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Guest Post by Melissa Rivosecchi: Ladies Learning Code

It’s Fall semester, and that means first year SIS students are trying to make it through GLIS 617. Some of you may be breezing through it, while others may be really struggling. Just know that if you’re struggling, it is totally normal; a lot of us second years felt the same way last year.

Hopefully no tears have been shed (it’s not worth it!)

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Last Fall, I struggled with 617. I was a mess when it came to trying to solve those questions on the quizzes, yet when I saw the answers I was able to break down the code and understand it. It wasn’t for lack of trying, as I went to all the labs and I asked questions. It felt like my brain just couldn’t grasp being able to write the code from scratch. Thanks to the help of my classmates, I was able to make it through the course. However, because I felt so stressed during that first semester, I don’t feel like I was able to grasp everything I should have from the course.

After Fall semester ended, I was apprehensive about registering for any second year courses that had 617 as a prerequisite. Just before the holiday break, one of my classmates introduced me to Ladies Learning Code (LLC)*, a non-profit group that introduces people to beginner-level technical skills in a collaborative workshop atmosphere. There are chapters set up all across Canada, and the main lab is based in Toronto. The Learning Labs offer various workshops including intro to photoshop, intro to javascript, intro to HTML + CSS, CSS fundamentals for beginners,…and much more.

Last January, a bunch of us gals from class decided to sign up for the one-day Intro to HTML + CSS one-day workshop that was held in Montreal. Lead by industry professionals, every aspect of the workshop was well organized. There is a guaranteed 4:1 (or better) student to mentor ratio and the volunteer mentors sat at each table and were there to help answer any questions. The mentors were knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to help. The workshop gave us hands-on experience; we were guided each step of the way and were given plenty of time to complete each task. By the end of the day we each created our own beautiful web page! Although there was a $50 fee for the workshop, I felt that I totally got my money’s worth. The collaborative, social, positive, and stress-free atmosphere made me realize I wanted to learn more about HTML and gave me the confidence to register for the web design class offered by SIS next winter semester.

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Let’s face it: although many of us will probably not end up being programmers, learning basic digital literacy skills like HTML + CSS is an asset when it comes to employment opportunities. Last year, I spoke to one professional who said the web design class at SIS was really helpful because she ended up working in a small town public library where she was responsible for maintaining the library’s website. You don’t have to be an expert, but learning the basics can help show future employers that you are willing to get outside your comfort zone and learn new skills.

I encourage you to check out LLC and if you see a workshop that interests you, get a bunch of your friends together and make a day of it. Going to a workshop like those organized by LLC can open up different possibilities you might not have thought about previously.

Check out this video if you would like to learn more about LLC. You can also subscribe to their mailing list, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

*Note: men are also welcome to attend the workshops, however LLC asks that, when possible, a female learner be brought to the workshop!

- Melissa Rivosecchi

About the author: Melissa Rivosecchi is a second-year MLIS student specializing in librarianship. She is the current president for the Canadian Library Association McGill Student Chapter (CLAMSC), as well as the Chief Returning Officer Parliamentarian for the McGill Information Studies Student Association (MISSA). Her interests include embedded librarianship, GIS, and pizza. 

Eight or Nine Things to Know about SIS

So, you’ve just entered McGill’s MIST program and you’re not sure what to expect. Or, more realistically (because I suck at writing posts), you’re about a month in and feeling overwhelmed.

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Along with a few second year students/minions, I’ve compiled a list of things that might help make your first year a little easier.

1) Thomson House is your friend. The program has a lot of group projects, and this is a place where you can a) drink beer, b) avoid climbing up and down the hill unnecessarily (see no. 7), and c) work loudly in groups without being shushed by librarians.

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2) Google Drive is also your friend (you have a lot of friends, OKAY??) – for when you want to avoid said group meetings.

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3) The CLA Professional Mentorship Program is endlessly helpful. Sign up in your first or second year and take advantage of this awesome opportunity. It’s a great way to connect with professionals in your field and I speak from personal experience when I say they offer way better advice than that publications committee chairperson or whatever. Want more info? Check out this site: http://www.mcgill.ca/sis-students/cla/partnering

4) Don’t go through it alone.

Before I started the program, I had a Survivor type mentality (Reality TV, not Destiny’s Child) in which I found myself thinking/saying things like “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to win”.

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Fun fact: your friends will help you get through this year. Smile, get to know them, talk about similar interests with them. Oh, c’mon, you know how to make friends.

5) Classes aren’t everything. In an information studies program, I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your first semester might feel a little like Information Overload. Be that as it may, I was surprised and it was a tough adjustment. It’s important to keep in mind that classes aren’t everything in this program, and you’ll get a whole lot more out of them if you volunteer, work, take part in our student associations and those associations’ events. Check out the write-ups on the various associations on this very blog. Psst…SISnic is tomorrow! Come network and EAT FOOD.

6) The education classroom temperatures are whack. Layer-up. Why do you think librarians own so many cardigans?

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7) The hill will never get easier. It’s not you. It’s the hill.

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8) Learn how to “sell” your degree, and memorize that sentence. You’ll get lots of eye-roll inducing questions asking what information studies is, why you need a master’s degree to shelve books, or if there are classes on shushing. We all know the value of this degree, but it can be difficult to put into words when put on the spot. Think of this as a catch phrase, and trust me, it will come in handy.

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 9) Volunteer to help write for the school’s blog! And I’m out.

Favourite Things – Evernote

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog, but I promise I’ve been swamped with readings…and by “swamped” I mean “obsessed with” and by “readings” I mean the Veronica Mars book. Yes. It’s a thing.

This will be a fairly short post and one in which I test out a new idea for the blog: our favourite things at SIS. Unfortunately, this won’t be Oprah style, though I do sincerely wish I could give you all some SUVs. This will be a place where we talk about things we like – apps, authors, websites, stores, publications committee chair people, you name it! I will literally post anything you want to rave about here.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my newest crush: Evernote.

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My room/life may be a disaster zone, but I really like it when my Internet stuff is organized. I recognize that I’m behind the times on this one, but I’ve tried this personal organization system about a billion times in the past and I’ve never found value in it. However, I had been growing increasingly disillusioned with my own system – a rag tag mix of Pinterest, Google Drive, Gmail, and a mass of files and folders on my desktop. The system was sufficient until school started. But once I started working on school stuff in various locations – school, home, work – and on various devices – laptop, work computer, phone – I was frustrated. There has to be a better way!

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Enter Evernote! Evernote allows me to “clip” webpages, PDFs, email threads and more into notes, which I can organize into notebooks (which can be organized further into stacks). Stacks, you guys. This syncs no matter where I’m working – on my phone (app), at work (web version), and at home (desktop version). If you use Chrome, I suggest downloading the Web Clipper extension to make this process even easier. You can also share notebooks with your fellow Information Science nerds friends.

TLDR: Evernote combines the functionality of Google Drive with the bookmarking potential of Pinterest – with the added bonus that Evernote is private, until you decide to share. It’s also easy on the eyes, and allows you to “clip” exactly what you want, including simplified versions of articles.

My advice to make it more functional: the more you use it, the more you’ll like it. Try using it for different areas (school stuff, recipes, articles) and make your notebooks and stacks as granular as you see fit.

While I’m positively smitten now, I’ll admit that my eyes will certainly start to wander upon the release of Google Stars.

Want some further reading? Check out the article that made me try Evernote again: http://lifehacker.com/5989980/ive-been-using-evernote-all-wrong-heres-why-its-actually-amazing.

Anything you guys would like to share? With assignments piling up and this miracle approaching, I think I’ll need your help more than ever.

Better Late than Never: An Introduction

August is here and just like every other summer, I now find myself wondering where summer went, when I will ever get accustomed to this humidity, and how I managed to go four months without making a dent in my reading list (Amy Tan’s latest beach read? Check. Cloud Atlas? Not so much).

After a long and well-enjoyed break from SIS, it is now the time of year where we mentally prepare ourselves for school, swap our Birkenstocks for Doc Martins, and get around to finally updating blogs (or is that just me?). My name is Julia Bjerke (MLIS candidate, 2015) and I am happy to be MISSA’s Publications Committee Chairperson this year. While it is my personal goal to post some worthwhile content over the next year, I need your help – and lots of it! Involving SIS students (first-years, second-years, alumni) is the key to making this blog a place where we can share information, network, and help one another get involved in the SIS and greater Information Studies community. Please send any ideas, feedback, and content my way at julia.bjerke@mail.mcgill.ca. While I’m thrilled to receive any and all content, I think a great place to start would be hearing about some of your summer job (or intern/volunteer/vacation/staycation) experiences. This was done a few years ago on the blog (check the archives!) and I found it really interesting. So, send away to julia.bjerke@mail.mcgill.ca.

See you at the introduction program (I know I’ll be there – I hear there will be some tasty treats!)

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The Highlights from Web 2.U 2014

By Anastasia Prozorova

On Friday February 7, 2014, many information professionals, students and enthusiasts gathered at Thomson House for the annual student-organized conference, Web 2.U. The insightful speakers, who were invited to this day-long event, had a chance to share their thoughts on a variety of cool, but challenging media and on the role of information professionals in the changing world. Let me share with you some of the highlights from this year’s event:

  • Connie Crosby, a Toronto-based consultant, shared her experience in customer outreach and customer relationship management.
  • AJ West, a second-year student graduating from McGill’s MLIS program, dazzled the audience with his knowledge of one of the hottest trends in information technology: wearable devices.
  • Mark Blevis, Ottawa-based Digital Public Affairs Strategist, thrilled the audience with some amazing interactive media and demonstrated how books and libraries can immerse readers into a more engaging and participatory environment.
  • David Weigl, PhD candidate at SIS, carefully guided the audience through the intricacies of relevance in music search.
  • Guillermo Galdamez, a first-year student of McGill’s MLIS program and Knowledge Continuity Officer for MLISSA, talked about the challenges of maintaining and promoting SIS Wikis.
  • Michael Groenendyk, the newly hired business librarian for Concordia University Libraries, made some incredible revelations about the opportunities and challenges of 3D printing and 3D scanning.
  • Laurie Devine, Social Media Manager at McGill’s Media Relations Office, demonstrated some terrific features of her new social media tool, Flipboard, and compelled the audience to stay alert to emerging social media technologies.
  • David Lee King, Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, flew to Montreal all the way from Kansas. He shared some of his invaluable experiences in social media marketing for libraries.
  • Edward Bilodeau, McGill’s Web Services Librarian, skilfully animated the round table discussion at the end of the day.

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I would like to thank everyone who took an interest in Web 2.U 2014 and those who generously helped make it happen. If you have some ideas to share for next year’s conference, feel free to contact me: anastasia.prozorova@mail.mcgill.ca.

Photoblog: A Look Inside Three Libraries

Between semesters, I took my third trip to Europe and unexpectedly found myself inside a few libraries. As someone who initially entered university to study architecture, I’ve always had an appreciation for spatial design and colour. Below are photos of three libraries that I visited. As you’ll see, each library has its own unique atmosphere, colour scheme, and style of bookshelves. Enjoy!

Muntpunt Library (Brussels, Belgium)

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Bibliotheek Den Haag (The Hague, The Netherlands) 

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Central Library (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

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The Future of KM revealed at the International Conference on Knowledge Management (ICKM)

By Nathalie De Preux

On November 1-2, 2013, the 9th edition of the ICKM took place for the first time here in Montreal, chaired by SIS Director, Professor France Bouthillier. The conference, in which 37 papers were presented, focused on KM metrics, performance measurement, capacity building, and certification.

Why is ICKM special? You have probably come across ads about different conferences on “Knowledge Management in action”, or similar titles. Many of these KM conferences target private sector executives and host thousands of participants (not to mention the extravagant registration fees). ICKM, on the other hand, brings together a more collegial group of both researchers and practitioners in the KM field. These participants come from all around the world to discuss the latest studies and practical applications of KM. The smaller nature of this conference allows for deeper interaction and more opportunities to meet the speakers personally.

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Key takeaways

  • We will witness an ever-stronger tie with big data, and initiatives to use data for decision-making purposes.
  • Collaboration, social networking, and Communities of Practice, in particular, will continue to play an important role as enablers of knowledge sharing.
  • Outcome metrics and systems will be key in measuring the impact of KM on an organization.
  • KM will be particularly important in niche markets such as healthcare, nuclear energy, and emergency management.
  • Synergies between KM and Intelligence Systems, as well as knowledge discovery techniques will continue to grow.

Practitioners of KM at Golder Associates and Infosys provided us with insights on their experience in putting KM initiatives in place in the private sector (e.g. linking people within the organization). They pointed out key factors that make a community successful, barriers that might impede these efforts, and offered practical recommendations to get real value out of expertise locator systems.

SIS’s new faculty member, Professor Max Evans, gave a presentation on trust as one of the major social cognitive factors that influence knowledge sharing. He also shared the findings of his research in a law firm on this particular topic.

Other key questions that were answered were:

How can iSchools capitalize on branding, and create products and services that truly position them as key players in the knowledge economy?

By collecting stories about how graduates have contributed to business.

What makes a library school an iSchool?

The variety of disciplines offered, the size of the faculty, the number of alumni, and the inclusion of faculty from different backgrounds, not only from Library Science.

The topic of Competitive Intelligence was also present at ICKM. Presentations included a study conducted in the public sector in South Africa, which showed the importance of CI as a process that is used to gather actionable information and predict the future. CI allows the public sector to better leverage its competing forces to improve the quality of its services as if it were a business with external competitors.

The above is just a brief summary of the variety of interesting topics presented at ICKM, and it gives you an idea of the richness of this unique conference. We look forward to next year’s ICKM edition in Paris and hope that SIS students will have the opportunity to participate!

List of topics discussed at the conference

  • –  Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice
  • –  Communication, Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing
  • –  KM Implementation and Strategy
  • –  Knowledge Management in the Public Sector
  • –  Knowledge Organization
  • –  Knowledge Management Tools
  • –  Knowledge Discovery
  • –  Project and Knowledge Management
  • –  Knowledge Metrics and Measurement
  • –  iSchools in the Context of the Knowledge Economy
  • –  Knowledge Management in Libraries
  • –  Competitive Intelligence
  • –  Access to Information and Knowledge
  • –  Knowledge Management and Healthcare
  • –  Intellectual Capital and Scientific Collaboration

Being bibliophilic in MTL: a tour of 514 bookshops

by Jacob Siefring, MLIS ’13

As I wrap up the year, I bequeath this final post to MLIS students who will be returning next year, and to future and incoming MLIS students. Thanks to my fellow students, from whom I learned quite a lot. Best of luck to everyone! Tonight is my last night in graduate school, goodbye graduate school. Soon, goodbye Montreal, where I’ve lived five years. In Ottawa I shall live by mid-summer.

If you’re anything like me, then you require to be surrounded by books. Not just any books, either—new books, recently acquired books, recently purchased books. Pay no heed to Camus’s suggestion that “the more one buys books, the less one reads them” (Jonas ou l’artiste au travail). I cannot stop accumulating books, and even as I look for work I continue to read them. I address new and future residents of Montrealers, students in library-and-information science like, perhaps, you. How well do you know the bookshop scene in Montreal? Sundry fantastic bookstores dot Montreal’s map. And don’t forget thrift stores, especially the Salvation Army. May this be of use to some bibliophilic Montreal newcomer!

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Cheap Thrills (EN): You must visit this bookstore at least once because it is stellar. To their credit, Cheap Thrills manages to rival or undercut Amazon.ca’s prices (i.e., the combined amount of a cheap used paperback and $7 in Canada Post shipping). Relatively high turn-over for a used shop. In addition to being a vendor of concert tickets, also a vinyl hot-spot, a must-visit stop for vinyl lovers. Through the speakers the employees play arcane music I don’t know that suits my taste.

The Word (EN)(on Milton in the McGill ghetto): You must visit this bookstore at least once. Excellent stock and organisation, very knowledgeable staff. Readings happen there sometimes. Adrian, the owner of the Word, has been there since the store opened in the 1960s and is worth meeting (cautiously).

Argo (EN)(downtown on Ste-Catherine): You must visit this bookstore at least once because its stock is so interesting. New books, especially experimental, cutting edge, avant-garde literature. Relatively new? A very interesting bookshop with a lively ongoing series of readings.

Drawn & Quarterly (FR, ?)(Mile End): You should visit this bookstore at least once because it is awesome. Lots of graphic novels (BD, bande dessinée). Readings occur here regularly. Signings and readings occur infrequently (I think). William Gibson read there and signed Ian Roberton’s tattered copy of Mona Lisa Overdrive.

Encore Books and Music (EN) (on Sherbrooke St in NDG: Good stock, nice genuine- feeling retro aesthetic and vibe. Doesn’t even feel retro, just contemporary. Because I am a resident of the neighbourhood I’m a little partial. A vinyl hot-spot, a must for vinyl lovers. Where I bought The Anatomy of Bibliomania.

Paragraphe Books (EN, ?)(on McGill College): Upstairs they have a showroom where they set books out for librarians to see what’s new and recommended. Paragraphe and other QC bookstores are fortunate to benefit from a statute in QC that publicly-/government-funded libraries must buy their books from provincial vendors.

L’Echange Mont-Royal (FR)(Plateau): Used books mainly, if not exclusively.

Le Port de Tête (FR)(on Mont-Royal on the Plateau): New and used. Avant-garde bent. Good selection of comics (BD (bande-dessinée)).

Concordia Co-op Bookstore (EN, ?): Recommended; I’m not too familiar with this one.

Atwater Library – Basement Used Book Store (EN, some FR)(open Wed-Sat, noon-3pm): Used. Small stock, but good stock, and dirt cheap.

Flammarion (FR)(on Saint-Laurent on the Plateau): New, good stock of French books. Costly paperbacks, I recall.

McGill University Bookstore (upstairs (trade/general books), downstairs (academic texts): Not bad for browsing. Expensive relative to Amazon and to used stores of course.Chapters (EN, ?)(Ste-Catherine near McGill)

Archambault (FR)(Berri)

Renaud-Bray (FR)(various locations)

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In the comments, readers: what bookstores do you love? Bouquineries? Who did I miss?

Characterizing a Collection: An Analysis of the McGill Library System

By Caitlin Bailey

Online library catalogues are not often regarded as sources for historical analysis. While they are designed and used for resource location, their consideration as a primary source document is infrequent. Extending the work of her doctoral thesis “ The Imprint of The Scholar: An Analysis of the Printed Books of McGill’s Raymond Klibansky Collection”, Dr. Jillian Tomm is now engaged in postdoctoral work, examining the character of the McGill Library’s historical collections. The primary source for her analysis? The library catalogue.

Dr. Tomm’s methodology builds on the mining of the library catalogue to build sets for data analysis. Using the results along with pre-existing knowledge of individual collections, she hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the McGill collections as a whole within the larger context of intellectual history and their relationships with each other. The project also aims to support the development of collections-level searching to help users identify individual special collections (as opposed to individual items) of likely value to their research based on their strengths, such as materials published in a particular country or time period or those rich in illustrated books.

J.Tomm, The Imprint of the Scholar. 2012.

For the moment, Dr. Tomm will be considering the 18th century as her primary area of interest, however she intends to expand to earlier periods. Additionally, Dr. Tomm notes that the project is only considering printed materials, however this may also serve as an expansion point in the future. The current timeline for the project is two years; to further her work after this period, Dr. Tomm has committed to documenting her project as completely as possible to facilitate further building on her work.

An interview with Stéfan Sinclair

By Jacob Siefring

In a class or elsewhere in the vast field of library-and-information-science, you might have come upon a reference to digital humanities. Digital humanities is basically an academic discipline concerned with the application of computational tools and methods to traditional objects of scholarship (i.e. texts, artifacts, art works, historical data, etc.). The field is interdisciplinary and vast, and also highly collaborative.

Earlier this week, I paid a visit to Stéfan Sinclair, who is Associate Professor of Digital Humanities in McGill’s Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. Since he received his Ph.D. in French literature, Professor Sinclair has worked on numerous projects designing digital humanities text visualization tools, often in collaboration with other scholars. He was most generous and open in responding to my questions as we sat in his windowed office overlooking the intersection of rue Sherbrooke and rue University.

I noticed that it’s kind of common in the digital humanities to start giving a talk by stating how you got into it, because it’s kind of a hybrid field and everybody takes a kind of circuitous route or ends up there in a different way. I know you have a background in French literature. But were you drawn towards programming and computers prior to your work in the humanities?

Yes. What I can recall is that, during the early part of my undergraduate studies, I liked fiddling with computers and doing some programming. At that point, I was especially playing with Visual Basic. I was home-brewing beer, and I had built an application that would allow me to manage time, and various settings, and fermentation and so on. At that time, it was really about building things for my own interest. I had done my first couple of years of undergraduate taking courses from all over the place, everything actually except French literature. Then in my third year I decided that I would do French literature as something that seemed more specific, leveraging my background as a francophone, Franco-Albertan, and so on. I loved literature, but not enough that my first instinct was to know that I was going to go into undergraduate studies and take literature. I was more interested in philosophy and religious studies and all sorts of other stuff. There happened to be a course—I can’t remember if I was in my third or fourth year—on computer applications in French at UBC. That’s sort of the moment where it clicked. This very unusual, very rare course that was in the French department made me realize that I could combine these two interests that I had probably never thought of as merging at any point. There’s something very empowering and magical about getting a computer to do something that you build it to do. That I think was a big motivation for any of the programming that I was doing. I’d almost put programming in quotes, because it wouldn’t be programming by computer science standards, it would just be sort of hacking, scripting—except that it wasn’t really scripts, it was Visual Basic. Anyway, this course made a connection for me between literature and computing. From there I started thinking about and building tools where my work in literature would be supplemented, augmented by some of the tools that I wanted to build. And it sort of kept growing from there. Over time, the balance has shifted. Initially, I was doing a bit of programming and computers to complement the literary side. Over time, it’s sort of gone the other way, where I’m mostly doing programming and building stuff and relatively little literature, though I hope to do more. So I don’t know if that really answers your question…

I think that’s very interesting, because a lot of the time those narratives aren’t the ones that get relayed, and yet they’re so important in determining how we end up where we do.

It seems so natural now that this is the direction that I took, and yet I recognize that it’s really an enormous coincidence. I didn’t go to UBC because this person prof, Bill Winder was there. I didn’t know he was there. Part of the experience has also been not only that very serendipitous first experience that made the connection that I probably wouldn’t have made if this course hadn’t been there, but also a willingness to kind of ignore what… if people had given me academic advice at that point it would have been to not do computing stuff because that was just too weird, and too fringe, too marginal. But it’s what I was interested in. So it’s hard to say what lesson to pull out of this except that I happened to have been extremely lucky because I did sort of do what interested me and it ended up working out.

Can I ask what your dissertation work was on?

Sure. There’s a group of primarily French mathematicians and writers called the Oulipo and they’re interested in formal constraints in literature and the idea that all forms of literature—be it a sonnet, a play or theatre, whatever—what determines that it’s that genre are is a set of rules. And so by formulating new rules they think they open new forms of literature. It looks like a constraining act but in some ways it’s an opening-up act. I became interested in whether or not that formalized aspect might be a good foothold for computational methods, and so I became interested in the Oulipo and Georges Perec in particular. Georges Perec wrote a three-hundred page novel in French without the letter e. So my dissertation was primarily on La Disparition, on this novel; that was half of it, and the other half was using a text-analysis tool that I built called HyperPo that was meant to help me in examining some of the things that I wanted to examine about the text. So it was a very hybrid project, but again, I was fortunate to have support for it where I was so that it worked out.

Do you still follow contemporary French literature?

Umm… that’s a good question. I will say with some degree of shame and regret that not really. Except for the fact that I tend to still read contemporary French literature for pleasure.

Well yeah, that counts, that counts!

But I don’t turn my attention to analysing it and doing literary criticism, which is a big part of my intellectual upbringing. It’s just more for the interest of reading.

Wouldn’t reading be less fun if you had to analyse what you read?

Yeah, I guess in some ways it would be. I actually do find it a lot of fun to analyse texts as well, so it’s a very different kind of experience. But I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. As I did with La Disparition I thoroughly loved reading it as a novel, as literature, and I thoroughly enjoyed analyzing it as a piece of digital text.

I want to ask about Voyant Tools, which you developed with Geoffrey Rockwell. You’re probably able to see from the site stats what kind of use that tool’s getting, and maybe even where it’s being adopted, where geographic use is coming from. What does that look like?

Yes. I would say it’s gotten, for an academic project, moderate traction. It gets in the thousands of hits per week. The way it’s structured is that there’s a landing page where you can do some things, and it’s also a Web application, so that doesn’t really count the multiple pages that people might be consulting within the site. What it does count, though, which is misleading and also interesting in other ways, is that Voyant Tools has this mechanism where you can embed any of the tools into a blog or Web page, just as you would embed a YouTube clip on a blog or site. An example of this is a German site on Narratology that happens to have embedded Voyant. I know that a good part of the traffic comes from there. My own blog and various other sites that have embedded the tool contribute as well. Part of the traffic is people going to Voyant to use it as a tool, and that tends to spike whenever someone’s doing a workshop or something. That does happen increasingly, which I think is another way of measuring and understanding the traction of the project. Beyond that, it gets regular steady use but not an enormous amount of use, not yet.

As I mentioned to you in a Twitter conversation, I found it very helpful for a project I was doing which was in a class called “Knowledge Taxonomies.” The assignment was to redesign the taxonomy and the navigation tool for a website. So we selected one, 3QuarksDaily. It’s a large aggregator blog with probably over twenty posts per day. So we started with the word frequencies as a way to see what some of the hottest and most frequent topics were.

Cool.

I don’t know how we would have proceeded without that, but that was definitely the best way to start our content audit.

So what were some of the limitations and frustrations?

We applied the Taporware words, and then we manually went through the frequency list, and then clustered the terms… what’s that process called, topic modelling?

Right, so you did topic modelling separately?

Topic modelling, if I’m not mistaken, would refer to an automated process. We were doing it manually in a group by consensus. So that consisted of accounting for stemming changes as well as ruling out insubstantial terms, like colors. That wasn’t a real challenge, it was just a bit of work that we had to do as part of our process. I think we didn’t go that far down into the word frequencies either. We were fairly satisfied that what we were seeing was comprehensive in terms of the topics at least.

Now, a skeptic’s question. Recently, Matt Jockers, who is a leader in the digital humanities in my opinion, tweeted the following message with the hashtag “overly honest methods”: “We deconstructed the text because we didn’t have any good ideas.” I wonder about this. We start playing around with texts with digital humanities tools, maybe without a particular question in mind, and it does end up yielding questions. But I wonder if having that really powerful tool kit at our disposal doesn’t in some cases impair us to have strong conceptual questions to begin with. Do you think that is ever the case?

I definitely think it can be. To say that it impairs us is also to say that we’re not willing to sit down at some point and work hard at trying to come up with the concepts and intuitions separately. Partly what it’s saying is, the tool and a certain number of methodologies are there, and it seems simpler just to start banging away at that than to really think about the text or whatever you happen to be looking at. And I don’t know how common that is. In a lot of cases you’re either working with text that you know already, and so you’ve probably gone through the process of thinking about it. What the tool does and can do very effectively then is to stimulate new ways of looking at and new representations of the text that you wouldn’t have thought of. It opens up new channels. In other cases, where you haven’t read the texts, and Matt will admit to this for some of the texts, it’s also a way of including and dealing with those texts that maybe you don’t have the time and the inclination to read. It’s an impairment in some ways except that maybe realistically you never would have sat down to read those texts and so it’s better than nothing. You know, at least you’re including them in some sense. It’s actually strangely, vaguely reminiscent of what Georges Perec says about constraints when he’s starting to write. He said that nothing scares him more than the blank page. In  other words, if he sits down and has to start writing something, he finds that terrifying. What the constraint allows him to do, when he sits down and he’s working on an Oulipian constraint like writing a novel without the letter e, that gives him a structure in which things can happen. It sort of removes that paralysis of the blank page. In some ways I wonder if in some cases with text analysis it can’t be similar. Sometimes you’re looking at a text and it can be very intimidating and paralyzing to say, now what am I going to do with this thing? In some ways working with text analysis methodologies allows for a breaking up of things and then you go back and you read it. It’s the reverse of how things are sometimes done. But maybe you start doing text analysis and then go back and start reading chunks of text more closely in a way that’s already been informed with some first observations that you’ve made or some intuitions that you’ve had. It’s a way into the text that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. I wouldn’t exaggerate that too much. I present that as one scenario. Another scenario is that you’re too lazy or too unmotivated to read the text and so you start deconstructing it, as Matt says, with the methodologies. In my experience the challenge has been that the more you practice some methodologies the more that can become a habit and a rut, and in some cases the challenge is finding variants of a methodology or new methodologies that would be more appropriate or more fruitful for a given text or corpus.

Yes, there are two really good metaphors that have come to me through you. In your interview with Adam Bluestein that appeared on Fast Company, you said something along the lines of, “When you’re holding a hammer everything starts to look like a nail.” The other is from Ted Underwood. When he was at McGill for a day of digital humanities presentations that you organised, he said, “You have to know when to get out of the jeep.” And he was talking about the limits of formal analysis and the toolkit. So those have stayed with me. I like that.

So do I.

What do you predict for the digital humanities in the next decade?

Hmm… I predict I’m a bad predictor of predictions. [pause] I think most people would agree that digital humanities has been enjoying momentum and administrative support and a willingness by some people to find out what it is, and so on. Some people think that has plateau-ed. I don’t think it actually has, but it will. I think what’s going to happen between now and then, though, is that some aspects of working with digital texts will just become more normalised, in the same way that most researchers will start googling and start looking in a library database and working with digital text. Maybe they don’t admit to that. I know that there are colleagues who would find quotations that are of interest to them in digital form, and then they’ll go look it up in the print version and cite the print version. What I would hope is that people don’t feel like they need to do that anymore, and that there’s a more gradual, iterative movement towards additional exploitation of the strengths of the digital text. Not doing things like topic modeling necessarily, but being able to search in a PDF for those words that you know are there, but would take forever to find in a print edition. That doesn’t seem like very interesting text analysis, but it can be a fundamental part of a research process. And it is significant in that maybe something that you feel like you wanted to say, and then you say, argh, it would take me forever to find that quotation that I was interested in, so I’m just going to drop it; what the digital text allows you to do is to go and look and to see if it would actually be that useful. So I’m actually not convinced that digital scholarship, the form it takes, will change all that much. But the process that leads to there will change. That’s sort of a behind-the-curtains kind of thing, so in some ways it may not seem like things change that much, but I think they really will. And especially the ability to try things out, to experiment. Malcolm McCullough, for example, writes about how the big breakthrough of spreadsheet programs for businesses in the late seventies was not so much in how quickly things could be computed. By the time you enter them it’s not that different from a calculator. But the speed at which you could try things—you know, what if I change this number, what happens to the worksheet number 18 in the cell 4A for example—is increased, and you can try things out very quickly, you can experiment. It’s an endless palimpsest that you can experiment with very quickly. And I think that maybe one of the most significant contributions from digital texts is the ability to try things out very quickly, that there’s a low cost to some paths that you might want to explore. I think that enriches scholarship in general.

I was recently reading a post that came out of the recent MLA digital humanities sessions about setting up a digital humanities lab, where there’s departments, or people from different departments, who say, let’s do this, it’s a great idea, can we do it? In digital humanities, McGill has you and Andrew Piper, and others. To what extent do you see it being practised, either now or in the future, among graduate students at McGill? I don’t want to ask whether or not it’s in McGill’s future to have what might be called a digital humanities ‘lab,’ because it’s so much of an ad hoc thing sometimes, and it’s not a physical space necessarily.

In this very exact case I can say yes, I really do believe it’s in McGill’s future to have a digital humanities lab, institute, centre, whatever. And that’s for various reasons. But you’re hitting on something more significant which is, how does that interact with existing programs, and how does that affect graduate and undergraduate teaching and that sort of thing, especially when you have at best a handful of people and it’s very difficult to build a program out of that. I think that the momentum in a university and an institution is a difficult thing to really predict, because some things happen very quickly that surprise you, and other things that you think would be quick are very slow. So in the meantime, I think the focus is to ensure that we’re starting to build a set of courses that have a strong digital humanities component, even if we don’t call it like that, but that do. That will build interest and a need, a desire for more. By filling my graduate and undergraduate courses, that sort of sends an indication that we could do more of these, and they would be well attended, that people are interested. When the English department, the grad society organises a panel or an event on digital humanities and lots of people show up, that’s sort of an indication that there’s an interest for it. There may be an interest in ways that warrant additional examination, you know, maybe there’s a curiosity, a sense of, what is this thing?, it’s not that I necessarily want to do it, I just want to know what it is; some students go because of that. So I think it’s a combination of things, where there are pure or primarily digital humanities courses that are taught—and I think there will be more and more of those—but also where more and more aspects of digital humanities manifest themselves in existing courses. I think that will happen. I think that some of our colleagues here are genuinely interested and would like to incorporate some of the methodologies. Truth be told, academics tend to be pretty busy and if it’s a prospect of learning a bunch of new technical skills, it may not happen. It’s not necessarily that it’s going to be primarily those people who teach it, but there’s a slow trickle-down effect where more courses mean that there are more students who have come through the system who have taught themselves as I did or who have courses that they take that help with the training. There’s the digital humanities summer institute in Victoria, there’s something similar in Maryland now, and there are things being planned in Europe. Some of those students may go on to academic jobs and those students will incorporate that digital methodology into their teaching. So we recognize that things don’t change as quickly in academia as they do in society. There’s a greater prevalence of digital aspects in society—the prevalence of social media—than you see in typical humanities courses. But there is a constant catching-up process that happens.

My thanks go to Professor Sinclair for taking the time to participate in this interview and for reviewing the interview draft.

Treasures of Islam: The McGill Islamic Studies Library

By Caitlin Bailey

The Islamic Studies library at McGill is housed in Morrice Hall, formerly the Presbyterian College. One of the more prominent features of the space is the Octagonal Room at the rear, which still contains the original oak shelving and stained glass windows of the College. I visited the library to speak with the current head librarian, Mrs. Anaïs Salamon, who took her current position in 2010 after the departure of the former head.

Mrs. Salamon began by noting that the Islamic Studies library was founded in 1952, when the Institute of Islamic Studies separated from the Religious Studies Department with funding from Wilfred Cantwell Smith, a specialist in comparative religion. Dr. Smith was primarily interested with Islam in South Asia and hoped to facilitate further inter-religious interactions through a separate department. In fact, the Institute of Islamic Studies and its adjoining independent library were the first in North America. Mrs. Salamon pointed out that its foundation predates significantly larger departments at Harvard and the University of Chicago.

As the Head librarian, Mrs. Salamon manages a diverse collection, including reference materials in ten languages and a small body of rare books and materials. Mrs. Salamon emphasized the broadness of the McGill collection and noted that it is particular due to its coverage of the entirety of the Islamic cultural world. The library holds materials not only from the Arabic countries, but also from Southeast Asia, Turkey and Afghanistan (to name a few).  During our interview, she mentioned that many of the copies held by McGill are also the only examples in North America.

The bulk of the library’s collection remains non-digitized, due to the reluctance of many publishing firms in the Islamic world to use digital formats. Mrs. Salamon explained that this is changing somewhat, but that unless materials (such as journals and periodicals) are published in North America, the library usually has to buy them in print. This leads to what she called the main problem of the library; the chronic lack of space. Currently, there are no off-site storage areas, making the de-accessioning of materials necessary.

The future goals of the library, according to Mrs. Salamon, include the location of storage space for its holdings, which she predicts will continue to grow. Additionally, she would like to extend service hours to 24 hours a day. Under current staffing divisions, the library cannot remain open past 10pm. She would also like to continue with, and broaden, the library’s “Islamic Film Nights”, which currently run several times a semester and feature some of the most notable films from the modern Islamic world. To conclude our interview, when asked about the most interesting item in the collection, Mrs. Salamon cited the library’s copy of an Albanian translation of the Qur’an, which she further explained might be the only one in North America.

Truly a unique space, the Islamic Studies library offers not only a beautiful study environment, but also the richness of Islamic culture and thought.

Experience the Renaissance: Le livre de la Renaissance at BAnQ

By Caitlin Bailey

The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec is currently showing the second half of its Le livre de la Renaissance cycle, the result of collaborations between BAnQ, McGill University and the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). The exhibition showcases the central issues of Humanist thought as seen through the texts produced during the period and includes some fabulous pieces, such as an edition of Machiavelli’s The Prince from 1550.

I wandered into the exhibition as the result of a particularly rainy day during the Thanksgiving break. BAnQ does not advertise their exhibitions on the homepage of the website, though you can access a complete listing through the Activities page. Additionally, it is a bit difficult to locate the actual exhibition at first; I ended up in the basement with several other mystified patrons before I finally realized that 1st floor actually referred to the first floor of the separate archives area and not the first floor of the entire building.

Photo credit: Bernard Fougères for BAnQ

Once I found it however, the exhibition was excellent. Curator Brenda Dunn-Lardeau has chosen to use the texts as solid examples of the currents of Renaissance thought, as well as a view of the actual book of the period. As result, every book is accompanied by an explanatory panel that sets it in context, both within the larger historical environment and as an individual piece. I was fascinated to find a diagram illustrating Copernicus’ theory of heliocentrism next to one of the first biographies of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Le livre de la Renaissance is quite a small exhibition, leaving you plenty of time and brainpower to attack the many others that BAnQ has to offer. I ended up on the first floor in  De la Belle Époque au prêt-à-porter,  an examination of women’s fashion from 1880 to the end of the 1920s. This exhibition is particularly interesting as the clothing is reproduced in three dimensional paper sculptures, as well as with documents from the extensive archive of the library. All in all, BAnQ is well worth the trip down Maisonneuve and, best of all, for us “starving” students, it’s free!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Le livre de la Renaissance and De la Belle Époque au prêt-à-porter are now on at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. 475 boulevard de Maisonneuve Est. Free admission.

A brief illustrated history of the Atwater Library and Computer Centre

By Jacob Siefring

This post presents a condensed history of the Atwater Library and Computer Centre. Sundry students from McGill’s School of Information Studies have gained library experience working there as volunteers, myself included. Historical information is taken from a fifty-page pamphlet published in the mid-1970s that is kept behind the circulation desk. This post was initially published on my personal blog, Bibliomanic.

Some background information about Mechanics’ Institutes is available from Wikipedia. During the 19th century in Great Britain and in North America, for enterprising young men who were often without means, Mechanics’ institutes were seen as a desirable alternative to the male drinking culture widely prevalent in saloons, taverns, and pubs. Starting around the end of the nineteenth century, institutes began to adapt to accommodate the wider population, including first women and then children, many eventually evolving (like the Atwater) over many decades into the public libraries we know today.

Atwater's arches 'then' and now, its skylight and atrium. Photos by Jacob Siefring.

The Atwater Library is the oldest lending library in Canada. The library was not always known by this name, nor was it always at 1200 Atwater Ave as it is today.

The Mechanics’ Institute of Montreal, later known as the Montreal Mechanics’ Institution, had its founding moment on November 21, 1828, when a meeting was held at the home of Reverend Henry Esson. Esson’s idea was to found an institute the aim and objects of which would be to see to the instruction of its members in the arts and in the various branches of science and useful knowledge. 

Books were marked as property of the Institute with a distinctive perforation. What's this method called, exactly? Does anyone know?

Slowly at first,  with the support of sugar magnate John Redpath and other enterprising members of the Montreal community, the institute gathered steam. In March of 1840 the members-elect approved the Constitution and by-laws and agreed upon the following scale of fees:

Life members: 5 £ in cash; or 7 £, 10 s. in books or apparatus

Annual subscriptions: 15 s.

Quarterly subscriptions: 3 s. 9 d.

Sons and apprentices of members: 1 s. 3 d. on a quarterly basis

Course offerings in reading, writing, arithmetic, French, and architectural, mechanical, and ornamental drawing were open to sons and apprentices of members. The institute’s motto was

To make a Man a Better Mechanic and the Mechanic a Better Man. 

Incorporation came in 1845. A short decade later, on May 21, 1854, the institute’s new building at the corner of Great St James St and St Peter St was opened.

Illustration of the former Montreal Mechanics' Institute

This building was known for its large lecture hall, known around Montréal as Mechanics’ Hall.

A drawing displayed in the stairwell of the library depicting a packed lecture hall at the library/institute's former location.

George DawsonJohn Henry Pepper, inventor of the Pepper’s ghost illusion, and many others spoke there in their time. Performer Emma Lajeunesse, later be known as Emma Albani, had her debut there at the young age of seven.

A new building was selected, purchased, and went into operation around 1920.

The Atwater Library and Computer Centre, located at 1200 Atwater Ave., in Westmount, Québec. Photograph by Jacob Siefring.

In 1962, The Institute changed its name and officially became the Atwater Library, as the name Mechanics’ Institute was ‘misleading to the present generation.’ Today the library is an active community hub and a vital resource for its members. If you’re in Montreal, stop by and have a look around. Or visit the library’s website – more on its history here.

How Do I Work in Rare Books? A Career Primer

By Caitlin Bailey

For you Name of the Rose lovers out there, remember Eco’s descriptions of the abbey library and all its mysterious contents? I certainly do; in some way it was responsible for my desire to work as a Special Collections librarian.  However, there is a big difference between “wanting and doing” as they say, and pinning down just how to do it has proved problematic. So, to help both myself and others who may be considering the academic and Special Collection stream (either librarians or archivists) I decided to contact the Rare Books department here at McGill and ask, who else? A librarian…

Ann Marie Holland, the Liaison Librarian for the William Colgate History of Printing Collection, the Lande Canadiana Collection and various French Enlightenment collections (among others), kindly agreed to meet me on the fourth floor and to let me ask her all of the annoying unanswered questions that had been plaguing my career path for the last year. During the course of our interview, Ms. Holland revealed herself to be not only charming, but also passionately interested in her field and committed to her work. As she told me the rare books field is not an easily entered career, but once there most people don’t think of leaving.

'The press.' Photograph by C. Bailey.

Ms. Holland received her Bachelor of Arts in French Language and Literature from McMaster University and, after travelling in France for some time, decided to begin the MLIS program here at McGill. She holds a further Master of Arts in French Literature in addition to her MLIS. When asked to speak to the necessity of a second higher-level degree in a relevant subject area, she noted that in the world of academic librarianship it is critical to a competitive CV, though it is possible to work without one.

Regarding the absolute necessity of further schooling, the Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts and Cultural Heritage wrote that 82% of job postings in the field  “preferred” a second specialized advanced degree; however, only 14.5% “preferred” a PhD and even fewer required it[1]. However, Ms. Holland noted that for those pursuing a high level position, such as Head or Assistant Head, a PhD might become more important.

When speaking of the research requirements of academic librarians, Ms. Holland was quick to confirm that tenured academic librarians are required to conduct some sort of interest-based research, which may be based on the physical collection that they administer or alternately how users relate to that collection or libraries in general. While the options for research are virtually limitless, it is still considered “part of the job”; Ms. Holland has published book reviews for Papers, the journal of the Bibliographical Society of Canada and has written several articles highlighting the collections at McGill.

Perhaps the most critical question for those of us looking for an entrance into what is acknowledged as an extremely tight field is “how do I start?”.  Ms. Holland pointed out that while your first academic job may not be in a special collection per se, some experience with rare materials is essential. In her own case, her entry came after working in the architectural collection (which included a small archival holding) at the Université de Montréal. Furthermore,  Ms. Holland noted that volunteering work is a good way to gain initial experience and may garner later contractual work.

As many of the positions in Special Collections are rarely advertised and often occur through word of mouth, it may be difficult to find a permanent position immediately. Ms. Holland originally arrived at McGill as a replacement librarian and later left to work for an antiquarian book dealer in Montréal, when the official funds for her position ran out. Those with experience in the commercial antiquarian book trade may find themselves with an even more competitive CV. Again, the prerequisites for the Fisher position state that experience in ‘’the trade’’ is also preferred.

When asked about the future of Special Collections, Ms. Holland replied emphatically that it is digital, something which even the notoriously closed Vatican Library is embracing in its joint project with the Bodelian Library at Oxford. Special collections are notoriously difficult to physically access; as such digitization provides a particularly neat solution, given that most rare materials are not held under copyright laws. Through the increased use of digital exhibition techniques, Ms. Holland explained that collections were becoming available to a completely new audience and furthermore that audience is extremely excited to have the opportunity to “see inside” these famous treasure troves.

Perhaps the message we seekers of Special Collections careers should take from Ms. Holland’s thoughts is that while the path may be difficult, good things await those who persevere. Like many library jobs, the key appears to be experience, patience and the ability to learn from every job you take. Then one day you too may be involved digitizing a 10 ft.-long set of life-sized architectural specifications (drawn by hand) by the early 20th century architect Percy Nobbs, as Ms. Holland is currently doing for a future exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada.

Sources Cited:

[1] Hansen, K. (2011). “Education, Training, and Recruitment of Special Collections Librarians: An Analysis of Job Advertisements.” RBM: The Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, & Cultural Heritage, (12)2, 110-132.

National Novel Writing Month: An interview with a veteran

Notice: This post initiates the academic year for this blog! Submissions to Beyond the Shelf are solicited and encouraged by MLISSA from past and current members of MLISSA. Submissions can be e-mailed to jacob.siefring@mail.mcgill.ca.

By Jacob Siefring

Did you ever want to write a novel? Then read on! National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as it’s abbreviated, is a website (and more) dedicated to the goal of helping individuals achieve the realisable goal of writing a novel, defined loosely as a narrative of 50,000+ words. It’s run by the Office of Letters and Light, a self-described ‘tiny but mighty nonprofit.’ November is the original month for novel writing, but events also take place during June and August.

To gain an understanding of what it’s like to participate in NaNoWriMo, I submitted a brief questionnaire to a Andrea Black, a recent graduate of the School of Information Studies’s MLIS program. She generously supplied the following responses and advice.

Successful NaNoWriMo participants get bragging rights, improved writing skills, a draft of a novel they've written, and this emblem, commemorating their persistence.

1. How many times have you done NaNoWriMo? How did you first hear about it?

I’ve just completed my third NaNoWriMo event and am gearing up for my fourth in November. The main event is in November each year with smaller “Camp NaNoWriMo” events in June and August. I’ve done two in November and one in August so far. I honestly can’t remember when I first heard about it: it was probably two or three years before I decided to give it a try.

2. Prior to NaNoWriMo had you written much fiction? Short stories?

I wrote a lot – poems, short stories and one novella in addition to nearly daily journaling – up until about my second or third year of university. Around that time, I started to get so burned out from reading textbooks and writing papers that I basically stopped writing and reading for pleasure for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t until I decided to do NaNoWriMo that I got motivated to start writing again. It’s great because I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to my writing that I find it hard to even get started. With NaNoWriMo, you don’t have time to worry about editing: if you’re going to get out 50k or more words in a month, you need to ruthlessly squash your inner editor. You can always edit in December. I find that frees me up to be creative and just let my ideas flow onto the page.

3. What are the titles of the novels you’ve written?

I’d prefer not to answer this. They’ve got working titles but they’re sort of silly.

4. How would you describe them? (individually or considered together)

The first two are meant to be YA fantasy and the third is… some kind of mainstream/supernatural fiction that could pass as either YA or adult, depending on how I handle the editing stage. They’re not of publishable quality in their current form, but there’s enough there to form the skeletons of what could be pretty decent novels someday (at least I’d like to think so).

5. Have people read your novels? Who?

My mom and my grandma are the only people who have read them. I haven’t done any editing; they’re all still in the first draft stage and they’re really rough (typos; I altered a character’s personality partway through the first novel; in the second novel I changed from third person to first person perspective in chapter 10 because I decided it would work better, etc). I’d be embarrassed to let anyone else read them until I had a chance to edit. My mom loved them, but she’s biased. J My grandma is not a fan of fantasy, so she didn’t really get them. She still insists on reading them though, which is nice of her.

6. Do you write on a computer? Are you partial to any particular writing software?

Yes, I do my writing on a computer. My handwriting can’t keep up with my thoughts. Also, I can’t always read my own handwriting.

I’ve used Word, which wasn’t ideal, and I’ve used Scrivener, which I love. Winning NaNoWriMo (i.e. making it to 50,000 words in 30 days) is mostly about the satisfaction of winning, but you also get a printable certificate and discounts on writing software like Scrivener and Storyist – I bought Scrivener after winning my first NaNo. When I write the way I did for my last novel (unplanned, just sitting down and writing whatever came into my head), Word worked fine, but it’s not the best tool for organizing a novel. Scrivener lets you separate your chapters or scenes, keep notes, character sketches and research all in one place, and compiles your writing into an official manuscript ready for submission to a publisher when you’re finished. It also has a full-screen feature that helps cut out distractions while you’re typing and a split-screen option so you can view your notes while you’re writing. I’ve found it really flexible. It even has templates for papers in Chicago, APA and MLA styles: I used it a couple of times for that last year at school.

7. How do you organise your daily quotas? Do you map out a chapter/scene schedule to correspond to the month in advance?

If you write 1667 words every day, you’ll finish on November 30th (or 1613 words per day to finish on August 31st). For my first two novels, I ended up falling really far behind in the first week or two, and then the stress that caused helped me to really buckle down and write during the second half of the month. For my third novel, I actually finished a week early. Unfortunately, it seems that when I start out with a certain word count in mind, my story ends up naturally coming to a conclusion around that point. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll try aiming for 75,000 words on my next attempt: I know there are some rare and amazing people who exceed 100k. We’ll see. November tends to be a pretty busy month.

8. Do you know the ending of your novel when you begin it?

I planned out each of my novels very differently. For the first one, I had a very detailed outline before I started. I knew exactly where the story was going and had a basic outline of what would happen in each scene. For the second one, I had a very broad outline and really only planned a chapter or two in advance. I didn’t know how it was going to end until I found myself writing the ending. For the third one, I hardly planned at all. I had a basic premise and that was it. That strategy actually ended up working really well for me, except I had no idea how the story was going to end. The last four thousand words or so were really tough to write.

9. Do you feel that your handling of narrative elements like character, plot, and dialogue has improved with your continuing participation in NaNoWriMo?

I do. Practice makes perfect, as they say. I’ve deliberately chosen different styles (tense, point of view, etc) for my novels just for the experience, and I definitely think some facets of my writing have improved. I’d like to try to work more on character development in my next novel: in my last one I was very plot-focused.

10. Do you seek to publish your novels?

No. However, I like the idea that if I do decide to become a published author some day, I’ll have several manuscripts to work from.

11. Can you share any tips for balancing the demands of work and/or school with your daily writing sessions during NaNoWriMo?

Warn your friends and family ahead of time that you will have virtually no social life for a month.

Figure out what your priorities are. If you need human contact but don’t want to sacrifice writing time, find a “write-in” in your area or enlist a friend to write with. Schedule time to do homework, grocery shop, etc. I didn’t clean my apartment or exercise for a month.

There may be days you ask yourself: “What am I doing?” Keep in mind that even if you don’t ‘win,’ you at least have more of a start to your novel than you might have otherwise, and it’s great writing practice. Hitting 50k words and finishing a novel is an incredibly rewarding experience: it’s definitely worth it.

Thanks go to Andrea Black, MLIS ’12 in Librarianship,  for supplying responses to my questions. If you see her, congratulate her and wish her luck as she gears up to writes her fourth novel!

All the world’s memory

By Jacob Siefring

Some years later, said Austerlitz, when I was watching a short black and white film about the Bibliothèque Nationale and saw messages racing by pneumatic post from the reading rooms to the stacks, along what might be described as the library’s nervous system, it struck me that the scholars, together with the whole apparatus of the library, formed an immensely complex and constantly evolving creature which had to be fed with myriads of words, in order to bring forth myriads of words in its own turn. I think that this film, which I saw only once but which assumed ever more monstrous and fantastic dimensions in my imagination, was entitled Toute la mémoire du monde and was made by Alain Resnais. – W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, 261

Stills are all taken from the short film 'Toute la mémoire du monde,' directed by Alain Resnais, included on 'L'Année dernière à Marienbad,' distributed by the Criterion Collection.

Around the same time I discovered Last Year in Marienbad, I fell upon reference to Toute la mémoire du monde. Both films were directed by nouvelle vague director Alain Resnais. The simplest way to describe Toute la mémoire du monde is to say that it’s a short documentary film of the setting and institutional practices of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris as they were in the late 1950s. But, at just twenty minutes in length, Toute la mémoire du monde is much than this short description can convey. This remarkable document of a place was produced and released by Les films de la Pléiade as the fifth installment in the series Encylopédie de Paris. Dark, ominous orchestral music and pompous, hyperbolic commentary, composed by Maurice Jarre and read by Jacques Dumesnil respectively, complement the stunning cinematography of Resnais.

The film begins in the basement of the library, where gross heaps of documents are consigned to a process of slow degradation. Parce que leur mémoire est courte, les hommes accumulent d’innombrables prosthèses, Dumesnil announces. [Because its memory is short, mankind accumulates limitless prostheses.]

This annunciation is representative of the estranged viewpoint of the film’s commentary that is to follow. Witness:

Books, delivered to readers for consultation in the Salon de lecture, are ’torn from their world to feed these paper-crunching pseudo-insects.’

Confronted with these bulging repositories, man is assailed by a fear of being engulfed by this mass of words. 

These readers, each working on his or her slice of individual memory, will lay the fragments of a single secret end to end.

The periodicals section must digest 200 kg of paper daily.


This film is recommend viewing to anyone, provided that it’s not too much of a pain to track down. (It’s sometimes available in the special features of Last Year at Marienbad.). Students and practitioners of library and information science as well as enthusiasts of French new-wave cinema will however find this film especially deserving of their attention. How many other films are there like it, documenting so thoroughly an institutional context? Enriching and utterly engrossing, the 20-minute film is a fine example of Resnais’ superb cinematography, which makes the film entertaining for anyone, even my three-year-old daughter.

 

A note on the director: Alain Resnais made visually beautiful films. He was known as the ‘dolly king’ because of his frequent use–and total mastery–of steady tracking shots, an effect that impressed itself indelibly into my memory: the beauty of pure uninterrupted tracking motion. Hiroshima, mon amour is Alain Resnais’s most known film in North America, it would seem. But Marienbad is just as masterful and compelling as Hiroshima. Both films resulted from Resnais’ collaboration with French nouveau roman figures, Alain Robbe-Grillet (Marienbad) and Marguerite Duras (Hiroshima). It’s on the special features of this Marienbad that you’ll find Toute la mémoire du monde. Don’t take my word for it–seek these out.

'Last Year at Marienbad': eerily, human figures in the courtyard cast shadows, but statues and trees do not...

 

Thoughts on Internet distraction, pt. 2

By Jacob Siefring

If you descend from the Mont Royal hillside on which the McGill School of Information Studies building is situated and traipse through central campus to arrive at the Schulich Engineering library and go into the stacks at QA 76.9 C 66, you’ll be looking at a strange welter of sensational and dystopic-sounding titles of books. These titles include:

Trapped in the Net; Life on the Screen; The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace; Silicon Shock; The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet; Technobabble; Digital Diaspora; Cyburbia; Slaves of the Machine; Moths to the Flame; High Noon on the Electronic Frontier; Monster or Messiah?; Digerati; War of the Worlds.

Before this smatter of classificatory wonder I found myself, having come in search of Theodore Roszak’s The Cult of Information: A Neo-Liddite Treatise on High-Tech, Artificial Intelligence, and the True Art of Thinking, first published in 1986 and later revised. The book is, of course, hopelessly outdated technology-wise but nevertheless an impassioned, thoughtful, and even touching defense of humanistic values (the ‘art of thinking’).

One passage in it I found absolutely critical, and a complement to all of the points raised by The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Here’s Roszak:

Introducing students to the computer at an early age, creating the impression that their little exercises in programming and game playing are somehow giving them control over a powerful technology, can be a treacherous deception. It is not teaching them to think in some scientifically sound way; it is persuading them to acquiesce. It is accustoming them to the presence of computers in every walk of life, and thus making them dependent on the machine’s supposed necessity and superiority. Under these circumstances, the best approach to computer literacy might be to stress the limitations and abuses of the machine, showing the students how little they need it to develop their autonomous powers of thought. (242)

The last line in bold rings truest. Given that technology is “limited” and prone to “abuse”–read, overuse–parents and educators need to be responsive to this potential.

As a parent of a three-year-old, I confess that I’m terrified of the technological “gray” territory that lies ahead. How will my partner and I define and fix boundaries? Such as: At what times is it appropriate (and not appropriate) to use an electronic device? At what age should my daughters first acquire wireless electronic devices? Six? Five? Eight? Seven? How closely will my partner and I have to police our daughters’ use of their devices–for what activities? What would a ‘reasonable’ time allocation look like for such activities as gaming, texting, and video streaming? In brief, I feel as though I were staring off a cliff into a fog, or peeking into the box of some Pandora as yet unseen.

After calling for children to be educated for an awareness of the limitations and abuses of computing power, Roszak cites Sherry Turkle’s book, Life on the Screen (1995), and speaks of the importance for children of experiencing nature and observing the behavior of wild animals. This almost strangely feels like a non sequitur, but I don’t think it is. Unless we situate our understanding of technology relative to the continuum of human experience, we risk failing to grasp what its proper use might be.

As for classification tier QA 76.9 C 66: that’s in the section of the Library of Congress classification outline (QA 75.5 – 76.95) defined by the parameter “Electronic computers. Computer science.” I would add that we’re looking at something like Computers, their (dystopic) effects on individuals and on society. It’s a remarkable grouping of books and ultra-relevant for our time; that much is certain. Such recent titles as discovered iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us (Larry Rosen, 2012), Digital Diet: The 4-step plan to break your tech addiction and regain balance in your life (Daniel Seeberg, 2011), and Cyber Junkies: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap (Kevin Roberts, 2010) indicate the rising visibility of our problematic relationship to our computing technologies. (Sieberg’s book I actually read, after finding it in the ‘new books’ section of the Atwater Library and Computing Centre, where I volunteer. It contains some sage advice you might find helpful if you want to curtail your electronic attachment. Through it I learned about RescueTime, a tool that provides weekly analytic reports on your online behavior.)

Final note: This blog is currently seeking submissions from any student, current or former, of McGill’s School of Information Studies. Tell your peers about your summer job/practicum/internship; reflect on the degree you just completed; rant about how hard it is to find a job; or tell us what you’re reading that’s good (or bad). Direct commentaries to jacob.siefring@mail.mcgill.ca. Here at Beyond the Shelf I will not be very active, but will occasionally do some cross-posts from my blog, bibliomanic, where I will be posting regularly.

Get A Job, Or: The Ethics of Library Internships

By Laura Sanders

Make your own card catalogues at blyberg.net

Well, it’s that time of year again…classes have wound down, we have (mostly) caught up on sleep after the bleary, stress-filled days of final exams and projects. And now, as we step blinking into the sunlight for the first time in months, our minds turn to the chirping of birds, the roar of road construction…and summer work.

But just as exams and projects are stressful, finding a way to occupy your summer brings its own concerns.

Many library school students will spend their summers doing internships, or as they are more commonly known in Canada, practicums. The School of Information Studies at McGill University, where I attend library school, offers such a summer practicum program. Participants spend ten hours a week during the summer doing unpaid work at a variety of institutions, including public libraries, university libraries, school libraries, hospitals, museums, corporations, and archives. When it was first announced, I was extremely interested in participating, but I soon began to have reservations. In fact, I find the whole idea of practicums/internships extremely problematic.

On the plus side, practicums provide library students with hands-on opportunities that they probably wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. You get a taste of a real working environment, you do a range of different things, and you actually get to apply the concepts you’ve been talking about in class all year. Practicums also provide valuable networking and mentoring opportunities. And since we live in the real world, we have to acknowledge that if organizations were required to pay their practicum students, these positions would not be nearly so plentiful. But as this article in The Atlantic points out, practicums/internships nonetheless have an element of exploitation: “Internships have become an inextricable part of the college experience and a pre-req for post-graduate employment. But this presents a Catch-22 for lower-income students who want to work in politics, research, journalism, non-profits, or other industries that traffic in unpaid internships.”

In short, students who can’t afford to work for free miss out.

Back in February, a mass e-mail was sent to everyone in my program about a summer library internship available with the United Nations in Vienna. I was able to think of several particularly sharp and knowledgeable classmates who would have made excellent candidates for it, and the opportunity could no doubt have launched a stellar career for each of them. But as the internship program does not reimburse students for travel expenses, living arrangements, or visa costs, none of us could afford to do it. By not providing any financial recompense for its interns, the UN is excluding many of the brightest and best in the field in favour of applicants who come from privileged socio-economic backgrounds. Admittedly, this is an extreme example, but I do find it ironic that an organization that spearheads international aid does not facilitate the induction of a more diverse range of people into its ranks.

As blogger named Lance at New Archivist states in this post: “I think most people will agree that diversity includes not only people of different racial and ethic backgrounds, but people of different economic backgrounds and experiences. However, at the same time we are giving a lot of lip service to diversity, we are also constructing roadblocks to achieving those goals.” People from all walks of life have a great deal to contribute to the library and archival communities and should have the opportunities to do so.

But not only may we be driving away those of lower socio-economic backgrounds, the willingness of volunteers to do the work that requires professional expertise undervalues our profession. This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. Sadly, this is an age where most people don’t see the relevance of librarians and archivists anymore (including, sadly, the Canadian federal government, which recently made enormous cuts to Library and Archives Canada). The task falls to us to be tireless in our efforts to explain why our services are more necessary than ever.

The summer practicum is not an option for me. At thirty years of age, I am too old for parental assistance and because I was employed full time before starting library school, I am not eligible for student loans. I am funding my studies through a combination of personal savings and part-time work during the school year. Full-time summer employment is my only chance to counter the alarming depletion of my bank account. Of course, because the library field relies so much on student practicums, summer library positions for students are few and far between. I spent much of April grinding my teeth wondering how it would all pan out.

A potential solution, one that The Atlantic doesn’t mention, is government programs. I was hugely fortunate to find full-time summer employment in the library field through a government-subsidized program called Young Canada Works. It provides grants to public institutions such as libraries, museums, and NGOs to hire summer students. The program is hugely beneficial to both parties. The student is paid a fair wage and gains experience in his or her field, and the hiring institution gets a helping hand at no cost to them. At my job I get to do a bit of everything: circulation, cataloguing, home delivery, selection, weeding, and event planning. It will go far toward helping me find a professional position after graduation. I thank my lucky stars that the Canadian government funds this program. As it turns out, my employer has also hired practicum students through McGill’s program, and our job descriptions are basically identical. But because of Young Canada Works, I get paid. Not for a second do I take this for granted.

So for me, it worked out extremely well. However, given the cuts the Canadian government has recently made to both libraries and youth services, I cannot expect that this solution will benefit a wide range of library students. If anything, the number of beneficiaries is only likely to decline over the next few years. I understand why many feel that unpaid internships are their only option.

The thing is, I should not be too swift to condemn practicums, as they can be hugely beneficial. Especially since I do still hope to do one. But the circumstances in which students undertake them makes an enormous difference. In my case, McGill offers a winter practicum as well, when students do their ten hours a week in lieu of a fourth library school course. To me, this is key. I will still pay the same amount of tuition. The time I spend doing practicum work will be the same amount of time I would spend on coursework for a fourth class. It will not cut into my summer earning time, nor even the part-time job I hold during the school year. In situations where internships do not negatively impact a student’s financial position, I am all for them.

Have any of you had experience with practicums or internships, paid or unpaid? What effect have they had on your library career? Feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comments or you can tweet me at laurainthelib.

Congratulations!

Guys! We made it through the year! Maybe we don’t have our grades yet, but we did attend a blow-out end-of-the-year party last week, so I think we’re pretty much capped off, checked out, splitzo, kaput, etc. for the year. Some of us forever!

I feel like I should apologize for dropping off the face of the… er blog-world this past semester. It was a rough one for me, and as an MLIS II student, making it through to graduation was my top priority. Sorry MLISSA, sorry everyone (ie. no one) who follows the blog regularly.

So! As this will likely be one of the last posts I write as MLISSA Publication Committee Chairperson I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read the blog. Special thanks to those who participated in the SIS Kids Questionnaires, and an EXTRA SPECIAL thanks to contributors (Jacob Siefring).

And I guess I also wanted to ask, What do you guys think should happen to the blog in coming years? Be honest. It’s a new baby. It’s just learning to walk. Sadly, no one was elected to become MLISSA Publication Committee Chairperson for the Fall 2012-Winter 2013 school year. If you’re an MLIS I (soon to be II) student, think about adopting it next September. You can’t be a worse parent than me.

Nice knowin’ ya,

Emily Upper

From the McGill Archives

By Jacob Siefring

Back from the Life Sciences Library, I’ve some knowledge nuggets with which to distract you from the grueling last two weeks of this semester’s group projects and final papers.

McGill’s Life Sciences Library, also known as the Osler Medical Library, is located on the third floor of the remarkably annular McIntyre Medical Building. The Medical Library was established in 1823, and it’s the oldest and first of the McGill University Libraries. The pictured building was completed in 1965.

I went in pursuit of a reference to a certain George Mines of McGill University that appears in “Inner Rhythms,” a chapter of Chaos: Making a New Science (James Gleick; 1987). Circuitously I was pointed in the direction of “Sudden Cardiac Death: A Problem in Topology” by Arthur T. Winfree, an article that appeared in Scientific American in 1983. Therein Winfree relates the following piece of esoterica:

On November 7,1914, George Ralph Mines was working in his laboratory in McGill’s School of Medicine. Because it was Saturday, there were few observers to notice Mines’s presence. A 28-year-old physiologist, Mines had been studying fibrillation, a radical disorganization of the heart’s pattern of contraction. He was a pioneer in his discipline.

“Mines had been trying to determine whether relatively small, brief electrical stimuli can cause fibrillation. For this work he had constructed a device to deliver electrical impulses to the heart with a magnitude and timing that could be precisely controlled. The device had been employed in preliminary work with animals. When Mines decided it was time to begin work with human beings, he chose the most readily available experimental subject: himself. At about six o’clock that evening a janitor, thinking it was unusually quiet in the laboratory, entered the room. Mines was lying under the laboratory bench surrounded by twisted electrical equipment. A broken mechanism was attached to his chest over the heart and a piece of apparatus nearby was still recording the faltering heartbeat. He died without recovering consciousness.” (Winfree, p. 144)

Fibrillation causes the deaths of several hundred thousand people annually in the U.S. alone, and — the defibrillator’s invention notwithstanding — its causes are still not well understood. Mines’s work on the heart was pioneering, because was “the first to demonstrate that fibrillation can develop after a relatively small electrical impulse if the impulse is applied to the heart at the right time.” (Normally, after an electrical impulse is applied to the heart, the cardiac rhythm is momentarily disturbed, but returns immediately to normal. Fibrillation — that violent and disorganized activity of the heart during which the heart may feel to the hand like a “wad of writhing worms” — does not occur in most instances of shock application.)

A.T. Winfree. When Time Breaks Down. Princeton UP, 1987. 42.

Apparently, the name given to that small but ever-critical interval during which an electrical stimulus will wreak utter havoc on the rhythmically synchronised functioning of cardiac cells — this critical time period is known as “the vulnerable phase.” For the sake of interdisciplinarity, I propose this term — “vulnerable phase” — as an apt descriptor of the time we’re now going through, the end of the semester. If you feel stressed, just think of George Ralph Mines, who died so unexpectedly “in the line of duty.” R.I.P., George Mines. Beware of electrical stimuli; long live research.

Annual MLISSA AGM Tonight!

Important Reminder: the MLISSA AGM is tonight (Monday), at which we will be discussing topics which will greatly affect the financial future of SIS. If scholarships and grants, trips and social events, and association funding are topics that matter to you, I strongly suggest you attend.

Education Building
Room 129
5:30pm

Thoughts on Internet Distraction

By Jacob Siefring

In June, 2010, W.W. Norton published The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. Because I frequently read book reviews, I was aware of and interested in this book for some time before I got around to it. What gave me a sense of urgency to read it was seeing Jonathan Safran Foer’s high praise of Carr’s work. He basically called it the book of the year. The book develops ideas advanced in Carr’s article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, published in The Atlantic (Jul-Aug. 2008). Before that, Carr published two books on technology, notably Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage and The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google. He’s a former executive editor for the Harvard Business Review.

Carr believes — and shows, using lots of evidence drawn from research in neuroscience and cognitive science (the book is shelved in McGill’s Osler medical library) — that our interlinked computing technologies pose a serious challenge to deep thought, hampering our capacity to reflect and contemplate in meaningful ways. This isn’t exactly a groundbreaking claim; at least, not for anyone who has had the experience of, while piloting a web browser, being unable to focus for any length of time on the task at hand, or who has found their attention increasingly diverted and distributed through a web of hyperlinks. Figures of speech to describe our computerized, information-saturated mental state abound: popcorn brain, mental obesity are among the most apt. Forget information overload.

I think we’ve most all of us felt an inkling of suspicion that web use might influence thought patterns and micro-behavior. Why Carr’s book is important is because it culls together enough scientific research, present-day information, and historical context to show us that — beyond the shadow of a doubt — the net is rewiring our neural circuitry and impairing our intelligence (that is, at least insofar as high-level intelligence used to mean the ability to grapple with and dissect complex problems, as well as to remember lots of information). If you’re skeptical of this claim, I encourage you to read Carr’s book. Nevertheless, for the hurried, here are a few of what I retain as its most salient points.

  • Developers of automation-technologies and decision support systems are often motivated by the desire to relieve ordinary people of the burden of executing routine, mundane tasks. They want to make life easier for everyone; so, they advocate outsourcing decision-making to computers and the writing of algorithms to assist in search retrieval (namely, Google’s PageRank). These evangelists of technology often share the view of Wired writer Clive Thompson, who refers to the Net as an “ ‘outboard brain’ that is taking over the role previously played by inner memory. [...] He suggests ‘by offloading data [from our brains] onto silicon, we free our own gray matter for more germanely “human” tasks like brainstorming and daydreaming’ ” (Carr 180). But this conception of the brain, and the well-intentioned idea that technology will allow our thoughts to become more serene and lofty, are dead wrong, Carr shows. Unlike a computer, the human brain does not have a limited storage capacity; experts on memory affirm that “the normal human brain never reaches a point at which experiences can no longer be committed to memory; the brain cannot be full.” “The amount of information that can be stored in long-term memory is virtually boundless” (192).
  • We tend to forget that our interaction with technology is always bidirectional, not just unidirectional. Human intentions may determine behavior, but, as Carr reminds us, tools and media exert a powerful shaping force on consciousness and behavior — especially once they become dominant or integrated into daily routines. This is well summed up in John Culkin’s formulation, “We shape our tools, and thereafter they shape us.” And every tool, every medium has its specific limitations — from the map, to the typewriter, to the power loom, to the clock, as Carr shows (209-211). The searchable internet’s limitations include its isolation of facts and information from their various contexts; and the sprawling, heterogeneous character of the information that’s found there. But enough.

For Carr’s critics, his points are bitter pills to swallow, and many have dismissed them outright. His argument has been called “defeatist” and “reductionist.” From my personal experience, I tend to agree with Carr. The internet has changed the way we think, and, for the most part, not for the better. But at least there’s good news. Exposure to Carr’s book has made me more self-aware of my overuse of the internet and of its insidious effects on my thought patterns. Since having read The Shallows, I’m less inclined to take a laptop with me now when I go out. Even as I write this, I have used the internet-restrictive application Freedom (available for a free five-use trial period!) to curb my forays into the hyperlink jungle, where my thought wanders away and my will atrophies. I think I can even hear myself think. Can you? Hear me? Hear yourself think? Not get distracted?

Role models for librarians

By Jacob Siefring

Do you know “Dead Germans and the Theory of Librarianship” by Sydney Pierce? It was listed as a required reading on the Information and Society fall 2011 syllabus. The short journal article’s point was this: LIS doesn’t have a distinctive, illustrious, or particularly rich history. It’s here, there, and everywhere. It’s a field with roots in many other distinct areas of inquiry. And, indeed, it’s a field that only really came into its own towards the start of the last century.

This is in contradistinction to the humanities and social sciences. Whereas the theoretical foundations of such fields as sociology, psychology, and philosophy are bolstered by sets of writings (respectively, to cite the key reference points, those of: Weber and Simmel; Freud and Jung; Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, and Benjamin) that provide a common ground covered by students everywhere, forming a large chunk of the core curriculum, the historical foundations of LIS are often summed up in a single lecture during a given course, with little depth or context provided.

Of course, LIS does indeed have a rich history that should receive our attention. What prevents that history’s investigation is that it would mean countless furloughs and tangents into other disciplines, and into the past, not the future, where everyone likes to believe we are heading. Anyways, this blog can be used as a place to draw attention to areas of interest, historical or otherwise, that may be left out of course curricula. (I hope to do so shortly with a discussion of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, so check back if you’re interested.)

But back to Pierce’s article. By asking head librarians and LIS profs for suggestions regarding who the “dead Germans” of LIS might be, Pierce kept hearing the following names mentioned on numerous occasions:

John Cotton Dana;

Ralph Shaw; and

Jesse Shera.

At least ten other names were dropped, but none besides these three received a double or a triple mention. If you’re in the librarianship stream, you might have already heard about these three guys in detail. If you don’t know them, have a glance at their Wikipedia entries. Their biographies are interesting, and their efforts to advance their professions and society are admirable. Even if their writings aren’t listed on any syllabus (or are they?), these dead Americans deserve a mention and maybe even a read.

MLISSA MOVIE NIGHT TOMORROW

Date: Thursday, December 1, 2011

Time: 7:00 pm- 10:00 pm

Place: Education 216

Showing: The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (starring hunky Noah Wyle)

Advice from a Texan Yankee in McGill’s Library Court

Whoa! It’s the last piece of advice from Dr. Cook! Big thanks to Justin Soles for this great article! Make sure to read the rest of the series in the posts below. What do you guys think? Anyone surprised by any of these tips? Leave comments!

By Justin Soles  

5. Expect to Work Hard!

Dr. Cook credits her success both as a library administrator with 30 years of experience at Texas A&M, and as a researcher associated closely with the internationally-renowned LibQual evaluation system, to her work ethic: “There’s no success that didn’t come from hard work.” Dr. Cook stressed that landing a job in a library, archive or information center is just the first step in your career and that those of us who will go the farthest in the profession will also be the ones who work the hardest in making the most of their opportunity.

Dr. Cook pointed to her own experience advancing through the ranks of the Texas A&M library system as evidence. Even when she was faced with a job that wasn’t particularly interesting or challenging, she tried to learn as much about that particular field and/or department as possible. This information became invaluable later once she moved into management, since she had in-depth knowledge of what every library department did, how it worked and who in it did (or didn’t) work hard .

Although Dr. Cook feels that the future in librarianship is bright, she cautioned that you will inevitably face certain challenges and have disappointments in your career. When these happen, she suggested that you need to accept them and move on by keeping them in perspective: just as rain clouds are always followed by sunshine, the disappointments you’ll face in our career will be followed by professional successes that may take you places that you never expected to go!

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Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.