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November 2006
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January 2007

Naming Conventions

I have many names for my granddaughter.  Her mother named her Josephine Danielle.  It's useful to have a lot of syllables that one can use to modulate the degree of seriousness with which one wants her attention.  "Josie!"  "Josephine!!"  "Josephine Danielle!!"

If you point to a picture of her and say, "Who is that?" she'll say, "Josie!"  But to me she is also Jo, and Jo Bug, and the Bugster; and Toot and Tooter Pop and Popstar.

These days she calls me Nonaise.

I was unprepared for the Southern seriousness of naming the grandparents.  As soon as we started telling people that Marian was pregnant, we'd get the question, "And what is the baby going to call you?"  I didn't realize there were so many options.

Growing up in Wisconsin, it wasn't an issue.  Grandparents were Grandma and Grandpa.  Maybe with a last name attached to differentiate them.  But they didn't pick out particular names.  It wasn't a big deal.

Just to tease Marian I told her that I wasn't going to play.  I was not going to pick out a name for myself.  The little critter would call me whatever she called me.  It'd happen naturally.  Marian was furious at my cavalier attitude towards something so important.  She threatened to call me No-Name.  "Fine with me," I'd say.

Lynn picked out Nonni for herself, so by the time Josephine arrived, Marian's name for me had elided into "No-Nay" and I started spelling it Nonai.  And, somewhat to my surprise, when Josie came to language early last summer, Nonni and Nonai fell quite naturally off her little tongue.

And then, sometime in the fall, she started turning them into plurals.  At first, we thought that she had learned possessives and was identifying our things with us -- that hat is Nonai's, or that cup is Nonni's.  But it became clear that wasn't it -- the name itself had morphed.

Marian finally figured out why -- she'd get Josie ready and put her in the car saying, "Should we go to Nonni's house?  Do you want to go to Nonai's house?"  So, for Josie, the "s" sound at the end became part of the name.

Now I spell it "Nonaise" and I don't believe I know of a sweeter sound.

Learning to Give

Lynn and I are talking about what Josie might give me for Christmas.  Marian wants Josie to have the experience of picking out gifts and giving them.  So Lynn is going to take her out this morning to shop.  We're trying to figure out how best to make that work.

When we were in San Francisco, and Mum and I took Josie to the farmer's market on the Embarcadero, I had her pick out everything that we'd have that evening for dinner -- I'd hold her up over the trays of tomatos or plums and say, "Let's have one of these...."  or "Let's try that big one over there..."  I'd lean her over and she'd pick them up and drop them in the bag.

So the question is how to translate that to the gift shopping experience.  Lynn's first thought (since I am notorious for wanting nothing but CDs and books) is to go where she can lay out a selection of Charlie Parker CDs (because of the book that we read together everytime Josie comes over) and have her pick one of those.  But as we talk, it doesn't seem that would be meaningful to Josie.  I don't really think she associates CDs with specific music yet -- and particularly when she's over here, music is just there, all the time.

"Oh, I get it!" I say, thinking about what she associates with me, and the things that we do when we're together.  "A new cowboy hat is probably outside her budget, but have her pick out a ball for me, or an add-on set for her legos, or some kind of a little car or truck that we can push back and forth to each other in the hallway."   

I can picture Lynn with her at the store.  "Should we get one of those balls for Nonaise?  Which one do you think he'd like?"  And on Christmas morning, Marian coaxing her along, "Bring that package over to Nonaise... yes, that's the one...  you remember..."  And then we'll make a big fuss over her, "Oh, Josie, that is so sweet!!   Thank you..."

I'm excited.  I wonder what she'll get me!


One Down, A Couple Thousand To Go

Jakob Dylan has generally been resistant to talking about his dad in interviews.  A couple of years back, however, he did make some comments in Rolling Stone about growing up in the Dylan household.  He said his dad had been a wonderful father and that he "went to every little league game and kept every home run ball I ever hit."   I love the incongruous image of Bob sitting with the other parents on the bleachers rooting his son's team on.

I thought about that a couple of weeks ago when Marian told me that Josie's first Christmas program was coming up and asked if I would be able to come.  For a moment, I hesitated, trying to visualize what my calendar looked like to see if I could fit it in -- then I realized what I was doing, let the calendar disappear in a puff of mental smoke and said, "Of course." 

As it happened, events conspired to make us slightly late and by the time Lynn and I poked our heads into the very crowded auditorium, they were on to the older kids.  (I was disappointed, but Marian has the whole thing on video, of course, so we'll watch it this weekend).  We slid in and watched the last few performances and the little critters were indeed damned cute.

When the event was over, we made our way to the front, where Josie's teacher was holding her.  As we made our way through the throng, Josie looked up and saw her Mom and smiled.  Then she saw me and got a puzzled frown on her face.  What?  Then she saw Lynn and then looked back to me, and her face blossomed into a huge grin.  She reached out and practically flew into my arms.  She leaned over to give Lynn a big kiss, and then me, and then just pounded on my chest and laughed and laughed.  I guess she was glad to see us.

That we were late for this one didn't make any difference to her -- but it will as she gets older.  Will I be able to be there for every performance and every game and every event?  Probably not.  But I am going to try.

Catalog Shopping; Buying Online

Many years ago, my beloved wife explained to me the difference between "shopping" and "buying".  As is the case with many men, I suppose, I'd always assumed they were pretty much the same thing.  I've learned.

Over the years, I've worked up a pretty good system for handling Christmas.  Since I've done most of my buying online for years, I get lots and lots of catalogs.  I pile them up.  As fall drifts into winter I'll find times to sit down and go through them, looking for gift ideas.  As I come across things that I think the people I'm buying for might like, I put them into a spreadsheet -- item, vendor, cost.  This is the shopping part.

Once I've worked my way through all of the catalogs, I go back to the spreadsheet and, depending on what my budget is for each person, I figure out what I actually want to get, and then go online and put in the orders.  That's the buying part.  I always have more ideas than funds, so if I find that something is out of stock or if some website's interface is too annoying to be bothered with, I've always got a backup plan.

The vendors I buy from regularly email me relentlessly, particularly at this time of year, but I'm very glad that they also send their catalogs.   Even the best websites are a poor substitute for a printed catalog when it comes to the shopping part.   Flipping through a printed catalog and skimming the contents is a far more efficient process than trying to go through a store's entire stock on their website.  If one knows exactly what one is looking for, then the web is a great way to do comparison shopping; but when one is just browsing, looking for gift ideas, the printed catalogs are far superior.

The technophiles are likely to say that it's just a matter of time until the online systems are just as browsable as the printed catalogs.  I suppose that may be true, although I'm a little sceptical.  More importantly, I wonder what the point is?  It's another facet of the "future of books" discussion -- if we think that we can replicate every important feature of a printed book, then we think we should.  But why?  Print remains a great technology, wonderfully suited for many purposes.  Everything doesn't have to be done online.

The final part of my Christmas routine, by the way, occurs somewhere around the 21st to the 23rd of the month, when I take a day to go out to the stores.  By that time I've already done all of my major shopping, so I'm not really looking for anything specific, just hoping to run across that one additional cool item that'll light Lynn's eyes up.  But I like the experience (in a moderate dose) of being out among the crowds and seeing how the stores are decorated and even listening to the cheesy Christmas music coming out of the bushes.  It's another part of the total experience that can't be replicated online.

The End of the Hat Story

I sent the receipt for my new hat off a couple of weeks ago and had just about given up on hearing back from the restaurant.    The people there had been very apologetic on the night the hat was stolen, but I was starting to think that maybe it had slipped from their radar.

But there was a letter in the mail yesterday, with a check, from Kevin Good, the manager I'd spoken with that evening.  He apologized for being delayed in getting back to me and went on to say, "My attempts to contact the gentleman who took your hat were an adventure earning me a verbal lashing from his female friend!  What fun."  Oh, I wish I could've heard that conversation.  Lynn and I had a suspicion that the hat filching was done to impress a woman. 

Anyway, all's well..., as they say.   My new hat is a perfectly fine replacement for the missing one, it's now been paid for, and I got a great story out of the experience.  And I can unequivocally recommend Aria if you're ever in Atlanta -- superb food and service, wonderful decor, and an honest and honorable manager.  (Can't say the same for all of their clientele, of course; so if you go -- hang on to your hat.)

Can You Have It Both Ways?

"Myth: Everything is available for free on the Internet."

If there is one frustration I hear more than any other on the part of hospital librarians, it's the need to combat this notion.  In the recently released Myths and Truths About Library Services it occupies a central place in the justification for maintaining hospital libraries.   And the myth is false, of course -- according to the document, only 30% of the medical literature is freely available on the web, and only 60% of article content published since 1992 is available electronically at all.

A couple of months ago, there was some discussion on the Hospital Library Section list about the upcoming MLA Symposium on open access.  Several correspondents said they wouldn't attend such a symposium since they didn't see how it was at all relevant to their situations.  They're much more concerned with justifying their existence by trying to convince their feckless administrators that everything isn't freely available on the internet.

Perhaps they should be more concerned about their colleagues at the symposium who will be trying to figure out how to change the scholarly communication system so that everything is available for free on the internet.

I get a similar sense of cognitive dissonance when I hear librarians holding fast to the argument that publishers needn't fear FRPAA because there's no reason to think that libraries are going to cancel subscriptions if there's a six-month embargo.  Personally, I think that is largely true -- but wasn't the point of librarian support for open access that it was going to save us money?  And how is that going to happen if we're not able to cancel subscriptions?   Have we abandoned the notion that we should be supporting open access because it will help libraries financially?

There are lots of these mixed messages out there.    The harder that we work for complete open access, the more we weaken one of the central arguments for the value of hospital libraries.  Are we working sufficiently hard to frame new arguments for hospital librarians to use in an open access world? 

When Ray English spoke at the Charleston Conference this year, he started his talk by referring to librarian frustration at ever rising subscription prices.  He went on to talk about the need to support FRPAA, and dismissed publisher fears about what it would do to their subscription base.  And by the end of his talk, he was calling for the end of the subscription system.  Is it any wonder that publishers are suspicious when he claims that they shouldn't be worried about FRPAA?

I'm just looking for some consistency.  It seems to me that if the end point of the open access movement is to have everything freely available on the internet, we had better start coming up with new arguments for the value of hospital libraries, and quick; and we should be honest with the publishers and say that if we get what we want, we're going to quit subscribing to their journals and that FRPAA is just one tactical step along the way.


A Logical Definition of "Library 2.0"

I've generally found Michael Habib to be one of the more thoughtful bloggers posting about Library 2.0, so I was eager to read his Master's paper after he posted it a couple of weeks ago.  He's done a particularly fine job.

He comes up with a definition of "Library 2.0" that is logical, internally consistent, and that deftly avoids the problems that I've discussed in my two recent posts.  The essence of his definition is that the "2.0" part of the term is not a version number -- rather, it's a signifier pointing to Web 2.0.    That leads him to a nicely succinct definition:

Library 2.0 describes a subset of library services designed to meet user needs caused by the direct and peripheral effects of Web 2.0.

He amplifies that definition somewhat later in the paper, by specifying what he sees as the essential elements of Web 2.0. 

In this definition, "Library 2.o" does not indicate a new model of library services, but simply indicates that when we use the term we're talking specifically about how librarians can best respond to the impact that Web 2.0 technologies have had (and continue to have) on the communities that libraries participate in.   He then describes a theoretical model for how we might discuss those impacts and translate them into opportunities for improved services.

If the library community were to accept Habib's definition of Library 2.0, then I think it could be a useful term -- but that's a big "if".     The "n.nn" convention for numbering successive versions of software is pretty well entrenched; Habib's definition requires that we ignore that contextual history in this case and read "Library 2.0" not as a 2.0 version of Library, but merely as Library in relationship to Web 2.0.  I'm doubtful that can actually be accomplished, but it's still the most coherent definition I've seen.

At any rate, regardless of how one feels about the term, the paper is definitely worth reading.  It's not very long (44 pages), it's well written, and it's full of provocative thinking.   And if his definition did become the generally accepted understanding of the term, then I guess I'd be able to live with it.

The Problem With Models

David Rothman needn't be uneasy about disagreeing with me -- I do it frequently myself.  He suggests that I'm being too hard on the Casey/Savastinuk L2 article.  He may be right.  I certainly don't really believe that C&S intended to say that there was a view of librarianship that was opposed to reaching users or seeking user-input.  But what I'm trying to get at here, with my critique of the term "Library 2.0" is not about what they intended to say, but rather about what they did say.

Many years ago, when I met Germaine Greer, she gave a brilliant extemporaneous talk that remains one of the most thrilling performances I've ever seen.  She was talking about the power of language and about how damaging and then healing it can be, and how "every time you use a word, it carries with it the weight of every other time that word has ever been spoken."  Words exist within a web of language and carry with them a context and connotations that may not be what the speaker intended.    Witness the current furor over Michael Richards' use of the word "nigger" or whether or not the situation in Iraq is a "civil war" or whether what we're helplessly witnessing in Darfur is "genocide."  These debates matter because the words carry powerful associations that can't be escaped.

So you may not intend to call up a dysfunctional Library 1.0 model when you start eagerly talking about Library 2.0, but you can't escape it.  When you say that "Library 2.0 is a new model," part of the definitional context must be an old Library 1.0 model, and if you're going to distinguish 2.0 from 1.0, then the latter has to be essentially what the former is not.  This opposition is not some relic of a linear way of thinking, it's built into the structure of the language.   If you don't want to call that opposition into being, then you need to be more careful about the words that you choose to use.  Otherwise you're drifting into Lewis Carroll territory

David challenges my assertion that the definition that Casey & Savastinuk give of a Library 2.0 service applies to "the goal of every service and every organization."    He says, "I think that every organization has paid lip service to this goal, while far too few have actually applied it with commitment and follow-through."    My point exactly (as I say further down in the piece).  The question is, why have they not applied it with commitment and follow-through, and what do we need to do about that?

The Casey & Savastinuk article (and much of the Library 2.0 discussion) suggests that what we need is a "new model of librarianship."  This is a distraction.  We don't need a new model.  We need to figure out why we have such a hard time of living up to the ideals of the old model.

We need to figure out ways to make our organizations more nimble, our leaders (and I mean leaders at all levels -- some of the most enterprising and dynamic leaders I know are fresh graduates) more willing to take risks and promote innovation, and give our colleagues more opportunities to experiment in a supportive environment.   And while I hate to keep harping on "50 years of management and organizational development literature", that's where the real work on these issues has been done.   

I am thrilled, as David suggests I ought to be, with the passion of people like Casey & Savastinuk, who are pouring energy and time and attention into figuring out how to make our organizations better.   And it's pretty clear that everyone who has participated in the L2 discussions shares the same general goals.  But I take language very seriously.  It's powerful.  When we use it badly, we undercut our efforts to reshape the world.  Throwing the cloak of "Library 2.0" over the problem and suggesting that it represents a new raft of powerful answers is a delusion and a distraction.