Friday, January 27, 2006

Sound library

It's Friday afternoon so it's time for a pointless-post. Just in case you haven't bought it yet, the final track on Snow Borne Sorrow, David Sylvian's latest offering, is called The Librarian. Nine minutes of Beckenham's greatest son warbling on about something or other that includes these lovely lines:

So to the library
With your new card
Grab your favorite books
Look for blueprints
To the strains of Allah
Here we go….

Couldn't have put it better myself. Not a bad album though.

Buy the album from our sponsors here

Where were they then?

Browsing through this week's Time Out I came across a feature about bands that didn't quite make it. Interesting enough, but was taken by picture of country rock combo, The Possums (no, me neither) and their Ian Brown lookalike bass player. Further inspection revealed that it was in fact the Time Out librarian in a previous incarnation. That's the entertainment for the next AUKML conference sorted then.

Are Librarians cool?

Here's a little something for the wackier wing of the librarian community. Check out the Are Librarians Cool? question on Lin's Bin from Lin Brehmer at Chicago's XRT. It's an an mp3 audio file but I'm sure you know all about that sort of techie thing . . .

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google v Librarians

The Guardian's security affairs editor Richard Norton-Taylor was on the radio today discussing why journalistic standards have dropped: He says journalists just google things instead of using their libraries.

Listen to him here

Shades of grey

Whilst trying to track down a copy of a 23 year-old byelection pamphlet I was reminded of the problems of "grey literature". The leaflet I was looking for was from Simon Hughes, who was presenting the election as "A Straight Choice". The problem is that material that is published in an unconventional way (i.e. not a book, newspaper, periodical etc.) is often never kept, catalogued or archived. It usually means approaching the original source, which can be at best time consuming and at worst totally futile (in this case the party Hughes was a candidate for - The SDP Liberal Alliance - no longer exists).

The British Library has a host of grey literature on its catalogue (conference notes, theses etc), but I'm not sure if I would have found something like this there. The panic ended as I tracked down an image of the leaflet from this blog. (Aren't blogs great!?). And coincidently, the dates for Eighth International Conference on Grey Literature have just been announced as the 4-5 December 2006 at the University of New Orleans, USA. Not sure my new found interest in the subject will see me attending though . . .

Anyway, a backgrounder to the news story: Hughes, now a contender for the leadership of the LibDems (read here), was up against the openly gay Labour candidate, Peter Tatchell in the 1983 Bermondsey byelection, which Hughes went on to win . The story has resurfaced in recent days as Hughes has apologised for the homophobia the campaign may have stirred up (read here). Hughes has also taken the time to remind us that he himself is definitely not gay (read here).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

One more question: Are you a terrorist?

The Lords yesterday voted to reject a clause in the Government's Terrorism Bill which could have seen the humble librarian penalised for doing their job. The clause would have made it an offence to directly or indirectly encourage terrorist acts by virtue of supplying someone (who could turn out to be a terrorist) with certain books or information. The clause appeared to put an undue onus on librarians to screen its readers.

As Lord Butler argued ". . .the task of a librarian is to make the books in the library available to students or others who want to use them. It should not be, as I think this amendment implies, the task or duty of librarians to have to discriminate between borrowers in order to satisfy themselves that those borrowers do not include people who might be moved to terrorism or use the book for the purposes of terrorism. "

Read the full debate here and a newspiece here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Review of Alice Hoffman's "The Ice Queen"

Fond as I am of portrayals of librarians in popular culture, I was delighted to find a copy of Alice Hoffman's new novel The Ice Queen under the Christmas tree. Hoffman's story has the feel of an old fairytale, the ice maiden planted in a Florida local library, the victim of a lightning strike with a dark secret to boot. The story is a good one, if not truly gripping - for most of the book I felt no real empathy for the heroine, but then as she's the ice queen maybe that's the point.

Hoffman's use of the library as "a career where silence would be an asset" is a little cliched, but it's interesting that she explores the darker side of library life. The unnamed protagonist is obsessed with death, and researches it fanatically. I'm not saying all librarians are secret goths but when part of every day is spent updating the intranet with Iraq casualties and Middle East suicide bombs it's sometimes hard to stay chirpy. And of course it's not often we see a librarian as the central character in a novel (as the Guardian's reviewer points out, ours is an "honourable occupation which in fiction indicates a less than successful existence"). Worth sticking with to the heartbreaking end - buy it here.

Read Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen to see how it compares, or rediscover the more sinister fairytales of the Brothers Grimm.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Librarian cliche quote of the month

"Is it like that undressing the librarian kind of thing? I think maybe the British appreciate Bree's covered sexuality. I should wear glasses next year and really drive them crazy."
Actress Marcia Cross on the effect her straight-laced Desperate Housewives character has on men, Sunday Times, Jan 15 2005

More sexy librarians (don't worry, it's not a XXX site) here. Also, check out the Flickr group Librarians in Glasses for some, er, librarians in glasses.

Friday, January 13, 2006

It's a hard life.

Working in libraries has been commonly thought a stress-free job, but as the bbc has discovered, librarians are the most unhappy with their workplace, often finding their job repetitive and unchallenging, according to psychologist Saqib Saddiq.

Another source to librarian's stress (not mentioned in the bbc article) is constantly being likened by the media to a bunch of square dweebs who wear Nana Mouskouri glasses and autumnal woolly cardigans. People like Sam Wollaston, the TV critic from the "enlightened" theguardian should know better. In today's TV review he is suggesting that being fashionable and 'librarian' are apparently incompatible. Perhaps he would like to visit the guardian's library and give all their librarians a Trinny & Susannah makeover.

Size matters

Came across a fact while reading Tim Moore's "Do Not Pass Go" (a travel ponderment on London) - apparently more people visit Selfridges every year than live in Australia. Unfortunately Tim supplies neither a population figure for Australia nor the amount of Selfridges visitors, so you are left thinking "erm, that must be a lot" and (if you're (sadly) like me) trot off to do some research. Thanks to World Bank Statistics I've now discovered that the population of Australia is just over 20 million. Which actually leaves me thinking, "wow, so few people in such a big country", rather than "cor, don't a lot of people shop at Selfridges " - is this what Tim intended?

Journalists are very good at this kind of thing, for example they always seem to relate just about every land mass to the size of Wales. Recent examples here, here and here.


One last thing for you ponder (and complete the research to) is: more people visit the British Library every year than live in New Zealand .

(And if you too want to compare all land masses to the size of Wales this clever website does it for you)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Word of the year 2005

The American Dialect Society has voted "Truthiness" as the word of the year 2005. It means "the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true."

Other winning words include:

muffin top: "the bulge of flesh hanging over the top of low-rider jeans" (we call those "love handles" in Britain).

whale tail: "the visible appearance of thong or g-string above the waistband".

The age of celebrity

Celebrity joggers and dieters; famous fans of The Archers; star gum-chewers; just a few of the queries I've been asked for over the past few months. Why does every news story have to have a celebrity angle these days? I'm enjoying Celebrity Big Brother as much as anyone but now that being regularly photographed falling out of nightclubs is enough to make you a celebrity, why do editors still insist on getting endorsements for their stories? Is it simply a case of "Look, these famous people are all doing it, so it must be cool"?

More on celebrity endorsement here and here

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What will libraries be banning in 2006?

Last month the British library banned pens (recap here). This was closely followed by the announcement that libraries in Dallas will be permitted to remove readers considered too smelly under new guidelines. The rules prohibit visitors from “emitting odours (including bodily odours or perfumes), which interfere with the use of services by others”. A number of other activities deemed inappropriate will also be banned, including fighting, walking barefoot, eating, sleeping, sexual intercourse and using your mobile phone. Proponents say the move, which is supported by the American Libraries Association (ALA), will help make libraries more welcoming. However, homeless groups have responded angrily, suggesting the rule purposefully targets some of the most vulnerable members of society (and students). ( Read more here.)

Watch this space for the first library ban of 2006 . . . .

Anyone fancy getting more than capernoited?

In a desire to improve my vocabulary I shall now attempt to describe librarians via the aid of the list of words as published in today's G2 section of the Guardian:

While often misrepresented as agelasts and obnubilate, many librarians are in fact eximious, not only in veriloquency but also several times a week at becoming capernoited. They very rarely suffer from lethologica and can often pack a stunning verbal recumbentibus. Although few that I have encountered seem to be blatteroons, when several get together it often sounds a lot like drintling. It has to be said though, that in many organizations, librarians are in fact the very pintle.

You too can become skilled in the art of lexiphanicism, here

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Judging books by their covers . . .

A story in the Boston Globe reports how some of America's libraries contain books that are bound with human skin. Apparently it's not an uncommon practice - with anthropodermic bound books often reflecting their content - such as biographies and medical texts. The story was taken up by Harvard Law School journal, The Record a month before and seems to be causing a stir on the blogs.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Wikipedia nearly as good as Britannica

This one really isn't going to go away, but thought it might be worth noting that the scientific journal, Nature has carried out an "expert-led investigation" into the reliabilty of Wikipedia. It found that the average Wikipedia entry contained four errors while Britannica contained three. Considering Britannica is meant to be a the Dom Perignon of reference works, Wikipedia's not doing that badly.

Read more here.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Lost for works

The Times reports that a poem by Lord Byron has been discovered in a 19th-century book within the archives of University College London. It turns out that it was stumbled upon by a librarian whilst doing some routine cataloguing.

Libraries seem to have a knack of uncovering "lost" works. Here's a list of other recently unearthed works:

December 2005: A 17th century painted female figure was discovered under 20 layers of paint in the in the King's Library at Kew Palace, London.

April 2005: 28 lost omnibus recordings of The Archers from 1977 were discovered in the archives of the gramophone library at BBC Radio Wiltshire.

August 2004: A "lost" essay by Virginia Woolf about London life in the 1930 was discovered in the archives of University of Sussex's library.

September 2003: A "lost" play by Agatha Christie was discovered by her grandson more than 70 years after it was written in the vaults of the British Library.

July 2003: Lost songs of Piaf were discovered in archives of the national library in Paris.

December 2002: A manuscript by JRR Tolkien, thought to be his last work, was discovered in an Oxford library.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Flogging blogging

A few weeks ago I went along to hear Phil Bradley talk about blogs at an Association of UK Media Librarians talk. Yes, I've ignored one of his main points that blog entries should be as current as possible. Christmas got in the way. A good, inspirational talk, and interesting people to chat to afterwards.

The last days of plagiarism?

There seems to be a bit of a buzz about the new LexisNexis CopyGuard plagiarism detection software. Sounds very impressive as you simply chuck in a bit of copy and it shows you exactly where certain phrases originated (yeah, nicked). Certainly there is a use for this but I'm not so sure it's going to work for the British press, or anywhere else in world for that matter. I predict a riot on the newsfloor of the first paper to introduce it. And what will the NUJ have to say about it? I suggest singing the following:

Let no one else's work evade your eyes!
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes!
So don't shade your eyes
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize!
Only be sure always to call it, please, "research"!

Tom Lehrer's 1953 song Lobachevsky

Monday, January 02, 2006

Tales from the morgue

I see that a new Morgue Mama mystery is out. The Mama in question is Maddy Sprowls, an old-school newspaper librarian who gets up to all sorts of adventures whilst searching through old newspaper files (media libraries in the US are sometimes known as 'the morgue'). All very amusing and this review and this one seem to think it worth checking old Maddy out if only for novelty value.

Talk about reinforcing newspaper librarian stereotypes though...

Any suggestions for what to call UK media libraries?