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Libraries are not just a place or a thing. Libraries are evolving!

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Country Driving

Posted by Librarian/Information Professional on June 18, 2011

A brief diversion to recommend a book, Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler. It is a non-fiction book. Hessler lived in China for a number of years and is a writer for The New Yorker and for National Geographic.

The book is arranged into 3 books, or sections. The first section is devoted to his travels around the Great Wall. He talks to people every where he goes and finds out a lot of the history of the Great Wall. The only historians for the wall are self-educated peasants who value the history of the Wall(s).

In the second section, he lives part-time in a village and gets to know the people there. Some valuable insights evolve about Chinese people as he tells us about his friends (and some who are not friends) in the village. He becomes observes and becomes involved in the village life. I learned a lot about education, culture, etc. in this section.

The third section is about the factories and the people in the Development Zone. He befriends some of the workers in the factory and the factory owners. While I didn’t think this section would be as good as the other 2, it held some surprises for me. The Chinese attitudes toward work and business were interesting.

I found some of my conceptions about China to be confirmed, but yet my impressions changed as I became acquainted with the characters in this book.

It is a fascinating read. I highly recommend it.

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A Selection of Web-Accessible Collections–Harvard

Posted by Librarian/Information Professional on December 4, 2008

One of my classmates blogged about Harvard’s open access database for faculty. This siteĀ is a different effort. A Selection of Web-Accessible Collections is a fine example of digital efforts. Chinese Rubbings is one such collection, but on that caught my attention, and I don’t know why Is Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics. As I started looking at it, I saw the Spanish Influenza in North America, 1918-1919.

This was a pandemic and killed over 500,000 people during World War I. The collection is organized around other major outbreaks of disease worldwide. Obviously there was a real fear worldwide. According to the website the flu broke out at Ft. Riley, Kansas.

Cover up your cough and sneeze, Otherwise you’ll spread the disease.” From the U.S. Public Health Service, “Spanish Influenza” Three-Day Fever” “The Flu”, Supplement No. 84 to the Public Health Reports, September 28, 1918: 4.

Other diseases include Cholera, Plague, Smallpox, “Pestilence,” Syphilis, Tropical diseases, Tuberculosis, and Yellow Fever. What makes this a great digital collection, are the grouping of items that are digitized and the connections to the time are shown.

It is a great example of a digital library, in my opinion.

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Buczynski, is it time?

Posted by Librarian/Information Professional on September 21, 2008

As I read a discussion article this week about selling books and library services, I thought to myself, it’s about time! Buczynski proposes the idea that libraries should offer to sell books and services as a means to increase services to users. Amid all the hue and cry from some librarians, little do they realize how fees have already crept into libraries. For example, if I want to print at the public library or at OU, I must pay for the privilege. If I am not a student at an academic institution, I must pay to check out books.

Please realize that I detest paying for services as much as the next person. Yet the costs of keeping a library functioning keep escalating. As Buczynski points out, funds are diminishing and libraries are being held more accountable for the remaining funds. For example, in the library where I am employed, the budget has not increased in years. Yet the library is expected to continue adding books, serials, and databases with no understanding of the escalating expenses of providing these services. Users often feel that the services are free, because they can access them with a simple login. What is not realized that the services are not free, and are being paid by tuition and/or fees.

Over ten years ago, when I worked in interlibrary loan, it was not uncommon for some institutions to charge $20 for a copy of a journal article. Most users were appalled and did not want to pay for the service. The fee served its purpose from the other library’s point of view, if the user seriously wanted the article they would pay for the use of the libraries staff, equipment, and materials. While this is troubling to me to have to pay for articles, I know that there are fees being incurred that no one sees.

Not only are libraries becoming more commercialized, the Internet is a prime example. Only a few years ago, the Internet offered many files and much information for free. When businesses realized the opportunities available, the free sites disappeared or were pushed further back in the search engine results. Now, many people expect to pay for most of the information that they find online. They buy books, pay for articles, and purchase computer software manuals. I liked the “good-ole days.” I sometimes wish that things had stayed as they were. Yet upon reflection there is much more available online now than ever before.

In libraries, too, there is so much more available now than there used to be. Libraries scramble to acquire the best materials and access for their users, yet users will never be totally satisfied. If a user wants a book that few other people would want, or a book that is not available, why not give the privilege of purchasing and delivery? The library could profit and buy more materials and the user could be happy. If nothing else, the fees could serve as a wake-up call to those who think all information should be free and awaken support for the library.

Reference

Buczynski, James A. 2008. Looking for collection 2.0. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship 20: 90-100.

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