Monthly Archives: February 2007

Defending Scrotum

The controversy over The Higher Power of Lucky, the children’s book that uses the word scrotum came up at a dinner party I was at recently and someone quipped, “oh that whole thing is just nuts!”

Although we may tend to agree and think the issue needs no more discussion than that, author and librarian Susan Patron defends her book and our profession much more eloquently in an essay for the the LA Times. Here’s my favorite part:

Of course, adults are right to fear a word in a book, although not, as in this instance, because it names a body part. They are right in the implied assumption that books have enormous power and influence. Children who read widely understand more about the world; they have a foundation for making better decisions. They think, and because of that, they may even challenge their parents’ beliefs. For some, a scary idea, but isn’t a thinking child preferable to one who accepts the world at face value and has no aim to change it for the better?

Wow. Thanks for reminding us why we’re librarians Susan.

Definitely Not Fair Use

An interesting (and sad) story is developing around some piano recordings of Joyce Hatto. Although most copyright gurus today rightfully protest the sometimes absurd expansion of copyright and intellectual property laws, I don’t think anyone would support someone’s re-recording entire classic piano performances, putting their own name on them, and selling them, which is apparently what Hatto’s husband did.

It’s being called the biggest scandal ever in classical music. There are some interesting ironies, such as the fact that digital technology was used to in making and altering slightly some of the recordings, but ultimately it was through technology (iTunes) that the hoax was discovered.

David Hurwitz (classicstoday.com) contends that this is a victimless crime and that the original recording artists will actually benefit from the hoax because now people will go out and buy the original recordings.

Maybe. But isn’t truth the real victim here? Isn’t putting your name on a creative product that is not yours a clear example of where we don’t want to go in the new world of digital technology and copyright?

Less Facebook And More Face In Book

I thought that was a great line. I discovered it while reading an interesting essay from last Thursday’s edition of Inside Higher Ed by Laurence Musgrove titled “iCranky“. Musgrove explains why he’s so cranky. His institution is offering a professional development program designed to help faculty “technologize our teaching methods so that we can better facilitate the success of the newest new generation, commonly known as “Millennials.” On one level Musgrove fires away at the deficiencies of faculty professional development programming for technology which he says “assume no knowledge and experience on the part of those being lectured to about the latest advances in technology, learning style, and interconnectivity.” There is some good advice here for librarians who seek to create professional development programs on library technology for their faculty. Talk to the faculty and find out what they already know.

The other reason for Musgrove’s crankiness is that he’s tired of being told that he needs to change his teaching methods to adapt to millennial students. He reacts to this:

What our students need is not more of what they come in the door with. They don’t need more of the same in the same way they got it before. They need to be confronted with people who talk about ideas that matter. They need to become people who can confront and talk to other people about ideas that matter. They need to sit in a room of people and learn about humanity. Also, not more Facebook, but more faces in books, extended periods of silent and sustained reading and writing, developing intellectual stamina and the ability to ask questions that don’t lead to easy answers or a quick and final Wikisearch.

If Musgrove is an indicator (as well as other faculty who reacted positively to his essay in the comments) then we may have a growing number of faculty who want to see more reading and research rigor in the teaching and learning process. As evidenced by recent events at Middlebury College faculty may indeed be growing weary of research papers based mostly on Widipedia entries. This may be our opportunity to leverage the current mood to seek out greater collaboration with faculty to integrate library resources in assignments and classroom learning.

As I’ve said before, while it’s important to pay attention to changing demographics, new trends in learning, and the value of instructional technology, we probably want to think carefully before we change the way we do everything just to meet the needs of a current generation of students.

Wilder’s New Library Professionals

Stanley Wilder, he who got us all riled about information literacy last year, has another article in the Chronicle, this one exploring the changing demographic trends in hiring in ARL libraries. Channeling Jim Neal’s notion of “feral professionals,” Wilder analyzes the 2005 ARL demographic data and finds that 23% of professionals at research libraries are in nontraditional positions such as “systems, human resources, fund raising, publishing, instructional technology, and facilities management,” and that these professionals are more likely to be under 35 years old.

Wilder and Neal deserve praise for pointing out these broad trends, but what do they really mean and how should we interpret their significance? For example, when you include “systems” as a nontraditional position, is 23% really such a dramatic number? Is it really surprising that the new professionals are younger than their more established their colleagues?

Both Wilder and Neal bring up the quesiton of values. Is it true that those in nontraditional positions have different values than traditional librarians? What values do they have? Corporate values? And do all corporate values necessarily clash with academic values? When should academic values trump corporate values or vice versa? Does the hiring of the new professionals correspond to the increasing commercialization of research universities and are the same hiring trends evident at college libraries or non-ARL institutions?

In the end I think I tend to agree with Wilder that overall this is an exciting trend to be celebrated, if we can get all our diverse selves to work together to fulfill our mission of increasing access to scholarly information for all of our users.