Library News

Ex-BPL head Bernie Margolis compared to Babe Ruth…

“Just as the Yankees took Babe Ruth, Boston’s loss is our gain,” said Tom Dunn, New York Education Department spokesman, speaking of Boston’s well-liked ex-public library head, Bernie Margolis.  Margolis was ousted from the Boston Public Library last year by Mayor Menino, and has just landed a very plum job as State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner of Education for the state of New York.  Congratulations, Bernie, it was good to know ya! Read more in yesterday’s Globe: Karen Merguerian

Fall Football Preview

Tomorrow @ Noon, Snell Library will host former NFL player Mark Bavaro and footbal statistician Aaron Schatz.  The two are discussing their repective books, Rough & Tumble, and Pro Football Prospectus.  Join us in 90 Snell for a spirited kick-off of one of the season’s great pleasures–football (and the Meet the Author Series)!

Pinball Wizardry

Once again, the Research & Instruction department held its annual Pinball Tournament. R&I Librarians competed for a deluxe championship prize in this annual event. Previous champion (yours truly) got the contestants on track, made sure flippers worked and that the contestants knew how to find the controls. For 30 minutes, the sounds of pinball filled the room. Winner was Sandy Dunphy, with a top score of 3,915,000 points. I’d post a few photos, but nothing will load them up. Congratulations to Sandy, our new Pinball champion!

More on Library Liberty

I just read this NY Times article, on Sarah Palin’s career as mayor of Wasilla, AK.  One incident really jumped out at me–her experience with the town library, librarians, and possibly censoring books (or at least having that discussion).  It surprised me a bit that this would be occuring at the level of a town mayor–has anyone heard any other stories like this?  Any thoughts?

Learning to love the tag cloud?

I was searching the Old Colony Library Network catalog today and for the first time I kind of “got” the cloud display.  It’s not actually supposed to work like facets, it’s sort of the opposite of facets.  Facets help you narrow your search, and the tag cloud expands it. Then I experimented with other libraries that use tag clouds.  The same searches bring up different word clouds in each library.  Sometimes the associations seem weird but hey, if those words are linked in your catalog, why not suggest them to the user? I also see where tag clouds can compensate for the shortcomings of topic facets (“Refine”), which seem to be based on LC subjects.    The tag clouds allow you to bust out of the LC subject framework.  It’s like if someone comes to the library reference desk and asks for something using an incorrect or unfamiliar term–the tag cloud tries to imagine what possible relationship that term might have to something that’s actually in the library. Remember the mean librarian in Sophie’s Choice who humiliates Sophie and sends her away for asking for poetry books by “Emil Dickens”?  Well, with a tag cloud, Sophie might have been able to find it. (Of course then she never would have met Nathan… or Stingo…but on the other hand, that might have worked out better for her in the long run…) Maybe that explains why so many public libraries are choosing to display tag clouds? And maybe when people are researching interdisciplinary topics, the tag cloud might help expand their vocabulary into unfamiliar areas? I know it is popular to make fun of tag clouds, and I have been guilty of that myself.  But they are fun, once you let go of the notion that they are supposed to help you find a particular item, and instead allow yourself to be inspired to use the web catalog as a way of wandering through the collections. That’s what happened to me with the Old Colony Library.  Try it! ( Karen Merguerian