Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Materiality of Periodicals

Greetings, Reader!

I write to you from the mid-way point of Spring Break, where the to-do list is not half way completed but Spring Break is half over.  Clearly, an opportune moment to blow the dust of this blog, having not even posted about our rousing defeat by USC Gleeson Library in the library shelfie contest a few months ago.  They were gracious winners and even sent a nice consolation prize in return.

No time for such light hearted librarianship today.  A convergence of data provider announcements and an actual reference inquiry converged in a mighty specific way early this morning, and an early burst of social media activity leads me to believe I might just get to 15 seconds of Internet Fame.

What am I talking about?  Scrolling this morning's twitter feed, I noticed this announcement from Dow Jones and quickly replied:

The Bookcharmer's reponse to DJ

I am a seasoned enough (i.e. old) librarian to remember a functional iteration for Dow Jones, before it was even called Factiva.  When a dear colleague and as yet unindicted co-conspirator trained me how to use the new version, she began by saying, "Take everything you know about Dow Jones and forget it.  It is not ever going to work the same way."

Truer words have really been spoken in libraryland.  Factiva has long been an inducer of eye-rolling.  Sure, it has specific uses, which is why we pay for the darned thing in first place, but it has not been keeping up with the user driven environment in which we live now.

Steady yourself, I'm about to praise Ebsco and Proquest.  Are you ready?

One of the most frequent things we look for in library land are specific holdings of periodicals.  I believe I have ranted previously about how we are paying for the same content in multiple places.   However, when it comes to some periodicals, we are forced to go to exactly one place.  This is the case of the periodical Bon Appetit and Factiva.

Why is this a big deal?  Look what happens when I go from our catalog holding indicating we have access to Factiva and what I get when I arrive at that site:

Catalog sez goes to Factiva

This what you get when you arrive:

Surprise!  This is where you go to do a search for a specific title.

Here's how to do that title search, don't go looking for a source search option in the search form:

I had reason to discover this dis-functionality because I had a reference question asking for assistance in locating this exact title.  On the very morning Dow Jones had announced "We are pleased to announce a series of enhancements to Factiva, designed to improve the overall user experience."  No wonder my patron couldn't find it!  I'm going to leave off with my Factiva disgruntlement here, except to say that vendors such as EbsQuest or ProCo and MuseStor and etc. are able to provide a stable URL to specific periodicals which we can use as links in our catalog to take patrons to the exact journal they wish to search you can too, DJ.

I'm going to set that particular grudge aside for the moment because a much bigger issue was raised for my hunt to find what my patron requested, which was a photo layout by a well known photographer she is researching.  In the end, the Factiva holdings of Bon Appetit would not have helped us at all, because it is a text only site.

The print periodical collection saved the day again.  Should I ask, Bon Appetit, how long it will be until you offer your backfiles, complete backfiles, for libraries to access electronically?  

Yes, these are unbound issues.  I'm not happy about that either.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's Shelfie Time!

Greetings Readers!

The Bookcharmer has been swept away by Social Media and is grabbing your hand to pull you along.  A friendly little competition between USF's Gleeson Library and the SJSU King Library has emerged in celebration of Library Shelfie Day!

Here's the breakdown:  if the #SpartanShelfie and #LibraryShelfie @SJSU gets more pictures posted on Twitter/Instagram tomorrow, SJSU Wins!

And we're going to win!  We have 8 stories and a Lower Level of collections, so charge up your cell phones, update your twitter and instagram account, and get ready to show our Spartan Pride!

I'm going to check in with my esteemed colleagues at USF Gleeson for the other rules and proprieties we should observe, but for now, please read their challenge on this phenomenon known as #LibraryShelfie:

What are the stakes, besides Spartan Pride and bragging rights?  Well, currently on the table:  USF ponies up with a nice box of Ghirardelli, we'd have to supply a tasty box of San Jose's own Schurra's chocolates should we somehow not manage to crash the internet with our #SpartanShelfies.

More details to come...but USF Gleeson?  We're partial to dark chocolate...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Bookcharmer wants to put the Current Back in Current Periodicals!

Greetings and welcome to 2014!

When, years before, you thought about a year such as 2014, did you imagine it one complete with technological ease and convenience?  Surely, we never thought of such things as igadgets and PlusPhones, but here we are.

What you and most certainly I did not expect was that the world of Current Periodicals would have found itself paralyzed, almost in a Polar Vortex, in a tightfisted grasp of greed.

What am I ranting about?  Well, here's a visual:

Yes, see there, that issue of the periodical Design Issues, Winter 2014.  It is now Winter 2014, am I right those parts of the country enduring the Polar Vortex?

So why can't I read it?  I want to read it.  Don't you, having seen the article title and abstract, also want to read about the relevance of Artisanship?

Well, you can't.   Unless you are a personal subscriber to this periodical.  You may very well be.  But if you are a student looking for articles for a researcher paper, perhaps you are not.

Well, why not go consult the print issue you might ask.  Possible if your academic library had not had to cancel the print version in 2004.

Academic libraries, and our students and faculty, have been on the painful horns of this dilemma for too long.  Faced with increased costs for online access, we've had to cut every other place possible.   So publishers, it is time we have a Family Meeting about this particular practice.

The previous issues of this journal are available in several databases to which my institutions subscribes.  See the following list:

So, we're not only paying you for the content, we're paying you multiple times for the same content, because, for those of you who don't already know, five of those databases on the list are owned by the same company.  Yup.


So, what is it going to take?  We really pay for the same content more than two times if you consider the fact that if a student or faculty member decides yes, I really do want to read that article and places a request through InterLibrary Services, my library pays a fee to get it.  (I'll gloss over the fact that we paid for the intellectual content for the back issues, since I get that we are now paying for the electronic hosting and 24/7 online access of said back issues.)

But I'm tired of my library having to pay for the same content multiple times while vendors of database packages continue to raise the prices while withholding current content.  Stop it.

Reader, if you need more facts and figures just google the phrase "cost of periodicals" but have a nice pillow in your lap for when your jaw drops.

Vendors, we can make this happen.  When I teach students how to effectively search databases for relevant information, I don't want to try to explain why the most recent information is not present.  Trust me, you don't want me explaining that in public.

Instead, make 2014 the year we all fall back in love.  Let the word "embargoed" apply no more to current periodical content.   Put the Current back in Current Periodicals!  That's all I want.  Valentine's Day is just around the corner!

The Bookcharmer.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reading and Memory


I wrote earlier this week about a project I'm very enthusiastic about, and if you are interested in seeing this documentary it is not to late to support this project!  Here's the link again:

Supporting literacy is more important than ever, because the requirements of navigating an increasing digital world are based on first being literate.  But what of memory?  How do we remember what we have read, and how do we know it will come back to us when we need that knowledge?

The qualities of my memory have been commented on by various acquaintances.  It's true, one must have a good memory to be a good librarian.  Of course, a love of office supplies and liberal use of them is an excellent supplement to memory.  But what of cultural memory, regional memory?

I write today because of a social media explosion happening over on a site called ValleyWag, demonstrating that one is free to write whatever one likes on the Internet, but you are also painting a huge target for responses.  Check it out for yourself

I gave up reading the comments after just a few minutes as one of the other aspects of social media is a toxic level of vitriol.  Instead, I decided to reflect on something that I read many years ago when I lived in South Carolina.  This was in the early 1990s, and the city of Columbia and the state was mired in a discussion about what to do with the Conferederate Flag on the Capitol building, which had not, as some claimed, "been there since the Civil War."  It had in fact, been put back up on the Capitol in the 1960s as an insult to the Civil Rights movement.

A long time civil rights activist, Mrs. Modjeska Simpkins was quoted as saying, ""Oh, let them wave their old rag. That way you know what's in peoples' hearts." I was struck then as I am now by the wisdom in this statement.  It isn't often you get people to admit their true hearts, so when they do it is a watershed moment that calls for reply.

The uproar about Mr.  Gopman's comments is justified, but that outrage needs to translate into support for the necessary infrastructure for a city to be a healthy and beautiful place.  Fortunately, we have an available wealth of knowledge.  The reading won't be easy.  The history of de-instituionalizing the mentally ill in the 1970s.  The criminalization/stigmatization of mental illness that has long been a hallmark of so many societies, including this one.   The number of U.S. Veterans that are currently homeless.

If you could pick two readings or narratives that everyone in your city could read or see that would provide historical context about homelessness and solutions, what would those titles be?  It can be a novel or non-fiction or a film or documentary. Perhaps you'd even like to make sure Jimmy Santiago Baca's story of survival in our cruel country is produced by contributing to the Kickstarter.   Give me your ideas in the comments.

Can reading and viewing be the shared cultural/regional memory that can, please, stop us from being careless and stupid?  If relentless advertising and cruelly shrewd marketing lure us into buying objects of status and convenience, can film and literature roar back in a whiplash of knowledge?

Meanwhile, I'm pleased to introduce you to Mrs. Modjeska Monteith Simkins

Oral History with Modjeska Simpkins:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Dear Reader,

In 2002, I heard Jimmy Santiago Baca speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book.  If you ever have a chance to hear this poet in person, you must go.  His voice is being amplified by a documentary about his life, which I'm going to ask you to support at the end of this post.  For now, I want to talk a little about poetry, literacy, and glitter.

Yes, we are in a glittering world, a glittering season right now, so much sparkling at us that any hard truths are trampled like flyers on a sidewalk, dropped from uncaring hands.  OED says the first definition of the verb glitter is "To shine with a brilliant but broken and tremulous light"; Milton's use of glitter as a noun in 1667 reads "With what permissive glory since his fall Was left him, or false glitter."

The poetry I love the most is the poetry of honesty and appreciation.  Pablo Neruda's Odes to Common Things.  Marge Piercy's blessing the day, Lucillle Clifton blessing the boats.  Give me an ode to socks, the dictionary, a strong woman's hips.  Tell me a poem that will heat up my core, blow out the cobwebs taking over my soul, and infuse me with joy I am compelled to share.

Jimmhy Santiago Baca is a poet of honesty and appreciation.  His story is a more American story than ever, as the statistics show our alarming propensity for imprisoning our own citizens and our inability to provide effective, generous instruction in the foundation of democracy, literacy.

I have a clear memory of not yet knowing how to read.  My doting and book loving parents had showered my sister and I with books and letters from the beginning of our existence.  One evening, my sister read the Three Billy Goats Gruff aloud to us.  She was highly praised.  I picked up the book to also read it aloud and get my piece of the praise pie.  My mother gently explained I was telling the story, but that wasn't the same as reading it.  Click, click, click went my little mind...I don't remember exactly when I did learn to read, but I clearly remember understanding the difference between telling and reading, and knowing that I very much wanted to be able to read.

My childhood was one of trips to the library, books in the house.  My parents can still recite every word of Green Eggs and Ham, so don't get them started if you can't stay for the whole performance.  I remember my elementary school library with its endless biographies, all bound in the same blue and yellow covers, a life inside each book.  I remember my junior high school library and the wonderful librarian there, Mrs. Linda Walker, who inspired me to be a librarian because in that whole school, she was my favorite person to talk to, and there she was, always, in that room full of books.

Shouldn't every child have a wealth of books in their life?  Our country is so wealthy right now, it thinks it is poor.  The bankers who sent so many spiralling into homelessness since the execrable financial criminality of the mid-2000s are not in prison, yet so many people who the country failed are in prisons.

Don't feel despair, I have something for you to do.  What if you could hear from a poet who not only lived the experience of illiteracy and imprisonment, but survived it?  What if you could share his message through a documentary.  Well, you can.  Here's the project:

A Place To Stand:

Hear from poet Jimmy Santiago Baca and filmmaker Daniel Glick.  Retrieve your bank card and contribute as richly as you can, then share this link with all the other people you know who support literacy and poetry.

Then reward yourself with some poetry, maybe a trip to an independent bookstore, a library, your own bookshelf.

Thank you.

The Bookcharmer.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Bold Bookcharmer, Or, Who Can Introduce Me to Sebastian Thrun?


I sighed heavily when I signed into this blog, wincing that the last post was quite some time ago.  The storm tossed semester at Bookcharmer's university made the days pass in a wild fashion.  Today, I charm from my personal lair, where, after a restorative day off, I am again prepared to make bold statements.

Today, I proclaim I am not going to give up on the idea of making educational content widely and freely available to as many people as possible.

I will work to get the attention of content distributors, be they profit or non-profit, and promote libraries as sites and supporters of content distribution.

In short, Udacity, EdX, and other MOOCs, you need librarians!  Who can introduce me to Sebastian Thrun?

I wrote earlier in this storm-tossed semester about the need to find ways to encourage new ideas and practices instead of stomping them flat.  Apparently, I needed to say it a little louder and get more people on board with it.  But I also needed to speak up sooner about how libraries in the Bay Area would have been natural partners to help students enrolled in SJSU+.

Here's the thing:  we are perfectly poised to help lifelong learners at whatever stage they are because that is what we already do.  And we are aware of the severe lack of the technological infrastructure available here in what's it called Valley.  That's where we come in, as libraries aim to be the physical and virtual location of lifelong learning.

I want to see more people prepared for learning, to make it easier for them not only to log on to a course from a convenient place but to know about free, open access, credible sources when they have personal information needs about health, money, or poetry.  Supporting distance learning is incredibly complex work.  However, my campus not only has experts in this, they also know how to teach faculty how to become skilled at online teaching.  Have a look at this accomplishment as described here:

So Professor Thrun, let me offer some encouragement and a sliver of advice.  Please do not stop working towards making education more accessible.  Please do consort with librarians (we're delightful!) and partner with us because together, we will be unstoppable!

The Bookcharmer

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Happy Birthday King Library!

It's the first day of Fall Semester, so naturally the Bookcharmer is feeling festive.  The beginning of the Academic Year has all sorts of reasons for giddiness--the clean slate, the new faces, the return of familiar faces, and we are somewhat rested for the summer and ready to meet new challenges.  I have an extra and extra special reason to be feeling festive at the beginning of this particular Academic Year:  it is the 10th Anniversary of the merged Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, a partnership between the San Jose State University and the City of San Jose Public Library.

We're going to be celebrating in fine style.  All the events are listed here:

When you visit this website, you'll likely notice right away the lovely watercolor of the building in the background.  One of the inspired ideas of the planning committee for the 10th Anniversary was to ask students of Art Professor Gale Antokal to paint their visions of the library.  Their creative output has delighted us.

You can see all the works online at: and we'll also be featuring a selection of the paintings in our new 4th floor exhibit space in September.

What I find so pleasing about these watercolors is how they illustrate the artists' individual visions of the light and energy and captivating scenes that are part of this building.  This is my library, but this is your library, too.  Anyone is free to come in the doors, and that foundation of openness and equality is one of the reasons I am proud to be a librarian here.

Now, lest you think I've abandoned my soapbox about subject headings, before we turn to our calendars to start writing in the dates of all the festive events listed on the 10th anniversary website, it is time for a brief but iconic example of the power of subject headings.  Ready?

Curiosity piqued, we click on Watercolor Painting as a subject heading and are rewarded with, my favorite, subdivided subject headings!

Happy Birthday, King Library!  Celebrating your past, present, and future is a very festive beginning to the semester.