Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#110, August 10, 2001


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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

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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 200 and 500 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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E-Mail Subscription?

To subscribe to 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 then return to the page to enter the new address.
PRIVACY POLICY: I don't collect or reveal information about subscribers.

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Cool Quotes

The collected quotes are at

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Drop me a Line

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

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When and How To Search the Net

Visit My Other Sites

My page on all things book-related. NEW STUFF ADDED in August

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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
a weekly column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.

Subject Index to My Word's Worth at

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Observing US

Sadly, my column at Fox News Online is no more -- Fox has removed the archive from its server.

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My personal page

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SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week
August 10: adventure travel, computer books, black hats, things Victorian, and more.

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

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What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine -- always keeping in mind that in response to readers, I may add, subtract, and change features.

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Highlights from Previous Issues:

My Rules of Information

  1. Go where it is
  2. The answer depends on the question
  3. Research is a multi-stage process
  4. Ask a Librarian
  5. Information is meaningless until queried by human intelligence
  6. Information can be true and still wrong

Notes: You might like the My Word's Worth column I wrote this week in which I pointed out that yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch, and the free lunches we've been accustomed to, such as magazines whose costs are subsidized by advertising, and free information from the government, are all seriously endangered. It's at

Also, PubScience, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, fared better in the Senate than in the House according to the Chronicle of Higher Education,

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Marylaine Block interviews John Guscott, Editor, Library Futures Quarterly: Intelligence Reports for Library Strategists,

MB: Why did you create your magazine?

JG: The future of libraries is a really big issue. It's usually a hot topic at conferences and in off- and online publications. There's also coverage in other disciplines about breakthroughs in technology, politics, culture and the economy. Developments in these areas might affect the future of libraries, directly or indirectly. I noticed that there was no library publication collecting this information in one place, so with that in mind, I began Library Futures Quarterly.

I envisioned a publication that would solve two problems. First, most library administrators don't have time to fully investigate breakthroughs and trends. Yet, to do a great job they need to know about the factors that will make up the future. My newsletter would do the work of gathering and interpreting the trends for them. Second, library administrators would need to put this information to use. In each issue, we would provide action steps and futuring tools so the reader can make better decisions on what to do with the information.

I think library administrators are currently under pressure from trustees, staff and patrons to be current, and always scanning for "the next big things." Although planning is one of the most important tasks for a leader to engage in, it often receives the lowest priority, if it's done at all. I wanted to create a newsletter for administrators who are very busy but still need to be informed about innovative and visionary futures for libraries. It's my job to brief them on what's appearing on the horizon, what are some of the possible scenarios that will affect them, and what they should do about it. That way, the next time when someone asks them "have you heard about ," my readers can say "yes, and here's what we are going to do about it." I think this will always be our mission.

Ideally, I wanted to create something that a subscriber could read an hour before an important meeting with library planners and come out sounding like a visionary. This would certainly help the administrator improve the library's chances for success in the future, while increasing his or her own value as a leader in the community.

I also thought there was a need for a newsletter from a practitioner's point of view, since most library literature is written by academics or people who haven't worked in a public library setting.

MB: What have you learned in doing it?

JG: A lot! Especially how much work goes into publishing - these ventures could easily develop into a full time job! Writing can be enjoyable, but after a long day of helping patrons, fixing computers or resolving staff problems, sometimes the last thing I want to do is spend the evening and night cranking out the contents of an issue. But in the end, when I have a finished product in hand, or if I get a nice compliment, it makes all the effort worthwhile.

The whole undertaking has been a learning process. I've learned a lot about my subject matter -- the future of public libraries. Listening to what others think of this topic has been a fulfilling learning experience. I've also learned that a publisher has to make tough decisions on how to spend time and effort. It's easy to come up with hundreds of ideas, but you only have a limited amount of time and resources to pursue a handful of them. Learning how to carefully select and prioritize your opportunities is a learning process in and of itself!

MB: How has your magazine changed in response to its readers?

JG: I definitely have changed some of the things I do because of reader requests. Here are a few examples of how Library Futures Quarterly was changed to satisfy them:

  • My readers wanted to hear about new developments and radical possible futures -- the kinds that aren't usually covered in traditional library publications. To satisfy them, I've been increasing my coverage to include as many unique approaches about the future of libraries as possible. This includes visions and ideas that range from utopian to dystopian and from unlikely to probable.

  • Readers wanted the information I was providing, but more frequently than I could afford to publish. That's when I decided to start Library Futures Express, a companion e-newsletter to Library Futures Quarterly. The e-newsletter gives updates to readers in between my regular publishing schedule. Library Futures Quarterly still contains the most "meat" by far, but Library Futures Express keeps them updated throughout the year.

    Last summer, I envisioned Library Futures Quarterly would be an eight-page quarterly newsletter. Now the size of a typical issue has doubled, and I have an auxiliary e-newsletter that is published at least monthly. Who knows what the future holds for us next?

    MB: Are you promoting an agenda for changing the profession or the culture of librarianship?

    JG: Definitely, or I wouldn't bother doing this at all. My agenda is pretty simple: to show my readers what forces might affect their library and how to systematically build a better, more sustainable future for their library.

    As far as culture is concerned, I'd like to show librarians that we shouldn't be at the mercy of the publishing and information technology industries. For the past thirty years or so, most of the innovation in the information business came from outside the field, to our potential long-term detriment. Librarians can and should prepare for the long-term favorable future now. Also, I want to change the belief that "the future" must necessarily involve "bigger and better" technology. The best future of a library can involve little or no technology at all; it's just a matter of what you want to focus on. Finally, I hope that my readers use my publication as an inspiration to try new things and actively take part in imagining potential futures and than setting out to create them.

    MB: This is essentially a one-man operation. You're not making much money doing this, and it gobbles up lots of your time. What makes it all worthwhile to you?

    JG: It does take sometimes dozens of hours a week to research, interview, write and proof everything that goes out. A lot of the time is still learning-curve related, and I hope that as time goes on, I can streamline a lot of the processes. What makes it all worthwhile? A couple things come immediately to mind: Getting positive and constructive feedback and the joy of communicating with others who also care deeply about the future of libraries.

    MB: John, I thank you -- for taking the time to answer my questions, but even more for providing a service I find immensely thought-provoking and valuable.

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    Letter to the editor by Thomas M. Bodenberg. American Demographics, August 2001.

    I must bring to your attention how data can be misused and give erroneous impressions. Case in point: the table on page 64 in the June 2001 issue, which is entitled "Sugar Daddies." True, West Concord, Mass. Has a high per capita income - one of the highest in the nation. It also has one of the highest number of single men in Massachusetts. Why? On the outskirts of West Concord is a medium-to-maximum security prison!

    So, when one naively juxtaposes these data points, one can be led to assume that there are plenty of single, wealthy men there when that isn't the case. . . Think before arriving to conclusions indicated by data crunching.

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    You are welcome to copy and distribute or e-mail 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, 2000.

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