Library News


As far as blog posts go, this is most likely my last for a while. I will not be around in the summer or fall of this year. In the spring of 2009, I should be back at work. Provided that this blog is still operational, I will be back to posting then. I will continue to post on the Facebook page and continue to leave comments. This is my opening disclaimer for this post.

I have decided to make this a comment–oriented post. There are numerous books that I want to read in the upcoming months, but it seems that I can never get around to them. Sometimes I feel that I am being too ambitious and trying to read books that are too weighty for this time in my life, when I have a lot of things going on. But I think I will get around to reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I have heard generally good things about this book, and it seems to be very popular for a work of ‘literary fiction.’ It has been made in to a movie starring Viggo Mortensen that will premiere at Cannes in May. Before I see that film I will try to read this book and try not to picture Viggo Mortensen as the main character. Perhaps this will add another dimension of difficulty to the book.

I also want to get around to reading, at least partly, some of Pauline Kael’s writings in her various collections of Film Criticism. Trash, Art and the Movies is her most famous essay; I don’t think I’ve ever gotten around to reading all thirty-something pages. I would like to read The Citizen Kane Book: Raising Kane, where she argues that Orson Welles deserves more credit than is necessary for revolutionizing cinema with Citizen Kane, and even in the creation of certain aspects of the movie itself. I have read with interest other writings by Pauline Kael that I’ve read (what fan of movies hasn’t?) and feel the need to dig in to more.

But I need some recommendations as well. What are other good books that Snell Library has which are worth reading? What about movies? What is a good summer read. i.e something that is sort of silly but interesting? I still have two and a half more months in Boston (before I go to New York for a spell) and still need to spend some time in the Snell stacks.

Publishing Datasets (warning: geek content!)

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation) has released a white paper with the refreshingly jargon-free title, “We need publishing standards for datasets and data tables” (.pdf). ( Some of the paper talks about publishing issues, especially the options for OECD participation in CrossRef’s doi system and the challenges with that compared to publishing e-journal articles (primarily the dynamic nature of many datasets, compared to the static nature of e-journal articles). For all you metadata geeks out there, there is a section with a proposed metadata set for data. It is pretty bare-bones, kind of on a par with simple Dublin Core for online and digital information. It accommodates parent-child relationships (for example, a table linked to its parent dataset, linked in turn to its parent collection of datasets).  That seemed to be important to OECD. There was a field called “variable index” I was wondering if that would be something like the metadata in Lexis-Nexis Statistical, which allows you to search or browse by data breakdowns such as geographic region (e.g. “by country” “by city”),  demographics (e.g. “by age” “by ethnicity” “by educational attainment”) or economic (e.g. “by industry” “by occupation”).   That is really, really useful. There is also the suggestion to use a thesaurus of controlled key terms to describe datasets, the one suggested is called “JEL” but it’s not spelled out anywhere.  Is that the “Journal of Economic Literature” thesaurus?  Is that a common one to use if you’re an economist? The OECD paper proposes that metadata include a field called “periodicity,” which in some cases is mandatory, in others is optional.  I wasn’t sure what that meant.  Does that mean that data is available on a yearly basis, possibly in different files or data sets, or that it is presented in the described dataset with yearly rows or columns?  It seems to be the former, because this metadata field is considered “not appropriate” in the case of static tables. In Lexis-Nexis Statistical, the latter type of metadata is supported. It means you can search or browse for a chart or table of information, say unemployment statistics, presented in a single view “by year” “by quarter” or “by month”.  Invaluable feature!!

Before the News Dies…

The purported death of newspapers sure is taking a while, and in some ways seems like just another trendy lamentation. First there was ‘The Death of Rock.’ Then there was ‘The Death of Cinema’ (which has died hundreds of times). Now, the death of newspapers will apparently coincide with the death of the publishing industry. However, there also appears to be some frightful truth to this predicament. The New York Times recently announced that it may be closing the Boston Globe. It seems that people everywhere, even journalists, would rather write something for the internet than publish something on a physical piece of paper that one can carry with them. What a pity. (I might note here that I’m the pot calling the kettle black by posting all this on a blog).

If the newspaper does in fact die, then let’s take a moment to celebrate the wide variety of newspapers that Snell contains. They really are from all over the globe. You can read newspapers from different areas of the U.S, such as The Philadelphia Enquirer, or the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Or you can read newspapers from other countries, in other languages, such as Die Welt, from German, where you can find out that ‘Deutschland sucht neuen Wirtschaftsminister’ (Germany searches for a new Economic Advisor). Or you can read The Moscow Weekly News (which comes in an English edition), Le Monde, from France, or The India Reporter, from India. It is helpful to have this diverse array of newspapers, of course, for the foreign students who want to read news in their own language from their native country. But it is also beneficial for Americans, even one’s who do not know any foreign languages. You are not going to read in The Boston Globe, at least not in a detailed article, that Germany is choosing a new Economic Advisor. Perhaps facts like this are, or will be, more important than they seem. U.S news, including its newspapers, has always had an aversion to world news. The only place in this country to my mind you can hear comprehensive world news in on NPR radio. Many of these newspapers have English editions, if not in print, then online, so why not be informed? (It’s also worth noting that these papers do mention all the U.S news that is relevant)

Will newspapers die in this country? Will this death be a payback for a disregard for the rest of the world? Actually, there is no direct correlation. Newspapers are dying because of an economic crisis, the internet, plummeting sales and overall poor writing. But perhaps newspapers from other parts of the world will remain. At least for a little while.

How soon before library barcodes are on your cell phone?

Ars Technical reports that American Airlines will start rolling out cell phone boarding passes today at O’Hare international airport.  Instead of printing your boarding pass* you’ll get a barcode sent to your cell which you can bring to the airport. TSA can scan it and allow you to your gate–you’ll still need an ID, of course.  How soon before we can get a barcode on our cell phones for everything–supermarket key tags that get you the lower prices, and everything else including…library cards? *See “Why is Printing so Hard?” by Ed Felton, Princeton Professor and apparent leading candidate for Obama’s new Chief Technology Officer position.