Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#193, October 3, 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 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. 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
  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

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

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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
October 3: the Dracula Library, a Pandacam, science timelines, and more.

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My resume

NOTE: Remember, if anybody wants an autograph for their copy of my book, Net Effects: How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet,, e-mail me and I'll tell you how you can get the message you want, inscribed on a paste-in-able slip of paper with my ExLibris caricature on it.

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by Marylaine Block

A few weeks back, Steven Bell wrote an article for ExLibris about how librarians with too little time can and should manage to keep up with new developments in the field [see].

The lack of time for keeping up with the literature is a very real issue, especially as compared with the rate of change in our profession -- you're lucky if running as fast as you can allows you to stay in the same place. That's why I devoted an entire chapter of my book to the issue of continuous retraining.

That's why I appreciate what John Hubbard has done. His Library Link of the Day, available by e-mail, RSS or his web page (where they're all archived), is an elegant solution, because after all, who doesn't have time to look at just ONE reference?

He gives us links to news stories, some of them about librarians, like "Who's Better, Google or Cornell Librarians," or "Woman Bites Two Librarians," for example. Other news items are about issues that concern us, like "Why Boys Avoid School Reading," and "UCITA Stopped, But Librarians and Consumers Remain Vigilant."

He offers many links to online articles from professional journals, like "Information Quality, Liability, and Corrections," published in Online, and "The Rescue of the BBC Domesday Project Videodiscs," from Ariadne.

Hubbard also includes links to research reports, like the recent one from the Council on Library and Information Resources on "Use and Users of Electronic Library Resources: An Overview and Analysis of Recent Research Studies," OCLC's review of "Five Year Information Format Trends," and the Association of Research Libraries' "Attributes for the Next Generation of Library Directors."

He provides links to official documents of all kinds as well: from our professional associations, like the American Library Association's new "Professional Competencies for Reference and User Services Librarians" legal decisions, like "Supreme Court Denies Castillo Appeal" [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund], and statements of government officials, like the "Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft" (the speech in which he called us deluded hysterics -- I can't decide whether that image of us is a step up or down from ladies who wear sensible shoes and shush people).

Over time, those references offer a little something for each of us, no matter which branch of the profession we inhabit. He gives us stuff for catalogers ("State of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative" from D-Lib Magazine, or better yet, "Great Moments in the History of Technical Services," for instance), for techies ("The Ten Immutable Laws of Security," from Microsoft TechNet, and "Open Source Software for Libraries," from The Marginal Librarian), for digital preservation specialists ("Digital Archiving: Journey from Books to Analytical Informatics," from Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship), for school librarians ("Banned Books: How Schools Restrict the Reading of Young People," from The World & I), for library web designers (like "Real life, real users, and real needs: a study and analysis of user queries on the web," from Information Processing and Management), for reference librarians ("The Librarian's World and Welcome to It," from The Chronicle of Higher Education), and for bibliographic instruction librarians ("Research Agenda for Library Instruction and Information Literacy," from the Association of College & Research Libraries). Many of his links provide library directors with food for thought (like "What libraries can learn from bookstores: Applying the bookstore model to public libraries," and "Technostress in the Bionic Library").

And sometimes he just gives us stuff to entertain us, like the map of America's library cats, or the lovely Peep Research web site from Staley Library at Milliken University, where our students' typical research method is modeled by marshmallow peeps.

So, my thanks to John for making it painless for all of us, however harried, to fit a little professional updating into our lives. I asked him to tell me a little bit about how and why he does it. Here's his answer.

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I don't think of myself as a guru. Far from it, especially compared with the big names who've been profiled on ExLibris already. But I do think I'm filling a small niche.

During a big weblog explosion in early 2003, our profession was already graced with plenty of well-established Web authors offering quality library-related analysis (like Jenny Levine's and Steven Cohen's and commentary (like Rory Litwin's Library Juice and Walt Crawford's Cites and Insights <> ).

But there weren't any real "starter" blogs for people looking for a steady diet of library news briefs. Meanwhile I'd been regularly printing out funny stories or must-read headlines for the staff bulletin board at work. An idea to turn this into a mailing list developed into the Library Link of the Day <>.

Locating one library-related link a day has helped me learn more about the profession and the tools out there for keeping up with it. It's been helpful to have received a few links from subscribers and some others from a fellow meta-editor at the Open Directory Project <>. I also read a fair number of online journals and use news search engines to see what's out there, but usually I just cull the links from the library blog community's usual suspects. I've posted a page listing my sources <> to show most of the major players, although I've gotten in some hot water with some for not giving credit for each link's source [see Steven's comment at]. .

The service is designed for librarians and library fans that don't necessarily have the inclination to read all of these sources regularly. I'd love it if everyone instead read all of Gary Price's and Blake Carver's every day, but hopefully I'm making a difference with those who don't have the time, feel overwhelmed, and just need a basic awareness service. (This is a little like my job, as electronic/reference librarian at W-Milwaukee <>, an academic institution where I feel like I'm actually making an impact on the information literacy skills of those I'm serving.)

Presenting the link without any punditry saves me time from working on any potentially extraneous commentary that I usually feel unqualified to give anyway. However the charge to produce one link each day actually makes the site one of the more prolific library blogs out there compared to the sites of those who go on frequent lapses. I try to keep the choice of links varied (from scholarly to frivolous and corporate to education) and to maintain an international scope, but the selections sometime show a bias towards digital library issues and academic libraries in the United States. The only link destination I've produced so far was the April Fool's Day link, which apparently threw some people for a bit of a spin <g>

The link's subscribers have grown steadily thanks to some advertising in various sites. Jenny Levine mentioned it not two hours after I submitted a listing to the News is Free directory <> and more recently David Dillard promoted it on the dig_ref listserv. There are about thirteen hundred addresses on the e-mailing list (which is nice, since because of the bouncing autoresponders, I invariably see that at least SOMEBODY is enjoying a vacation on any given day) and an untold number more that obtain the link via the RSS feed and syndicated sources. The site uses some basic homemade PERL includes to present the links dynamically based on what day it is (stay up till 12:01 PDT tonight and see for yourself!) and relies on the mailing list capabilities offered by my webhost.

I encourage people to look at Library Link of the Day as a stepping stone to more full-fledged library news sources on the web. There are plenty of librarian weblogs out there that deserve to be explored further [see the listing at]. Using an RSS feed reader like LISfeeds <> really helps you keep tabs on the many important goings on in the library world these days. And last, but not least, don't forget to check out my personal hero Dewey on the library comic strip Unshelved <>.



Jon Carroll on John Ashcroft's aspersions on librarians:

Let us suppose for a moment that the members of the American Library Association have sincere concerns about privacy. Suppose they are worried that the monitoring of reading habits might be the first step toward prosecuting thought crimes. Maybe they're wrong, but is it the best tactic to make fun of them?

I mean, John, dude, these are librarians here. They are underpaid guardians of literacy. They're trying on a day-to-day basis to leave no child behind. You really want to call them "hysterics"?

Do you perhaps believe that everyone who disagrees with you is mentally unbalanced? Doesn't that make you just a little bit scary?

Jon Carroll. "The Charm Offensive Gets Offensive." San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 25, 2003,

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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.]

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