Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#166, January 24, 2003

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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Order My Book

Click HEREto place a direct order for my book, 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. 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

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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

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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 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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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

Visit My Other Sites

My page on all things book-related.

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Best Information on the Net
bestinfo/default.htmThe 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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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

SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week
January 24: gardening info, teaching comics, computer security, and more.

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My resume


Al Hirschfeld, who's been delighting us with his caricatures of Broadway actors since the 1930's, died this week at the age of 99. Since 1945, when his daughter Nina was born and he started working her names into the hairdos and clothing folds in his cartoons, many generations have fought each other for the newspaper, eager to be the first to find all the Ninas (he always added a number to his signature telling people how many Ninas were embedded). Under the terms of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act -- life of the creator plus 70 years -- which the Supreme Court has said is merely unwise, not unconstitutional -- the cartoons Hirschfeld did in the 1930s will become part of the public domain in 2072, 140 years after they first appeared.

Or even later, if our legislators extend copyright yet again in the meantime, which they almost certainly will when the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Steamboat Willie, once again becomes eligible for the public domain.

Who benefits from life plus 70 years? Not Hirschfeld. Not Nina, who can arguably be said to have contributed to his work but will herself be long dead by the time the copyright expires. Probably not his grandson, either, who will likely be dead or doddering by then. The benefits will most likely accrue to great- and great-great-grandchildren, who did nothing more to earn them than choosing their ancestors well.

The authors of the copyright term extension said that its purpose was to encourage authors and artists to create new works. Do you really think Hirschfeld was encouraged to create by the thought of enriching descendants he would never know? Or do you take him at his word -- that he kept drawing caricatures until the last days of his life because the work he did was the most fun he could imagine having?

NOTE: I was going to write an article about how forced staff reductions and the coming retirement of many of our librarians will result in the loss of institutional memory unless we go out of our way to write down what we know and pass it on to the young librarians we mentor. But I didn't have to write the article because I discovered this piece by Mary George, manager of the Rocklin Branch of the Placer County (CA) Library. She has graciously allowed me to reproduce it here.


by Mary George

The Alien Theory is a simple philosophy. If aliens come and abduct any one of us, our library should be so intuitively organized that other librarians and clerical staff could easily adapt, run the show, and feel confident. All staff should be empowered to find necessary files; no one manager is the embodiment of all answers. It's a simple philosophy, but challenging to practice.

Crucial to the success of the theory is a collegial approach toward management. I have faith in my ability to hire talented people, who express opinions, ask why, offer solutions, occasionally complain, and always work hard. Since I actively recruit these traits it is only fair that I enthusiastically embrace them.

On my team, every staff member has a voice. My door is always open. In fact, I don't even have a door. This management style requires a lot of listening. It becomes necessary to synthesize and funnel opinions, strain comments through cheesecloth, and emerge with a cohesive idea. All staff must feel that their time spent agonizing over a challenge was met with courtesy. When I listen to my staff, when I pay attention to their moods, I am rewarded with a wealth of valuable observations. When I successfully implement their suggestions, I am offered their trust and respect, two of the most important gifts a staff can give to a manager.

However, this management style comes with a down side. On my team, every member has a voice and I am required to listen.

This can be exhausting. Sometimes when I "strain" ideas and comments, I lose the most important ingredient through the cheesecloth. When I become so busy that I cannot track the mood of my staff, sometimes I am surprised by their frustrations. Sometimes participation is mistaken for democracy, and I have to pull rank because in reality, I am accountable.

My management theory was tested last year when I fell and broke my knee. In essence, aliens HAD abducted me, and I remained off work for five months. When I returned to the library, I found that, while my staff missed me, they did not miss a library manager. There were no secrets I kept that caused them to panic when I was gone.

It was a proud moment for me. I was happy to know that I could be away and our library would not fall apart. In the future employees will retire, they will take other job opportunities, they will go on maternity leave, they will take long vacations, they may even break a knee.

But when they leave information should not leave with them. After all, library service is about access to information, not access to people with information.

It takes time to prepare for the aliens, but it is well worth the effort.


The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), U.S. poet. "The Speed of Darkness," part 9, lines 3-4 (1958).

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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, 1999-2003.

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