Today, Friday the 27th of June, is Celia Rabinowitz’s last day at the SMCM library. In the five years I have worked with her I have seen many sides of Celia, only some of which you may have seen . . .
This is my last post to Beyond the Bookshelves as Director of the Library and Media Center at SMCM. At the end of the month I begin a journey north to New Hampshire where I will start work as Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College. After 22 years here in Maryland I have been asked many times why I am making the change.
This morning my view of the St. Mary’s River is obscured by the lush green of the trees outside my window. I won’t be here in the fall when the leaves fall and the vista changes. Or to see the next step in slowly reducing our shelving so we can create more flexible spaces for our students. Or to look up from my desk to see a student coming through to ask for help with a project, to ask if we can let her display artwork, or want to know why it’s so cold/hot/noisy in the library.
So I am packing up, doing my own version of deaccessioning, and feeling the same mixture of excitement and terror as the other graduates of the class of 2014. Why move to a new position now at this stage in my career with retirement still double digits away, but within sight? Why leave an amazing library, even more amazing colleagues, and this beautiful place?
Well, I’ll admit that there are some parts of my job I wouldn’t mind doing a bit less of. I still have a heavy teaching load and don’t think I am devoting enough time to being a really good teacher. I don’t want to give it up altogether, but doing less might help me teach better and give me time for other things like that research project which I have been trying to work on for the last couple of years. And I’ll admit I am a bit relieved that I won’t have to upgrade all of my LibGuides to the new version.
New leadership in the St. Mary’s Library will build on the strong foundation we have, on the traditions and culture of the campus and the library. And a new leader will participate in advocating for the continued transformation of the library. And I am guessing that she/he will help move the library forward in ways that I might not even think of.
I will have the opportunity to learn the traditions of a new library and campus, and to participate in building on them and envisioning transformation for the future. New challenges will push me to change, to think in new ways about what we do and why it is so important.
Even as I write this and look around at the boxes in my office I realize how much I will miss this place where I really became a librarian. I hope I will make the SMCM library faculty and staff proud. I will be watching to see what happens next. I’ll be reading the blog. And I will be getting to know and love a new place which will help me become an even better librarian.
Let us know by joining the Library Summer Reading Program. From June 2 to August 15 you are invited to share your opinions about books you loved, hated or can’t stop talking about. Whether you are reading this year’s big beach book, revisiting the classics, cracking open a literary masterpiece or finally reading that fantasy or YA novel everyone is watching; we want to know if we should read it. We will even give you prizes if you tell us. Not sure what to read? We have recommendations and Kindles full of books for students, faculty and staff on campus.
The Summer Reading program is open to all members of the SMCM library community including students, staff, faculty, alumni and residents of the Tri-County area (St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles counties.) You may read anything you want as long as a copy is available at the SMCM Library or via USMAI or the Southern Maryland public library (COSMOS). You don’t need to check the book out of the library. To get points you must post a review on the blog.
For more information visit the Library Reading Circle.
Depending on your personal news filter bubble, you may or may not have heard the phrase “net neutrality” discussed in the news quite a bit lately. If you don’t think of yourself as a “tech-type,” you may have been tempted to ignore these stories. “What impact could they have on my day-to-day life,” you might have asked yourself? The answer is, quite a lot actually.
At the risk of sounding trite, I think it’s worth restating just how much our daily lives revolve around our access to the Internet. When the campus network is down we wonder what work we’re supposed to get done all day. When Facebook or Twitter crashes we’re left unconnected from our friends and families. Many of us (myself included) have cancelled all cable access and rely on streaming video over the internet for our news and entertainment.
Although there may be only a small portion of the web that we each call “home”–those websites and apps we visit and use on a daily basis–we all assume that by virtue of having Internet access we technically have equal access to all information we might ever want online. This has never really been true, but if the push for net neutrality fails, this will dramatically impact the way we gain access to content online.
In plain language (thank you Electronic Frontier Foundation), net neutrality is “the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks equally.” Without it, cable and DSL companies would be able to provide faster connections to websites and services that pay for this improved access. Great, you may be thinking. Then maybe when I try to watch Netflix on a Saturday night it will stop buffering in the middle of an Orange is the New Black episode.
Privileging access to some content over others means that the ISPs (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc.) have the real power over your life online. If Comcast and Amazon strike a deal for faster access to their streaming video content you might find yourself out of luck if you’re trying to access HuluPlus. More importantly, what happens to start-ups, non-profits, and educational institutions (like libraries or non-profit online education programs) that don’t have the kind of funding that private enterprises do to guarantee that their content is privileged online? Accessing their content will be slower, more difficult, and not as easy as it is now.
On May 15, the FCC voted 3 to 2 to consider two primary options for the future of net neutrality:
- The FCC would require ISPs to provide a basic level of internet service, then they could charge businesses to deliver their content faster.
- Internet access would be re-classified as a public utility, which would give the FCC greater regulatory power to ensure net neutrality.
Naturally, librarians are big net neutrality proponents, as are the folks at the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, but also, perhaps not unexpectedly, artists and musicians who rely on the Internet to get their content out to the masses and build a fan base. The internet giants aren’t staying silent either. Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon all have made an official statement in favor of net neutrality as have 150 other internet companies. It simply isn’t in their business interest to pay more to deliver their content.
The next time NPR has a story on net neutrality, turn it up. It’s worth a listen.
Perhaps some of you have been following, or at least heard, the recent news out of Northern Ireland, where Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was recently questioned over the 1972 still-unsolved kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville during the Troubles – a 30+ year period of conflict in Northern Ireland which lasted from the 1960’s through most of the 1990’s (you can read more about it here). The current situation involving Gerry Adams is described in this New York Times article, and it is a story that should be of interest to many people, including historians, archivists, political scientists, lawyers, and of course, librarians.
This situation raises intriguing questions about academic freedom. The tapes were made under a promise of confidentiality – “absolute secrecy” as the NYT put it – but that obviously hasn’t been how things panned out. The reason why, though, is complex and likely unanswerable. Did the researchers at Boston College make promises they couldn’t keep? Or did their lawyers botch it by not properly vetting the agreements between the interviewees and researchers? Did Boston College betray the trust and agreements; did they not put up enough of a fight against the subpoena? Or did one of the researchers err by publishing a book based on some of the interviews when so many people involved are still alive? A case could be made for all of these viewpoints.
As I said, the potential implications for academic freedom are complex and this case has been followed for several years by many in higher education. Now, three years later, a precedent has been set that academic freedom is not all-encompassing. It remains to be seen how much of a chilling effect this has on future research endeavors, but you can be sure it will have some thinking twice about participating in projects like this.
If you are a reader of The Chronicle of Higher Education, you may have seen last week’s article about library discovery tools. Marc Parry’s article, As Researchers Turn to Google, Libraries Navigate the Messy World of Discovery Tools, sheds light on some of the complications and questions caused by discovery tools and their ability to make library resources more discoverable. Parry opens with this description of discovery tools:
“Instead of bewildering users with a bevy of specialized databases—books here, articles there—many libraries are bulldozing their digital silos. They now offer one-stop search boxes that comb entire collections, Google style.”
As much as we’d like to promise seamless access to our entire collection through a single search box, the discovery tools on the market are from perfect. The items retrieved in a search and their page ranking are not always determined purely by their relevancy or recency, but instead by algorithms and licensing agreements between publishers, database vendors and the companies creating discovery tools. Parry’s article questions the possibility of bias in discovery tools, which would cause results from one vendor or content provider to be ranked higher than another. (Vendors will not explain the algorithms used to rank results for fear of sharing proprietary information). The article also points to the possibility of the unfortunate pairing of an imperfect ranking system and high number of results so the “best” sources are lost in the mix. What happens if we’re using discovery tools as a primary access point for research, but we don’t exactly know how the tool sorts and ranks results? Is it that unlike searching Google, but not knowing how Google’s algorithms work?
Movie star and model Kay Aldridge, best known for playing the title role in the 1942 movie serial “The Perils of Nyoka,” is a 1934 graduate of St. Mary’s Female Seminary High School. Then existing as both a high school and two-year junior college, Katherine Gratton Aldridge entered St. Mary’s in the Fall of 1931 as a Sophomore after attending one year of high school in Westminster, Maryland. She was born in Tallahassee, Florida and grew up in Lyells, Virginia. Kay was from an artistic family as Cornelia C. Aldridge, Kay’s mother, notes that she is an art teacher and artist.