Friday, May 6, 2022

Accidental genius, by Mark Levy

This book provides a selection of writing techniques that are intended to get the juices flowing and let you write in a way that will generate new ideas and increase creativity. It's geared towards professionals and is meant to help readers solve problems at work. Author Levy encourages the practice of private writing; these are timed exercises that will not be shown to anyone, removing the pressure of trying to impress someone else. I almost quit reading early on because I came across two typos in the preface, but I forged on. This is a fairly short book that can be read in a day or two. It was published in 2000, but I would recommend picking up the 2nd edition, published in 2010. This book is indexed, and includes an annotated recommended reading list.


Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Sharjah International Library Conference: An Interview

Here's the text of an interview I did about the Sharjah International Library Conference for my Libraries' newsletter:

In November, University at Albany Dean Rebecca Mugridge spoke to a gathering of librarians at the Sharjah International Library Conference in the United Arab Emirates. In the following interview, she tells us about her experience.

How did this opportunity come about? The Sharjah International Book Fair is an annual, eleven-day gathering of publishers, booksellers, authors, scholars, and readers that has been going on for 40 years, and for the past eight years, it has co-sponsored a three-day library conference that takes place in the same venue as the book fair. The American Library Association (ALA) is one of two co-sponsors of the event, and they invited me to speak at the conference. (The third co-sponsor was the Combined Book Exhibit, which is a marketing services firm.) The conference attracts attendees from all over the Middle East and North Africa, and speakers came from those regions as well as the United States and Europe.


The view from my hotel room.









What was the conference like? The library conference is a three-day affair, with the first day devoted to preconferences. Since I had just arrived the night before and hadn’t signed up for a preconference, I used the morning to adjust to the nine-hour time difference and visited the book fair in the afternoon. The two-day conference included a welcome from Ahmed Al Ameri, the Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, and a keynote address by Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress. Other speakers from the U.S. included the executive director of ALA, as well as its current and past presidents. I attended several sessions including a presentation on bibliotherapy by a librarian from Jordan, a presentation about LibQual by a librarian from the American University of Sharjah, and two presentations on digitization projects by librarians from Jordan and Iraq. Each day of the library conference included a lavish buffet lunch with a variety of international foods, and there was coffee, tea, and snacks available all day long in the “librarians’ lounge.”

What was your presentation about? I was asked to speak on the topic of Telling the Technical Services Story: Communicating Value. ALA recently published a book with this title, and the subject is close to my research interest of assessment. Technical services in libraries includes acquisitions, cataloging and metadata, preservation, electronic resource management, and collection management. I’ve published and presented on various aspects of assessment of technical services, and this presentation gave me the opportunity to expand my past research to take on the theme of communication, that is, how technical services managers communicate the value and impact of what they do to library, college, and university administrators, as well as the profession at large. My presentation was about 40 minutes long; the audience was very engaged, asking questions during the Q & A period, and staying after to speak one-on-one.

What was it like to present in a foreign country? All of the presentations were in either English or Arabic. Attendees were provided with headphones, and translators were in every room to translate from English to Arabic or from Arabic to English, depending on the speaker. I was cautioned not to speak too quickly, and I made an effort to speak more slowly than I usually do and to pause between sentences. In spite of this, the translator told me that I should speak even more slowly next time!

Did you do anything outside of the conference? World Expo 2020 (postponed due to the pandemic) is being hosted by Dubai through March 2022, and Dr. Carla Hayden, U.S. Librarian of Congress, brought Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Koran to be exhibited in the U.S. pavilion. While in the UAE, Dr. Hayden also took part in a meeting of national librarians and gave a keynote address at the library conference. Although I didn’t make it to the Expo, I was excited to be invited (along with all of the U.S. speakers) to the U.S. Consul General’s residence for a reception in honor of Dr. Hayden, who was also a professor in the library school at the University of Pittsburgh when I was a graduate student there in 1989-1990.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden (left), Meghan Gregonis, US Consul General (center), and Rebecca Mugridge (right)







How was the book fair? In 2021, the Sharjah International Book Fair was proclaimed the largest in the world, with 1,632 publishers from 83 countries exhibiting more than 1.3 million unique titles. I took some time during each day of the conference to walk around the book fair and was amazed at the extent of the exhibits as well as the variety and diversity of the attendees. The book fair also makes a point of reaching out to schools, and every day busloads of children of all ages are brought to the book fair, with special events and activities just for them.

What was traveling during a pandemic like? This trip was my first since the beginning of the pandemic, so I was a little nervous about flying. However, I’d been vaccinated, and had also recently gotten my booster shot, so I felt safe. During the conference, the UAE had a lower risk assessment than the U.S. (high vs. very high), and in fact its risk assessment has since dropped to low. I flew on Emirates Airlines out of JFK, and they required a negative PCR test prior to flying, and masking was required of all passengers and airlines employees during the flight except when eating or drinking. I didn’t observe any of the unruly behavior that has been reported on some domestic flights, thankfully! Almost everyone I came across at the conference and hotel, as well as in taxis, was wearing masks as well. One of the challenges I faced was getting a PCR test prior to my return, and the book fair staff went out of their way to find a clinic where I could get test results back in time for my return flight home. My flights were both non-stop, twelve hours from JFK to Dubai, and 14 hours from Dubai back to JFK, the longest flights I’ve ever taken. However, the hospitality of the Emirates Airlines employees made the experience a positive one. They do everything they can to make the flight comfortable, and I kept myself busy with books, magazines, and my iPad, which I used to watch a season of a British television show that I had downloaded. Emirates kept us well-fed, with three separate meals. Dubai is one of the major hubs for flights further east and each meal included a vegetarian option that had a distinctly Indian flavor.

My first flight on a double-decker!









Would you do this again? This was an amazing experience, and I really appreciate being given this chance to share my research with librarians from the Middle East. I would definitely do this again, given the opportunity, but I would prefer that it not be during a worldwide pandemic!


Monday, July 22, 2019

Beyond Banned Books, by Kristin Pekoll

I recently submitted a book review for Beyond Banned Books, by Kristin Pekoll, so all I will say here is that this is an excellent resource on the issue of intellectual freedom that goes beyond challenged books. This book addresses displays, exhibits, artwork, events, programs, reading lists, social media postings, and databases.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Assessment Strategies in Technical Services

I just submitted a review of this book for publication in Technicalities, so I'll just say here that this is an excellent introduction to assessment of technical services operations. Edited by Kimberley E. Edwards and Michelle Leonard, it is the first book that I'm aware of to address this topic.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

How to Run a College

Written by two present and past college presidents, this is a valuable guide for anyone interested in the many aspects of managing a college. Chapters address governance and management, finance, enrollment, advancement, academic affairs, student life, athletics, collaboration and technology, and the path forward. New college administrators would find this helpful, especially if they don't have prior experience in an academic environment. Others who would find it useful include trustees and policy makers who are concerned with higher education. Anyone who's worked in academia for their entire career would find much of this familiar.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Publish & Flourish, by Tara Gray

This is a very helpful book about how to increase your writing output. Dr. Gray organized the book into five main sections: Managing time, Writing, Revising, Getting Help, and Polishing and letting go. There are 12 chapters, each instructing the reader in one aspect of writing, and all providing very useful advice to the reader. Key points include writing daily for at least 15 to 30 minutes, recording your time writing, begin writing on the first day of a research project, post your thesis on the wall and write to it, use key sentences, and share early drafts with non-experts, and later drafts with experts. My favorite is her last suggestion: Kick it out the door and make 'em say "no." I would recommend this book to anyone interested in increasing their writing productivity. I'm going to start implementing her suggestions today.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande

I really enjoyed this book about how complex activities can be made safer by the use of well-developed checklists. Author Atul Gawande has shared the results of his research that showed how the use of checklists in surgery, airplane cockpits, and other realms helps maintain safety and ensures good outcomes. Although many professionals resist the use of checklists, his research shows that there are many fewer errors when they're used. Even the author, a surgeon himself, realized that he made fewer errors when he used a checklist. It's important that in practice, others are authorized to stop the surgeon or pilot if he or she did not complete a step on the checklist. The lists only work if they are methodically used, and if multiple people are involved, all must have the authority and respect of others.

This is a well-written and interesting book that would be of interest to anyone who is responsible for complex activities and has an interest in improving outcomes.

Atul Gawande. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. New York: Henry Holt, 2009. 240 pages. ISBN 9780312430009.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Library Technology Buying Strategies, edited by Marshall Breeding

Identifying, selecting, and purchasing technologies for all types of libraries can be a serious challenge, even more so for smaller libraries that do not have deep expertise in library technology. Edited by Marshall Breeding, Library Technology Buying Strategies provides basic information for any librarian responsible for making technology purchase decisions.

The first two chapters describe the traditional request for proposal (RFP) and suggest basic guidelines for writing them. Chapters 3 and 4 are an introduction to resource sharing and the standards that apply to resource sharing systems. Chapters 5 and 6 address the various types of cloud computing and planning for the implementation of cloud computing solutions. Chapter 7 is an introduction to library service platforms and chapter 8 very briefly discusses criteria for selecting e-book platforms, highlighting content, technical specifications, functionality, and business models.

This book is not only edited by Breeding, but five of its eight chapters were written by him. Two chapters were written by Nikki Waller, and one by Mirela Roncevic. Six of the eight chapters were previously published in Library Technology Reports and Cloud Computing for Libraries, one as early as 2003.

While each of the chapters is independently useful, as a collection they are a bit of a hodgepodge rather than a coherent guide to purchasing technology. For example, the two chapters about resource sharing do not specifically address purchasing solutions; rather the first is simply an introduction to various types of resource sharing platforms or methods, and the second is a brief summary of standards related to resource sharing, such as ISO ILL, NCIP, and Z39.50. While it is important to understand standards when making buying decisions, the chapter did not fit well in this book that is intended to address buying strategies. This book has a cobbled-together feel to it; readers would be better off purchasing titles that address their specific need.

Library Technology Buying Strategies. Edited by Marshall Breeding. ALA Editions, 2016, 136 pp., ISBN 978-0-8389-1467-0, $55.00 (paper).

This review was originally published in: Catholic Library World. 2016, Vol. 87 Issue 2, p135-135.

Migrating Library Data, edited by Kyle Banerjee and Bonnie Parks

Managing library data, including bibliographic, acquisitions, holdings, item, and patron data, is a significant undertaking, and migrating that data from one library services platform to another can be daunting. With Migrating Library Data: A Practical Manual, editors Kyle Banerjee and Bonnie Parks have brought together papers from twelve experts that will help librarians and information technology professionals in libraries navigate the challenges of migrating their valuable data across library platforms.

The book is organized into thirteen chapters that address all aspects of migrating data. In the first chapter Ms. Parks discusses the migration process from beginning to end. Subsequent chapters cover important topics such as data cleaning, data formats, and the management of data using data manipulation tools such as OpenRefine and MarcEdit. Other chapters address bibliographic, item, acquisitions, and patron data. While much of the book addresses the migration of data from one library services platform to another, chapter 10 addresses data stored in institutional repositories and digital collections, which offer their own set of difficulties. The challenges of migrating to shared systems, and working with vendors is addressed. The final chapter covers testing the migration and going live after the migration is completed.

Many of the chapters are illustrated with screen shots, diagrams, samples of code, and other figures. Useful “pro tips” are scattered throughout the book, which also includes an index and an appendix with acronyms spelled out. Many of the chapters have a brief list of references. I think the book would have been strengthened with a bibliography, a more robust list of references, or further reading. Nevertheless, this is an excellent manual on the challenges of data migration, and it includes many practical and useful solutions to those challenges.

Migrating Library Data: A Practical Manual. Edited by Kyle Banerjee and Bonnie Parks. Neal-Schuman, 2017, 251 pp., ISBN 978-0-8389-1503-5, $56.00 (paper).

This review was originally published in: Catholic Library World. Dec2017, Vol. 88 Issue 2, p136-136.