Monday, December 19, 2005

Chaos in the Library!

Here's the tree in all its hand-made glory. Photo courtesy of Kathie Martin.

It's hard to believewe're one day away from the end of finals - the library is packed on Monday afternoon with students studying together, hunching over books on the "quiet floor" and working on last-minute papers. Students are checking out books to read over the break (and, by the way, we have another list of new books up on our Web site), and on the main floor there's a hum of conversation as students study together.

But that's nothing new. A Gustavian Weekly editorial from 1960 titled "Chaos Reigns At Library" complained about the popularity of the library. (Thanks to Mike Haeuser for pointing it out.) "At least fifty percent of the scholars go to the library to 'spend the evening,' and a sizeable percentage of the remaining half engage themselves in a few exceptionally long study breaks. The library has thus become a social center, a condition long recognized but which is now being aggravated even further by the increased number of students streaming into the traditionally quiet chambers."

The authors of the editorial recommended action: "In order to halt the chaos which is now reigning at the library, students must either accept a personal responsibility to retain a quiet atmosphere or they must be reprimanded by a policing system, as in high school." Wonder what this critic would have thought about cell phones?

We're happy they stream in, now, and we don't mind a little chaos. Having designated one floor for quiet study appears to have given students the choices they want, while students who need to work together can do so. In fact, if the library were too quiet we'd have to wonder what we were doing wrong.

Have a good holiday and a pleasantly chaotic new year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Shelve Under Ick

Students who spend hours in the library naturally want to be comfortable, and that means being able to have food and drink handy. We're okay with that. We're not okay with leaving trash around for others to pick up, and we're troubled by the sheer amount of waste involved. The Student Senate and the Gustavus Greens have worked with library staff to encourage students to "Leave No Trace."

Be kind to our hardworking and wonderful custodians. Be kind to your fellow students. Leave no trace.

Public art ... that's our Christmas tree this year. Check out the interesting ornaments created by our students who played with scissors and glue and their imaginations when they needed a break from studying. What an artistic bunch.

Need something to read
over the holidays? We have plenty of new books to browse.

Changes afoot. We will be making a few changes to our Website during January thanks to suggestions made during focus groups with students and faculty. But don't worry - we won't be making any major overhauls in mid-year. And any further ideas, thoughts, or wild ideas are always welcome.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Latest from the Library

Focus groups of students and faculty have given us much food for thought about our library's Web page. Thanks to Anna Hulseberg and Michelle Twait, as well as to Laura MacPherson and Paul Coleman, the library's Academic Assistants, for taking on this project - and to the students and faculty who participated. We'll be discussing your suggestions at a meeting next week.

More new books can be browsed in our latest acquisitions list.

Jane Kirtley's visit was well attended last Thursday evening. Thanks to faculty who publicized the event to interested students. We may be having one more September Project event this year - a follow-up to the Hurricane Katrina Teach-In. So many of our students are doing service learning in the wake of both Katrina and Wilma we think we'll want to get together and catch up on the issues some time this spring.

If a picture's worth a thousand words, how much for a map? This graphic account of damage to libraries during the Katrina disaster is certainly telling. It's very simple, yet somehow the extent of the damage has much more impact in this cartographic form than a simple list would have.

Speaking of pictures
- the photo at the top of this post is one that Stacia Senne took a while ago. Quite nice!

Sidney Verba thought he was coasting toward a peaceful retirement ... but now he's in the center of a controversy. The New York Times has a nice article on this Harvard librarian's reaction to the Google library project. (Can't help adding - what a great surname for a man in his profession!) One of the practical problems with digitization projects - when you don't have Google's deep pockets - is figuring out who to ask for copyright permission. The "orphan works" issue is a real head-scratcher. The Council on Library and Information Resources has produced an interesting report on that problem.

All Things Considered
has just considered a Connecticut library's fight against the built-in gag order that comes with PATRIOT Act's National Security Letters. Last Friday a bipartisan group of senators unexpectedly put the brakes on racing to reauthorize the provisions due to sunset at the end of December. Stay tuned ...


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Go Ahead, It's Good For You

Chill out! Students working in our Interlibrary Loan department had a table at the annual wellness fair. Here they are, proving the point that reading leads to happiness. We're happy they took the initiative to represent the library at this event. Looking for something to read? Check out our latest list of new books.

Jane Kirtley of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law will be here Thursday, November 17th at 7:00 p.m. in the Interpretive Center to speak on "Shooting the Messenger, or Shooting Ourselves in the Foot? Challenges to a Free and Independent Press." Join us for some stimulating conversation - one more event for our September Project events. (She's brilliant, by the way.)

How much is that research in the window? The one with long, long tail. Here's a nifty calculator for what a typical journal article "costs" in reality. Bottom line: scholarly societies provide a better bargain than commercial publishers.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Focus on the Library

Tell us what you really think. The library will be conducting a focus group this fall to help us evaluate the effectiveness of our website. We would like to invite 5-10 faculty to share their unique perspective on the library and its resources - we would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. (We will also be talking to students.)

The focus group session will take place in mid-November, on a date based on participants' schedules, and will only require an hour. Lunch will be provided. If interested, please contact Michelle Twait at x7563 or

New courses offered by the library include a January term course to be taught by Michelle Twait exploring the information professions (a natural for the January theme of Vocations) and a .5 credit spring course taught by Barbara Fister for students planning on graduate school. Feel free to contact us for more information. Here are the course descriptions:

NDL124: Vocations and Information Professions. (January term, M-F, 1:30-3:30) This course will introduce students to various information professions (museum studies, librarianship, and archival studies, with some consideration of information technology, publishing, and journalism). Students will explore the notion of vocation through a discussion of ethics, social justice, and service in these professions. In addition, through readings, papers, and projects, students will investigate the legal and political issues confronting today's information professional. Students will also have the opportunity to go on site visits, interview information professionals, and design and implement a service project.
NDL301: Information Fluency for Graduate Studies. (Spring term, Mondays, 2:30-4:20) This course will give students interested in going to graduate or professional school -- or who simply want to know more about research -- an immersion in the structure of the literature of their chosen field and exposure to research tools and collections. Students will keep a research log and develop an extensive literature review for a research question of their choice. Shorter projects will require students to analyze aspects of their discipline's traditions, to compare them to traditions in other fields, and to explore the social and ethical dimensions of research.

New books keep arriving. Here's our latest list for your virtual browsing pleasure.


Friday, October 14, 2005

ERIC update and more

The ERIC education database underwent some major changes last year as it launched a new Website. It was an improvement, especially in the way full text ERIC documents were linked, but the interface wasn't without its problems. We're now getting it through the Cambridge Scientific Abstracts interface. This allows for better advanced searches, easy interlibrary loan requests, the option of downloading records to RefWorks, and the option of running the same search in multiple CSA databases, such as ERIC with PsycInfo or Physical Education Index. We think you'll like the change.

We've also just added a large package of social sciences journals published by Sage, also through the CSA interface. These electronic journals will be of particular interest to students in Sociology and the Criminal Justice program but there are lots of other subjects included too. They can be found quite seamlessly through a number of databases - and we'll add them to our subject guides as well. We couldn't afford this online resource when we checked it out earlier, but this fall the publisher offered libraries in Minnesota a deal too good to refuse.

Coming soon ... we'll be putting the posters created by FTS students in the "Stories from the Source" class (taught by Eric Eliason and Brian Johnson) on display in the library. Each poster presents a variety of ways in which Biblical stories have been reinterpreted in the arts.

US News has discovered podcasts, back channels and "bookless libraries" at work in higher education. Wow, students can use library materials outside the library! Uh, yes, we'd noticed. We also notice that the library still seems to be a popular place to use those resources. (Hey, you try concentrating on a Critical Inquiry article in a dorm room.) Though we've extended hours to 1 p.m. most nights, we still get lobbied for longer hours.


Friday, October 07, 2005

new books and book news

Check out our list of new books added to the library in the second half of September. We make these lists available twice a month. It's one way to see what's new - an armchair (or desktop) version of browsing the new books shelf in the comfy area near the front door.

Also in that comfy area you'll find a display for Banned Books Week. Many of the books in this display were challenged in school and public libraries; you're welcome to check any of them out. While you're at it, take a look at the Nobel exhibit, which includes clocks from the collection of Howard and Tami Cohrt. If you have ideas for displays, let us know.

Yahoo is going head to head with Google to digitize library collections - but with a difference. In their "challenge to Google" (as The New York Times puts it) Yahoo is teaming up with libraries and other partners in the Open Content Alliance. The digital archive will be maintained by the Internet Archive. They are avoiding the copyright issue by only digitizing works that are either not under copyright or for which they have permission. For this group, the object is to make works available through open access. Though not an entirely new project (the Internet Archive has been at work on a "million books project" long before Google entered the fray) this enterprise was able to capture attention through a partnership with Yahoo, a major competitor of Google. Meanwhile, publisher Tim O'Reilly chides authors who have sued Google over their library project, arguing that it's in their own self-interest to let Google help readers find their books - a "search and rescue" mission needed to help rescue books from obscurity.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Find it!

Our link resolver is working well. You'll find yellow "find it" buttons in most of our online databases that will take you to full text in other databases or to the library catalog. (In many cases, you'll go to the full text article directly, but not in databases such as LexisNexis that don't have persistent links.) Last year, surveys showed students had a hard time knowing how to connect a database reference to a book or article in hand. This fall, the first year students who have been using it seem to be having far less difficulty.

We're still working on the Journal Locator list - currently it only lists online journals, not those that we get in print. (Print journals can be found in the MnPALS catalog or through the Subject Guides.) Thanks to Amy Fry and all the others who have put so many hours in on this project.

Libraries are the subject
of a special supplement to The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required; it's in the library in print and online through our LexisNexis subscription). Of particular note: a piece by Scott Carlson on the current interest in the library as place. Carlson wrote an article in 2001 that went down in the annals of How to Push Librarians' Buttons - "The Deserted Library." I suspect we all owe him a debt since the outrage he managed to stir up made librarians think hard about what role libraries play in today's wired world and helped them articulate why these places are still important.

Save the date: November 17th at 7 p.m. in the Interpretive Center, come hear Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law, Jane Kirtley, talk about the climate for media and the exchange of information since 9/11 - part of our September Project activities. She's a fascinating speaker.


Friday, September 09, 2005

September Project news and more

Our participation in The September Project kicks off on Monday, September 12th, with a panel discussion, Perspectives on Civil Liberties in the Post 9/11 World. Faculty from four disciplines will lead a discussion on the tension between security and liberty. Join us on the 1st floor of the library at 7 p.m. for an interesting conversation, and check our Website for more events and links. There are now over 600 libraries in 31 countries participating in this project. The project blog makes for interesting reading, as does a story in the Chronicle. (We, apparently, fall into the category of libraries that "have decided to take on charged subjects." It seems to us citizenship does carry a charge - in multiple senses of the word.)

Lots of new faces in the library! In addition to Sonja Timmerman who joined us this summer as Collection Manager, Amy Fry has joined us as an academic librarian and Sarah Sanford has come aboard as our new Serials Manager. (Some of you may know her from her days as a Gustavus student.) And one more staff addition: Shelley Grace is pitching in at the reference desk this fall. Come and say hello when you get a chance.

The Lutheran Church Archives, under Edi Thorstensson's leadership, has submitted 18 historical photographs to the Minnesota Digital Library Coalition's first project, Minnesota Reflections. This project, involving more than 50 libraries, historical societies and archives, offers free access to more than 6,000 images from Minnesota's first 50 years in a searchable database. For more information, contact Edi Thorstensson.

The GLA wants you!
Our stellar Friends group, Gustavus Library Associates, is having a membership tea at the Interpretive Center at 10 a.m. on Monday, September 12th. All membership dollars go straight into book purchases.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

the plot thickens


Some of you will have discovered we've made a change in off-campus access to our databases. Now, rather than making changes in your browser settings, you can access databases through any browser without having to go under the hood. The drawback? Each time you start a search you have to enter your barcode (from your Gustavus ID) and last name. So long as you're searching, it will recognize you no matter how many databases you access. But once you close your browser window it has amnesia and makes you reenter that long string of numbers. For the occasional searcher, this change will probably make life easier, but for those of us who prefer to do our research at home it's going to be more work. Unfortunately, there's no way to provide both options.


The Christian Science Monitor has a piece on the University of Texas's decision to move 90,000 books from their Undergraduate Library and replace them with computers. There is always a Sophie's Choice tone to these pieces - what's it gonna be, books or computers? Scott Carlson's famous "Deserted Libraries" story sparked a lot of controversy when it was first published in 2001, but it's the headline that sets off the alarms. In reality, the piece presents a range of issues and talks about libraries that are anything but deserted.

Both stories are about a changing perception of the library as place. Scott Bennett's report on libraries as learning commons shifts the focus from either/or to both and from information to learning. And that makes a lot of sense.


Friday, August 19, 2005

check it out

We're in the process of changing all the URLs for electronic resources on our Web pages over to fit our new proxy server (so that you can search from home without having to fool around with your browser). It may take a little while to catch them all. You can always let us know if you find one that isn't working.

In the news
, a British paper weighs in on Google's library digitization project. They think an argument can be made for it being not only a good idea, but actually legal. Meanwhile, the American Bar Association seems a tad amazed to learn that librarians can be a little pushy when they have a principle to defend.

And here's a Swedish library with a personal touch: want to find out more about the issues? check out a person at your local library.


Monday, August 15, 2005

can you spare some change?

This Friday, August 19th, we're switching over from one form of off-campus authentication to another. What on earth does that mean? Well, if you've set up your browser to recognize you as an authentic Gustie for the purposes of searching our databases, you can turn it off now. The system will know who you are without fiddling with your browser at all. (Of course, that means if you already fiddled, you'll need to unfiddle. Depending on what browser you use, it's just a matter of clicking a choice in your preferences.) This should make it easier for all of us--students included--to use library resources from off campus. That takes care of one more "dog ate my homework" excuse.

Another project in the works: we are setting up a system to link directly to full text articles in one database from a citation in another (or even, eventually, from Google Scholar). We've found that actually finding the articles that are listed in a database is a huge challenge for many of our students, so we hope this will help.

Of course, libraries aren't the only ones adapting to changing expectations. Publishers, according to The New York Times, are introducing paperbacks that offer more readable pages for an aging audience. They'll be the same width, to fit on bookseller's racks, but they'll be taller. The price will be a bit steeper, too.

Google has backed away from its ambitious plan to digitize libraries - sort of. They're giving publishers an opportunity to opt out. Publishers (at least some of them) are not convinced that making a copy and showing the public snippits is within fair use. This is another example of how the concept of "copy" in a digital world is making it harder than ever to know what's legal. Many lawyers love the Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine;" they can find that embarrassing comment you thought you'd deleted from your site. But naturally, at least some folks suggest the archive itself violates copyright law. The jury is out ...

Thursday, June 30, 2005

database changes

You'll notice some changes on our Webpage. Two databases - Women Writers Online and the AMICO art database are disappearing. We will be investigating alternatives to AMICO, a museum consortium that has been merged into something called ARTSTOR that is less attractive to us.

We will also temporarily lose our handy-dandy Journal Locator list as we switch to a different product. If you need to know whether we have a journal online or in paper, give the library a call since we have a print copy. You can always find print journals cataloged in MnPALS - it's the myriad of online subscriptions that are tricky to track down.

One last change: PAIS (the venerable Public Affairs Information Service database) is moving to a new interface. We think you'll like it.


Friday, June 24, 2005

summertime snippets from the library

We're planning to join in The September Project this year. The idea is for libraries of all kinds to be places where people can get together to discuss the state of the world post-9/11 with events, displays, or whatever. Libraries are a natural place to do this since they are civic spaces open to all and open to a wide spectrum of different viewpoints. It happens to coincide with a new mandate for colleges and universities to provide programming on the US Constitution, which seems an opportunity for synergy. If you have ideas for September, let me know.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of interesting studies recently released about libraries. One reports on how many libraries have been approached for information about their patrons since the PATRIOT Act went into effect. Pollsters couldn't ask whether these requests and subpoenas were actually made under Section 215 of that law, because that could land respondents in the slammer - it's illegal to say if you've been served under this law. That provision, and the fact probable cause is not required for such searches has bothered bookstore owners and librarians since it was enacted. The House of Representatives isn't too happy about it, either.

The other study reports that Internet access is now availible through over 98% of public libraries in the US - though don't think the digital divide is closed just yet. The Seattle PI points out many libraries have to limit use because there aren't enough computers to go around.

Finally - the contract Google signed with the University of Michigan library to digitize their collections has made it onto the Internet. Though the contract does say neither party will, er, break the law, publishers remain unconvinced Google's plan constitutes fair use.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

new faces, strange places, and really big books

We're very pleased to announce that Jay Nordstrom and Sonja Timmerman have accepted positions as Circulation Manager and Collections Manager in our library. We had a terrific pool of candidates and are looking forward to having a new colleague in Sonja and new horizons for Jay, who has been managing our serials operations during years of amazing change.

People love books, but this house may be taking things a bit far. I mean, curling up with a good book is one thing, but curling up in a book? Besides, the stories on those shelves look a bit ... wooden.

As long as we're going to extremes, how about this addition to the University of Minnesota's collections? Not recommended for reading in bed - it weighs 130 pounds. Our J-term class got an advanced peek and it's .... big! Really big! The printing process alone was quite a technical feat.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

google the library

It's now possible to "google" library catalogs straight from your browser. You can either download a Yahoo or Google toolbar that will run a search of the Open WorldCat database (each works somewhat differently) or add WorldCat to your search options on the FireFox browser. This will give you a toolbar to search a database of libraries around the world, and you can narrow it down to your library. It's pretty amazing.

Meanwhile, one scholarly society is not too pleased with the National Institutes of Health plan to make more federally-funded research google-able for free. In particular they are not happy about PubChem, which the American Chemical Society thinks could erode the market for their database. Personally, given how much that sucker costs, I'm not too heartbroken ... but we aren't likely at any point to pull the plug on the pricey ACS version. It's expensive, no doubt, but it's better than anything else for the field.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Books in (Google) Print

Google Print finally has a page of its own. Still in beta, the search trolls the books that Google has digitized, though a cursory glance suggests the only books included so far are in their publisher program, not from their much-ballyhooed library project. (And for publisher-supplied books, links lead only to booksellers, not to library catalogs.) Interestingly, this same cursory glance suggest that so far Google's digitized books are more likely to be scholarly than those available in full text through Amazon's Search Inside program -- perhaps because commercial publishers were quicker to sign on with Amazon. That may change as the Google product gains traction.

Unfortunately so far there are no links between Google Print and Google Scholar--a book located through what T.J. Sondermann calls Schoogle won't link to the text in Print.

Meanwhile, Schoogle has launched a means of linking directly to full text articles in subscribing libraries that have software called "link resolvers." Yes, we're checking into this ...

By the way, we're trying something new--combining our e-mail newsletter with a blog for the library's news page. Once I send this I will find out if it actually works.