Posts Tagged 'books'

Discussing RBMS 2015

I blog almost all of my talks, but had not planned on blogging my remarks from RBMS 2015 this summer because I was just the discussant; I didn’t give a talk talk. But the organizers told me they like having something to link to, so here’s my best recreation of what I said, based on pretty good notes.

This is my first RBMS, and I have a few confessions to make:

My first confession is that I honestly would rather be with my wife right now than with you all. No offense really, but our marriage just became legal in all 50 states and I want to celebrate with her. It is cool though, that I could drive from here in Oakland back to my wife in our new hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts and our marriage would remain valid the whole way for the first time in history. So, that isn’t the confession I was planning on making today, but it is true and it is heartfelt.

My real first confession is that I’m not an archivist, I’m not a rare books librarian, I’m not a manuscripts librarian. I’m not even a humanities scholar or faculty member or any kind. Heck, I’m not even really a librarian according to some definitions.

I’m just a library director … which means I do none of the actual work that ensures that rare books and manuscripts are collected, preserved and made accessible; but I do control lots of resources that make the work possible; and I care deeply about that work.

My second confession is that I’m actually more comfortable in the audience than on the stage – when I’m in the audience, I can do what I do best – snark on twitter about the presentations. Honestly, that’s kinda my thing – I go to conferences and I get snarky on twitter. My favorite snark topics – and most conference presentations provide plenty of fodder for these – are lack of diversity on speaking panels or in collections, uncritical adherence to neo-liberal thinking in library “innovations”, and a general lack of attention to issues of power, privilege, and positionality. I have to say thus far, RBMS has given me very very little to snark about. It’s a bit disorienting.

In all seriousness, lets give it up for the program committee
Y’all did a tremendous job in putting together a great set of speakers who prodded me, and I hope some of you, to think critically about the work we do and its meanings in and to the communities we serve and represent. And it is no small thing that this program was definitely not the usual cast of white dudes talking about the collections and archives of other white dudes. Well done!

Some of the big themes I’ve heard thus far I think will also be reflected in this plenary. We’ve talked a lot about “amateurism” and volunteer labor — this idea, perhaps we could call it a trend, of people who are not professionally trained archivists or librarians doing the work of building, organizing, and providing access to archives. Our two closing plenary speakers this afternoon are not archivists, but have built and are building archives of real significance to the broader research community. They are also leveraging technology and new ways of collecting and organizing materials in concert with traditional archival materials and methods.

Other themes I’ve heard include the tension between slow, caring work with and for archives; and the need for speed and efficiencies. Themes of passion versus the illusion of neutrality have likewise emerged. I’m sure there are other themes that will come out and that will produce a great final discussion.

Our speakers for this closing plenary include a Stanford professor who I know fairly well, and whose project was the inspiration for the Library Concierge Program I started while I was with the Stanford Lbiraries; and a fellow “outside librarian” whose work I have long admired and who I am delighted to finally meet in person.
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Then I introduced Gordon Chang and Rick Prelinger. They both gave great talks. The discussion was also lively and thoughtful, and included what I am told was the first RBMS instance of panelists live-tweeting each other during a session and then expanding on the twitter conversation from the stage. A true multi-modal and multi-media plenary session.

So, that’s it – my first, but I hope not my last, RBMS.

Cats and books

I predict that with that tweet, Joyce Carol Oates provided the opening presentation slide for at least 50% of ALA presentations this summer. I further predict that 75% of those presentations will use it ironically (librarians are so ironic), and 25% will use it earnestly (we are also a very earnest bunch).

If anyone has a good public domain or CC-licensed photo of Joyce Carol Oates with a cat (and a book) in her lap, let me know. I have a presentation I’m working on.

(Edited to add: Thanks to @joshhonn for alerting me to the Writers and Kitties tumblr)

Joyce Carol Oates & cat

Joyce Carol Oates & cat, from http://writersandkitties.tumblr.com/

Happy Friday.

Books (all kinds) and ejournals are important to Faculty: Stanford survey results

books

mmmm … books!
Faculty office, photo by Chris Bourg

In late December, we surveyed Stanford faculty in the Schools of Humanities & Sciences, Engineering, Education, and Earth Sciences about the “many kinds of resources that might be important to your research”. We still have loads of work to do on analyzing the data, but I wanted to go ahead and start sharing some results. The first set of questions asked faculty “How important are the following types of scholarly materials for your research?”, followed by a list of the usual suspects in terms of types of resources. Response choices were: Very Important, Important, Somewhat Important, Not Important.

For me, the big take-away from the details below is that large majorities of faculty across all disciplines rate Print Books, Electronic Books, and Ejournals as Important or Very Important. The fact that both print and electronic books are important to all faculty is more evidence to me that the easy stereotypes that scientists don’t need print and humanists resist digital are just wrong.

  • 90% of faculty say Print Books are Important or Very Important to their research. Faculty in the Humanities and Arts are most enamored of Print Books, with 96% rating them as Important or Very Important. Large majorities of Social Scientists (90%) and Science & Engineering (79%) faculty also rate Print Books as Important or Very Important.
  • E-Books are also Important or Very Important to a majority of faculty in all disciplines: 75% in Humanities & Arts, 65% in Social Sciences, 68% in Science & Engineering. Note that Humanities and Arts faculty are the most likely to embrace E-books (so much for the stereotype of the luddite humanists). Note also that most faculty rate both print and E-books as Important or Very Important — we are clearly still in a hybrid world with respect to scholarly books.
  • Journals are another story. Everyone (over 94% across all disciplines) says E-Journals are Important or Very Important; but Print Journals are Important or Very Important primarly to those in Humanities and the Arts (76%). Only 36% of Science and Engineering faculty, and only 28% of Social Sciences faculty rate Print Journals as Important or Very Important.
  • Textual Data are important to a good chunk of Humanities (44%) and Social Science (38%) faculty, but much less so to Science & Engineering folks (9%). Maps and Geospatial data are important to 25% of faculty overall, with slightly more interest from Social Scientists than from Humanists or Science & Engineering folks.
  • For all the other kinds of resources we asked about, the differences between disciplines are big and just what you would expect. Numeric data is important to more Social Science (62%) and Science & Engineering faculty (55%) than Humanities faculty (19%). Archival materials, non-English language materials, reference works, images, film, video and audio are all important to much larger percentages of Humanists than to Social Scientists and Science & Engineering faculty.
  • Response rates: Our overall response rate was a rather poor 17%, with Humanities & Arts faculty twice as likely (N=68, 29%) as Social Sciences (N=32, 15%) or Science & Engineering faculty (N=57, 13%) to respond.

We also asked some great open-ended questions about how faculty accessed resources and what would improve that access. We asked similar questions about a bunch of tools (e.g. the library website, SearchWorks, bibliographic management software), and expertise (e.g. subject librarians, data specialists). I’ll blog about some of the findings from these other questions later, so stay tuned.

(A less editorial version of this appears on our Stanford Libraries Blog, which we will use to officially communicate results to the Stanford community.)


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