Friday, March 30, 2012

Actions as Votes

The Provost and I have a standing weekly meeting, and this week an unusual topic came up. Our library is fortunate to have Academic Services in the library building. This is win-win. Students and other patrons going to see Disability Support Services, for example, walk through the library. They see us. Patrons using the library see the Writing Center. Foot traffic has increased since the move (and the sum total of our traffic together is greater than it would be separately), as we in the library and Academic Services reinforce and support each other.

The Provost informed me that on Sunday night someone, a patron, we suspect, moved a chair across the first floor, from the desk of a Career Services employee to a study room. The Provost knows this because the Director of Career Services mentioned it to her, who told me. Both the Director and the Provost are concerned that a patron would go into staff space for a chair, move it, and not replace it. I share this concern, but I have a different take. I think the patron just voted, just told us that our furniture, which does tend to move about at times (and is usually replaced), is not up to snuff. That someone would take a staff chair through three rooms, over 80 feet... that, to me, is a data point. It says something.
Food for thought.

*Speaking of voting, it's ALA election time. Please inform yourself and vote.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Beerbrarian's Guide to Computers in Libraries 2012, Washington, DC

Since I live in DC, I thought an insider's perspective might be useful for the upcoming Computers in Libraries 2012 conference, which meets at the Hilton just north of Dupont Circle.

A few words about the guide:
Anything posted below has been vetted by me. These are places I frequent, or at least have been in. Not mentioned is that west of the conference there are many embassies, which would be a nice walk during breaks, or after the sessions have ended for the day.

You don't want to do any of these things from 4:00 to 5:00pm on Wednesday and 9:00 to 10:00am on Saturday morning, because you'll want to be at my presentations, right?

There are some dine arounds, but they're at very pedestrian restaurants. I understand the distinction between a good meal and good food, so if you're doing one of these, it's for networking and the company, and not what's on your plate.

The Washington Post has a nice guide to the area. It's a bit unwieldy, but comprehensive.

I write for on the side. Here's their guide to beer in the area.

If you're familiar with Dupont Circle and think I missed anything, please let me know.


View Computers in Libraries in a larger map

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guilty as Charged, or Yet Another MLIS Post

The Library Loon has glibly captured the sentiments, if not the actual words, of the Beerbrarian within the first sentence of her most recent post on rigor in Masters of Library and Information Science programs. The Loon's chief complaint with the Beerbrarian's suggestion on improving library schools is that doing so would make them more like regular graduate schools. On this point, the Beerbrarian is guilty as charged, hence, his apologies to those who've already seen this deceased horse, the title of this post.

The Beerbrarian has worked in many libraries, all of them academic in nature. The Beerbrarian is also a product of a liberal arts education and a Master's program in addition to his MLIS. The Beerbrarian has cognitive biases. He sees academic, regular graduate school nails with his cognitive hammer. That should not have happened, and will not henceforth. The Beerbrarian is most grateful to commenter Eric on this point, and to the Library Loon for hammering it home, if you will, the next day.

And yet, the "soulless bankrupt moribund enterprise" that is regular graduate school prepared the Beerbrarian well for an MLIS. Perhaps too well. The MLIS was, with a few notable exceptions, much easier than regular graduate school for the Beerbrarian. He maintains that the student population he encountered in regular graduate school seemed, on balance, more intelligent than his MLIS cohort. Just as troubling, the MLIS program was nowhere near as stimulating for the Beerbrarian, though he admits your mileage may vary, and it is damning with faint praise that each of these Masters programs seemed equally divorced from reality in his eyes.

The Beerbrarian also pleads guilty to "the union card" critique. The Beerbrarian, prior to entering a library and information science program, had already worked in circulation; preservation, including digitization; and cataloging at a variety of academic institutions, large and small. He also arrived with five years of teaching experience at an R1, albeit the majority of those as a teaching assistant. He knew to advance he needed an MLIS. The Beerbrarian did not arrive at an MLIS program with a chip on his shoulder, but did arrive with an ego, perhaps justifiably so when compared to many of his 22-year old colleagues, so many of who seemed unsure of the real world, united only by their love of reading. Could the Beerbrarian have learned more with a more open mind? No doubt. Did the Beerbrarian work as hard as he could have? No. Disdainful and entitled? To a degree. Lazy? At times. On these last two matters, the Beerbrarian guesses he was not above average in either of these conceits among his cohort. Did the Beerbrarian take only the easiest classes and skate by? Absolutely not. He took courses on what interested him and on what skills he did not already have or wanted to improve, such as copyright, adult reference services (the former), digitization, information literacy, and research methodologies (the latter). He sought out people who would put in their fair share on group projects and assignments, and is pleased that he is still friends with and collaborates with many of these colleagues.

The Beerbrarian is also pleased that this discussion is taking place, for it is one worth having. He asks you to please read commenter Eric's and The Library Loon's suggestions for improving the Masters experience in library school, such as portfolios, capstone experiences, and assignments with grounding in the real world of librarianship, among others. For academic librarians, and possibly others, the Beerbrarian maintains that some trappings of regular graduate school are necessary, and that some combination of theory and praxis is ideal for all. He knows that on this, the Loon agrees. He also knows that the ALA is made up of librarian members, all of whom have a vested interest in the profession of librarianship, in the many forms that may take. He encourages each and every one of us to do what we can to improve MLIS programs, be it at the national level, or a local one, such as teaching at a library school or mentoring new and prospective library(-ish) professionals.

In light of the above, the Beerbrarian is thrilled to learn that the ALA is considering some changes to its accreditation regime, and hopes that these are both procedural and substantive in nature. He also hopes that instructors like the Loon share what works in terms of MLIS instruction. The Beerbrarian guesses that within hide-bound MLIS programs, there are quite a few innovative instructors, assignments, and teaching methods to be publicized and celebrated.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Making Masters of Library and Information Science Programs More Rigorous

Ahhh, library school: so easy to get into, and even easier to get out of. If you're like me, you were surprised to find out that some library science programs actually do reject half, or more, of the people who apply. I started, but did not finish, the application process at one MLIS program and was still invited to enroll within two weeks of the fall semester, and have heard similar tales from other librarians, so I expressed my disbelief via Twitter, per usual.

What we have to work from when making admissions decisions: 
  • Academic transcripts (pre-winnowed because of the minimum-GPA requirement)
  • A résumé
  • An application essay
  • Three recommendation letters

I understand and respect the Loon's position on the admissions process (better her than me reading all those essays), but am curious as to why we, as librarians, as members of the American Library Association, can't affect some measure of change on the graduation process. That is, once in, let's make it harder to get out of. There are a few ways of going about this.
  • Comprehensive exams: Some MLIS programs already do this, and hypocritical me, I avoided applying to those that have these as a requirement, having already suffered through comps in a political science program, a process that left me feeling a strange combination of never smarter thanks to all the reading and analysis, yet also never dumber thanks to a laser-like focus on the discipline. But what if every program had these as a requirement? The exams could take place at the end of the first year, or the semester before one graduates. The ALA could even play nanny state and mandate core content on exams.
  • Theses: Again, some programs require theses as well, but what if they all did. Force librarians to come up with a research topic, execute it, and then maybe even publish it (open access, please). 
  • The Loon, above, mentions the role of job placement stats on MLIS programs. I'd like her to expand on this. As I understand it, job placement data could play a role in ALA accreditation, and publicizing this data on the ALA website could drive potential librarians towards the programs that are more rigorous. This would increase rejections at some programs, but overall the field of librarianship would be better for it.
  • Got more? Please share them in the comments, or on Twitter. 
    • UPDATE, 3:45PM on 3/9/12: Thank you, Eric, for an excellent comment that fits into this category. 
Not only would these measures weed out people in MLIS programs, they might make prospective applicants think twice about applying in the first place.

Why do this? There are two reasons. First, I want better librarians. I want academic and law librarians to have a better idea of what goes on in academia and law schools (theses, comps, research, and the like). I want school media specialists and children's librarians to know more about early-childhood education and educational psychology. I want reference librarians to be as familiar as possible with research. You get the idea. Second, I want librarianship to be more respected as a career. That doesn't happen without more rigor in MLIS programs. While the costs of changing admissions policies might be beyond the pale, the costs of changing the curriculum of MLIS programs are not.

Friday, March 2, 2012

On Payola and Libertarianism, On Beer and the End User

Last month, I wrote a blog post for DCBeer on payola on the DC beer market. It was well-received, with thousands of page views and kudos, and I'm thankful that many people read it. One of those people is the man behind Beer in Baltimore, who writes this
In a general philosophical sense, the concept of currying favor with retailers of your product via such "payola" is no different from a mega-retailer offering you a discount-club card membership, or Amazon's retailers offering free shipping, or McDonald's offering a toy with a Happy Meal, or even a bar offering a Happy Hour or Ladies' Night.  Or even the occasional complementary drink from a bartender at your regular pub.  The above practices, in a sense, are just as unethical and immoral as the practices being discussed in the article in DCBeer.  The fact that such "payola" is downright prevalent in the alcohol business bespeaks much more the profit margins and revenues involved in the alcohol business and the return on marketing from such practices (occasionally qualifying for the term "obscene").
I disagree. I am the "end user" of beer. I am also the end user of a discount-club card membership, hypothetically. In order for the above analogy to work, the retailer of beer would have to be the end user. But retailers are not. I am. You are, maybe. Oh, and that discount-club card membership, it's not free. It may not cost you any money, but it will cost you some privacy. 

Now we will add some more nuance.
They [both brewing companies and grocery stores] want your trade.  They're offering you incentives to do business with them.  You don't have to take them.  But you'd be a fool not to take advantage of such offers, if they are of use to you.  (As opposed to, say, the Turnip Twaddler that comes with the Ronco Tomato Musher.)
So one is illegal, the other is not, and there is an equality of opportunity here in that anyone may sign up for a discount-club card, and that even a craft brewer has the right to "sellout," to become popular and play with the big boys, Budweiser and MillerCoors. However, let's play the libertarian thought experiment and eliminate the government, or at least get it to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub. Here, the equality of opportunity to sellout wouldn't matter. Rather, the larger brewing companies would simply "capture" the state, and use state apparati for their own purposes. To me, this is a central flaw in libertarian thought: the state won't wither away, it will be propped up and used by those who seek to use its power, or vestiges of power. Don't believe me

One more thing, of the craft brewing companies he mentions by name in his write-up, at least one of them was implicated by a distributor I spoke to when researching the DCBeer article. 

On Local Beer and Regulations, Part I, The Session #61

Background: The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. 

There's a lot I could say about locally made beer, but I'm going to focus on the how and why of it, as opposed to the freshness factor (especially for hoppier beers, which is why I think a Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA is just about the best thing out there), or keeping more money in the community by supporting local businesses. Instead, I'm going to talk about the regulatory climate, which plays an important role in the distribution of local breweries. We in the DMV are blessed with something like laboratory conditions, thanks to three jurisdictions (the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) and a wealth of breweries under 18 months old. For this exercise I make the perhaps erroneous assumption that beer entrepreneurs are randomly distributed throughout these locales.

DC: DC Brau, Chocolate City Beer, 3 Stars Brewing*
Maryland: Baying Hound Aleworks, Washingtonian Brewing Company**
Virginia: Port City Brewing, Lost Rhino Brewing Company, Cabinet Artisanal Brewhouse***, Adroit Theory Brewing****

That's nine (9) breweries within thirty (30) miles of Washington, DC, all under two years old. My question is why Maryland isn't as represented as DC or VA? My hypothesis is that the regulatory climate in Maryland, especially in Montgomery County, home of Baying Hound, is a structural impediment to new breweries. The next step is to test it. Suggestions welcome, and the DC part of this puzzle has been discussed before.

* No brewing takes place at 3 Stars, but they have collaborated with other local breweries, such as Baltimore's Oliver Ale and Evolution Craft Brewing Company, from Delmar, DE.
** The first batch of beer did not ferment, and I suspect that this brewery has been shelved.
*** Currently not open to the public, but have plans for a tasting room and regional distribution. Currently brewing for The Farmer's Cabinet in Philadelphia, PA.
**** ETA, early 2013.