Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians sponsored by my bulk
mail provider,


#284, August 18, 2006

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
  29. Péter Jacsó
  30. the "It's All Good" bloggers
  31. the "It's All Good" bloggers, part 2

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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
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

I take it as a given that, as library users' personal and information-seeking habits change, libraries must change with them, fulfilling their original missions while still adapting to new expectations.

But libraries are not the only institutions that have been forced to adapt to radical change in their users' behavior and expectations. So have newspapers, network television, the movie industry, the music industry, publishers, bookstores, museums, opera companies, government agencies at all levels... The list goes on and on.

What that means is that there's an endless stream of interesting ideas out there, coming from all those agencies in the midst of change. And ideas that work for one agency may work for libraries as well. The trick is finding them.

Fortunately, although you may not have thought of them that way, you are chatting with your idea finders every working day. They are your librarians, library assistants, volunteers, and board members, all of whom have passions, hobbies, organizational affiliations and businesses that they know a great deal about and routinely read more about. Better yet, no two of them have the same interests, which means that when you combine their knowledge, you have access to an extraordinary range of ideas and solutions from other realms of endeavor.

Let's look for a moment at the idea resources just one person brings to the table: me. Among the things I read every weekday is Otis White's Urban Notebook, an online column in Governing Magazine <> which constantly talks about good and bad ideas in local and state government. On July 31, 2006, White talked about a service called City Prowl, where architect Jennifer Coleman puts her strolls through historic neighborhoods in Cleveland, complete with commentary, onto iPods, downloadable from her web site <>. And I thought, that's something any library could do, perhaps working with the local historical society. We have the local history information, many of us have the skills to make it available digitally, and we have web sites where we can offer the downloads.

I read The Chronicle of Higher Education < every weekday morning, and a couple of times a week I read its Wired Campus blog <>, so I'm very aware of technological innovations on college campuses that could just as well be applied in libraries. When I first read there about MIT's dSpace, I thought academic librarians were the obvious candidates for helping their institutions create similar scholarly repositories. Not only do they have the technical expertise for doing so, and the mission to share and preserve knowledge, but aiding a critical institutional mission would be a tremendous way for librarians to gain respect and visibility. And indeed, on many campuses, librarians are doing that very thing.

I'm a regular Amazon user, and when I looked at their catalog, I said, how come they did a better job of creating a catalog than the original catalogers did? (See my column, "Beat out by Amazon," at <>.) I look at every innovation on Amazon - reader-submitted reviews (with reviews of the reviewers), readers' top 10 lists, a recommendation system based on buyer behavior patterns, etc. - and say, Hey, libraries could be doing those things! And nowadays, many libraries are.

As a writer, I read a great deal about journalism, a profession that is having to redefine not only its delivery method but its product and its audience. When I look at the changes news organizations have instituted - lengthy multimedia background pieces for major ongoing stories, podcasts, blogs, online chats by their columnists and other interactive forums, I think, libraries could be doing that. And indeed, many libraries are.

(I should mention that journalism also presents one powerful negative example, a model of how NOT to treat young adults. Journalists are fully aware that their future depends on today's teens, and yet the only stories they write about teens are horror stories - teens on drugs, teen dropouts, teens' terrible test scores, teen obesity, teen sexual behavior, on and on ad nauseum. Sadly, I see parallels in some libraries where teens are treated more as problems than as library customers with the same rights as adult users.)

And after voluminous research for my forthcoming book on thriving libraries, I am perhaps the world's leading authority on nifty things being done in libraries all over America. When I see something special at any library - the University of Minnesota Libraries providing blog space for faculty and students <>, Denver Public Library's toolbar <>, the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg County's MySpace teen page <>, and many other examples you can see in my "Change on the Cheap" presentation outline <> - I say, Wow! Other libraries could be doing that!

That's just one person's idiosyncratic collection of idea sources. Multiply that by the number of people on your staff, because each will have a different, equally idiosyncratic collection. Does somebody have a theatre background, or music, or art? What ideas are they picking up there that could improve your exhibits and events and library space? What kinds of things have your technical staff come across that might allow you to improve your services or offer interesting new ones? How about your business reference people? I bet they could give you some great ideas about marketing and fundraising!

What we know inside the library is valuable, but so is all the expertise we bring from our private lives. Wouldn't it be a good idea to do an inventory of staff knowledge? To ask everybody to keep a corner of their mind ready to say, Gee, we could do something like that in the library?

And to provide a place that welcomes those ideas and allows them to be shared, like in library blogs or brainstorm sessions?

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According to one map-making friend, creating walkshed maps... would be a relatively simple Google Maps “Mash Up.” Anyone know of such a tool? Anyone volunteer to do this project? I’d love to have a detailed map stowed in the “glove box” of our Burley of all 248 businesses in my home zone. Ideally, I would want a walking map or PDA application that shows me the whereabouts of public restrooms, water fountains, bike racks, curb cuts, bus stops, and benches."


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You are welcome to copy and forward any of my own articles (but not those by my guest writers) for noncommercial purposes as long as you credit ExLibris and cite the permanent URL for the article. Please do NOT copy and post my articles to your own web sites, however. Instead, please copy a brief excerpt and link to the URL for the remainder of the article.

Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2006.

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