Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Let me state it clearly at the beginning: I have no problem with libraries and librarians. I have happy childhood library memories much like New Kid and Mel. It's academic libraries I'm thinking of now.

My experiences run hot and cold. When I was an undergraduate I didn't step foot in the library until near the end my sophomore year, at which point I found that it has an extensive collection of popular fiction. (Most of it is shelved in the Tower Room, a place with no security gate, so it was your responsibility to bring the book to circulation.) I also spent a fair amount of time in periodicals, as I was unwilling to pay money to subscribe to the school paper. My statistics project was done by using the library catalog. The question was: was a book that had been on the NYT best seller list more likely to have a circulation status of "lost"? (My classmates made up surveys and talked to people to collect their data.) (And, by the way, a chi-squared analysis showed yes for fiction books and no information for non-fiction.) (Can you believe that I fulfilled a social sciences requirement with that course!?)

At my previous job I asked the librarian who deals with electronic databases if there was some way for us to get a subscription (maybe through a consortium) to MathSciNet (the only database that matters in math). She instead suggested that maybe we could do a key word search in some other databases. I did not follow up on that, as it would have been such a waste of my time. (Sure, let's search on generic flatness and see what comes up! Not.) (Aside: the Dean wanted to know why no one in the department was publishing in the top math journals. Um, hello, we didn't even subscribe to Math Magazine.) Instead of dealing with the library, it was faster and easier for me to email a colleague at a better school and have him look up what I needed and fax me a copy.

So of the 50 recommended blogs that Bloglines* suggests, why are 20 of them about academic libraries?

*Yes I do subscribe to my own feed; I'm in charge of quality control. This is how I know that the dramatic episodes will not appear as I intend them to but will still be readable.