Archive for ‘Readings’

August 27, 2013

The Da Vinci Code With Vampires!

I recently read Sam Cabot's The Blood of the Lamb. I have to say, my initial reaction was to laugh out loud and set it down, but I'm really glad I changed my mind and gave it a chance. It's a well written page-turner, and it manages to evoke both Dan Brown and every vampire novel ever, without feeling like a total rip-off of either one. Despite my general distaste for all things supernatural, I really enjoyed this book and was sorry to reach the end. I highly recommend it to fans of Dan Brown, vampires, or anyone looking for a fun, light read.

August 10, 2013

Review of Confessions of a Bad Teacher by John Owens

Let me begin by saying that I am not a teacher. I am also very skeptical of the American education system, so much so that I plan to homeschool my own son, not for religious reasons, like so many homeschoolers, but because I don’t think he’ll get a good education otherwise. So in some ways, I was the ideal audience for Owens’ Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Education. I’m already a believer in the failure of the system.

That said, the book was eye-opening even for me. The author does an excellent job detailing the problems faced by public school teachers in America. He effectively utilizes a mix of statistics, vignettes from public school teachers around the country, and his own personal narrative of his experiences in a Bronx middle school to illustrate how the focus of the school system has changed from students to data. He tells a sad story of ineffective administrators with too much power, scapegoated teachers whose creativity and effectiveness are stifled by micromanagement, and marginalized students. I wish I could say that I thought this book would help to change things. The author’s column on Salon already affected a change in the particular school in which he taught, small changes in individual schools are no longer sufficient. And unfortunately, I fear the book relies too heavily on the author’s own experiences in one school, with one bad principal and not enough on the statistics and vignettes from other teachers to really convince anyone who isn’t already convinced. He makes it too easy for a critic to say, “yes but that was just one bad administrator.” But the book is very readable, and I hope that it ends up in the hands of enough people to at least get the conversation started at a national level. And I hope that Mr. Owens plans to continue his crusade beyond Confessions.

*Full disclosure – I received a free galley copy of the eBook from

April 10, 2013

Patron-Driven Acquisitions: An Overrated Collection Model

My boss forwarded our library staff an article today from Library Journal, titled “Academic Libraries Should Give Up Book-by-Book Collecting, Article Argues” by Meredith Schwartz. It is a summary of David W. Lewis’s book From Stacks to the Web: The Transformation of Academic Library Collecting. The email introduced the article by saying, “…we are right on target…” meaning that our recent forray into PDA is the right thing to do because other libraries are doing it.

I (like others before me) question the wisdom of Patron-Driven Acquisitions in the academic library. Part of the job of the academic librarian is to vet resources. It is up to us in our professional capacity to know what is available and determine what, among the masses of available material, is the best and will be most useful for our patrons.

I understand that there are benefits, not the least of which is financial. And I know that some libraries have had great success and have published some very interesting results. That report from Purdue notes that most of their PDA requests came from graduate students who needed cross-discplinary resources for their research. But we are a 2-year college. We don’t have graduate students. We have students who don’t know the difference between and a scholarly journal, even after you’ve explained it to them the simplest way you know how.

Now, what we are doing at this point is more akin to the old-fashioned paper suggestion forms than full-blown PDA. Instead of users browsing through a collection of eBooks, deciding they want to read one, and having it instantly purchased and available, they are merely writing down (or typing in) random suggestions for what we should purchase, turning in a form, and waiting. So for now, this is fine, as we are not relying on PDA for all of our collection development. But Lewis’s book apparently suggests that PDA will and should become the primary model for academic library collection development.

And we follow trends here. We like being the first 2-year college to follow a trend in 4-year universities. I worry that if we continue to follow the trend of doing whatever the big boys are doing, our library will eventually give up on vetting materials in favor of buying whatever our students think they need. These students who don’t know the difference between and a scholarly journal. Who only read if they are forced to do so. Who write their papers before they look for sources and tell the reference librarians they just need “something to plug into their paper” because their teacher told them they had to use outside sources. I worry that we will become more an on-demand bookstore where the books are free than a respectable library with amazing resources that our students never realized existed until they serendipitously discovered them.

February 12, 2012

Reflections after reading The Accidental Taxonomist

Heather Hedden’s book The Accidental Taxonomist is truly inspirational. For years I’ve had this fascination with the various methods of information organization (metadata, taxonomies, ontologies, topic maps, indexing, etc.), but because it’s not part of my regular job it’s always felt like this cloud of buzzwords that I didn’t quite have time to tackle. I wanted desperately to know more, to maybe even turn it into a career change opportunity, but I couldn’t figure out an entry point. Where should I start? What all do I need to know? What’s superfluous? What’s nice to know, but not absolutely necessary for starting out?

Ms. Hedden’s book not only provided an excellent introduction to the subject of information organization, and taxonomy work in particular, it also provided me with a plan. I now have a list of topics to learn, a list of books, blogs, and articles to read, a list of software to try out, and a strategy for becoming both more proficient and more involved with the information organization community.

I’m on a very tight budget at the moment, so everything I do in the short term is going to be free, but really there’s an awful lot that I can do without any expenditure. I made a folder in MyEbscoHost of recommended articles from the Hedden book, a list of books available through interlibrary loan (which I’ll order a few at a time so as not to get overwhelmed), and a folder of bookmarks in Chrome titled “Taxo Sites” with all of the blogs, white papers, and other online documents I could find. I’ve joined a few discussion lists. And I’m planning to start learning some of the open source software that’s out there and freely available, like Protege. Once I’m comfortable with one or more of those I might try doing a 30-day trial of one of the commercial ones, but I want to already have a taxonomy and/or thesaurus in place to practice with so that I’m not spending the whole 30 days trying to think of something to test it with. That’s going to be my biggest hurdle – I’m not sure I’m creative enough to come up with a whole field of interest in which to create a taxonomy all on my own. Maybe I’ll just use Protege’s pizza ontology, though it seems rather dull. Finally, I plan to make better use of this blog, update and maintain my LinkedIn profile, and generally enhance my online presence.

As I’m able to save money, there are a few other things I’d like to do. First, I’d like to join some actual communities, like the Taxonomomies & Controlled Vocabularies SIG of the ASI and the Taxonomy Division of SLA. Second, I’d like to attend some workshops, like Ms. Hedden’s taxonomy class. And finally, I’d like to attend some conferences, like Taxonomy Bootcamp.