Wednesday, January 31, 2007

RSS Digest: February 1, 2007

RSS Digest: February 1, 2007

Happy Groundhog eve! Here’s some of the links that ticked my fancy this week, with my brief thoughts!

Also, thanks to my favorite new toy—erm, tool, google analytics, I know I apparently have readers in my old home-away-from home: Scotland, my dream home-away-from home: China (Ni Hao!), and a prospective home-away-from home addition as soon as I can visit the place and really fall in love with it: New Zealand! Oh yes, and hello to Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Australia, and Brazil!

LIS Links of Interest (serious)

33 Reasons Librarians are Still Extremely Important -
I don't know about you, but this list of reasons made me feel good--and even better is the conversation this article sparked on digg!

The Well Dressed Librarian: of course its cashmere--Change-o, Presto
What he said. This one went up on my office wall. And when this guy is not dropping insights like this, he's posting witty, hysterical posts that I always look forward to--think Queer Eye for the Librarian. :-)

Information Wants To Be Free » Blog Archive » Odeo, I hardly knew you!
Another classic rant from Meredith--this one on the less pleasant aspects of that web 2.0 concept known as "perpetual beta"...

The Top 100 Alternative Search Engines
Need I say more? stuff you've probably heard of, like Clusty and exalead, and stuff you're NEVER heard of unless you're Gary Price( Some silliness, some very BETA sites, but also a few gems for the searcher looking for something new...

The Kept-Up Academic Librarian: Two-Year Program Helps Hispanic Students Earn Degree
At first, I wasn't sure what I thought about the concept of a bilingual degree program, but it's growing on me. regardless, if it gets good enrollment and graduation numbers, expect something like it at your campus before long...

Library 2.0: An Academic's Perspective: The Customer is Always Right, Part 2
Highlighting reason #863 on why you can't trust the web to do your homework...

Tame The Web: Libraries and Technology: London Calls Again! Announcing ILI2007
Ok, I SO want to go to this. No chance the travel fund at work could swing it, but maybe...write a proposal to speak? raid the savings account? throw a bake sale? Gimme some ideas to get there, guys!

ResourceShelf » Research Paper: The rise and rise of citation analysis
Next fall I'm planning on doing a citation analysis project on undergrad papers (anyone interested in co-writing? email me), and it's nifty to see that I'm not the only wierdo into this little nook of info studies.

The Well Dressed Librarian: of course its cashmere: Just-in-case collections
Of course I'm sure NONE of us have shelves fit to burst with dusty books, old conference proceedings, and particularly useful items "borrowed" from the reference area (2 years ago), but if we did...

Thoughts from a Library Administrator: ALA Council and transcripts
A post on the push to have ALA Council transcripts posted online--the saga continues...

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
As always, most of the articles in here are worth a read, but the piece on finding balance (p. 16) is definitely noteworthy..

Read Write Connect - ReadWriteConnect
The new ALA wiki. Need I say more? Go read, and contribute something too! :-)
Ok, Per Elsevier & friends, Open access to published research is a form of government censorship??? Check the comments for their hasty "correction" (made after this hit the fan thanks to Nature magazine) complete with Dorthea Salo's handy translation...

Resource Description and Access (RDA): Cataloging Rules for the 20th Century
Cataloging as we know it has to change and is changing already. How best to manage the change? read this interesting article from D-lib.

The Distant Librarian: Google Scholar's as good as the library
Whether this title has your hackles rising or your head nodding, take a look. Like Paul, I can't wait for the full article to be published.

ALA TechSource | My Phoner with Pogue
Check out Tom Peters' interesting chat with David Pogue, Technology columnist/blogger for the New York Times...

LIS Links of interest (fun) » Too funny!
You must watch this....NOW! In fact, this librarian has already posted a sequel. This is getting played at the first staff meeting where I can find an excuse to play it...

Library Stories: Libraries & Librarians in the News: Poster of everything he's ever read...
umm...WOW. Ya know, I used to think I was getting organized, but to even KNOW everything I've read in my life, plus finding cover shots and turning them into a poster? That takes OCD to a new level (and I mean that in a good way...)

The Library Predict-o-matic 3000
Updated and Better than ever! Go get your 2007 prediction today! I got..."In 2007...SirsiDynix will be acquired by Activision and become ActirsiDynix. They will announce a new lending desk robot named Inthimo."

LibrarianInBlack: Teenagers happily checking out books
Another week, another cool library-themed YouTube--and this one patron-generated!

Productivity links of interest

26 Tips to Keep Your Computer Up and Functioning -
Good process for regular computer maintenance. I'm adding a stripped down version of this to my @home routines.

Let's Talk About LinkedIn
I drank the LinkedIn cool-aid about 6 months ago...and I'm not sure I've gotten much out of it. Apparently I'm not the only one.

Young Go Getter -- The business playground for entrepreneurs young at heart
An interesting site and blog--it says it's geared specifically to entrepreneurs, but I think any change-agent type is going to find some things to enjoy here. I'm still exploring this one, but I like what I see.

To boost your potential, try saying “Yes” more often -
I haven't always been glad I've said yes to a particular project or task, but I've always learned something.

Are You Just Getting Warmed Up? -
According to this, it's okay that I need to get a coffee, oatmeal, and say hi to a few coworkers before I'm even ready to think about my first chore of the day...yay! one less source of guilt!

Cool Reference site of the week (today’s special: 4 for 1!)

Constitution Finder
Looking for Austria’s constitution? The Magna Carta? Want to check to make sure Japan is still constitutionally pacifist? Browse away, my friend…

Literature Post :: Classic Books Online
Another site with public domain classic e-books, while there doesn't seem to be much here that isn't elsewhere, it seems to be a more focused collection than other similar sites (i.e. the Gutenberg Project)

Google Book Search: now with maps - Lifehacker
Now you can see maps with locations in Joyce's toy. :-)

ResourceShelf » Updated Database: RxNav (A Semantic Navigation Tool for Clinical Drugs)
Title's pretty self-explanatory. A good pharmacology resource for your pharmacy, medical, and nursing students.

And that sums it up. See you soon!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The dark side of Library 2.0, part 2: new bridges… new divides?

First, thanks for all the great insights and responses on the first part of my series! This has been one of my most popular articles to date, and it definitely seems to be echoing a common sentiment. Since we all seem to agree that user needs should be paramount in selecting technologies…I’d like to pose this follow-up question: Is that new toy you want to install on the server going to be a bridge to information to your users…or a hurdle? I warn you, I had a lot more to say on this issue than I expected, so this is a bit long…

The dark side of Library 2.0, part 2: New bridges…New divides?

The Typical College student: “non-traditional” to the core!

While I am very proud of the institution I work for, and think that we produce bachelor-degreed students who can perform at an equal level to either of the “prestigious” state universities…we ain’t Harvard. That’s actually one of the things I love about this school. What we are is a high-quality, low-cost bridge to the middle class for 1st generation college students, adult learners, and an increasing number of students for who English is not their first language. The “non-traditional” university student is now the norm, at least in my corner of academia—and probably in yours too. These are people who are well-acquainted with the concept of working their tails off to achieve their goals. Some of them may have never laid eyes on USB drives or a full-text database before they came to campus, but I’d still take most of them as students over plenty of “gifted students” I’ve known.

What's my point with this nonsequitur into regional college demographics? Just a reminder that not all college students are millenials, and not all millenials are tech-savvy geeks. The technologies that may seem as familiar and intuitive to us as the TV remote are often completely alien to many “non-traditional” college students, who already have a lot of unfamiliar burdens being placed on them. Many of the students I help have never created a chart in excel and need a tutorial to copy and paste a persistent URL from EBSCO. I am not saying these things to demean. Most students have had other priorities in their lives than keeping up with the latest in high tech. I have to remember, and in all honesty occasionally forget, that I have a vastly different relationship to technology than does a typical "non-traditional" college student.

Barriers masquerading as bridges, or “For the want of a VPN login…”

There are days on the reference desk when I sometimes wonder if a poorly implemented bit of technology is worse than no technology as all. Our former route to login to the university’s VPN (we have 3 campuses, and approximately 40% of our courses are offered online) required a download, a 10-step install process, and ONLY WORKED WITH WINDOWS 2000 or XP! Own a Mac? Still putting along on a Windows 98 machine because you can't afford a new system? No Remote Access for you!

Fortunately, we finally got that resolved at the start of this semester to a web-based login when the IT department upgraded the VPN software. The old system wasn't there for so long because we were a backwards library who didn't advocate for our patrons, or because our IT department is an evil nerd cult who sacrifices puppies in the server room! We couldn't afford the technology, and we can barely afford people to run it. I doubt I'm bursting any bubbles here, but the digital divide doesn't just affect the folks on the other side of the staff area door. The net result is that perfectly intelligent, hard-working students transfer to schools with better technology--or worse, think that not being able to decipher our arcane systems means they can't hack it in college.

Poor user education

I’m sure none of us nextgen, 2.0 types have ever seen a less technologically fluent coworker wince or look concerned when we excitedly unveiled the newest cool widget we wanted to add to the website. But if on some off chance you have…can you imagine the look on one of these “nontraditional” students’ faces when they login to the website to see they have to learn all over again how to get to a $#%! journal article? At least you’ve provided advance warning about the redesign or new service... and a faq or instructions…in plain english...and that isn’t only in some ram-hogging video or flash format that will crash those Windows 98 machines…right?

I have no objections to those whiz-bang interactive tutorials that are all the rage—in fact I’d love to get IT to let me put some on our website! That said, at least provide an alternative link to plain HTML! I don't care what high-flying technobabble is on your business card—if you work in a library, you’re an educator. As I said in part one, our job is to connect our patrons to information in the most efficient manner possible, and to make our offerings as attractive as we can to potential new patrons. And there are many times when too much technology, or technology poorly implemented, can get in the way of that goal.

So, what do you do if you are stuck with the flaky web server, or a 3-page login process that appears to have been poorly translated from Urdu? How do you deal with the nursing students cropping up with questions about writing excel formulas like clockwork in the 10th week of every semester? You do your job. You educate. You educate again. You educate once more. Even when you think you will go mad if you have to say "click control-C to copy…" one more time, you take a deep breath and do it. Rewrite that login process. Take someone from IT to lunch so they think of you as someone other than "that whining tech librarian". Educate your patrons, your coworkers, your superiors, your board, your donors, your tax base…educate them all until they understand the value of library technology, understand how to use it, and/or understand that you will not shut up until you get the resources you need to fulfill your mission.

Guess what—we’re all in the “privileged classes”…

When I was laid off from my high-flying management trainee gig at the local over-hyped, soon-to-be-doomed telecom company in 2002, I went to work for the welfare office, because it offered a safe, steady (if small) paycheck and no office politics. Unexpectedly, I learned more of importance in my first 6 months there than I had in my three years in telecom, and that experience serves me at least as well as any alleged business savvy I picked up in the corporate world.

I didn't grow up rich by any stretch of the imagination, but I was in a solid middle class family in a solid middle class suburb in 1980s America, surrounded by people who encouraged education and were living testaments to the prosperity it could offer the hard worker. It took a caseload of 200 families of urban and rural poor for me to understand how darned lucky I'd been to have decent schools, and parents with the time and education and knowledge to teach me how to make it in the real world. What I had taken for granted was the very thing that gave me the knowledge and ability to succeed. All these divides I've talked about today really boil down to one divide—class. A rant about the socio-economic state of affairs in the US is beside the point, and outside the scope of this blog. But let me leave this post with one thought. One of my grandmothers was the daughter of a sharecropper in Georgia. My grandfather was born a half-Cherokee hillbilly in North Carolina. My father is a software developer. My mom is a project manager. My brother is an engineer. I'm a Librarian. And my family's history over the past three generations looks like plenty of others reading this, I suspect. How did my family get from the Waltons to the Joneses in half a century?

EDUCATION. Education fostered, in no small part, by librarians. I'm not saying that we all have to run off to take jobs in Appalachia. However, I am saying that my time serving the underserved showed me that the class divide is still alive and well in America, and it is the divide from which the others spring. We are charged to fight ignorance, because it's within ignorance that paranoia and censorship and prejudice can and do take root. So, back to the point I had before this rant, does that spiffy new youtube video help your library fight against ignorance? If it entices kids to come into the library who otherwise wouldn't have thought of it as "their kind of place", then it most certainly does. But make sure those pretty new widgets you're slapping up on the website are bridges—not barriers.

Next week, Part 3: Old solutions to New challenges, or "When I was your age, I lugged card catalog drawers 5 miles to my desk, uphill, both ways, in the snow, and I was grateful for the job!"

Saturday, January 27, 2007

GTD Post Delay--and notes on a diverse readership!

the post scheduled today will be taking place tomorrow, as I want to provide pictures of my moleskine notebook and my hipster PDA travel deck...but I forgot my camera at home. (I'm in the office today) .

With the blogger upgrade I can now see any trackbacks to my posts, and I also have started tracking my traffic via google analytics. I have now been read and/or linked to in Germany, Japan, and Portugal! not too bad for a smallish LIS blog...

Anyway, I'd like to say hallo, Ohayou (apologies hawk, my browser didn't like it when I tried to paste in the hiragana), and Olá respectively, based on your current time zones! :-)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

RSS Digest #1 : Cons, Connectivity, and Cataloging...

Anybody else have this problem? you're skimming through your bloglines, and see a interesting post or link. You think, "ooh! I want to blog that!" So you tag it for future reference and move along to the next feed. Before you know it you've posted on a few articles, but mostly you have a backlog of tagged posts, your viewer is a mess, and you know that by the time you catch up nobody will even remember the original post, and a half-dozen other bloggers will have posted far better responses to it already. So you clear your saved posts and swear to "keep up better", skim through the new posts, see an interesting item, tag it...

You get where I'm going, right?

I've gotten to the realization that I do not have enough hours in the day to write profound commentaries on every issue of the day AND have a life. Trying to accomplish that leads to writer's block, which is counter-productive to my goal of keeping this blog updated on a regular basis. Long story short (WAY too late :-) ), I'm going to stop trying to do it all. Thursdays from now on are my "roundup" days, where I post links to all the nifty posts or resources I've run into in the past week, with a few lines of commentary.* I hope you find this new digest useful!

RSS digest for 1/17-25/2006

Library Posts and articles:

LibraryLaw Blog: When good librarians and bad policies collide…
An excellent example of how NOT to write your community room policy--at least if you don't want to get sued...

My Top-ten Library 2.0 “No-brainers” for Public Libraries « The Other Librarian
Some other folks have blogged on this already, but I think it deserves a second mention. For those of you suffering "information overload" regarding tools, projects, implementations, and all the other stuff that gets babbled about in our wacky corner of the web, this is an EXCELLENT primer on picking the best tools and implementing them in your library.

Eliminating Series Authority Records and Series Title Control: Improving Efficiency or Creating Waste? Or, 12 Reasons Why the Library of Congress Should Reconsider Its SARs Decision AND More on What is Going on at the Library of Congress
Brought to my attention by David Bigwood over at Catalogablog, these are two well-thought our papers on the LC series cataloging issue, as well as the broader changes going on in DC, both in-depth yet in coherent language for non-catalogers. I don't care if you couldn't tell MARC from the michelin man, these changes affect everyone in US librarianship (and beyond). READ.

Information Wants To Be Free » Does distance learning have to be like this?
Both the post that inspired this and Meredith's response are great discussions on the state of distance learning. As a MLIS graduate who attended a satellite campus (who took almost half her classes online), and in my current role as a DL librarian, I've got some strong opinions on the state of distance ed myself, and I'm glad to see the benefits and drawbacks being discussed by so many folks in more depth than "OMG izn't tech kewl!1!!!". This post is a must for all academic librarians--if you campus doesn't have distance learners yet, you WILL. I can guarantee it.

ResourceShelf » Law Professor Predicts Wikipedia’s Demise
Eric Goldman's--shall we say-- pessimistic analysis of Wikipedia in December 5's Information Week is an interesting summary is a great summary of the threats facing the elephant in our reference sections. I'm not sure Wikipedia's future is as grim as Goldman suggests, but finding a way to deal with spammers (as well as companies attempting to buy favorable edits) is a critical issue facing the folks at Wikimedia.

Library 2.0: An Academic's Perspective: ALA Midwinter Meeting: I'm Not There
I'm not the only one who can't afford midwinter--phew! I'll be honest here, the requirements to attend conference for many of the various leadership roles within roundtables and committees is why I haven't yet gotten as involved in ALA as I'd like to be. Laura has quite a lot to say about our organizations' conferences, and delivers familiar criticisms and suggestions in a potent way.

a long-overdue update on the special library 2.0 survey
What a concept! Amanda Etches-Johnson has put together a survey to find out what 2.0 tools are actually being used by special libraries. Click on to see her results and analysis.

Productivity posts and articles:

7 Ways to Track Internet’s Trends and Popular News -
I don't subscribe to every feed in the LIS and Time management worlds, but some days it feels like it... Here are some tips to help you sort the wheat from the chaff. I've recently unsubbed from digg and slashdot as they contributed to my overload rather than helping it. (I might feel differently if I was in IT or software development) However, some of the other tips and tools look handy.

Kewl Reference website of the week
Every week (or at least every week I find something nifty), I'm going to post the most interesting or useful reference resource I run across. Today's is...

Encyclopedia of Death and Dying
Title says it all, really....there are some truly fascinating and useful articles here on things like the black plague and advance directives , but I still wouldn't suggest surfing over while you've got insomnia...

and that's it! see you soon...

* on a semi-related note, does anyone more than I know a way I could auto post a list of bookmarks marked with a particular tag? I see how to do daily posts of everything I tag, but I doubt people here are terribly interested in research for my nonprofit board or my ongoing attempts to learn Mandarin :-)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Half-pint would NOT be amused...

Modernizing the Little House Books
Um...last I checked, wasn't the old-fashioned vibe part of what make the books so cool? Ok, they're JUST changing the illustrations, but still...


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Dark Side of Library 2.0, Part 1: "It's the Patron, Stupid!"

This has been rattling around in my brain for some time (in some ways since Internet Librarian), but I've had trouble bringing myself to write it. I'm not a big name, and because of that it'll be easier to shout me down or ignore me. Also, I'm afraid that this will make me come off as a luddite, which is decidedly not my intent. Finally, I know that people who I respect very much will probably disagree with some or all of what I have to say, and may even take it as a personal attack (which is not my point at ALL). Anyway, today is part 1 of a planned three-part series discussing the challenges I see with Library 2.0, and how we can manage the risk of changing so profoundly that we alienate the very people we are charged to represent. I'll be running this on tuesdays for the next three weeks, to give people time to read, think, and respond. I'm looking forward to your thoughts.

Part 1. Does our technology function in the service of our mission, or vice versa?

Let me say this first--I love technology, I'm a geek, I delicious and flickr and wiki and blog with the best of them. I hope that I'll be able to post a link to our library's first blog and chat reference service in the non-too-distant future, and we're pondering replacing our resource guides and pathfinders with a wiki. Libraries are in the midst of a paradigm shift that will change libraries forever, and probably for the better.

However, my mission is NOT to set up a blog, or a wiki, or to build a 3-story virtual library in second life complete with avatars for the entire staff. My mission, and your mission (if you're a librarian reading this) is to provide accurate information resources to all comers in the most efficient and friendly manner possible, and to encourage more community members to take advantage of your services. If spending an hour a day fiddling with your library's MySpace profile is improving your ability to succeed in your mission, then hey, I'm on board! However...before you start building that wiki, ask yourself a simple question--"Is this the most effective way I can use our finite resources to serve patrons?"

How are things at the front desk? Is reference going well, or could they use a bit of training, especially if you're pondering throwing yet ANOTHER new tool at them? Is all of your current technology running smoothly, and is your IT staff prepped and ready to support more tools and keep them humming after the launch hoopla dies down? Can you afford the time and money these new luxury tools (and I'm sorry, many of these tools are luxuries--more on that in part 2) will take, without shorting your patrons when it comes to your existing services? And assuming that you can afford the time and money to improve your technology offerings, and you have a clear understanding of how this new tool will be used to support your mission--you've got one last hurdle to clear. Do your patrons even want this? And if so, will they use this? You did ask your community what they wanted and would use in that new participatory OPAC before you sunk several grand into a new server and taking that software development course...right?

At the end of the day, it all goes back to Ranganathan. If a tool makes it easier to attain one or more of those 5 laws, it's worth pursuing if you have the resources, even if others scoff at its applications in librarianship. (I didn't see the point of wikis as a library tool 2 years ago, I'm now a big fan, and I admit that I may well be proved similarly wrong about Second Life.) All of the truly great services that have come out of library 2.0 have originated from a patron's need. Different libraries have different resources, different communities, and different needs. Add the tools that will make your patrons happy, when it's practical to do so. Don't worry about what babbling bibliopundits might have to say about the tools you choose, the speed of your implementation, or choice of software. You are not here to impress them--you're here to serve your patrons.

Thursday: My thoughts on ALA 2.0, the struggles of Distance Learning librarianship, and a follow-up on the great LoC Series Cataloging debate...

Saturday: My indexcard GTD implementation: thoughts after a month.

Next Tuesday: The Dark Side of Library 2.0, part 2: New bridges, new divides...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Snow Days and GTD...

Phew! Just got back into work today after a major (for Oklahoma) ice storm shut down the state for the last 4 days. Classes don't resume until tomorrow at the earliest (and I've a sneaking suspicion that they may just wait until Monday), so I'm spending the day finishing up a few task I left off on friday afternoon when they closed campus, and taking care of a few housekeeping chores as well. However, my time off and return today taught me some good things about GTD, as well as my strengths and weaknesses in implementing it...

1. We were prepared for the storm. When I saw the forecast on thursday morning, I had a good idea in my head of what we had and what we needed, and my @errands list helped too in putting together our list of provisions. A quick run to the store over lunch on thursday (a good 6 hours before the mobs hit, according to my friends in retail) got us the few odds and ends we needed to weather the storm in comfort.

2. I had things to do (mostly). My to-reads and personal projects were all noted in my system, and I spent the weekend catching up on blogs, doing some weeding in my bloglines, and working on some personal projects as well as a little housecleaning. That said, by Tuesday morning I'd pretty much run out of stuff to do, and I was not unhappy to get to go in today, even though it was for a shortened day.

3. Coming back to work was a snap. Seriously, the hardest thing about this morning was crawling out of bed and into the 15-degree weather. While my desk was a bit messier than I would have liked when I got here (when we got the call to go home, I pretty much dropped the project I was working on and ran for the car before the roads could ice up), it was literally a matter of 5 minutes to get the clutter corralled into the inbox and start processing. If anything, the unexpected sabbatical and utter lack of students has made me more productive than usual today--I've accomplished more in the not-quite-2 hours I've been here than i do some whole mornings!

Moral of the story--Organization is handy, not only in managing the day-to-day grind, but also to make sure you're prepared when the odd stuff comes. We're on our second major winter storm of the season, here in a state where it's wierd if we even get one snowfall that sticks to the ground per year. I'll be back either tomorrow or tuesday with that promised post on Library 2.0 and the digital divide--until then, stay warm! :-)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

VistSi? DyniTa? (Musings on the SirsiDynix-Vista acquisition)

Well, SirsiDynix has been acquired--and not by another ILS. I have to put my two bits in on this... but first:

Disclaimer 1: We go live on Sirsi Unicorn in 2 months. Please spare me any screaming about how proprietary OPACs are evil--firstly I agree (to a point) and secondly it was this or sticking with DRA Classic for a few more years. Not all of us have software developers on staff, alas...

Disclaimer 2: As always, I'm not speaking for my institution in any way shape or form. I'm just as a whiny distance learning librarian/geek/corporate refugee who is intrigued by this development.

OK, for those who've been under a rock (or busy polishing off the last of the holiday egg nog), go read Sirsi's Press release, The LJ article on the acquisition, Dan Scott's two bits, andJessamyn's thoughts on the merger.

Ok, back? good. In my experience, private equity firms buy comapnies for one (or more) of a few reasons.

1: the company is currently being poorly run and thus underperforming (and thus cheap). The investing firm plans to bring in some turn-around mercenaries to fix the most blatant problems

2: The company is basically sound, but in a cash crunch due to a market slump beyond it's control. The investing firm buys the company, holds it until market conditions improve, before selling it off whole or in pieces at a tidy profit.

3: The company is in good shape both in terms of its business plan and cash flow, but happens to be a market leader in an undervalued or "boring" sector. The investing firm, believing due to research that this sector is due for a bump in business and/or existing customers could be gouged with higher prices, buys the company, waits for the boom, before either
A: Selling it off whole or in pieces at a tidy profit, or
B: If the market shift looks permanent, making the company a permanent part
of its collection of gravy train acquisitions.*

So which scenario does this acquisition fit into?

1. Obviously, since I'm not an employee of SirsiDynix, I've no clue as to how well it is or isn't run. I also can't see their balance sheets, as they're privately held. However, based on the training we've attended and the conference calls we've had with our project manager, they seem to have the customer service end down pretty well. If there are institutional problems, they haven't impacted out go-live process in any way. In addition, there's Vista's CEO's statement that they "are tremendously excited about working with SirsiDynix because it is clearly the market leader, with a suite of mission-critical software solutions." This suggests Vista is not a bottom-feeder.

2. Anyone who's been in LIS-land over the past few years knows the overall ILS market is decidedly NOT in a slump--hiring and such seem to be growing at a healthy pace based on the HR notices I see floating around, and while open-source is gaining ground, I suspect that institutional resistance, lack of coding know-how among LIS-types, the still-evolving nature of many of the open-source packages and general inertia will mean we won't see a big shift to open source for a few years. (a pity, but that's another post). Keep in mind that most libraries who are ILS buyers are governmental entities of some sort who will rightly or wrongly see proprietary solutions as less "risky" than open source. Government budgets (at leas in my neck of the woods) are growing again after a few years of belt-tightening during the recession, so libraries (like mine) with legacy systems are siezing the moment to upgrade or migrate. So the ILSes don't have a problem with fleeing customers (yet).

3. I think that this is the most likely rationale, based in large part on the Vista CEO's comments quoted above. SirsiDynix is the 800-pound gorilla in a small, stable and captive market. In one fell swoop, Sirsi's profits become their profits, probably with little or no tinkering needed on Vista's part. Sirsi gains the stability of being a subsidiary or a bigger conglomerate, their stakeholders get a very nice check, and it's all good. The only question is whether or not vista will sell or hold long-term, and for that we need to look at Vista's website.

SirsiDynix looks very much like the other companies listed in their holdings, about half of which have notes mentioning recent sales by Vista to other firms. In addition, we have the company's "investment philosophy", which states in part, that they "[select] well positioned companies with attractive market dynamics, aligning the interests of management with those of shareholders, and reducing unnecessary distractions." In plain english, that means, "We find basically good companies, turn them into great companies, and make a tidy profit when we sell them.". They do not bill themselves or describe themselves as a holding company, but rather as investors. That right there says that they are looking for a money-making opportunity, not a new subsidiary.

So what happens? I think that Vista will probably hold on to SirsiDynix for at least 3 years, but probably no longer than 5--enough time to make substantive changes. I think item one on the to-do list will be phasing out either Unicorn or Horizon. I don't have deep enough industry knowledge to know whether Dan's 75% odds of Horizon being the survivor is accurate--as a soon-to-be Unicorn customer I hope not, but we have an un-blemished record to date of purchasing ILSes which disappear within 5-10 years, so... *shrug* In any case, I've certainly got some good questions for our next conference call. What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear if you think I'm talking out my butt here.

Thursday: a long-planned post/rant on Library 2.0 and the digital divide. See you then!

*3B works best if you're Warren Buffett, otherwise it's kinda iffy.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Now posted: ALL MY CHINA PICS!!!!

I know I don't normally post personal stuff on this blog, but enough people expressed interest in the photos from my recent trip to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai, China (September 2006) with my T'ai Chi class that I thought I'd make an exception. Thanks to an upgrade to Flickr Premium, I can now show all 583 pictures I took on my china trip--as well as some bonus shots of my apartment and a great picture of Tawnya, Queen of the Universe (aka my cat). If you'd like to see my vacation slides in their unexpurgated glory, click
right here

I'm slowly going through and adding descriptions, but it'll take me a few weeks to do them all. If you have a question on one of them, leave a comment here or under the picture in question, and I'll get back to you!


Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Plans for 2007

Hey everyone! I hope you had a lovely winter holiday and are ready for the start of the new semester! While I don't have any work resolutions per se, I thought I'd share my planned projects and goals for this year for my sundry areas of responsibility. Feel free to chime in too with your goals!

Access Services: In addition to all the typical "head of circ" tasks such as billing and inventory, My goal is to get ready for the Sirsi migration (go-live is in 2 1/2 months!!! it seemed like we just signed the contract!), specifically to redesign our workflows as appropriate, and to brainstorm a list of reports I'll want to create/run once we get the test load later this month and I can really play with the thing.

Distance learning: The constant thorn in my side known as our horrible VPN setup process has FINALLY been fixed! Huzzah to the IT department! (we don't thank those guys often enough...) With that annoyance off the plate, I hope to focus on building a really good distance learning website, complete with tutorials and helpful links geared to our remote learners, and maybe, just maybe, I can get IT to let us have a blog... :-)

Cataloging: In addition to helping our main cataloger keep up with the floods created by our new status as a government depository, I'm going to work with her to put together a new improved workflow that will take into account the changes Unicorn will bring, and which will also let us offload some more steps to student workers.

Reserve room: The reserve room program in unicorn versus our current ILS is so different that we've been advised to just delete our reserve records in the go-live and start fresh in march. It will be nice to have that area tidied up once and for all, but I expect we'll be spending most of the summer putting humpty dumpty back together again. Again though, this is an area where we'll be able to have our part-timers handle most of the grunt work. (Thank heaven for my wonderful student workers!!!)

Archives: I'm embarrassed to say that this area inevitably winds up at the bottom of the barrel because of it's low priority. I'm going to continue setting out displays every semester, as it has led to an increased interest in our special collections. One of the most popular areas of the archives is our semi-complete collection of school yearbooks, which stretch through our time as a Military academy, junior college (under two different names), and university (also under 2 different names). I have a stack of about 20 yearbooks, most with differing titles and from differing predecessor institutions, which I would like to get cataloged--and obviously, copy cataloging ain't an option here. I had planned to tackle those this week, but between an unexpected extra day off for Gerald Ford (all state offices were closed) and the aforementioned cataloging backlog, it's looking like it won't happen until may intersession (spring break is go-live on unicorn!).

Purchasing: I've made some changes to my workflow that will save me some time...I hope. the closest thing I have to a goal here is to keep looking for more efficient ways to handle this time suck.

Marketing: After the well-received cell phone poster I created a few months back (Still gotta get that up on flickr...), I got tasked to create a similar poster for our new resource sharing program we've started with the local public library. I also have to get information together for our spring semester book reviews and other events, and get that to the school's PR lady to put together the press releases.

Instruction: Spring semester nears, and my goal is to provide instruction services for every one of our orientation classes at our two remote campuses. I pulled this off last semester, so we'll see if I can get a streak going!

Professional development: And I've saved the best for last--my goals for this year is to get with a old grad school friend to start work on a research project we've been contemplating for over a year, and to update this blog every tuesday and thursday. I can't keep up with some of you guys who post dozens of articles a week, but I definitely want to make this blog something that is worth reading, and a part of the larger biblioblogging conversation. I also REALLY hope that I can figure a way to get to Internet Librarian again...we'll see what happens!

I hope you have a happy and productive 2007, and I want to thank all of you who read me regularly. It's an honor to be part of your reading list, and I hope that I provide good information on Distance Ed Librarianship, time management, and on all the other vagaries of our crazy profession.

Next Tuesday: My thoughts on the Sirsi/Dynix acquisition by Vista...