Monthly Archives: January 2008

Neat, Free Tools for Info Professionals – and Others

As part of a small project I’m working on for the Council on Library and Information Resources, I’ve been evaluating online tools produced by “Digital Humanities Centers.” These are academic centers focused on bringing computing into humanities research.* The tools they’ve developed have a variety of primarily humanities research functions: 3d animation technology for virtually recreating archaeological sites, course software, text analysis software, online note-taking and annotation software aimed at academics, etc.

But a few, especially those developed by the creative folks at George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, are broadly construed and would be useful to anyone working on community web projects, teaching online research skills, or beginning web archiving projects.

For community web work, GMU has a number of useful tools. Web Scrapbook is, as they say, a “clipping file for the internet.” You can share your clipping file or keep it private. Groups working together on any sort of research or interest project could use this tool to gather and annotate web sources of interest. Survey Builder and Poll Builder are both easy-to-use, what-you-see-is-what-you-get editors for creating survey and polls and adding them to websites.

For those teaching research skills or information access, I highly recommend GMU’s Zotero bibliographic software: It’s a free, open-source program that runs inside the Firefox browser. As you browse library catalogs, journal databases, Google Scholar, and even, Zotero can grab citation information at your command and save it to your computer. You can easily keep track of your references, and even better, make in-text citations, footnotes, and bibliographies using Microsoft Word. I was an EndNote user in the past, and have also taught students to use RefWorks, and I think Zotero is an excellent – and free – replacement for either of these programs.

Another useful tool for teachers and students: GMU’s Syllabus Finder. Syllabus Finder will do a tailored Google search for syllabi on whatever keywords you type into the search interface. This is a great way to figure out if/where classes are taught on a subject you’re interested in, or what reading materials others are using in their courses on X, Y or Z.

Perhaps most exciting for me, but still in private Beta so unavailable – yet – is GMU’s Omeka platform for publishing collections online. This promises to be a widely accessible tool for building digital archives and exhibits. This could be a great way for community organizations and small archives with digital collections to display them online, or to draw attention to their non-digital materials by creating an online exhibit.

Kudos to the Center for History and New Media for such creative, free digital information tools.


* Because of the nature of the current CLIR project, my scope is limited, and I’m only familiar with tools from about 30 U.S.-based centers.


Filed under tips and tools

Freedom of expression lawsuit irony

I’m still planning to deliver a post talking more in depth about the freedom of expression claim CanWest Global is making in their DTCA lawsuit, as I promised here, but this week’s commencement of the British Columbia Supreme Court case in which Adbusters is suing Global Television, the CBC and the CRTC begs my attention.

Adbusters is suing Global Television, the major network of CanWest’s broadcast portfolio (“the Global Television network broadcasts via 10 television stations, reaching 96% of English-speaking Canada.”), national “public” broadcaster/crown corporation (operating at arms-length from the gov’t) the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and the regulator for Canadian television and radio media, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Adbusters says they’ve been trying to buy ad time from major broadcasters for over a decade, and are consistently turned down, often with little to no explanation. So Adbusters is suing the government and the biggest media company for infringing on their freedom of expression.

The irony:

Of course, at the same time that Adbusters is suing them for blocking free expression, Global TV’s parent company, CanWest Global, is suing the government for infringing on their freedom of expression by regulating the type of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads they can run/sell ad space to.

Hmm…who has the more legitimate case here? A not-for-profit public interest group vying for access to airtime to express their views and get people thinking about consumerism?


A for-profit media conglomerate vying to overturn the national public health regulations in order to be allowed to make money off of other giant for-profit companies’ advertising expressions that may or may not endanger public health?

Not that it’s an either/or dichotomy…I just find it quite interesting to compare the arguments and watch these two cases play out side-by-side in different provinces. I expect that at least one of these will go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Compare for yourself:
You can see some of the Adbusters ads here

Compare them, perhaps, with some of the Pharmaceutical DTC ads: Gardasil, Celebrex, Lunesta, Zoloft.

Now, tell me which seems more likely to (as stated in S.3 of the Broadcasting Act) “serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada.”

Interesting times we live in, eh?


1 Comment

Filed under Intellectual freedom, media democracy

Longwoods Press rolls out Open Access policy

Longwoods Press, publisher of Healthcare Quarterly/Longwoods Review , Nursing Leadership (CJNL) , Healthcare Policy / Politiques de Santé , World Health & Population now has an OA publishing option. I guess this is a super-soft launch of the policy, as there’s no note of it on their homepage, and the only people who seem to know about it are the authors who are getting the new License to Publish forms with the pay-for-OA option included.

Here’s the Open Access Policy page so you can see for yourself. Some would argue that this is technically a FREE access policy, not a true OPEN access policy. And they’d be right in that argument. Fee for the authors who chose the “OA” option is currently set at $2500 (USD/CAD your choice) per article.

My quick thoughts

Yay for:

  • Creating a policy! Canadian niche journals are clearly struggling to keep up in the online publishing world, and this is a step that could help keep some of them in business (of course, with the new CIHR policy, and CIHR being a sponsor of Longwoods, I suppose one could argue that they could hardly drag their feet any longer…)
  • Waiving the author charges for authors from a list of developing nations. I don’t know how many articles most of the Longwoods journals get from such countries, but it’s a nice gesture.

A kick in the shins for:

  • Not making an exception to the publishing fees for authors who are unaffiliated or have other ground for appeal. This really sucks, guys, and is dumb since you have major competitors (think Open Medicine) who publish OA without any fees to anyone.
  • Keeping a pretty tight grip on copyright even if the author pays for OA, rather than letting the authors retain most rights or publishing it under a creative commons license.
  • Restricting even “Green” (author’s final copy/Post-print) archiving to a 12-month embargo unless the author pays the $2500 fee. This basically means any authors reporting on CIHR-funded research have to pay the $2500 fee, since they have to make peer-reviewed articles available within 6 months. I would guess that a majority of the authors of many if not all of Longwoods’ journals are CIHR-funded researchers. Do you think this was oversight in the open “choice” policy, or an attempt at income insurance?

Overall, I’m glad there is a policy out there. It keeps the Longwoods journals (a primary venue for Canadian health policy research – important unless we want USAmerican moaning about how allegedly awful our health care system is to be even more dominant) potentially viable in the scholarly publishing world, and provides a starting point for future revisions of the policy. It may spur other small Canadian publishers to develop OA policies as well.

However, I can’t tell how much of the dithering (e.g., “In the current funding climate, where many authors may not be able to cover the full costs of publication, a model that utilizes a mixture of funding sources (publication charges, subscriptions, advertising, etc) is more realistic.”) and oddities (e.g., non-OA articles will still be issued in print form as well as online, OA articles will be electronic-only) in the Longwoods policy are due to nervousness and how much of all that is due to plain old greed and wanting to dip into as many funding streams as possible.

I am pleased with the press for making a move here, and hope that in a year or so they’ll revise the policy to bring it a bit more into line with OA norms.


(Disclosure: Several of my colleagues have written and/or reviewed articles for some Longwoods journals. Some of them serve or have served on editorial advisory boards of Longwoods journal.)


Filed under copyright, OA

Why did I become a librarian (or, archivist)?

In response to Greyson’s audience-participation post about why we became librarians, I thought I’d chime in with thoughts of my own. It’s been great to read the comments from others, and I probably should have put this in the comments, as she requested, but figured it might run to post length. So here it is, taking up a lot of its own space…

I first worked in an archives for Greyson, actually, at a cooperative summer camp. I was in college, with little idea that “archivist” was a job title. Instead, what I saw was an attic with lots of papers, and kids. And over the summer, those papers became records, and some of those kids became interested in history. And I saw the direct link between shaping of the way we understand history and the interest of people in that history.

Another college job in an archive followed that, but was, again, just a college job. I left, worked in fundraising, but kept thinking back to both the impact of archives, and the injustice done when the experiences of groups or political viewpoints are left out of The Historical Record.  I also have to admit that I looked back fondly on the relative peace and quiet of working with records. For some reason, that seemed very appealing during the time I spent cold-calling and schmoozing donors at after-work events.

The peace and quiet part is funny now, three years into library school and on my way to a degree that will allow me (hopefully) to teach and do research about the social impact of archives. Because as soon as I got an archive internship in graduate school, I realized I didn’t want to the peace and quiet of archival processing. I wanted to tell people about archives, and ask people about archives, and question how we build them and why. I realized archives were growing in an area I had never considered: who tells our stories and how they will be told looms large as we increasingly record our history in digital forms and distributed digital places.

The definition and formation of archives are being reinvented in the digital era. I had no idea that this was happening when I began school. Shaping digital archives has such potential to, as Arjun Appadurai writes, “restore the deep link of the archive to popular memory and its practices, returning to the non-official actor the capability to choose the way in which traces and documents shall be formed into archives…”¹ But issues of inequitable digital access, inequitable digital literacy, and the logistics of digital preservation plague digital archives. I had no idea of the scope of this when I entered library school, but that’s why I’m still here.

I am at times delighted with the thought that goes into building just, equitable archives (and digital archives) in my program: there are a number of students, and a wonderful faculty mentor, focused on just these issues. But as Greyson and the posters in the comments have pointed out, it is certainly not universal to library school or librarians/archivists.  Yet another reason I want to go into archival education – I think a lot of this work has to be done in library school.

1. Appadurai, A. (2003). Archive and aspiration. In J. Brouwer & A. Mulder (Eds.), Information is Alive (pp. 14-25). Rotterdam: V2_Publishing/NAI Publishers.



Filed under archives, LIS education, The Profession

Why do we become librarians?

Okay, how about an audience participation post for the new year?

When I tell people about this blog, I generally start with some contextual information on my motives for blogging at SJL, such as:

I came to library school believing that information work was essential for a just society and that libraries were in a strong position to serve large portions of the community.

I have been fortunate to find what I refer to as my “librarian kindred” – those who approach the profession with similar ideals and live/work in a way that furthers these goals of human rights, true democracy and social justice.

However, I have also been disappointed – first to find so little discussion of or emphasis placed on such ideals in my MLIS program. And since grad school, I have frequently wished there were more discussion of rights & justice issues in the professional library world as I have experienced it.

There is so much “niceness” that I occasionally despair about our ability to effectively confront issues – particularly those in which we ourselves are perpetuating the problem. So I started this blog, in hopes of stirring up some more of this discussion I have been hungering for.

Already, I have received several responses along the lines of:

Oh, how great – that’s why I went into librarianship too!

This has been quite heartening. I am not foolish enough, however, to be deceived by my own self-selected social/professional circle. I know many librarians out there did not come to library school with such starry-eyed idealism, and further am aware that the goals one holds when entering a grad program do not always correlate with those of those of the same librarian a few (or many) years down the pike and on the job.

When I think back to my first weeks of library school (just a few years ago), I remember some people purporting to have idealistic and lofty goals, some people coming for a secure profession, some people needing the MLIS to keep their job or get promoted after decades of library work, and others who just really liked books – or computers.

Why did you go to library school (or why didn’t you, if you didn’t)? How does or doesn’t that reason connect with the motivation for your current work?

No, I really want to know! Leave a comment with your original LIS motivations…and how they match up with what you work for today.



Filed under LIS education, The Profession