Data Obsessed

The weblog of an almost-librarian interested in special, corporate, and government librarianship, with occasional forays into technology and anime-related geekiness.

Thursday, September 30, 2004


I should most definitely be doing homework of some kind, perhaps the database problems due Monday that I've not even started on...but after a day of Comm Req A --> Class --> Home Library work --> bar for 30th birthday (not mine), I can't be bothered to summon the energy. This is, after all, what work's for.

So instead, I'm contemplating my next and final semester of graduate school.

I only need four or five credits, thanks to taking twelve credits a semester for the entirety of my first year, but I'll probably end up taking three classes, and the current three are Online Reference, Advanced Reference (which I'm pretty sure is called something else, but I'm too lazy to filch my roommate's copy of the schedule), and Government Documents. The first two are because they're things I'd probably use quite a bit as any kind of librarian, even in the more specialized, private sector and/or government libraries I'm interested in. And Government Documents is because I've been told it's a useful course.

Truly useful courses have been few and far between at SLIS, in my experience. I found Networking and Telecommunication Concepts vaguely useful, and Cataloging would be, I suppose, if I ever had any intention of ever cataloging. However, when the content of a class fails to grab you to that extent, I'd think it's a pretty safe bet that it's an area you should stay away from.

But the point is that so much of everything in this "professional" program seems completely theoretical, and I'd personally enjoy some more practicality with my education.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

"Meal Interrupted"; Or, The Real Reason Your Waiter Interrupts Your Meal Just as You Are Getting into It

So, I was reading the online version of the Chicago Tribune this evening, and had to laugh at this, and not only because Emily Green has an amusing tone - also because I've been in the waitress's position before.

I've never worked in a restaurant and never want to work in a restaurant, which is part of the reason I'm here in graduate school. (newsflash: Amanda did not wake up one morning having experienced a career epiphany. Amanda woke up and went 'well, librarianship has to be better than this') However, I spent one lovely year in the purgatory that is retail, which included countless seminars on "customer service."

Armed with that information, I can safely tell you that, yes, there is a corporate conspiracy to interrupt your dinner. The corporate types think that this constitutes quality service, and it thus gets drummed into the waitstaff's heads by their managers, who in turn have had it drummed into their heads by their managers.

As for why they never approach when you genuinely need them? Deal with enough extremely rude, irate customers, and I'm sure it'll be easy to discern the reason why.

Welcome to the service industry. I do hope you'll enjoy your stay.

in lieu of the requisite Banned Book Week post...

(though if you are particularly interested in that sort of thing, I recommend reading what Jessamyn at has to say on the subject.)

Here is an interesting article from the New York Times about Emory University receiving what is apparently the definitive 20th century American poetry collection. To be honest, I'm not particularly big on poetry - I think I wrote a poem in the fourth grade for a PTA Reflections contest, and I did Verse Reading my freshman year of high school (everyone else: Sylvia Plath. Me: Walt Whitman). But other than that, poetry has never been a huge thing for me.

I do find it rather amazing, however, that someone would love something so much to build this kind of collection for it, and I love this quote about Raymond Danowski's experiences and what drove him to do this:

"The corridors were lined with books, and there were reading rooms with large tables, and windows looking out on trees, sometimes a tennis court," Mr. Danowski said. "There were a lot of students working there, and those of us doing the shelving, we'd push carts around and then we'd disappear and start reading. I'd read for an hour and then get caught, and go back to shelving, and then find another place and read."

It was the first time, he said, that he understood books to be a sanctuary.

"When I decided to create this collection, as I found the books, I was shelving them in my mind," he said. "It was an imaginary library, based on the Burgess-Carpenter experience. It was really like being a librarian in my dreams."

Maybe that's something librarians need to be sure they remember - that we're the curators, and sometimes the creators, of other people's sanctuaries.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Vampire Queen Versus Amazon sounds like a bad B movie

Anne Rice once again demonstrates that her ego continues to be roughly the size of the North American continent.

I find it more amusing - hilarious, really - than anything else, particularly as Ms. Rice brings to mind several amateur writers I have known in the past few years. It's rather sad that after more than twenty years as a professional writer, Anne Rice has either lost or never developed the ability to swallow criticism and move on. That was a skill that I was careful to develop before I ever started to post any writing in internet forums, and it should be the first rule that any writer/creator/artist should accept: if you post your work in a public forum, then you open yourself up to criticism, and that is a consequence you need to deal with. Period.

Having said that, the best parts of this whole thing come from Neil Gaiman. My favorite bits:

I suspect that most authors don't really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so.


I think Anne Rice going on Amazon and lambasting her critics was undoubtedly a very brave and satisfying thing for her to do, was every bit as sensible as kicking a tar baby, and, if ever I do something like that, please shoot me.

The first is so clearly true, and the second makes me laugh out loud.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Freedom of Information

An interesting perspective on the online access debate comes from Wired News. The article details the curious phenomena of *gasp* people buying information they can access free of charge online.

Really, when you think about it, this actually does make sense. While I'm perfectly comfortable reading online and will, in fact, do all of my reading for classes online given the opportunity, my few attempts at reading novels online have failed miserably. Case in point is Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe which I downloaded in pdf form and started to read (and really, it's quite interesting, and I fully intend to finish it someday. I swear.). I couldn't get into reading it on the screen, though, and this is from someone who does a lot of online reading. I would imagine that it would be the same with most people - with something of any great length, a lot of us tend to want to be able to hold it in our hands. There's somehow more control when you have a physical copy.

When we want to read a book, we want to read a book, and a computer screen is a poor substitute for pages between our fingers.

And that's why things like the 9/11 Commission Report sell, despite the entire thing being available online. Because, seriously, who wants that many words onscreen?

I don't, and I spend half my life in front of the computer.

Monday, September 20, 2004

a small bit of late night/early morning truth

You will not notice little maintenance things that need doing - like, for instance, the fact that your curtain rod is falling down and needs to be hammered back into the windowpane - until it is after midnight and far too late to be waking up your roommate and the other residents of your apartment building with the hammering.

Likewise, you will compulsively notice said maintenance problem simply because you can do nothing about it.

Yes, I have issues. It's past one in the morning; I'm allowed.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


My random thoughts on two of Dorothea's latest posts:

My supervisor at the business library was on the Ex Libris/SFX/Citation Linker committee, and suggested (mostly jokingly) that they rename SFX SEX. That way the undergraduates were at least guaranteed to notice it.

And I don't know what the stats are for my site...haven't bothered to put the handy-dandy site tracker up over here yet, because I am essentially lazy at heart. But if it's anything like Pitas was, it's 90% IE. Which is sad. Firefox is a much better browser. It would be my default, but all my bookmarks are in Safari.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

miscellany + books

Trying this again, as Blogger is evidently hating me today. Note to self: Never preview.

Jessica Baumgart will be speaking to the Wisconsin Chapter of the SLA tonight; I'd love to go, but I will unfortunately be at work, and getting a sub will be impossible. See, LIS 450 meets on Wednesdays, and since the other two night reference assistants are in that first year seminar, there's no one who can work. I'll undoubtedly be spending the night memorizing my MadCat script. Bummer.

Oh well, I'll go to next month's meeting.

A few days back, Jessa at Bookslut posted a list of the books that marked a "watershed" in her life. She had 23. I can only think of 10.

Well, I'm young yet.

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

  • The Bridegroom by Ha Jin

  • Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

  • Each of these books did something different to me, I think; Wuthering Heights, for instance, I read at a far too impressionable age and is probably to blame for my not-so-secret love for all things angsty, melodramatic, and tragic. On the other hand, Huck Finn and practically everything else I've ever read by Mark Twain is the root of my love of a good sarcastic wit.

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Little Princess, and Anne of Green Gables were my growing up books. I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Anne of Green Gables so often that the books fell apart in my hands. My copy of A Little Princess was hardcover and managed to survive the shy, introverted, rather unhappy little girl I once was.

    The Tao was the book that made me think about what I really believed and how I expressed that belief, and it eventually gave me more inner balance and self-esteem that was finally based on myself instead of what the rest of the world saw. Ironic when you think that I published it because I was obsessed with CLAMP's manga and anime.

    I read The Jungle when I was too young to really understand it, I think, but it still managed, along with a handful of other books (including the aforementioned Huck Finn and Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath) to shape my political and social consciousness. Though I'm much less idealistic about it these days.

    The last three on the list affected me more as a writer than as a reader, I think - though I read two of them years before I ever started to write. When I write, I like to think that my characters are strong, but they have human frailties that must seem so silly to other people, and that can be attributed to both Amy Tan and Helen Fielding. Bridget Jones is famously obsessed with her weight and relies on self-help books to work through her problems, and Jing Mei in The Joy Luck Club is never able to shake the feeling that she's not good enough for her mother. These are both insecurities that are unbelievably accurate to modern life.

    And someday I hope to achieve the combination of spare, matter-of-fact words and raw, intense emotion that Ha Jin manages in each one of the stories in The Bridegroom.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2004

    sometimes you have to wonder...

    The State of Illinois is soliciting bids for an Official State Beverage (link via BoingBoing):

    The concept of designating an "official state beverage" could bring in millions of dollars to Illinois' cash-strapped state budget, as soft-drink companies compete - and pay - for the right to hawk their soda, juice or other beverage under Illinois' state banner.

    Okay...what? I mean, I'm from Illinois, so I know that as a state we're essentially...well, we're broke. But an Official State beverage strikes me as ever so slightly problematic. Ever so slightly insane, even.

    Possibly even plain nutters. *continues to boggle*

    Saturday, September 11, 2004

    Citation Software: RefWorks, and the problems therein

    Dorothea mentions the University of Wisconsin's implementation of RefWorks and the problems associated with it - and it is hardly problem free, that much is for sure.

    But while the glaring problem Dorothea has with it is the frustration of having to tell RefWorks what kind of database you want to import from, my concern tends to be the lack of Macintosh compatibility. See, I have an iBook. I never use IE except to check compatibility; my preferred browsers are Mozilla Firefox and Apple's Safari. So a lot of the functionality of RefWorks is lost...and the in text citation plugin is still not functional for Macintosh.

    I attended my RefWorks seminar back in July. We were assured at the time that Write'n'Cite would be working for Mac within a month. I attended another one this past week...and no, it does not work.

    The joys of living in a PC world.

    Friday, September 10, 2004

    a portrait of a chicken and its severed head

    No, not really. But Thursdays always give me that feeling...something about the combination of two long classes starting at one when I'm already starting to lag and then hearing and seeing the latest additions to my schedule at Information Literacy. And in addition, the LITA student chapter wants the website redesigned, and I'm in charge of organizing that. And at least one of the people who want to help is the kind that tends to take over projects; I've experienced this before.

    In this case, that might not be such a bad thing.

    I need to buy a planner today. And actually rehearse ALL of the MadCat workshop scirpt since I'm practicing it on Saturday afternoon and haven't even looked at the other sections.

    Someday I will remember what an actual day off feels like. Really.

    Thursday, September 09, 2004

    Risk Analysis

    An interesting essay penned by Paul Collins of the Village Voice concerning the NEA's "Reading at Risk" study. Apparently less adults than ever are reading, which is something I can actually believe - reading is, for many students, not something that is fun but something that has to be done, and the emphasis by some parents, teachers, and even librarians on simply encouraging the reading of "good" books instead of just encouraging reading, period contributes to this, in my opinion.

    This is not to say that the NEAs study was a particular good one. You see, the NEA, in all of its wisdom, only included the following as "counting" towards reading: novels, short stories, plays, or poetry in their leisure time (not for work or school). So those who like to read nonfiction in any of its forms, such as biography, history, or memoir are not included. Those who enjoy reading Japanese manga and comics in any of their myriad forms - not included. And those who are unable to find the free time to read for leisure because of the sheer amount of work they must accomplish as students are not included, even when their degree programs are in the reading-intensive areas of English and history.

    There's something wrong with this picture.

    Let's begin with a short case study of a graduate student in her mid-twenties...namely me. I have two jobs, one working in Computer Services at the University of Wisconsin Law Library and one working as a reference assistant at the University of Wisconsin Business Library. I take three or four courses a semester. I'm currently enrolled in a 120 hour practicum on Information Literacy.

    My leisure reading tends to be limited to manga and short story collections; things I can digest quickly. Does that mean my reading is at risk? I don't think so.

    I do think that the NEA needs to re-evaluate what constitutes reading, and what constitutes literature. Stories told in comic form can be extraordinarily complicated. Nonfiction can be as fascinating and as mind-bending as modern fiction. And works read for classes or for work can affect the reader just as much as those read for leisure. Not to mention that students aren't the only ones who have unbelievably tight schedules; reading for leisure can be a difficult thing to make time for.

    It's time for the NEA to do what many librarians have already been forced into doing; it's time for them to re-evaluate what reading is. Only when that has been accomplished can they judge the true state of reading in the United States.

    Wednesday, September 08, 2004

    The Prejudice of the DDC

    This is an interesting link, but it discusses something that I would have thought was patently obvious.

    Yes, the Dewey Decimal System is obviously prejudiced, and has likely been so since it's inception. The classification of Religion within the classification scheme is the most widely cited and obvious example of this; nine-tenths of that particular division is devoted to the dominant faith of Melvil Dewey's day: Christianity. Even if Christianity remains the dominant religion today, it is hardly the only dominant one, and in the era of globalization, the need to make room for other, more diverse subjects is clearly required.

    But what are we to do about this? Such a change would, as the author of this article points out, wreak havoc in the libraries that use the DDC - libraries that include school media centers, public libraries, and even large academic institutions such as the University of Illinois. It would involve re-cataloging entire sections, and having visited the cataloging department here at the University of Wisconsin, I know that idea would not be greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm.

    To say the very least.


    I've stuck with my Pitas blog for a while, after moving from blogspot back in 2003, but I think it's time to come back. Blogspot has pretty templates now!

    Plus, I'm really lazy and tired of entering html code everytime I post.