Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians sponsored by
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#207, March 12, 2004

SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week
March 12: audio interviews, microbes, wheelchair reviews, 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 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

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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

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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? 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
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
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


by Marylaine Block

Kodak was slow to recognize the importance of digital photography, just as the recording industry was slow to respond to the threat of downloading digital music. I would argue that in both cases, this was at least in part because recognizing the new technologies would have required them to toss their existing business models into the trash can and start over (what brave underling would be willing to tell the boss that's exactly what they needed to do?). My question for librarians is: are we doing the same thing? Are we failing to adapt our own business models to a changing environment?

For the past thirty years or so, our business model has been the library as information place. It wasn't always thus. Previous models have portrayed the library as the place for learning, for self-improvement, for books and readers, for scholarship, and for active citizenship.

The problem with the information place model is that most people are convinced they don't need libraries for information now that they have the internet. We've been swimming against the current, insisting on our business model and trying desperately to get people to understand the ways in which the internet is inadequate. It hasn't worked because for most people, the internet's business model, "instant and free," is good enough for most purposes. Research on users has identified a common trait called "satisficing," settling for the minimum amount of information to meet an immediate need.

It seems to me it's time for us to rethink our business model. Helping people find high-quality information will always be part of what we do, but it's time to stop staking our claim to fame and funding on that alone. Let's start thinking instead about what society needs more of at this point, that we are uniquely qualified to provide. Here are some possibilities that occur to me:

  • The community place. Many cities and suburbs are sadly lacking in places where all elements of the community can come together. We have the meeting rooms to provide a home for purposeful gatherings, and many libraries now have coffee shops to provide a place for casual friendly encounters. Libraries provide their own occasions for community as well, with book discussion groups, meet the author events, and other library programming. Another way we could bring people together is by creating a databank of the different skills local citizens are willing to offer each other. Such a databank could help local entrepreneurs build their businesses by putting them in touch with people with the skills needed to turn their dreams into practical realities; at the same time it could help workers understand that they have much more to offer than the specific jobs they fill right now, which could disappear.

  • The self-improvement place. The original idea behind public libraries was that they would give anyone who had the desire and initiative to learn the tools to do it, regardless of their means. Given the threatening employment climate right now, helping people acquire new skills and learn how to market themselves to employers should be an important goal for us. Libraries are also where immigrants have traditionally learned the language and history and culture of their new country. Now that immigrants represent 10 percent of the U.S. population (double what it was in 1970), helping immigrants assimilate into mainstream America should also be an important part of what we do. When we help individuals improve their skills and their lives, we make the entire community richer and healthier.

  • The idea place. Manufacturing is in decline in this country. Where are the ideas coming from that will create entire new industries? Historically, ideas are generated when people who share a passion come together to learn and bounce ideas off each other. They need the wherewithal: the archives of books and articles and research reports to stock their minds, and the physical and digital places to meet and exchange ideas. As the repositories of the best that human minds have created over the centuries, we're ideally equipped to become the Idea Factory. We could do idea programming, along the lines of what The Edge <> aims to do: "to arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves." [For a look at some of the questions they've addressed, click on The Reality Club, <>.]

  • A culture place. Richard Florida has argued that providing an environment that's attractive to the "creative class" is a key to revitalizing cities (see <>). Libraries are a repository of human culture, and librarians their guides, but we are hardly alone in that. So are our museums, historical societies, arts organizations, symphonies, and bookstores. In a time of limited funding, we should be leveraging what we have by working together on shared themes, programming and projects. When people go to a concert, they should find related material there from the library and museums; when they go to the museum, they should find library materials on the subjects of the exhibits; when they attend library programs, they should find related material from the other cultural agencies. By presenting a united front, we add to the sense of the cultural vitality of the entire community.

  • An education place. We know that this is one subject voters say they care deeply about. Libraries need to not only be working with the schools, which we already are, but to be SEEN as an intrinsic part of the education process, deeply committed to our students' academic success. We should also do a much better job of publicizing our work with GED, literacy, and home-school programs.

  • A readers' place. It's still what people think of when they hear the word library, so there's nothing wrong with doing that even better, putting serious effort into readers' advisory (think of Morton Grove Public Library's Webrary, for example, <>, or Montgomery County Public Library's Readers' Cafe <>. This model would also require us to put more emphasis on book discussions, poetry readings, author signings, and such.

  • The kids' place. One of the questions on my comprehensives in library school was whether school libraries should be combined with public libraries, and my instant reaction was NO! -- because school libraries were about serving the curriculum, and public libraries were about delight. They were about silly songs and storytimes and puppet shows and Halloween parties. They were about helping children embrace their curiosity, and learn for the sheer joy of learning. (Yes, I know, some school libraries do that too, but when spending crunches come, I suspect "delight" gets tossed overboard first.)

    The point is, whether we like it or not, believing we can regain a central role as "the information place" is like the music industry believing they can force people to go back to buying $18 CDs. Let's stop mourning and start thinking, even blue-skying, about a business model to replace it, one that emphasizes the ways in which libraries and librarians reinvigorate the communities we serve.

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    "Overprotecting intellectual property is as harmful as underprotecting it," wrote Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski in a recent copyright ruling. "Culture is impossible without a rich public domain. Nothing today, likely nothing since we tamed fire, is genuinely new: Culture, like science and technology, grows by accretion, each new creator building on the works of those who came before. Overprotection stifles the very creative forces it's supposed to nurture."

    Fiona Morgan. "Copywrong: Copyright laws are stifling art, but the public domain can save us." The Independent Weekly, December 3, 2003.

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    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.]

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