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Libraries Are 31337 234

tiltowait writes In response to the incredulity expressed in this story about the technical prowess of libraries, I'd like to present a short essay titled "Librarians: We're Not What You Think" - read on for more. Update: 10/20 18:15 GMT by M : The author has also put up his essay on his own webpage.
From the spinster librarian in It's a Wonderful Life to the crochety archivist in Attack of the Clones, librarians are often portrayed (in everything from movies, musicals, children's books, literature, science fiction, comics and cartoons to pornography - yes, pornography) as something less than noble or admirable. The perception of librarians has been a popular topic recently, with several articles focusing on the fringe-type librarians (ska, rockabilly, bellydancing, modified, bodybuilding, laughing, and lipstick). Although something of an anti-stereotype, these people illustrate the range of librarian personalities.

Many people may hold the image of a librarian as a shushing school marm who does little more than stamp and shelve books because that's all they've seen librarians do. Well think again - that's about as inaccurate as believing that Alan Greenspan is nothing more than a glorified bank teller. The job titles may change but the mission of the profession remains the same: organize information and help people find it. Libraries have been around a lot longer than the Internet, and even library technology can hold its own with the best out there. For example, Google's savvy results ranking was hardly the birth of citation analysis (next up: metadata - cough, cataloging, cough), and there are enormous library systems that also predate the Internet.

Although library geeks and technology nerds may have contrary images, in today's world the boundary between the career of the librarian and the information technologist is disappearing. Librarians today not only administer Web servers and dynamic databases to help manage large digital collections and thousands of electronic resources, they teach people how to use library systems. And just as enlightened computer engineers are advocates of noncommercial software and campaign for online rights, the library profession has a long history of staunchly defending freedom - from book burnings to the FBI's Library Awareness Program to the latest copyright battles and almost all other current issues in intellectual freedom.

Check out LISNews.com (recognize the format?) and some library blogs if you're interested in reading more about real librarians.

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Libraries Are 31337

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  • Too long (Score:5, Funny)

    by I'm not a script ( 612110 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:33AM (#4489317)
    Can someone summarize this in one sentence, I'm not going to read all that.
    • Re:Too long (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:36AM (#4489323)

      Can someone summarize this in one sentence, I'm not going to read all that.

      A librarian who is upset by all the "librarians are losers" stereotypes wishes for us to read a brief article which, contrary to the nerdy librarian's expectations, does nothing to dispel said stereotypes.

  • by davids-world.com ( 551216 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:34AM (#4489320) Homepage
    call them information broker, and the jobs sounds fancy again.

    librarians are old-fashioned only as long as they stick to storing information on paper instead of creating networked, digital libraries. the first will protect there jobs, probably, the latter is going to save us researchers/users/customers more and more time.
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:44AM (#4489465) Homepage Journal
      The geniuses at the college I worked at decided to rename the college library 'Learning Resources Center' Hey, guess how often some student would wander down past my office asking where they could find the 'Library'

      Same went for other impressive efforts to rename things: PE -&gt LLW Life Long Wellness, Admissions Office -&gt Welcome Center, etc.

      A true professional should know how to position themselves so the public can find them. Confusing, euphemistic titles are as bad as Political Correctness in my book. If anyone thinks otherwise, try running a bond issue on a ballot for something other than Library and see how many votes it nets you.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Putting all of our paper collections in digital form would take either decades of time or tens of billions of dollars.

      Either way, librarians would do very well for themselves in the process, and gain thousands of jobs.

      The reason we haven't gone to all-digital collections is that it would cost a tremendous amount of money that we don't as a society want to spend, and the resulting benefit would be tiny in comparison. (A marginal increase in researching speed in exchange for a massive societal investment.)

      Real research - vs. just typing terms into Google - is an intensive process that takes real time, and using a print library actually increases the efficiency of that research.

      This post is simply lazy, lazy thinking.
      • I agree. Google is a wonderful tool, but it cannot compare with information that is actually cataloged. The other reason for not going completely digital is that information stored digitally is not stable. Just think how easy it would be for someone like Ashcroft to change history if there were no hard copy records. Or when we find out our 30 year cd's crap out after five years.
      • Another reason we haven't gone further in converting the dead trees to bits is because copyright is just so darn long.

        99%+ of everything ever published is under copyright now that it has become pretty much perpetual.

        Project Gutenberg's [promo.net] site has some information about this. They've also managed to scan thousands of books that existed prior to 1920. I think they are up to about 6 or 7 new books posted per month.

        There are also other efforts out there doing essentially the same thing. You might want to check out the Online Books Page [upenn.edu] for even more titles.

        The progress made so far in this effort despite the efforts of corporate interests to destroy the very concept of the Public Domain are really pretty astounding.

      • Besides, ever try to read an online text book? It's a hell of a lot easier to read when the words aren't refreshing at 80Hz
        • Actually, I've read the first two Honor Harrington novels on my Visor, using Mobipocket, and it was quite enjoyable. No idea what the refresh rate is on a Visor screen, though.
        • No, what's hard to read is the book or article your library doesn't own, which is the usual case unless you have access to the Library of Congress.

          In fact, with citeseer.org really taking off, it seems I suddenly have far better access than through any library I've tried, and all from the comfort and convenience of (wherever I happen to be).

  • by Brento ( 26177 ) <brento AT brentozar DOT com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:37AM (#4489324) Homepage
    Here in Houston, the public library system is on the cutting edge of rolling out free public 802.11b access in all their libraries. A guy from the library system regularly comes to our Houston Wireless [houstonwireless.org] user group meetings, and that alone speaks volumes, because I don't see any companies sending representatives.
    • How very odd that I read this on here. I happen to work for the very library that the representative is from. :)

      I work at Harris County Public Library (www.hcpl.net), in the the information technology area. Basically the central office where all 27 branches are connected to throughout Houston.

      Personally, I'm their 'Linux guy' to make my job description short. I admin a small Linux network that works alongside the Windows network which provides various functions for the network as a whole. Network monitoring (using MRTG/RDDTools for display on a web page), IDS (using Snort and Demarc) and backups (backup sendmail server, and web server)

      What my collegue and I are attemping to do, is utlilize some freeware software called Nocat (runs on Linux, www.nocat.net) which will allow patrons to the various libraries to walk in with a laptop (and a wireless card), turn it on, and open up IE. The NoCat system which is running as an 'open network' will send DHCP info, and route the http Post to an authentication server, and send the user a login box, which will then (if login succesful) relax the firewall to allow that particular DHCP address to access you're regular ports (80 for the web, and whatever else we feel like allowing them).

      I wont get into any more details, but, in my opinion, this really does have interesting implications that I just started to grasp as I was working on this project.


      Think about that a bit... seems pretty neat to me as wireless gets more powerful.

  • by EvilStein ( 414640 ) <`ten.pbp' `ta' `maps'> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:37AM (#4489325)
    "Many people may hold the image of a librarian as a shushing school marm who does little more than stamp and shelve books because that's all they've seen librarians do"

    I'm obviously not many people, because whenever I think of a librarian, I keep seeing Britney Spears in various stages of undress while surrounded by books...and wearing glasses. You know, *those* glasses.. the ones that say "I'm the HEAD librarian."

    Yeah, those...
  • l33t? no. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:38AM (#4489329)
    Coming from a guy that works in a library, Librarians are abuot as l337 as the people that feel is cool to type in l337.

  • by bani ( 467531 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:40AM (#4489333)
    ... script kiddies love using them to launch attacks from ...
  • librarians (Score:3, Insightful)

    by papasui ( 567265 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:41AM (#4489336) Homepage
    I instantly flashbacked to the Ghostbuster's scene with the chick and she turns into a monster, but seriously libraries are great resource. Mine has a pretty good selection of computer books that I normally would have to pay $50 for (no cisco though), as well as a lot of new DVDs and VHS tapes. I go there and check out anime all the time, compare that to fighting for a tape at Hollywood Video or Blockbuster and paying $4.00 for it. I plan on donating some money to my area library this year, I hope you will too.
    • It's been my experience that the library will get more mileage out of books, especially ones with relevant information. Instead of selling off my university material, I donated it to the public libraries so that not everyone in the world would be forced to buy course material.
      A lot of a library's budget goes to popular reading, so very technical books often get overlooked.
      • Re:librarians (Score:5, Informative)

        by edmcw ( 617822 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:23AM (#4489558)
        Disturbing fact: A number of years ago, I worked as a library custodian; my responsibilities included throwing away the donated books the librarians didn't think they could sell. It frequently amounted to several hundred books a week, many of them very cool. (My personal library certainly benefitted.) I doubt this is true of all libraries, but at that particular library, donated books never made it into the stacks. I've been a lot less enthusiastic about donating ever since.
        • It's apparently true for the Los Angeles County system, tho at least in the Lancaster branch, they go to the "Friends of the Library" outfit to hawk at their small shop and their annual book sale.
          AFAICT they don't even check whether the library needs that title or not.

          I'm pleased to have an ongoing source of 50 cent books, but it does make one wonder about the value of donating books to libraries.

        • Re:librarians (Score:5, Interesting)

          by phatlipmojo ( 106574 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:47PM (#4490599)
          Yeah, I'm a librarian, and we throw out a lot of books that won't circulate and/or won't sell at the book sale. There are a great many reasons why:
          1. 90% of book donations are people who are essentially bringing their garbage to the library and expecting a thank-you note, a tax write-off, a pat on the back, a guarantee that they will see it on the shelf, and maybe a blowjob. The vast majority of books we get are old, moderately-to-very damaged, and have some variety of higher invertebrate living in them (you would not believe how many roaches can live in a medium sized box of old, dusty, rotting books). But thanks so much for the donation.
          2. We already have it or nobody is going to read it. Books take up physical space, which is--believe it or not--limited. We don't like it, but we have no choice but to prioritize based on what will get checked out. One reason for this is that we get way less money from taxes than you think we do. Way less (supressing rant about the jerk who yelled that he pays my salary the other day). Most of our money comes from charitible foundations. Charitible foundations who base the amount of money they give us on the number of books that get checked out. As a result, we get a lot of copies of the new Danielle Steel book, and we get a lot of educated people yelling that we're discriminating against them. The worst part is, as an educated person myself, I can't say I disagree with them.
          3. It's not worth the trouble. Sad, but true fact: if you round up some zealots and pester the library enough, you too can effect a change in what they keep on the shelf. Case in point: this week, we got an excellent donation (one of our patrons evidently reviews books; we get a lot of brand-new, good stuff from her. As a result, she sees a lot of her donations end up on our shelves) that included an anatomy book for artists, complete with hundreds of pages of photographs of attractive, very naked people. A neighborhood artist has been asking if we were going to get anything like that for a long time. But we can't put it on the shelf because the neighborhood Baptist church has already displayed its willingness to send in its members one by one to complain about such things (or even steal them so nobody else can check them out). Between them and the crop of 14 year-old boys who know where the anatomy section is and aren't too proud to tear out a few pages, the book wouldn't last a week. The only thing I could do was call the artist and give it to her. It works out for her, but what about the other artists?
          4. Which reminds me. A substantial number of the donations we get are propaganda. Books about why Jews are evil, why Gorbachev is the antichrist, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum.

          So you see, it's not that simple. If you're thinking of bringing a pile of damaged, marked up, dirty books to the library so you can feel like you've done some kind of public service, save yourself the trouble. We're already understaffed and underpaid, and we don't really have much in the way of spare time to sort through your garbage so you can feel like a champion of philanthropy. If you have good, clean, undamaged books, CDs, videos, DVDs, software (especially certification test materials--that stuff gets stolen so fast you wouldn't believe it), by all means, bring them in; we'll even send you a thank-you note. But don't act like it entitles you to dictate what becomes of them or like that one donation should exempt you from overdue fees for life.

          -phatty 2x4
        • Goodwill does the same thing. A lot of the stuff they get is junk, of course, but they throw out lots of good books too, just because there isn't shelf space in the store.

          My local library has a "book exchange", where people are free to give and take old books that would otherwise be thrown out. (No tax write-off, of course.) It's a good idea, even if it does sometimes fill up with non-book items like political leaflets and AOL CDs.

    • I plan on donating some money to my area library this year, I hope you will too.

      Another great way to help your library is to donate all your unwanted books to them. They will then decide whether they go onto the shelves or into their occasional book sales. Either way, you're helping your library (and thus your community) in a financially painless manner.

  • by mattbland ( 260913 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:45AM (#4489345)
    the freedom to take a digital copy of the book, leaving the original on the shelf for someone who is not able to use a digital copy.

    In modern day life every town/city library could present the books electronically for the benefit of it's citizens, or indeed the world.

    But because of copyright this will never be allowed to happen to the majority of books.

    People in this communitity have only recently (in the last five to ten years) started to wake up and realise that technology is not a limiting factor anymore, the legal system is. Librarians probably knew this all along and have not been worried about becoming redundant.

    If anything the Internet and libraries can probably learn more from each other than you realise.

    Librarians may be depicted in a less than flattering way in the media, but how many people actually visit libraries outside of schooling these days? I myself visit Borders book store, browse, listen to music, have a coffee and chat with my friends most saturdays, but in a library I wouldn't be able to find the latest titles or enjoy myself. Compared to retail a library is a staid boring authoritarian place, which is why the staff of these valuable institutions are depicted in this way.

    If they want to change their perception let's encourgage them to change their work place.

    Sadly, whilst we value knowledge, it will be limited, rationed and paid for. When we cease to value knowledge we will have no use for it.
    • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:21AM (#4489409) Homepage
      the freedom to take a digital copy of the book, leaving the original on the shelf for someone who is not able to use a digital copy.

      Almost, but not quite, like Project Gutenberg [ibiblio.org], in fact.

      Your point about copyright is still valid, but Project Gutenberg is making the rest possible.

      I worked on a project to digitise every book in the French National Library (EBPF, or Every P****** Book in France, as our overworked scanner operators used to call it. A worthwhile thing - not only did it allow multiple people to look at the same book simultaneously, but it also allowed rare books to be preserved - they weren't handled anymore, so they weren't damaged.

      how many people actually visit libraries outside of schooling these days?

      Quick question - are you a parent? If not, I can understand this question. If you are, then I'd be surprised if your kid didn't use the library in some form. I used to as a kid, and even though our daughter is currently only eight months' old, we go to the library and pick out baby books for her. This works well - she gets bored of things really quickly, so being able to return the books and pick new ones is a big bonus.


      • by mattbland ( 260913 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:40AM (#4489461)
        Actually I'm not a parent. But I have rarely visited a library since finishing school.

        When I was a student I used the college library a lot, mainly because it was the only place I could use Apple Mac's at the time (Mac Pluses!).

        I also used the school library a lot, amazingly because I found it better than the local public library (I was lucky to go to a very successful boy's Grammar school).

        Recently I was asked by my boss to find some information for his kids' homework using the net at work. A fact which reinforced my view that kids don't use the library much anymore. When you've got Encarta on a cd/dvd at home and a net connection it's a hundred times quicker and useful for a school kid than actually visiting a library. If I were a kid again I bet I'd be online just as much as I am nowdays as an IT professional.

        One of the reasons that libraries are useful is that they are free and open up access to knowledge
        and learning to those without the funds to pay for the books. I wouldn't mind paying for the priviledge to use the library more if they had a better selection of books.
        The current library system here in the UK is supported by the local authority, which means that our local taxes pay for the books. If no one visits the library there isn't much justification for paying for nice new books.
        • Recently I was asked by my boss to find some information for his kids' homework using the net at work...If I were a kid again I bet I'd be online just as much as I am nowdays as an IT professional.

          I entirely agree for research into factual items. My fiancee has recently 'gone back to school' and put herself through a four-year college course to become a qualified dispensing optician. Day release, so she had to wait a week between asking questions of her tutors. In this situation, the net was invaluable - we found online optics papers all over the place (quite a lot at the University of Texas, I seem to remember, and we're in the UK).

          There's always fiction however. That doesn't yet lend itself to web publishing, in my opinion. Well, at least not online reading anyway - you could always download and print. Just as important as factual research is the broadening of the mind that comes with reading a 'good' piece of fiction. Your definition of good might be different to mine, but I'm sure you'll see what I mean.


        • Recently I was asked by my boss to find some information for his kids' homework using the net at work.

          1. It's not part of your job description (or does your job include "flunky"?).

          2. It defeats the purpose of the assignment, which is for the KID to learn how to find stuff.

          3. Did you do it?
      • Quite frankly it had never occurred to me to borrow books from the library for my son. Just as well. At the age of 8 months, his favourite form of information processing was to chew on the books. I shudder to think of the fines I would have had to pay if those were library books.

        • Err...she tries, but we keep an eye out.

          These books are unlikely to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. They are things like "Elmer's Day", where Elmer (a patchwork elephant) wakes up, has a bath in the river, and goes back to to sleep again. Total: about five pages, and those pages are card, not paper. They're about 95% pictures too.

          You also get ones with textures in them - you know, "feel my furry tummy" with a picture of a teddy bear and a tuft of fabric for the baby to touch. Then there's the glittery ones...that kind of thing.

          It's not really to teach her to read, more to get her used to the idea of books and also to the idea of someone reading to her.


    • by tiltowait ( 306189 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:39AM (#4489459) Homepage Journal

      the freedom to take a digital copy of the book, leaving the original on the shelf for someone who is not able to use a digital copy.

      The biggest impediment to the type of access you describe nowadays isn't the technology, it's capitalism and all its derivatives, such as copyright.

      Case in point: A few years ago, the ebook vendor netLibrary offered an offline reader [netlibrary.com]. This product was removed due to publisher paranoia. Currently you can only view netLibrary titles one page at a time while connected to the Internet. Furthermore, despite the medium, only one patron per purchasing library can check out a book at any given time. But never fear, now they're offering - for an extra fee - the ability to use a (somewhat [elcomsoft.com]) DRM crippled offline reader [netlibrary.com].

      Publishers are about as up to date with technology and new pricing models as the RIAA. Copyrights disputes have been cited as the reason several publishers have pulled their titles from full-text databases. So instead of moving towards the single search box method for library resources, we now have hundreds of competing library database vendors, each with different coverage and search interfaces. It is the most difficulty time in history to do library research (and the slack that Google is picking up is a detriment to research skills [disenchanted.com]) not just because of varying library materials formats, but because of copyright.

      Libraries Are 31337 [slashdot.org]

      • Fortunately, not all publishers [baen.com] are so inclined. (And y'know, if I'd had to choose one to be good about digital copying and stuff, I think Baen would have been the one I would have chosen anyway--since it publishes science fiction and fantasy, and not all the boring tripe that usually ends up on best-seller lists.)
    • But because of copyright this will never be allowed to happen to the majority of books

      I'd just like to point out that this is because of the publishers application of their copyright rights, rather than because of copyright itself. They have chosen to restrict supply of their property to only people who can acquire a physical copy (be it bookstore or library), with a bias towards people who pay for it.

      Having made extensive use of libraries when I was younger I can appreciate their immense value (I still think of them as smaller, slower internets from before the day...) but also appreciate what a digital library would mean to publishers. Most of the solutions I can think of only involve crippling digital distribution to match the shortcomings of print distribution, not an acceptable way of dealing with changing technology but one we seem to be stuck with in lieu of creative new business plans from publishers.

      For the record, I think librarians are cool, 'cause if they are I stand a better chance of also being cool one day...
      • I'd just like to point out that this is because of the publishers application of their copyright rights, rather than because of copyright itself.

        I'd argue that it's rather because of Congress extending copyrights such that publishers have the ability to withhold the texts they purchase from the public domain for so long. Short copyright terms resolves the publisher issue -- they have their exclusive rights for a short time (I'd go back to the original 17-year terms), and then the work is available to everyone. Pity that won't likely happen here.
    • Using digital copies is somewhat dangerous, IMHO. One of the purposes of libraries is simply to warehouse information. If they were to emphasize the digital copies and not the hardcopy, eventually the digital versions would degrade or the media would become obsolete. Imagine going to your local library to find a book and discovering that they only have it on 8.5" floppy disks. Obviously files could be copied but it would require constant upkeep. Paper, on the other hand, lasts MUCH longer. Personally, I am far more concerned about the information existing than in ease of access..
    • http://library.fictionwise.com/fll/
    • by IIRCAFAIKIANAL ( 572786 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:34AM (#4489588) Journal
      Librarians may be depicted in a less than flattering way in the media, but how many people actually visit libraries outside of schooling these days? I myself visit Borders book store, browse, listen to music, have a coffee and chat with my friends most saturdays, but in a library I wouldn't be able to find the latest titles or enjoy myself. Compared to retail a library is a staid boring authoritarian place, which is why the staff of these valuable institutions are depicted in this way.

      I visit the local libraries here in Calgary, AB all the time. We have great libraries with great programs and classes, computers for students and the less fortunate, an excellent selection of books (both old and new) - and I believe that there are even coffee shops attached to some of the newer ones (one I know of downtown, anyhow).

      I was poor (by Canadian standards) growing up and if it hadn't been for libraries, I would not be in the line of work I am - there is no way I could have bought all the programming and computer books I took out on loan. Being able to access the Internet was also quite useful.

      Now that I make a disproportionately large amount of money for my age (double income, no kids) my better half and I donate many of the books we buy every year to the local libraries (at least 50 this year). Before you bemoan the lack of books at your local library, why not donate some books?

      And don't even get me started on the staff of your average retail bookstore. They are often the most unhelpful group of slackers I have ever met (at least in the three large bookstores I frequent).

      I'll take staid, boring, authoritarian, and useful over useless and costly anyday.

      In any case, a lot of people use libraries for things unrelated to school. Just because a hip, young, modern guy like you won't be caught dead in one doesn't mean the rest of us don't recognise the value of such an institution.

      One last thing you forgot - libraries are pretty much the last place you can find many examples of old information - old newspapers, out of print books, etc.

      (This isn't a flame - I just think that you haven't been in a library for quite awhile or the libraries in your town are a bit behind the times - pretend I peppered this text with winky smiley's, k?)
    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:22AM (#4489738) Homepage Journal
      A library is not just a place to get free books. There may be a time in the future where libraries will check out electronic books, unfortunately with some sort of DRM, in the same way that they now provide patrons with access to research databases and online articles, but I do not see it as a priority. The most important part of a library is to have a number of librarians with a range of degrees and experience so they can help patrons find the information they need.

      As a casual reader of books, I appreciate when a book is at the library. If a book is not at the library, I can generally ask a library to hold it for me when it comes back. The value of a library is that it has a range of free books, not that it has every book you want every time you want it.

      As a researcher, books are not so critical. Most information in books is old, and there is generally some redundancy among books, so one can generally come up with an appropriate book at a well stocked library. The real information for research is in journals, which are generally not allowed to circulate, and can be copied for a minimal fee.

      So yes, digital books might make the library nicer, but not to the degree that you assert. The library is about freedom of information, and the freedom to acquire information, and it fulfills that duty quite well. Free books are a part of that mandate, and possible the most visible part of that mandate, but not important to the degree you assert.

      The reason that people do not think of think of libraries in a positive light is because they take them for granted. People just assume that they have a right to free help to get the information they need, and then be protected when the government comes to interrogate a librarian about a patrons reading practices. By making such suggestion:
      People in this community have only recently (in the last five to ten years) started to wake up and realize that technology is not a limiting factor anymore, the legal system is. Librarians probably knew this all along and have not been worried about becoming redundant.
      you validate the concept that a library is nothing but a storage of books, and total ignore the underlying principle present in out modern libraries. You minimize the importance of a library and insult the degreed and highly trained proffesional necessary to make such institutions possible.

  • by PDHoss ( 141657 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:46AM (#4489346)

    ... a while back. Right from their site [memepool.com]:

    "Although the general public often seems surprised [modbee.com] when librarians don't fit their pre-conceived image [westga.edu], the profession has celebrated its own differences [librarianavengers.com] for years. Librarians are funny [lipsticklibrarian.com], irreverent [warriorlibrarian.com], interesting [sonic.net], and often radical [libr.org] people. Though popular culture includes considerable library material [byui.edu], it often ignores those on the fringe [bmeworld.com]."


    • Between Memepool, obscurestore.com, and slashdot, i frequently can find the same information in three places. Mostly between obscurestore and memepool.

      Kind of supports the whole idea of memes.

      To get back ON TOPIC: I found the Rockland County, NY library system to be a fabulous wealth of fringe information. Everything from great cyberpunk ("storming the reality studio" is the collection that all should own) and just plain wierd ("High wierdness by mail"- SOOO outof date now, but a great and entertaining book!) for those who can read and like to think the library can offer a great opportunity for having a good time and learning about cool stuff.

      Yeah, I guess that makes me El Primo Geeko, #1.
  • Librarians (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Omkar ( 618823 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:46AM (#4489347) Homepage Journal
    Librarians can access information more efficiently since they know how to search.
    As these special searching mechanisms are made into algorithms, I think librarians will become tenders of technology and book shelvers (unless that's automated as well), not the guides that they were years ago and, to some extent, are today. This situation kinda resembles the Kramnik/Fritz thing...
    • I say we have a World Grand Master Librarian (if such a title doesn't exist then hurry up and make one) vs Google tournament.
    • Re:Librarians (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 )
      As these special searching mechanisms are made into algorithms, I think librarians will become tenders of technology and book shelvers

      You mean the way musicians have become tenders of electronic equipment?

      Really, this is not likely to happen until the AI and natural language capabilities of computers reach the point where they understand what we mean and can figure out what we should be looking for.
    • Re:Librarians (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oscitant ( 605324 )
      I doubt it. Someone still has to understand the standards, how it all fits together. Your library catalog might have a slick user interface [spl.org], but there's a lot more to library science than just the dewey decimal system. (If you don't believe me, knock yourself out reading MARC standards [loc.gov], for starters). Librarians will do more and more with technology, but somebody needs to understand at a deep level how the technology maps to the underlying standards and practices, and if AI has taught us anything, it's that it's a lot harder to encode human expertise than you might think. Knowing how to (re)search is far from a trivial skill, and knowing how to assign meaning or metadata [dublincore.org] to data is something I think computers will never be able to do as well as humans.
    • Re:Librarians (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Leo Giertz ( 584210 )
      You forget one quite important thing, and that's the fact that in order to find what you're looking for, you have to know what you're looking for. This is where the librarians are a great asset, and this is probably where they won't be replaced with algorithms, at least not within the nearest 50 years.
  • Just So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:50AM (#4489352)
    Librarians do one heck of a lot more than we, as patrons, see them do. I never really appreciated how much until my mother got a job as a school librarian. She spends long hours working on catalogues, organizing book fairs, and doing research to help teachers find the best supplementary material for their classes.

    Not only that, she is frequently coopted to help with IT problems, since the IT manager doesn't have a staff. One time, she had to manually recover three days worth of circulation info when some moron from the school district turned off the server without shutting everything down properly.

    It scares me when she talks about how much she loves cataloguing, though.
  • by The Original Yama ( 454111 ) <lists@sridhar.dhanapalan@com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:51AM (#4489355) Homepage
    Librarians use photocopiers, and help others to do likewise. Photocopiers can copy whole books, which is in breach of copyright laws.

    Stop the pirate rings! Gaol all librarians!
  • Librarians (Score:5, Informative)

    by yar ( 170650 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:51AM (#4489356)
    I have a library degree.
    In "library school" things I learned about included information architecture, web design, HTML, XML, Javascript and CSS, metadata, authentication and authenticity, network and information security, databases (Access, mySQL) how to install and run Linux, and most importantly how to organize and present information. It was library school that introduced me to Open Source adn Free Software. The basic fuctions and principles of libraries and librarians are probably the most useful of the bunch, even in my current tech job.
  • by tuxedo-steve ( 33545 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:00AM (#4489366)
    from the internet-is-just-a-giant-library dept.
    I don't know what kind of libraries you tend to frequent, Roblimo, but it seems to me that no library I've even been to is 90% porn. The place you live in must seriously r0xx0r!
    • by Roblimo ( 357 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:19AM (#4489406) Homepage Journal
      Or maybe you and I frequent different Internets? :)

      - Robin
    • Because before I had a computer of my own, Libraries were by and large my *only* source of porn.

      Of course, they didn't have a lot of pictures of Nekkid Wimmin, but like a certain magazine [variations.com] likes to say, they have "Porn for nerds. Babes that matter."

      Authors like Anais Nin, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, Camille Paglia, and Nancy Friday are the ones I can remember right off the top of my head, and I've also found a whole host of compilations [amazon.com] of erotic short stories by a vast number of authors.

      And on top of the porn there's also tons of truly informative stuff on human sexuality in public libraries. "The New Kinsey Report," "Female sexual awareness," and "The Erotic Mind," are books that helped enlighten me, and there are now literally hundreds [ipac3.vpl.ca] of newer titles can be found just by using my library's web page search engine.

      Perhaps the library doesn't have *as much* porn as the Internet does, but 99% of what's on the net is crap, and what the library has is all the truly worthwhile stuff. No credit card required! ;)
  • by Hey_bob ( 6104 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:03AM (#4489368) Homepage
    There is a online radio show, called "Tales from the Afternow" which is being told by a Librarian from the future, where everything is copyrighted by mega corps, and he (the librarian) is a criminal for sharing info freely.
    www.theafternow.com [theafternow.com]

    Give a listen, all the episodes are free and in MP3 format.

  • That bloody orang-utan is just about the 133735t librarian that exists. Masters of knowledge they are, yesss preciousss! Jynx
  • be reminded of this image [wreck-shop.com]. Wouldn't want to mess with her cataloguing skillz.
  • ALA (Score:4, Informative)

    by alexc ( 37361 ) <[alexc] [at] [sporks.org]> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:12AM (#4489391)
    A good thing about the American Library Assocition, there are against DMCA and other potential laws that reduce fair use. That is a good thing for open source.
    • Re:ALA (Score:3, Funny)

      by tswinzig ( 210999 )
      A good thing about the American Library Assocition, there are against DMCA and other potential laws that reduce fair use. That is a good thing for open source.

      Exactly! Praise ALA!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I wonder if anyone has read the Foundation series of
    books. Maybe a little too old-fashioned. Also the computers are quite funny.
  • by twoslice ( 457793 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:25AM (#4489423)
    These primary historical documents reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress does not endorse the views expressed in these collections, which may contain materials offensive to some readers.

    I think they cut and pasted this from a PrOn site!

    (Score:6, unfuckingbelievable)

  • by MagPulse ( 316 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:25AM (#4489424)
    ...for the same reason serious Linux users don't use Linux to be cool.

    Every dollar spent on technology is a dollar that doesn't go toward buying another book. It pained me to hear librarians who, when asked on a local radio show what they would do with $100,000, would spend it all on IT when their book collections are so modest.

    Sharing the Internet with the public is a worthy goal, but for most avenues of knowledge, books and periodicals are still the way to go. When authors decide to spend the years it takes to create a great book, they publish it on paper so they can make money, not on the web. Librarians realize this and focus their efforts on creating collections of printed works that are carefully catalogued and chosen for their intellectual value.

    Sharing local collections with the world is being undertaken by the Library of Congress in two separate projects. National works of art are at http://memory.loc.gov/ [loc.gov], and the LOC is helping other countries with putting their materials online at http://international.loc.gov/ [loc.gov].
    • There are circumstances where a bit of 1337ness wouldn't hurt. My wife works at the Faculty of Music library at a major Canadian university. She convinced a friend of ours to donate a large collection of ancient 78's left to him by his father to the school. When the archivist was asked if he could convert these old recordings to MP3's so that students could listen to them for research purposes without damaging the original recordings, he replied - and this is true - that he didn't want to convert the recordings to MP3 because he couldn't listen to them in a blackout. So now they gather dust in a locked room, and no one ever listens to them whether the power is on or not.
    • I should add that money isn't the only incentive to publish on paper. Being published itself is a sort of validation that most in academia need to survive, as well as those outside of it can use to further their career. It also insures that your work will sit in libraries for hundreds if not thousands of years to come, which web publishing can't guarantee. And finally, it usually means more people will read your work, take it more seriously, and refer it to others.
    • It pained me to hear librarians who, when asked on a local radio show what they would do with $100,000, would spend it all on IT when their book collections are so modest.

      As much as I am in sympathy with you, you have to look at who the library serves. Not everyone has access to the Internet at work and home; for those of us that do, having a $100,000 more books would be great. But for those who do not have access to the Internet, it would be a good investment.

      People around here have short memories, apparently not predating the advent fo Google. Now you can't trust everything, or even msot things on the Internet, but you can zero in on things you need to investigate more. If I had an internet connected computer and an encyclopedia standing next to each other, I'd start my investigation on Google and finish it in the encyclopedia. Also, there are many things that a typical small library does not have. I can find Lord Macaulay's seminal 1842 speech on copyright extension [kuro5hin.org] in less than thirty seconds, whereas I'd be lucky if I could find it in my local library at all.

      For us, the marginal value of $100,000 worth of books far outweighs the marginal value of the next $100,000 of technology in our libraries. We already have plenty technology, but we really can't have enough books. For the less fortunate, you might split that $100,000 50/50 for technology and books. For a library with a modest existing collection and no technology serving people who also have no technology (possibly a very likely combination), it might not be reasonable to spend it all on technology.
  • Librarians (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You seem to be missing a step. In the libraries that deploy technology effectively, it's not the librarians who are responsible for the technology: it's the library technician. The position can have many titles: Systems Support, Electronic Support, Computer Manager, All Powerful Guru, etc. These are the people who make effective technology in the libraries.

    You can send your kudos to the local LIBRARY for their "3733t" tech, but take it from one who is there: give the props to the library tech staff.

    Most libraries don't have techs, and those libraries tend to be little but spam relays and porno repositories. Would be nice to convince all those libraries they need a tech. That's a lot of jobs out there, if you're wondering.
  • I often... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iamatlas ( 597477 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:29AM (#4489434) Homepage
    Have to attend for the purposes of work conventions of librarians. Specificlaly, there are the Medical Library Association and Science Library association. They are by far, outside the the technical IT etc. community the most technically proficient binch around. They are often os "up" on technology as i am.

    I also worked IT support for a large university for a while, and can further attest to the technical proficiency of librarians with the following: Not only were the professional librarians some of the easiest customers to work with they had difficulties, they rarely, if ever had the same problem twice, if the problem in question was something that could be resolved by simpl having watched and asked me about what I was doing. Made for easy library server maintenance. They wanted them down less than I did.
  • by affenmann ( 195152 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:32AM (#4489445)
    ...by the number of references (a.k.a links) in the text.

  • check out the New York Public Library Desk Reference. from the foreword: "the 82 branch libraries of the NY public Library answer more than 5 million reference questions each year. " i didn't realize that you can call up a library and ask them questions - sort of a poor man's google :) amazon - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0786868465/ qid=1035121055/sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_1/103-7596475-97742 49
  • by BluBrick ( 1924 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [kcirbulb]> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:39AM (#4489457) Homepage
    As soon as I saw "Libraries are 31337", I was immediately reminded of The Crimson Permanent Assurance [mwscomp.com].

  • Librarians? (Score:3, Funny)

    by RickHunter ( 103108 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:53AM (#4489496)

    "Many people may hold the image of a librarian as a shushing school marm who does little more than stamp and shelve books because that's all they've seen librarians do"

    Seriously, who have they been talking to? Any geek worth his (or her) salt should, upon hearing the word "Librarian" immediately think "simian". (Not, note, monkey. That would be a very painful thought) Why this has not caught on among the general populace is a mystery. Perhaps they have simply not ventured deeply enough into the more obscure sections of their "local" library...

  • Naked Librarians (Score:4, Informative)

    by kriegsman ( 55737 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:11AM (#4489537) Homepage
    Jessamyn West, uber-cool librarian and keeper of librarian.net [librarian.net], has a page of "naked librarians [jessamyn.com]". The pictures on her page are work-safe, but she's got some links to pages that decidedly NOT work-safe (e.g., "Hot librarian-on-librarian action").

  • by LISNews ( 150412 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:14AM (#4489541) Homepage
    Libraries are become much more interested in open source as well. Check out oss4lib.org [oss4lib.org] for a look at what we have cooking.

    There's also been Articles [lita.org] and Great Essays [infomotions.com] on OSS use in libraries. There's even a Library Hacker Site [usrlib.info] that runs Scoop.

    It is true, for the most part, We're A Bunch Of Old Ladies [ala.org], but that is beginning to change.
  • by 50000BTU_barbecue ( 588132 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:25AM (#4489564) Journal
    I don't know about 31337, but cool, definitely.

    1) If I'm trying to study at home, it's futile because there are too many distractions. So I pack up and head to the local city library. Bonus: the librarian is a cute young girl. Winner: 50000BTU_barbecue

    2) One day I bought an old HF sweep generator. (It's hardware folks, so it's not glamorous, but I wanted one). Turns out it's from the late 60s and it needs fixing. It has what has to be the earliest 14 pin DIPs ever, with a date code from 1969. *Nothing* that uses TCP/IP has any information on them! I head down to the local university library, and track down Motorola's *first* IC databook. Bonus: it's impossible to study in Montreal, every thirty seconds it's like 'cute asian chick!' 'amazing half naked legs' 'great ass' Winner: 50000BTU_barbecue

    3) The stereotype of the frumpy librarian with glasses might be true on the surface, but once you warm them up, they *are* hot! Bonus: some of them are 6ft tall with amazing legs. Winner: Need I say more?

  • by madhippy ( 525384 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:25AM (#4489565)
    Apparently this book was not going to be published due to the publishers feeling that it was a little anti-Bush post 11/9 (9/11 ...). A librarian attended a reading of the first couple of chapters of the book then lobbied other librarians - faced with a librarian revolt the publishers relented...

    Good book, worth a read - ISBN 0141011904
  • oss4lib (Score:4, Informative)

    by bgins ( 446545 ) <bgins@h[ ]ail.com ['otm' in gap]> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:40AM (#4489610)
    Here's [oss4lib.org] an impressive collection of open-source software for libraries.
  • by quantax ( 12175 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:52AM (#4489636) Homepage
    As far as groups that protect books, intellectual freedom, and fighting censorship, librarians have been a major part of the battle. If the government came out with a law that requires book censorship based on gov funding, guess who would be the first ones to rally? Chances are librarians, and their lobbying groups. Geeks like to state their desire for information, free info, etc etc, but most of us have some pretty weak ass resolve. If you have anything to say against the MPAA or the RIAA, and you still buy CDs or goto the movies, you are basically saying "I stand up for my rights when there is no sacrifice on my part." Librarians have stood up to the gov and private groups before for various IP, censorship issues in the past, and they will continue to do so in the future; we can count on their resolve a hell of a lot more than we can depend on a lot of other peoples, including our own.

    BTW, I do not say that ALL geeks are not politcally active, or that every geek is a weekday rebel of IP laws. But everyone must agree that too many people here say a lot of shit, and in the end do very little shit about it. Its merely saddening.
  • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:08AM (#4489693)
    Libraries are The Great Equalizer. Absolutely anybody can go into a library, and learn whatever they want about almost any subject imaginable. Anybody who can read can pick up a book, magazine, newspaper, etc. and read. When too much technology is introduced, then you start marginalizing the client base. Once it all becomes computer based only those who know how to use computers can get to the information easily, and without intimidation.

    Libraries should be left as low tech as possible, to allow the largest group of people possible free and easy access to information.
    • This is a bogus argument. Libraries provide a free access to the technology allowing that technology to be learned and used by those who might otherwise be marginalized. The LACK of available technology is an agent in marginalization. Keeping libraries low-tech doesn't help keep information available. It simply reinforces the knowledge base of the lowest common denominator.

      Using your logic, libraries should only have picture books since those who are illiterate would not have access to the knowledge in books with words in them.

      You can never totaly prevent marginalization. You can only provide access to all the tools and encourage people to learn to use them.
  • by Multics ( 45254 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:18AM (#4489731) Journal
    I've worked with librarians all over the midwest (USA) and as a group they're far far behind on nearly every basis.

    It is clear that just as computer geeks naturally select themselves as computer people, librarians do the same. They like books, research, and then tend to be very rigid in their outlook on work and life.

    In addition to their natural tendancies, the American Library Association [ala.org] has not helped matters. It is controlled by a bunch of introspective, vision-less, and rigid nay-sayers. Go to the ALA web site and see what kinds of literature they are currently offering [ala.org]! See anything about how to design cataloging systems? See much about information management? nope. Then, beyond that, ALA's been very successful locking up big chunks of their corner of the world with locking up job descriptions to ALA accreditation which requires a visionless curriculum [ala.org].

    I think it is hopeless until most current library managers a retired and a new crop that is not afraid of innovation and change come to the fore front.

    So do I wish Librarians would come to the information party in a contemporary way? Absolutely! Alas I have very little hope that it will happen anytime in the near future.

    -- Multics

    P.S. at a recent conference I attended, one of the speakers argued "partner with a librarian!" (for research projects, not p0rn) Several of us talked with him after his presentation and said that we'd tried, but they were too far out-of-touch and he replied that his experience was clearly the exception.

  • And a side point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coupland ( 160334 ) <[dchase] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @12:25PM (#4489971) Journal

    Although I'm not a librarian I think people sometimes lose sight of the fact that libraries are in many ways a foundation of democracy and freedom.

    A bit over the top, you say? Well, libraries go hand-in-hand with free education, which most people consider a basic right. They also provide free access to information, often information critical of government or other establishments. Libraries provide uninhibited access to information for rich or poor, white or black. Many of us take for granted the ability to buy a $20 book and read it at our leisure, but just because we're largely a rich society does not magically make your local Barnes & Noble a "noble" enterprise. But your local library is.

    In fact, readers of Slashdot who believe in freedom of information should be vehemently in support of libraries as the original source of the concept that information should be freely available to the populace. Recent copyright laws attack the library establishment as much as they do individuals. While the concept of rows of dust-covered tomes my be getting a bit outdated, libraries are actually about education and access to information, not just books...

    • by oscitant ( 605324 )
      Exactly. A librarian once told me, "If we're not pissing somebody off, we're not doing our job." Libraries are and should be a source of controversy and a haven for dissent. You can't have a democracy without giving people the opportunity to know what their choices are, what the unpopular opinion is.
  • by jrst ( 467762 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @12:27PM (#4489977)
    One of the first things I did when I took on the responsibility of managing a dev team was to hire a librarian. (A real, trained librarian, not a "code librarian".)

    It was the best investment I ever made. It didn't take long before virtually everyone's first stop with a question was the library/librarian. Reference material, competitive info, standards, you name it... the librarian knew how to take piles of information in whatever form and organize it, make it accessible, and make it far more usable to everyone.

    If you have a dev group of more than 15-20, your dev group is wasting time and money by not having a professional librarian on the team. It's a job that's part administrivia, part science, and part art. I have yet to find any other discipline that blends those parts as effectively as library science.

    (I have to admit I've always had a soft spot for librarians, probably because I spent so much time in libraries. I have also been extremely impressed by librarians understanding of applying technology for information management, and the very progressive ideas that came out of library sciences. That doesn't always translate to high tech libraries or systems, but that's more often than not a funding issue.)
  • by psychopracter ( 613530 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @12:43PM (#4490037) Homepage
    I work as a Library Asst III for the state of Nevada. I'm soon to be a Library Technican I. The time I spend on the reference desk answering questions is only some of what I do, although what I do there is also very important. I'm expected to know how to use a large variety of specialized subject databases to help patrons find information. I'm expected to know how to use a large variety of paper indexes to help people find information that predates the PC age. I am my department's technical writer. I will shortly maintain several in-house databases for collections that have no cataloging. I also write and maintain webpages. I am also the co-expert on the university's microforms collection. I have to know which collections are cataloged, which aren't, and what finding tools are avalible. Though I have my areas of specialization, I'm also expected to be something of a polymath and know enough about all subjects to get *anybody* started on research. And I don't even have the MLS or MLIS. A lot more is expected from those who do. And even in the pre internet age, library staff did a lot behind the scenes to make their collections as accessable as possible to people.
  • by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:42PM (#4490582) Homepage Journal

    I've always respected librarians. They dedicate their lives to sharing information with people as freely as possible. I cheer the American Library Association [ala.org]protect individual's privacy and confidentiality, and fight against free limiting legislation like the Children's Internet Protection Act [ala.org], the DMCA (PDF) [copyright.gov], and the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 [harvard.edu]. They've been fighting to keep information free longer than the internet has been around. Democracy requires an educated citizenry, and libraries make it their mission to spread knowledge to everyone, regardless of race, social status, or wealth. Library's are a geek's best friend.

  • Library Science (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gekman ( 224336 )
    My daughter earned an MLS (Masters of Library Science) degree a few years ago and is now finishing up a doctorate in Cognitive/Information Science. Until she entered the field I had no idea how different the Library Science curriculam of today is from what the "school-marmishish" librarians of the past were taught.

    My first reaction to my daughter's decision on an MLS was "What? Why?" She had a shiny new BS in microbiology and has always been a computer freak; most of her friends are programmers/sysadmins. Once she entered the MLS program (at Rutgers) I realized just how technology-oriented the field has become. A number of her courses required the design of web sites as part the grade, and she worked as a TA teaching an undergrad course in web searching.

    Still, some of today's older MLS students don't have a clue about the uses of technology. Worse, they don't want to know anything about it. The libraries in which they work aren't using any modern tools and don't have plans to use any. Sad, but true.
  • Databases of gold (Score:3, Informative)

    by certron ( 57841 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:37PM (#4490795)
    If you want a reason to go to a library, do it for the online databases they subscribe to. Most impressive to me were the image databases, specifically the art museums and the AP photo archive (you can even search by predominant hue of the photo).

    Check out www.libraries.rutgers.edu for an example of how much stuff is out there. Some of them are subscription-only, so see if there is a large school near you that has the same services. They have remote access capabilities, but I'll leave that up to the reader to figure out.

    I'm not afraid to say it, librarians can be quite l33t. If you look at it from a pseudo-hacker perspective, they have access and control over massive massive amounts of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. They can help you find what you are loking for, too! Can it get bettter than that? Well, uh... Don't answer that one. :-)

    Although it is amusing to see what happens to be filed under "throbbing elbow" on google, it can't always compete with all the specialized databases out there that your library might subscribe to. Give it a shot, worst thing that happens is that someone things you are a geek for going to the library. But hey, you are reading this comment, so what does that make you? :-) (a reader of this comment, nothing more)
  • Man, I thought they were talking about code libraries! (*.a *.so)
  • Libraries are... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rorifer ( 619088 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:38PM (#4491085) Homepage
    "Library" is the word for a an institution providing collectively financed information to a community of users. There is nothing archaic about this idea.

    Right now the best way to access scholarly information (in those thousands of academic journals) is through full text databases such as Ebscohost, Proquest, and Infotrac. These databases contain millions of articles. A fraction of a percent of this informaiton is available on the free web. By comparison, the free web looks like crap.

    You can not simply pay to use these databases as an individual user, either by subscription or on a pay-per-view basis (though there are a couple of minor exceptions to this). As a rule, access to these databases is through libraries. If you are a student, faculty or staff member at a university, you have access to dozens of these databases through the library. That's right, it's the library that enters into contracts to provide access to these databases to users. (And that access is usually remote, via passwords.)

    There are versions of these databases that provide high-quality information for the general public, rather than specifically for acadmic use, and again it's mainly companies like ProQuest, Infotrac and EbscoHost who create these databases. The public-oriented versions of these databases are available for free at your public library. Again, they make the "free" web look like crap.

    It's not only because these databases are paid for by libraries that they are part of the library world; it's also because these companies employ librarians, and also because they incorporate strong indexing according to standards developed in the library world to make the right information easily accessible.

    Libraries are electronic to a much higher degree than most posters here seem to realize. It goes far beyond having internet access available at the library, though that is a good thing. It is to the point where a large and growing portion of the information that libraries pay for (using your tax money or tuition fees) IS electronic.

    But I say this at the risk of discounting the present importance of books. While I think most written communication will "go electronic" eventually, librarians know that we are far from there now. What is valuable about books isn't the fact that they are on paper; it's the fact that they represent comprehensive intellectual effort and an investment of time that you don't find in journal and magazine articles. And at present, they are rarely published electronically. So, at present, it's incumbent upon librarians to provide information in book form.

    I am a librarian (who uses linux at home).

    I have a short manifesto about the value of libraries, at http://libr.org/Juice/manifesto.html [libr.org].

    I'd also like to direct your attention to an article from the journal Progressive Librarian which argues the importance of keeping paper, called "Why Do We Need to Keep This in Print? It's on the Web...": A Review of Electronic Archiving Issues and Problems, by Dorothy Warner: http://libr.org/PL/19-20_Warner.html [libr.org]. I'm sure that it could create a good discussion here in its own right, as many of you would disagree with it strongly. I post it here to point out that librarians who have not joined the "information party" they way that young techies have have reasons for their reluctance and are thoughtful in their criticism. But I can't say that without remarking that librarians are also a diverse group, which includes luddites and young techies alike.

  • I know, I am a newbie! But what is 31337? It is not a valid zip and not in /etc/services so I am stumped.
  • completely fit the stereotype, as far as I could see. I don't expect SW movies to grapple with social issues, even trivial ones, but it would have been interesting to see Lucas fire another three neurons and come up with an idea there.
  • If you lost the stereotypical stuffy demeanour, I couldn't enjoy porn like this:

  • and she's got a blog [livejournal.com]. (and hates that term. I'm not fond of it myself.) And this item may come in very handy for her grad school paper on how libraries and librarians are changing with technical evolution. so, uh, thanks.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter