Kay Aldridge, Queen of the Serials and St. Mary’s Graduate

Nyoka screenshotMovie 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.
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Open Assess (?), Excess(?), ACCESS (!!!)

Earlier this semester, the SMCM Ethics Bowl team traveled to Florida to compete in the national finals.  Over thirty teams qualified and we had some very formidable opponents.  This is the second year in a row that a question about libraries has been among the cases that each team has to prepare.  This year the case was titled “Open Exce$$,” and it was all about the Open Access movement. 

The two team members tasked with preparing the case arranged to meet with me.  “So,” I asked, “do you know what open access is?
“Sure – all those articles we can access online.”  Not exactly, I explained. “Open access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.”  Open access textbooks are also included.

Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. – See more at: http://www.sparc.arl.org/issues/open-access#sthash.KCIUGtB8.dpuf
Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. – See more at: http://www.sparc.arl.org/issues/open-access#sthash.KCIUGtB8.dpuf
Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. – See more at: http://www.sparc.arl.org/issues/open-access#sthash.KCIUGtB8.dpuf

That was followed by several conversations about academic journals, publishers, prices, and access.  I reminded the students that their access to pretty much all of the licensed content we provide will go away after they graduate.  We talked about limits to access at colleges with even fewer resources than we have, and in places around the world where students and libraries cannot afford subscription and license costs.  And we talked about how costs shift. The case study the students worked on focused some attention on the author fees that many open access publishers require.  Let’s face it, publishing anything requires resources (human and financial).  The Ethics Bowl case highlighted the problem of “predatory publishers.”  In order to help them learn more about how complex this all is, I encouraged them make good use of what is one of the most important sources of information about Open Access, a web site created by Peter Suber

It occurred to me early in our conversations that students, especially undergraduates, might not really feel as if all this matters much to them. After all, those JSTOR articles pop up using JSTOR, our discovery tool, and Google Scholar.  It’s convenient, at least for now.  It can be a challenge talking with faculty to talk with faculty about open access.  Librarians are expanding the dialog to include focus on the role of smaller colleges (the Lever Initiative) and on why these issues are important to all students.  The Right to Research Coalition has great information about why open access is important and how students can be active in advocating for it.

Should research be a commodity?  Should knowledge and creativity be for sale?  Should authors, artists, and composers continue to give up their rights to control how their materials are used in exchange for publication in a journal which libraries pay for?

Open access is a question for ethicists, economists, and everyone who produces and consumes information.  If you are reading this post that includes you. 




Popular vs Scholarly articles

I stumbled across a news article this week that was really fascinating (to me), so I thought I’d share it on the blog…and, I’ll mix in a little bit of information literacy as well.  The article is about an experiment performed to see if professional musicians could tell the difference between modern-day violins (costing about $30,000) and Stradivarius violins (costing about $6 million).

Here’s the news article – I’ve linked to the Guardian’s version of the article, but as you can see it’s an AP article which is available on lots of other news sites as well.  The original research article was published on April 7, 2014 in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

These sorts of news articles – ones that are based off a recently-published research article – come out all the time, and provide great examples of the differences between a popular article and a scholarly article.  The version from the Guardian is easy to read, has pictures, and highlights the main points well.  It also has lots of advertisements and links to other catchy headlines on their website.  It has no citations.  It’s fairly short, too – it won’t take more than a couple of minutes to read the entire article.  Now consider it against the actual research article from PNAS.  As you can see, it’s quite different.  There’s no pictures or advertisements, there’s a list of citations at the end, it’s much longer and not as easy to read, because it contains MUCH more detail.

The reasons for these differences are simple – these two articles are meant for vastly different audiences.  The newspaper article is written by a journalist for a general audience.  That same journalist might be writing about the Ukraine tomorrow; on Thursday they’ll be covering the Malaysian Airlines accident.  They’re not an expert on violins or designing valid research experiments, but they are an expert in producing well-written pieces that tell a story and provide a measure of objectivity.  These types of articles are a great way to relax on a bench outside the Campus Center as you wind down your lunch hour, but they might not be such a good idea to cite in a term paper – and again, that’s really not what they’re designed for.

The librarians here at the SMCM Library will be glad to help locate, differentiate, and cite any type of information sources you may have, or need.  So feel free to stop by the reference desk or make an appointment.  Happy librarying!


TOB X: March Madness for books

TOB XLast Friday the Morning News Tournament of Books declared The Good Lord Bird by James McBride the winner of TOB X. I added this to my to-read pile along with one other TOB competitor, Long Division by first time author Kiese Laymon whose writing judge Héctor Tobar described as, “a tour de force of colloquialisms and street slang put to intellectual good use,” before eliminating it from the competition in the first round. It lost to Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch a novel I am committed to never reading.

Two is not an impressive number of newly discovered reads and I didn’t go into the tournament having read a lot of the books. Just three and a half, At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri and about half of A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

This actually reflects my sense of my 2013 reading year. I don’t have the stats but it wasn’t a year full of books I loved. Few of the books I liked made the TOB, only the Alarcón and Atkinson. And The Lowland is by far Lahiri’s weakest work. So I took a look at the TOB long list to see how that stacked up and found a lot of books I read or that were on my to-read list that didn’t make the cut. There were a lot. Read Pamela’s recommendations from the TOB long list.

Money, Money, Money

photo by Jean O'Connor

photo by Jean O’Connor

This week the library hosts Trevor Dawes, the current president of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL).  Trevor  has been a strong and vocal advocate for financial literacy and the role librarians can play in helping students become more knowledgeable and more active in controlling their own financial futures.  Trevor has partnered with the iOme Challenge initiative to help librarians learn more about how we can support this effort.

I am convinced that library financial literacy is becoming as important for people who use libraries as it is for the librarians and staff who have to spend and manage money. We are using funds supplied by our institutions (and at least partly by tuition dollars) to purchase the materials that we think best support the curricula of the college and also provide outlets for reading, viewing, and listening (and sometimes gaming) that balance all that intense academic work.

Students and faculty are still often surprised to hear that the electronic version of a journal will probably cost us about as much as the print version.  And inflation affects everything.  Most people don’t think about what it costs to keep a physical book on a shelf once we buy it.  If you are a librarian, ask a class (or a group of faculty) what they estimate we spend per year on our online resources.  The responses may surprise you.  If we purchase an e-book and are unable to make it accessible to more than one user at a time, or through Interlibrary Loan, is it a better “deal” than a physical book which has some, but not all, of the same limitations?  Our economic decisions are based on more than just dollars and cents.

pennyLike all departments on campus, the library buys equipment and supplies, pays for equipment leases (yes – the Xerox machine), pays people who work here, and supports the professional development of our staff.  And like lots of places these days we do it with less money than we used to.  This means making strategic decisions, but also keeping people in mind.  It might mean buying a DVD for $14.99 which we know will make people feel good, and spending a much larger amount on a resource that is critical for the success of faculty and students.

The economic landscape is shifting.  Colleges and universities are experiencing challenges with enrollment, changes in curriculum, and increases in costs.  The more we know about how funds are spent the smarter we will be about the decisions we are faced with. Financial literacy is the key to all of our financial futures.



Meet a Man of the Stacks!

Trevor A. Dawes

Trevor A. Dawes is truly a man of the stacks. He served as project coordinator for a library themed calendar, The Men of the Stacks (2012). You should visit this calendar now. It was for a good cause (It Gets Better Project) and it looks like the guys had a lot of fun. (Yes, I own this calendar and yes, it was January for a really long time that year.)

Trevor is the current president of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) and an Associate University Librarian at Washington University. He will be on campus next week, March 10th and March 11th. On Monday he will be meeting with students to discuss leadership and on Tuesday with faculty and staff on sustaining excellence in the workplace.

Can you find Trevor and Pamela?Trevor chose financial literacy as the theme of his presidency and has for many years been interested in leadership and diversity. I first met Trevor at a leadership program in 2002, the Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians and he has been leading ever since. Not only does he have a long record with ACRL, he has been a board member of the NJ Library Association and in 2007 was one of Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers.

So stop by the Aldom Lounge and meet Trevor.

Interview: On Leadership with Trevor A. Dawes
Are you a student leader, activist or volunteer? Wondering if you have what it takes to lead after graduation? Ask Trevor.
Monday March 10 at 4:15 PM in the Aldom Lounge

Sustaining Excellence in Libraries
Collaboration, diversity and professional development, they’re not just for libraries. Learn about best practices in libraries and how they can work for your department.
Tuesday March 11 at 10:00 AM in the Aldom Lounge