Philadelphia Dreaming

I guess you could say that I’m Philadelphia dreaming today. Reading through this morning’s Twitter feed and Facebook posts reminds me that I’m missing the 2011 ACRL Conference taking place this week in Philly. I’ve been ambivalent about this conference in the past for a number of reasons including costs and what I perceived as a lack of diversity conference-to-conference in presentations and programs. And I’m glad I saved my travel funds for other endeavors this year.

After the Seattle ACRL Conference in 2009, I planned on attending ACRL every other conference and planed to sit out this one. At the last minute I submitted a poster presentation and justified going if it was accepted. It was not, and here I sit at work missing the one thing I appreciate about ACRL (and any conference for that matter) — the networking and professional contact. I hope that my friends and acquaintances have a good time in Philly and learn a lot of useful things. I’ll see you all in New Orleans.

Librarians and Google: Differing Motivations

Eric Rumsey brings up some interesting points on his blog this morning in his post “Google & Librarians as Cousins“. He argues that librarians and Google are cousins due to our shared “understated modesty” and interest in making the Web an “user-friendly place where people can actually find what they’re looking for”, and I would agree that on the surface, this would be true. The difference between librarians and Google are our motivations for doing what we do.

Google is a corporation that serves the needs and desires of its shareholders. Google’s primary motivator is profit, and as Siva Vaidhyanathan illustrates in The Googlization of Everything, Google’s true product is us. As users of Google, it is our preferences, searching habits, and online usage that is being served up to advertisers for a price. I don’t deny that Google has helped us all immensely by making the Web better, easier to navigate, and more “user-friendly”. I just wish they would be more honest about why they do this.

Librarians on the other hand provide information, help people find what they are looking for, and make all information — print and digital — more “user-friendly”, because we have a calling to this profession and it is what makes up our very essence. And often times, we do this with very few strings attached, and typically with the motivation that it is our vocation to “help people find what they are looking for”. That is why society, through public institutions like schools and public libraries, pay us to do what we do. Instead of trying to be more like Google, librarians must strive to get corporations like Google to be more like us. Failing that, we must continue to compete with Google in the hearts and minds of society and show them our way is the best. This is our vocation as librarians.

Need Space? Try Amazon’s Cloud Drive released their Cloud Drive service today and are offering 5GB of online storage space — for free! I have yet to think of a clever way to use this, but will be signing up for the service as soon as I can. Perhaps I can use this like an online USB drive that gets backed up regularly, although my employer already offers such a service and I don’t make much use of it (the interface is clunky).

Gizmodo has some ideas on how you can use the service and some of the limitations and caveats.

Could this be the end of the Statistical Abstract?

The Statistical Abstract of the United States is a neat little reference work. It’s been around since 1878 and provides all sorts of nuggets and gems of information about the US all gathered together in one place. And it’s about to die an untimely death due to budget cuts.

And just when you think, “Do we really need to spend money on this anachronism when Wikipedia and Google are chock full of this type of information — for free?”, you realize that much of the statistical information in these sources is taken directly from the Statistical Abstract due to its public domain nature and its comprehensiveness. The availability of this type of data will be much harder to locate, without paying for it or doing a lot of research in other sources, in a world without the Statistical Abstract.

There are efforts afoot to save the Statistical Abstract. If you believe the production of this work is important and should continue, please sign the petition.


Library Reactions to the Google Books Settlement Ruling

Judge Chin’s ruling on the settlement between Google and authors regarding the Google Books project made news this week. Here’s some reaction from libraries and library organizations participating in this project.

Penn State University Libraries Google Book Project Page

Committee on Institutional Cooperation (Big 10)

Library Copyright Alliance