adamantly oppose change, including a discussion list, NEXGENLIB-L <>. Rachel Singer Gordon's NextGen column in Library Journal is another. In the September 15 issue, her column urges NextGens thrust into supervisory positions over resistant older staff, to model the respectful behavior they want library staff to give them, by listening seriously to all objections to their ideas <>.

But it's equally true that library administrations have an obligation to pay attention to the ideas of their new young librarians, for several reasons:

  • because we don't want them to leave the profession in disgust -- the survey pointed out that only 57.9 percent agreed with the statement that libraries are an open and affirming place for new librarians. That's not a passing grade. The same survey found that only 50 percent of those under 30 expected to stay in public libraries. Retention is cheaper and easier than recruitment.

  • because one of the primary responsibilities of administration is encouraging and rewarding their staff's professional development

  • because we need their energy and enthusiasm

  • because new young librarians understand their own generation, our future taxpayers and, depending on our performance, library users or non-users.

  • because they're not intimidated by new technologies and not frustrated by the rate of technological change. They're part of the generation that grew up with the internet, IM, text messaging, cell phones, Blackberries, multi-user domain games, virtual reality, and their own personal web sites.

  • because they bring a whole different knowledge base to the table.

    It's that last point I want to focus on. Even if young librarians were as callow, impetuous, and unaware of practical limitations as some older librarians seem to assume, they still know things we do not know.

    I was just reading James Surowiecki's new book, The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations. In it, he quotes organizational theorist James G. March:

    'The development of knowledge may depend on maintaining an influx of the nave and ignorant, and competitive victory does not reliably go to the properly educated.' The reason, March suggested, is that groups that are too much alike find it harder to keep learning, because each member is bringing less and less new information to the table. Homogeneous groups are great at doing what they do well, but they become progressively less able to investigate alternatives. Or, as March has argued, they spend too much time exploiting and not enough time exploring. Bringing new members into the organization, even if they're less experienced and less capable, actually makes the group smarter simply because what the new members do know is not redundant with what everyone else knows."

    In the face of rapid demographic, technological and political change, we must do everything we can to make our entire organization smarter and nimbler, which includes hiring and listening to new young librarians. The fact is that "what everyone knows" is sometimes wrong, which explains the extended time-lag between when a revolutionary new theory is proposed and when it is generally accepted as true: it's the time required for defenders of existing theories to die and get out of the way.

    The solution, it seems to me, is to give our new young librarians what Newhouse and Spisak found they want: "Huge doses of openness and affirmation...proper training, adherence to the tenets of librarianship, appropriate feedback and rewards." Of course they should be respectful and willing to learn from older librarians. But older librarians have the obligation to listen back, and give the newest members of our profession opportunities to put their ideas and enthusiasm into practice.

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    "The verifier method boils down to seven steps: 1) amass knowledge of a discipline through interviews and reading; 2) determine whether critical expertise has yet to be applied in the field; 3) look for bias and mistakenly held assumptions in the research; 4) analyze jargon to uncover differing definitions of key terms; 5) check for classic mistakes using human-error tools; 6) follow the errors as they ripple through underlying assumptions; 7) suggest new avenues for research that emerge from steps one through six."

    Joseph D'Agnese. "Scientific Method Man." Wired, September, 2004,, an article about Gordon Rugg, the man who figured out that the Voynich Manuscript was a hoax.

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    You are welcome to copy and forward any of my own articles for noncommercial purposes (but not those by my guest writers) as long as you retain this copyright statement:

    Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
    Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2004.

    [Publishers may license the content for a reasonable fee.]

    Please do NOT copy and post my articles to your own web sites, however. Instead, please copy a brief excerpt and link to my site for the remainder of the article.