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In September 2013, I returned from my honeymoon ready to start Married Life.  I was also preparing to imminently start a Masters course at City University London in Library Science: the induction was about a week after our return.

A few weeks ago I finished the course by handing in my dissertation, the idea for which was born in that induction.
I would like to reflect here on my thoughts about the course and present, just as this year’s LAPIS students are about to start the module, the final blog I wrote for last year for that module, which I never published, but which I did turn into a talk.  And also to look a little to the future and my ongoing Adventures in Libraries and Publishing…
The course was made up of eight taught modules (and their associated coursework!; which, as I was a Part Time student were taken over two academic years) before the Dissertation Project-slash-Journey on which I embarked last May.

Induction

The 2013 #citylis Induction Session

The two-modules-a-term part started back in late 2013 with Digital Information Technologies and Architectures (DITA) and Library and Information Science Foundation (LISF).  In the second term of the first year I tackled Digital Libraries and Information Resources and Organisation (IRO).  In the second year, I first studied Information Management and Policy (IMP) and Research, Evaluation and Communication Skills (RECS); before taking Libraries and Publishing in the Information Society (the aforementioned LAPIS) and, finally, Information Domains.
DITA gave us an introduction to the various areas of computing that sit behind systems within Libraries, or are used by them: we looked at the Internet and World Wide Web (I am still a bit sad that neither is known as the Information Super Highway), Relational Databases, Information Retrieval, Web 2.0, Web Services, the World of Open, Mobile Information and the Semantic Web.

One of the strengths of this course was its blending of lectures and computer classes in which we would try out a little of what we had learned by building a (very) simple website or interrogating a SQL database.

I wrote two essays for this course, each an analysis of the use of a particular technology to solve a library problem – I looked at Information Retrieval (successfully) and Twitter (not nearly so successfully).

Speaking of which, it was also in connection with this course that I started to use Twitter an awful lot more.  Via #citylis, the students and staff of the course interact by sharing news, live tweeting from events and asking questions, too.  For a part timer, I really enjoyed this aspect as it allowed me a sneak preview of modules to come and into ones I was not taking.  But mostly this formed a fantastic support network that I am sure I will remain a prt of in one way or another for some time to come.
LISF, as the name suggests, was a foundational module giving a background both to the history of Libraries, via The Story of Documents, and a history of the subject(s) of Library and Information Science (LIS).

As an Ancient History and Archaeology graduate, I got particularly excited by the opening Story of Documents lectures that took me back to those days.  The course started by looking at documents and libraries from cave paintings up to the today taking in the Ancient, Medieval and Modern Worlds, as well as looking at future possibilities.  It also looked at the history of Library Science, introducing us to the Documentalists of the early 20th Century, such as Paul Otlet, as well as other visionaries such as Vannevar Bush and early Information Theory pioneer, Claude Shannon.  LISF introduced us, too, to important concepts within LIS that we would often touch on later such as Information Behaviour, the use of Philosophy in LIS, Informetrics and Digital Literacy.

For my coursework, I wrote an essay comparing three views on the definition of information from within LIS (Michael Buckland, Marcia Bates and Birgir Hjorland), which would become a second spur for my dissertation.

Uni Chall

I (briefly) appeared on TV (as did fellow #citylis-er, and now work colleague, Kathryn Drumm) on a vaguely/partially course-related incident, but that’s a whole other story.

In the second term of the first year, we were taken through the background, foreground, history and use of Digital Libraries in a module that both referenced Encarta and flickr.  It was a fascinating insight into what makes up a digital library that meant we got to explore a lot of different resources and meet a great selection of guest speakers from the professional field.

Digi Libs Demo

Getting involved in a Digital Libraries lecture on Human-Computer Interaction

The essay for this one was particularly interesting: a look at whether or not Digital Libraries are social systems led me into the differences between online systems in the US and Britain, where the former (back then, at least) were much more open to users adding content such as social tagging and reviews.

Digi Libs Final

At the final Digital Libraries lecture

In IRO, we were introduced to the myriad of ways in which information, in many forms, can be organised for retrieval and use.  Not only did we cover classification systems such as Dewey, Library of Congress, Bliss, Colon and Otlet’s Universal Decimal Classification (UDC); but we also studied taxonomies, cataloguing, metadata, vocabularies and indexing.  Almost always via examples involving cheese.  Again, some great guest speakers came, giving talks on the UDC and the classification of music.

This course also gave the opportunity to learn some practical cataloguing skills, though sadly I missed this opportunity (three times! – I am both bad and slack in the extreme).  For coursework, I tackled the Dewey Decimal Classification System, writhing about its history and use as well as comparing it with the Library of Congress scheme.  In writing this one I learned an important lesson in backing files up.  For some reason this was the only one I did not write on the web, saving it to a laptop that died on me, causing a frantic Bank Holiday Monday re-write!
Then came the wilderness of the summer break and the replacement of first year full timers with second year full timers.

With the lovely new crowd, I studied IMP and RECS in the second year’s first term.  IMP was a study of the processes and policies behind the management of knowledge and information in companies, while RECS started us preparing for and thinking about our dissertations by looking at different forms of research.
IMP, through a variety of guest speakers from companies such as GHQ, the National Archives, the British Library and Linklaters, we looked at subjects such as Information Governance, Knowledge Management, managing Digital Repositories and Information Law.

The real strength of this module, though, was our weekly group work in which we looked further into the practical issues raised by the lectures.  Each group chose a different case study library (ours was Canada Water Public Library), and each week we collaborated, taking it turns to give a short presentation.  Mine was on Investigating Users.  For me, this was really good.  All my life I have avoided giving presentations (once opting to do a play instead, and on another occasion simply made sure that I went unnoticed by our lecturer).  This module got me going on what has been quite a year for building presentation skills; having presented a few times at work (including at a staff away day), in job interviews and at an Unconference.  So I owe a lot to this module for forcing me back into the presentation world.

I wrote an essay on Cloud Computing and whether or not it makes Information Governance impossible for this course, which allowed me to look at an area that I hadn’t really considered before and which I took the opportunity to explore.
In RECS, we went on a journey through research land leaving no building or monument unexplored.  We looked at different ways of approaching research, from desk research to experiments and surveys.  We also learned about communicating and evaluating research (the latter including a great class discussion of an article), Statistics, Ethics and Social Media as a research tool.  This module ended with a rather fantastic session in which students could pitch ideas for their dissertation, gaining instant feedback.  My only regret is not not doing so myself, as I had an idea for a dissertation but preferred to keep quiet – those presentation skills were still wanting to hide at that time.

The coursework was a choice between evaluating a journal article or a past dissertation, making us look critically at research in preparation to undertake our own.  I looked at a Dissertation on roving in an academic library which was quite interesting as it’s something I do in my own work.

Shannon

Pretending to give Roving support to fellow #citylis-er (and former work colleague) Dominic Allington-Smith, as seen at city.ac.uk/library

In the final taught term, the mornings were spent in LAPIS, a really fascinating course that looked at the changing world of publishing in various contexts- trade publishing, academic, newspapers- and seeing how the electronic world and the Information Society has altered it.  Again, we had a variety of guest lecturers giving extra insights into these areas (this blog also features a series of blogs on this course for further details).  My essay was on “the role of trade publishers in the context of the “digital age”” and looked at how the digitisation of the print world has caused a different model of production before looking at ways in which publishers have been trying to combat this.
In the afternoons we traversed the worlds of Information Domains by spending each week looking at the way a different subject area approaches its information.  Our final guest lecturers visited us here and taught us information is organised, and, indeed, different, in areas such as Medicine, Chemistry, Music, Law, History and many more besides.  Lectures on information in advertising, the everyday and general reference lectures added to the variety on offer.

For this one, we had to create an information resource on a topic of our choosing.  Mine was the football club, Gillingham FC, and I had great fun scouring all kinds of resources on the net (including watching footage of old matches on YouTube and Pathe) as well as making trips to the British Library and Maidstone Public Library to look at books and fanzines: at the latter I even made an unexpected trip to the Kent History Centre to view a rare book wish came to me upon a lovely foam stand.  I also received a lesson in fully reading and understanding the brief.  Although I did lots of research and came up with a good length list of resources; and although we were given lots of cracking examples of old work, the brief was also to aim the resource pack at a particular audience.  Mine looked very plain and had no pictures which, as the marker fairly pointed out, would not make it interesting to a reader.
All that was left was the dissertation.  Having been inspired by Information Theory in LISF and its associated coursework, I decided to look at it through the analysis of the relationship between Data, Information and Knowledge (or a Library Love Triangle, as the title put it).

This meant an awful lot of reading of articles on information, some of which touched on the other entities, while others did not.  And very few of which agreed on anything- other than that Shannon is largely useless for LIS.

Shannon

Shannon’s Model for Communication: Useless in LIS?

Different definitions of the terms were found as well as different relationships between them.  These ideas I compared to one another in order to find agreements and disagreements before comparing them with three other areas of LIS: Information Retrieval, Information Literacy and Knowledge Management to see if the relationship might act differently.  Following on from an idea floated in my LISF essay, I also tried to relate the idea of Dust in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books to the relationship between data, information and knowledge.  Partly just so I could read them again in between articles.

Finally, I tried to distill all these ideas into one diagram.  Which was fun.  Actually, the most fun thing was finding a Cookie Monster quote in an article.  This almost made me pack everything in.  What further debate is required after Cookie Monster has had his say?

Data from a cookie is turned into information by the tastebuds which in turn create the knowledge that cookies are good.  Enough said.

In all seriousness, though, I have really enjoyed this course – both meeting the lecturers, attending their classes, writing the essays and meeting some amazing coursemates along the way: all of whom I hope to meet further along the way during the career we are all embarking on.

Hopefully I will keep using this blog to reflect on my career as I move along. Additionally, In my first blog for LAPIS I, rather over enthusiastically and optimistically, said I would try and publish something that term.

By this I meant an eBook, a collection of one hundred 100 word stories.  This was a bit adventurous at the time given that I had not even written enough 100 word stories.  Now, however, I have and intend to blog here about putting the product together before throwing it on the internet for sale.  I’m at the editing and selection stage at the moment (I have about 125 stories, presently).  So, watch this space I guess, for further adventures in Libraries and Publishing.

For now, though:

This time last year I was about to start the LAPIS module during which I wrote and published 9 blogs.  I unfortunately missed the final lecture of the series but did write a blog for it.  That lecture looked to the future and, in a strange twist, at some point around that time I came across and read an article about how the Victorians had seen the future of publishing following the invention of the phonograph.

I then imagined LAPIS having been a module in the early days of the institution and reinvented the lecture I couldn’t attend.  Because it is so silly I haven’t published this until now; however, I did use what I had written as the starting point for a talk I gave at the #citymash Unconference on Libraries and Technology- again, many thanks to the Library Science course for giving me the confidence to do something like that.
LAPIS#10: The future!  As seen by the Victorians via Rubery, M. (2012). The victorian walkman. Victorian Review, 38(2), 9-13. doi:10.1353/vcr.2012.0016

Victorian Ernesto

Snr Priego talking about the future of books

For the past ten weeks I have had the good fortune to have been attending classes at the Northampton Institute in Clerkenwell upon the subject of Libraries and Publishing in an Industrial Society.  The classes are taught by a keen, curious and wonderful fellow by the name of Senor Priego.

In the final session of this Hilary Term, we looked to the future of books and what it might jolly well hold.

Our main focus was on that amazing invention of Mr Edison’s, the phonograph, and the impact it might have on books.  Ever since the original tin version first played Mary had a Little Lamb, we have been wondering about the impact the phonograph might have, including Edison’s own suggestion of the phonograph book.

Now the phonograph has progressed to a superior wax version and the voices of the eminent have been heard, might we perhaps be getting closer to a new kind of book?

Certainly all kinds of other uses have already been mooted in such publications as Fun and Moonshine – the delivery of parliamentary speeches, for example, the recording of testimony in court, even a device to disturb and scare away burglars and the means to catch rogues and philanderers.

Snr Priego suggested that, as the technology evolves and it becomes possible to put more content onto a wax cylinder, Edison’s dream of a phonograpic Nicholas Nickleby could become a reality.  The Scots Observer has been most positive on the subject: “With some invention for skipping, there seems no reason why pure literature should not be phonographic.”

And positive, too, was our man, Priego.  Just imagine, our teacher encouraged us, a book that could be heard anywhere, at any time.  A phonographic book would open up literature, and knowledge, to all.  The illiterate and disabled would no longer have to listen to a live storyteller but could listen in the comfort of their own homes.  The greats will become available to all classes.  Some day, perhaps, as the Pittsburgh Bulletin has said, “Novels will not be read at all; they will be spoken, listened to.”

Indeed, in The End of Books and La Fin des Livres (two separate articles), Octave Uzanne and Albert Robida have imagined just such a future, one hundred years hence, in which these phonographic works can be heard at listening posts or bought for home consumption.

Imagine, too, Snr Priego went on, further referencing Uzanne and Robida, showing us the illustrations from their work via the lantern slide, the freeing-up of the eyes that this would bring, allowing one to become more involved in the world around them, whether by being able to admire the room about you as you listen, or listen socially as books are “performed” from balconies, or admire a great sweeping scene such as a mountain range.  These “pocket phono-operagraphs,” as Uzanne and Robida call them, will transform the book in the years to come, creating an altogether more thrilling adventure.

Thanks for reading if you got this far!  Hopefully see you soon.

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What do you think of libraries?

I don’t so much.

Think the library is a stale, stuffy, staid place?

I’m not so keen, that’s for sure.

Think it is all dusty books on old wooden shelves?

I do, as it happens.

Perhaps in some places, but not all.

Really?  Please; do tell…

A library can be disrupted, a library can be transformed.

And you’ll be told to be quiet, shh’d.

Not always for a library can be active, it can be invaded by zombies, used to tell stories with cubes*, become a comic shop for the day.

In some kind of imaginary land, perhaps.

No, in this world, to be sure (you obviously did not follow the links).

Or a city can be disrupted; and the library will carry on.

Well, that is pretty amazing.

And it’s not just physical; digital disruption too can be seen – tagging, georeferencing), free use and re-use of resources.

All sorts can be done.

Exactly.
A library can be what you want it to be.
It contains knowledge of all kinds, it can host events of all kinds.

* I rather like Rory’s Story Cubes.

Inspired by Katherine Schopflin’s talk on Encyclopedias, I thought I might write this week about my own experience of them.

*Historically inaccurate due to wide screen.

*Historically inaccurate due to wide screen.

As a child, the top shelf of the book cabinet in the living room was dominated by the twenty (I think) red volumes of the Children’s Britannica, which was probably bought in the late 1970s following the birth of my older siblings.

I loved it, but, in particular, loved two sections of it which I would often pull down from the shelf to pore over while half watching kids TV. These were the Atlas in Volume 20 and the Flags section – which had pages and pages of colour depictions of the world’s flags. I was obsessed with staring at maps for a long time, giving me an occasional cutting edge in quizzes. At the age of about 8, the world map started to alter dramatically and I don’t think I’ve ever really caught up. But these books (and the other Atlas we had, which I looked at a lot more, steadily destroying the top of the spine where my little finger would grab the book) gave me an early love of leafing through Reference books.

With Windows 95 came, not just the video for Weezer’s Buddy Holly, but Encarta, an encyclopedia on a CD-ROM which I think I had already been introduced to at school (I want to say via the Macs and their giant CD-ROM caddies but that surely makes no sense). It was amazing at the time – all those books worth of knowledge on one CD. I remember using it to write about Grace Kelly in an essay but, what really amazed us were the videos. This was the first time I’d seen one digitally and remember it blowing us away. The footage of the Hindenburg Disaster was watched far too much.

Since then, I have slowly gravitated toward single volume reference books like Brewers Dictionaries of Phrase and Fable (I’ve got Modern and London) and books about folklore in different towns. It’s great fun visiting a town and then reading up on stories related to it (incidentally, I should have a horse’s tail according to one).  When working at Maidstone Museum and then the Imperial War Museum, I started to use Wikipedia extensively to improve my cataloguing a little but mostly to improve my knowledge of what I was cataloguing.  At Maidstone, I had never come across such things as tsubas, acoustic jars or wax cylinders and, at the IWM, cataloguing oral history interviews, I was being introduced to places I’d never heard of alongside new (to me) battles and military equipment galore.  I wanted to know about these things – and instantly.  Wikipedia allowed me to learn as I went (and spell it all correctly too!).

As I discussed incoherently here last week (and more coherently during in the lecture), I think a big challenge for the e-Book is to replicate the sort of user experience you get from the non-linear nature of reference books- in terms of serendipity and perhaps even <imagine the appropriate word here, I’m sure it sounds like but isn’t tactically>. The Random button (and to a lesser extent other article links on the homepage, such as the Article of the Day) on Wikipedia does something to potentially start a similar voyage of knowledge; and CD-ROM encyclopedias weren’t a bad follow-up, but publishers are yet, as far as I know to have successfully designed an e-cyclopedia.

But what could the future hold.  If it is all about leafing and linking then a tablet could potentially be programmed to allow the reader to flick through in great chunks, while hyperlinks such as those seen in Encarta and Wikipedia could do the rest…

The Difference is Not Just SizeI went into this lecture on Trade Publishing, including a guest appearance from Dan Franklin of the Penguin Random House Digital Team, knowing nothing about trade publishing and its past and winding up very intrigued about its future – especially as someone who brings up recipes on their phone while cooking (or trying to; mostly assisting really!) Dan showed us various ideas Penguin Random House are working on, from projects with tech people all over the world to browser reading and different kinds ways to create enhanced eBooks (including combining The Third Man book and film as well as cookery apps). But – how do you get an eBook right? As our lecturer’s notes point out these are files rather than the devices used to view them and come with various advantages and disadvantages as shown below – both for the user, and for libraries too: Ebook1Ebook2Ebook3 They are portable and usable anywhere (often more easily than the print version) and could revolutionise book lending in various ways (although, some publishers are intent on making this difficult, as ebooks, for university libraries at least, can be very expensive (sometimes a high one off payment, sometimes a case of paying credits for a set number of uses) and are sometimes restricted in the numbers of concurrent users). One of the biggest problems, though, I think is that the ebook reader market has so far been about individual companies releasing a product that will only load their content – or files that fit it, at least.

Amazon’s Kindle is the most successful here, I think, even moving beyond to an app too, meaning you don’t even need the reader to view your ebooks.  It is a shame that this happened, that bookshops and libraries or publishers did not get ahead of the game and get together to create something more interoperable.  eComics maybe developed separately, leading to Comixology, a website and app that sells comics electronically and I’ve used for reading The Walking Dead and Jack of Fables which I have found to be rather good for reading eComics – both online and on mobile, and is a bit better than Kindle for the most part (who did have decent versions of The Walking Dead but have stopped selling them).

For comics, web browser (and tablet too, to be fair) reading works rather nicely as it’s a format that needs to be big – you lose something, I think on a small screen, even when it allows you to work through frame by frame – I mean, how can a mobile (or tablet) app truly do justice to a double page spread – or the first pages of issue 12 of Watchmen.  In terms of compatibility, if not portability as yet, what could be more a sign of the future in eBooks is Pelican’s browser version of their latest books.

Check it out – you can read the first chapter of each book for free – it scrolls down nicely, the text is a nice size (it can be changed too) and the diagrams look pretty good; better than they would on e-ink (though I love how this works – so many tiny balls!).  If this approach can be transferred (as html?) to tablets as a file that can be stored and retrieved, could it become the norm?

Since I wrote all that, and started to stall once more while I thought of, and drew, an illustration, Ernesto tweeted a link to an article by Dan Cohen, Director of the Digital Public Library of America, titled, What’s the matter with ebooks?

In this article Cohen talks about the possible errors being made with eBook statistics, ignoring so-called dark reading by only concentrating on stats from major publishers which would suggest eBook readership has plateaued when it may, in fact, be ever growing.  He also points out further issues with eBooks such as “devices and ebook services are hard to use. Availability of titles, pricing (compared to paperback), DRM, and a balkanization of ebook platforms and devices all dampen adoption as well” and talks about preferring the print edition of the Sunday New York Times over digital because the “paper feels expansive, luxuriant. And I do read more of it than the daily paper on my iPad, as many articles catch my eye and the flipping of pages requires me to confront pieces that I might not choose to read based on a square inch of blue-tinged screen.”

This made me think of another issue with eBooks, or the electronic version of certain types of books – the sort of books you just pick up and leaf through, open on a random page and imbibe.  I did this with Atlases a lot as a child., and encyclopedias, have done with dictionaries (espeicially of Phrase and Fable), and the Mythology book I have in my desk drawer.  Sometimes you want to take a chance and eBooks don’t generally allow for that sort of serendipity.  They are too linear, really.  Perhaps this is somewhere else where web browsers could improve; or where eBook readers will need to improve, if they are to eventually replace print.  Or, indeed, to truly rival print as a medium.  Because the difference is not just in size – web browsers (and tablets, as oppose to eInk readers) can do more at the moment and, through examples such as Pelican and Comixology, it is easy to see that there is much scope for the future.

If you’re going to miss a week’s blog and cram two weeks into one, then this is a good place to do it, as Weeks 5 and 6 of LAPIS covered scholarly publishing- including great guest talks.

It's okay to be late so long as you have a cartoon!Picture Source: Caption mine

Though we actually started Week 5 by talking about issues with opening up articles.  These can be searched for via the catalogue- by title, if you know it, or by journal.  If the University has access, you’ll get a link (or links, often via a web bridge) to take you through to it.  For all e-resources*, you need to navigate to it via the Library Catalogue as that’s the only way you’ll get recognised as a City student.  Confusingly, often if you go direct to articles via the web, there will be some sort of Institution login option, sometimes even allowing you to select City University London, but you’ll only get access if you go via the catalogue.*  If you have any questions, you can always email me at work or pester whoever is on the desk; or the e-access team (and here).

Scholarly publishing is an old form of publishing, dating back to medieval times and really getting going with the publication of The Royal Society’s in the 17th Century.  The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers help represent part of the current crop of scholarly publishings in the form of the output of societies such as the Royal Society of Chemistry, The Royal College of Nurses and English Heritage- helping them to get a better deal from publishers.  One point that Suzanne Kavanagh raised during her talk on the ALPSP’s work was that of disruption and how open access can help learned societies here.  Indeed they had a seminar on it last week- check out this and #alpspdisruption.

Speaking of Open Access, this was the focus of Week 6 which included a talk from Martin Eve that neatly explained the whole thing.

Sometimes when people talk about paywalls and making things Open Access and journal subscriptions I wonder if it would be better if all libraries were one big chain (or consortia) of libraries- public, private and university all together.  Couldn’t we then just buy one subscription to each journal that everyone would then have access to.  The new copyright laws introduced last year almost puts this in place in that it allows universities to freely print and send articles to one another as Inter-Library Loans, regardless of the publisher’s wishes.  (This kind of happens with physical books in North Wales where they have reduced the cost of Inter-Library Loans by introducing a system of sharing one another’s resources [PDF] – I like to imagine a network of library vans becoming a common sight on the road of Britain, maybe even making it into I-Spy books).

It’s an idea I like the sound of but then it ignores the point of Open Access, doesn’t it?  What about the rest of the world?  Wouldn’t this just turn the country into an information fortress?  But what if this could become the model across the world?  Do libraries have it in their power to force publishers into Open Access through clubbing together to gain journal subscriptions?  Probably not.  There are lots of reasons this wouldn’t work, though I’m not sure what they all are.

* or most – I think all journals, BOB is the only exception to this I know of

This week in LAPIS we looked at the history of publishing as well as issues surrounding copyright and intellectual property law.

Copyright and Intellectual Property: How much is it just about money?  Well, entirely, I guess.  Hogarth got an Act passed to protect his income.  Vera Lynn fought to get it back when her copyright as a performer expired (meaning, additionally that she had no say when the BNP decided to use one of her tracks), Portishead gave away copyright to help a charity.  The pirates that are turned on are those who are causing large losses of money – Pirate Bay and thingybob, for example, recently, and The Pirate King way back when.

As with Shermaine, I have done some piracy in the past.  I spent the best part of two decades taping music off the radio – initially the charts, then mostly live music (I giggled inwardly when Sarah said people did this thirty years ago, I only stopped about ten years back).  As a child, most of what I listened to was those tapes, it wasn’t until I got a paper round that I started, slowly (it took a few weeks to save up for a CD album, the price has gone down since the mid-90s), to build a collection.  Once I did, my pirating activities slowed.  I never embraced the internet for that, I always liked the real thing.  So, at times this stopped me putting money in but later it ensured that I did.  As did receiving taped albums from friends.  Though I spent years listening to a copy of Jagged Little Pill on tape, I eventually did buy it on CD.  With more legitimate ways of accessing good quality music online (esp youtube), will piracy fade away (along with record shops), as new models appear?  And that’s just a random snapshot of music!  What will the future bring elsewhere?

Young Jim in piratical days

Young Jim in piratical days*

Copyright is a minefield but one that is slowly adapting.  There may be many restrictions to what can be done on Moodle (there’s a whole team in the library dealing with the digitisation of items for posting, ensuring compliance with copyright law), but in the world of Inter-Library Loans there has been an opening up of material.  Now, the government tells us, we can print and send or email a pdf of any electronic article for another university – no matter what it says in the contract we have with the publisher who supplies it to us (to be fair, quite a lot are happy for us to do so anyway).  One university in particular is quite bullish about this point, quoting the law at us when submitting a request so that we don’t refuse.  However, at a conference last November (sorry Ernesto, I skipped your send RECs lecture for this – but then I did get to see the British Library book robots!!!), many librarians showed a reluctance to do this.  Despite what the law states, no one wants to be a test case- my own fear is that publishers might ramp up the price of subscriptions or refuse to sell to British institutions if they won’t comply with licence agreements.  Still, it is good that that law has been relaxed.  It would be even better, of course, if all journals just went open access, esp in cases such as this:

 

*Source of Pirate Hat: http://www.clker.com/clipart-pirate-hat.html (via Google Image search)

Two of the articles we read for this week were in part concerned with items other than the published works of an author.  Michel Foucault in What is an Author? talks about what can and can’t be regarded as being part of an author’s work- are any notes a part of it, for example?

From What is an Author?

From What is an Author?

Matthew Kirschenbaum in What is an @uthor? extends this thought into the modern era, wondering about an author’s social media output as well as personal appearances and talks which are more likely, perhaps, nowadays to be reported on twitter or recorded for placement online.  A recent book tour and involvement on Twitter from author, William Gibson, is cited as an example.  As seen through this example, notes made by authors can sometimes bolster or diminish arguments around the works of that author, or others.  A note made by Coleridge in his copy of Othello (Iago’s “motiveless malignity”) was much later conveyed to my A Level class when studying the play.  When writing an introduction to Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks consulted the notes he made when writing the novel.  JK Rowling sketched her own characters and different ideas to help her when writing Harry Potter.  Many authors leave stuff behind  in this way – but also through interviews and, nowadays, via social media.  Should their views be regarded as the be all and end all, should everything they produce become part of their ouevre?

To a large extent this is, perhaps, an argument for scholars of literature but it does also have a knock-on effect on libraries and archives, who could stand to benefit from such interest- especially if they chose to publish their holdings.  City University London, for example, has a bound set of an old literary periodical called the Athenaeum (ultimately now The New Statesman), inside which are notes from the editor identifying the, otherwise anonymous or initialised, book reviewers and details of their pay.  Such details could be very important to researchers of the Athenaeum, or indeed those who contributed to it.

Libraries and archives are custodians of such information and need to be careful with it.  Believe it or not, there was a professor who paid a visit to an old library.  Upon leaving he announced that he had erased the pencil notes left in the books, thinking he was doing the owners a great favour.  He was promptly told the notes were made by George Eliot.

Foucault calls writing “something designed to ward off death.”  Does it also grant immortality?  For some, perhaps, where works survive, perhaps, but not where they are lost.  Aristophanes has done well, where many Greek dramatists have no doubt disappeared (some may slowly be discovered in Herculaneum).  (I tried to write a story about this once by googling my name around the world and creating a conference of James Atkinsons through history).  But digital survival is the new key.  People have worried about it for years (a google search takes us back at least as far as 2004) and it came up again this week with Google’s vice-president Vint Cerf warning about the safety of digital information.

As Ernesto pointed out in the lecture, Foucault, and Barthes, were both very image conscious.(Incidentally, my birthday is also 15th October).

As Ernesto pointed out in the lecture, Foucault, and Barthes, were both very image conscious. (Incidentally, my birthday is also 15th October).

This, and something Ernesto said (I’m not sure what as I keep forgetting to bring my notes to the blogface) at the the start of the lecture made me think about a line from Yes by Manic Street Preachers: “For $200 anyone can become a God on video.”  With smartphones and free software, I guess it is probably a lot cheaper these days – however, as ever, getting the timing right and reaching the right people is key- as shown, perhaps, by the example of Daniel Wickham’s tweeting during the Charlie Hebdo solidarity march in Paris.

As an aside, as with Ernesto – has anyone else conversed with the famous on Twitter, or elsewhere on social media?

The theme of cycles and trends came up a lot in the second session.  With book shops becoming publishers, are things moving full circle?  This may actually be a flash in the pan example but Joyce’s Ulysses was published by a bookshop in Paris (ultimately because no publisher would touch it – additionally Robert McCrum’s The 100 best novels series currently being published in The Observer (it started about the same time I started this course) gives interesting notes on the publication of each text – its amazing with a lot of the early ones how many books first became big on the other side of the Atlantic from that on which they were written).  The blending of technologies, a la Brecht, is also something coming back as books become electronic and their future could mix with gaming; self-publishing makes a return as it becomes as affordable as it was in the Middle Ages; and mashups are what the Dadaists got up to.  We ended last week hearing about the history in the present – such loops and returns reinforce this idea.

Importance of medium… “The medium is the message,” said Marshall McLuhan many moons ago, also that art is a trap for your attention: advertising fights for it everywhere; book and album covers on shelves.  So much is invested in the medium itself: everything published, or more or less, will arguably only work in that one medium.  I can see how how you get your message across can be the message itself.  Or at least a part of it.  Probably the part that helps you remember it. Literacy is a form of awareness, McLuhan also says in a video we watched in class, which links in nicely with Information Literacy and knowing the gaps in your knowledge that need filling.  You need to be not only aware of available resources but what you what to get from them.

THE MEDIUM OF MY MESSAGE IS DEATH!

THE MEDIUM OF MY MESSAGE IS DEATH!

It was stated that there is only one copy of the Mona Lisa and there was also mention of Doctor Who.  Combined and taking Doctor Who as the serious historical documentary I believe it be, we know that Leonardo di Vinci actually made several copies of the Mona Lisa.  In an adventure written by Douglas Adams (and starring Grand Maester Pycelle while featuring John Cleese, it was also partially filmed in Paris and one episode had the highest Dr Who viewing figures of all time), City of Death shows that an alien visiting earth in the prehistoric era was split across time enabling him to force di Vinci to produce many Mona Lisas which he built into a cellar enabling them to be later sold on the black market (after stealing the one in the Louvre).  Therefore, there are, in fact, 7 Mona Lisas.

On a more serious note, I was also struck by the strangeness when viewing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre that Ernesto spoke of.  It is a celebrity painting, an adoring crowd always before it, kept back by a barrier not unlike those at concerts.  Even walking from one side to the other to see if the eyes follow is made difficult by this strange status I’m not sure is shared by any other work of art.  When there I found it rather nice to turn my back and view the painting at the opposite end of the gallery.  A painting that really shows how good it is to see the original because it is so flipping big.  Incidentally, after some thirty years of being told that the Mona Lisa “was smaller than I thought it would be” I was expecting something really tiny and was surprised by how big it was.  I think in art especially, the medium is, if not the message, then a huge part of it.

Finally (sorry I’ve drifted on so long), after Ernesto told us about his school typing lessons, I had meant to link to a new electronic typing tool called the Hemingwrite.  I didn’t last week, so here it is this week.

A new term begins and this blog gets resurrected (though I managed to add a couple of blogs between this and my old DITA ones – try The Princess’ Crown – it’s rather good, I think) as a reflection on module INM380: Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society (or LAPIS).

“Where do libraries and publishers interact and intersect?”  I wrote in my notes at one point, with the idea of drawing a Venn diagram being mooted.  After reading the blogs of others, I wondered if the two circles should not be completely separate with an arrow drawn from publisher to library.  This was inspired by my job at the moment, which involves a lot of receiving new books from publishers, so, to me, the relationship of libraries and publishers is that of buyer and seller.  But as, Jayne Sunley’s blog for this week showed, this is not the only case.  Indeed, anyone who uses social media or posts comments on websites is a publisher- the web has slowly changed things a lot (as a look at next week’s readings shows, even in the last ten years there has been a big paradigm (?) shift from knowledge to sharing economies). Therefore, thinking outside the box and looking at different experiences, via our blogs in the first instance, will be an important step to understanding LAPIS.

Thinking outside the box... in a cloud, apparently

Thinking outside the box… in a cloud, apparently

“Different uses of drones… maps… aid… war…” – This was an interesting point that our lecturer raised – the same is true of twitter and all publishing, libraries too potentially.  The former can be used for all kinds of propaganda, as is shown throughout the history of publishing, no doubt, from all kinds of lies printed and causes raised.  #everydaysexism and #nomorepagethree (as well as #jesuischarlie in a different way; in the margin I wrote #inventahashtagbecomefamous – a more cynical ? look at the use of publishing tools) are good examples of hashtags promoting causes.  Political wrangling, advertising, charity campaigning, education – all are different uses of publishing.  Libraries, too, in the hands of censors, could severely limit the “wrong” knowledge – from Nazi Germany, a similar example is that of Greek and Roman history disappearing from universities.

Self-positioning, Critical reflection – twice I made notes about reflection, a process we may all become very familiar with if we become chartered with CILIP; here as a way to detect and make changes, something libraries and publishers are having to do constantly now, perhaps more than they ever have.  Are we at the end of publishing as we know it or the end of the beginning?  Or just another step along an ever evolving change?  Perhaps, over the next nine weeks we will, through looking at different uses of publishing and using critical reflection, we shall see – or begin to.

Elsewhere – I am sure there is a way we City students (and staff) can watch theatre through the library catalogue, but cannot for the life of me find it.  I also really want to self-publish this term… I have an idea and will write more about it here if I get any further.

The Oral History Noticeboard

Save the date!

26th January 2015

Location: TBC (somewhere in central-ish London)

Time: 7pm

Martin Bisiker, founder of Legasee, will be talking about his recent project, Keeping Britain Afloat, recording the stories of the men and women who worked on the Naval Convoys, keeping the supply routes to Britain open during World War II. Martin will give an overview of project progress, highlight points for discussion and play clips from video interviews. Afterwards there will be a chance to ask questions, suggest solutions and generally network with others working in oral history in London and beyond. We are hoping that this will be the first of an informal, ongoing series of events in London giving practitioners the chance to showcase their work and build connections.

Please email Sarah Lowry: sarah(at)hearinghistory.com for more information or to express an interest in attending. The event will be free and open to all, but priority…

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