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December 2013
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February 2014

What are librarians' views of Open Access issues?

I've cooked up a little survey that you can get to here.

Later this month I’ll be speaking at the AAAS meeting on this topic.  Although I know what the positions of our library organizations are, and what some individual librarians might think, I’ve never felt that I had a good grasp of what librarians in general think.  I suspect the range of opinion is pretty wide.  So I’ve come up with a list 15 statements that people can indicate their level of agreement with.  They're the sort of statements one reads and hears in presentations, blogs and discussion lists.  In some cases they may be too broad or simplistic for simple agreement or disagreement so I’ve included a comment block that people can use to amplify their answers or explain why they can’t agree or disagree with the statement as written.

I don’t expect to draw any general conclusions from this, but I hope that it will be useful in illustrating some of the breadth of opinion that exists in the library community.  I'll post a summary of the results here.

The survey shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to complete – although you can certainly take longer, depending on how much you choose to comment.

And, of course, if there are other things you think I should be telling the AAAS audience about what librarians think, I'd love to hear about it.

Hip-Hop Fan

I’ve often thought that if I were ever filling out one of those profiles that includes the question, “What is the one thing that people would be surprised to know about you,” I’d say it’s that I’m an Eminem fan.

Although, to be accurate, it’s much broader than that.  I remember being astounded by Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back which came out not long after I moved from DC to St. Louis.  I’d take my long walks around the city, listening on headphones.  Some days I’d be listening to Van Morrison, but just as often I’d be listening to Chuck D.

I’m by no means a fan of all rap, of course, just as I am not a fan of all of any other genre – I’m a firm believer in Sturgeon’s Law.  The boastful monotony of most commercial gangster rap doesn’t do much for me – listen to K’Naan’s “What’s Hardcore?” for a brilliant takedown of the many poseurs out there angling to be the next 50 Cent.

But the world of hip-hop is vast and complex and contradictory and well worth the exploration.  I didn’t pay much attention to Eminem until the Marshall Mathers LP.  I’d listen to it then in the car on my way to and from the library.  It horrified me and thrilled me and fascinated me.  I was baffled that so many of the outraged commentators apparently couldn’t see that Slim Shady was a character and that much of the album revolved around the tension between Eminem as Marshall and the character he’d created that had brought him so much success. 

I was listening to a lot of Johnny Cash in those days as well, as Rick Rubin (who’d cut his teeth as a producer on the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC) was putting out the series of American Recordings that raised Cash to reverential status in those last years before he died.  I’d read the outrage over Eminem’s “Kill You,” and then listen to Cash’s rueful singing on “Delia’s Gone.”  First time I shot her, I shot her in the side / Hard to watch her suffer but with the second shot she died / Delia's gone, one more round, Delia's gone.  Cash recorded the song four times.

A few years ago I heard an interview on the radio with ?uestlove of The Roots and knew instantly that this was somebody worth my paying attention to – thoughtful, curious, inventive, bold, with an interest in all kinds of music and sound and a deep desire to make something new out of all of it.  So when I saw that he’d come out with a memoir and that it was getting rave reviews, I put it on my “presents for Scott” list and Lynn gave it to me for my birthday.

I read it over the Christmas break and it was every bit the delightful education I was hoping for.  The book itself is a marvel, and the interplay between Ahmir’s romantic self-doubt and his manager’s hard-bitten cynicism enriches the narrative immeasurably.  And it functions as a playlist – if Thompson is this passionate about this artist or that piece of music, then I ought to check it out.

I don’t mean to imply that I listen to more hip-hop than anything else.  Far from it. It’s the vastness of the musical landscape that I feel compelled to explore.  I know that many people fall in love with music during their teenage years and that becomes the soundtrack of their lives.  They return to the same songs over and over and new music becomes stranger and coarser and before too long they can’t understand how people can listen to that shit.  They find Miley Cyrus appallingly shocking while apparently forgetting their fandom for Jim Morrison and David Bowie.  

I confess this seems bizarre and a little sad to me.  I want to listen to it all!  Old, new, stuff I’ve loved all my life and stuff I’ve never heard before.  There are nearly 17,000 songs in my iTunes library.  I put them on shuffle to see what might come up next:  Flogging Molly, Charles Lloyd, Liquid Prairie, Stravinsky, Joni Mitchell, Eminem, John Hiatt, Debussy, Rage Against the Machine, Ryan Adams, John Coltrane…

And then spin it again...









Speed of Light

When I looked at my phone and saw that someone from Neurology had left me a message a few minutes earlier, I thought it was a coincidence.  But no, it was Dr. B: “… Your MRI of the cervical spine looks much better, with significant improvement in the swelling and in the scar that you had compared to before.  So it seems that the Cytoxan is doing what it’s supposed to with reduced inflammation, so my suggestion would be to continue the treatment…”

I was astonished at how quickly I got the results.  It was 5pm when I was being rolled out of the MRI machine.  By the time I got home, 40 minutes later, an alert had been sent to my doc to tell him that the results of a test he’d ordered were available, he’d looked at the scans, made his assessment, called and left the message.  I was flooded with relief.  I’d been fully prepared to have to wait a couple of days for the results.

The news was what we’d been expecting, but you never know.  I was steeled against the possibility that despite the symptom improvements of the last couple of months, the MRI scans wouldn’t show much reduction in the inflammation.  My poor spinal cord!  My crazy relentless immune system!  My achy, twitchy muscles!  But now we know that there is at least a chance for some of the compressed nerves to resume functioning and for the other nerves to find new pathways to carry messages from my brain to my limbs.  Miranda talks about the fabulous “neuroplasticity” of the human body.  That’s what I’m counting on.

By coincidence, an article about my situation appeared this week on the UAB Medicine website.  Of course, I hate the picture (the only pictures of myself that I like are ones that include Josie), but it does a pretty good job of addressing my situation and, more importantly, the quality of care that I’ve been receiving.  (There is one unfortunate error in the story – it refers to my attending a meeting of the “Division of Medical Journals.”  It was actually the Editorial Board of the BMJ – British Medical Journal.)

UAB has a well-deserved reputation for clinical excellence, but I don’t think the story of how much emphasis is placed on the overall patient experience is as well told as it ought to be.  Yes, what I’m dealing with is tough – imagine how much worse it would be if not for all of the amazing people who’ve had a hand in my care!

So we’ll count on the cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) infusions to keep the inflammation down.  I know there won’t be any dramatic improvements.  On any given day some things feel a little better and some are a little worse.  The struggles are never-ending.  But overall, things are moving in the right direction.  Maybe not at the speed of light – but we’re moving.