Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Classification And The Big River

I'm getting together a list of Canadian books to order for the library, and I'm checking to see if there's a recent novel I've missed. I go to Amazon.ca and navigate over to Books › Literature & Fiction › Canadian. The first book there is by Margeret Trudeau. Maybe this is sly commentary... No. A quick inventory of the first 50 titles: 32 are fiction (16 by Canadians, 6 of those by Kelly Armstrong), 18 are non-fiction (7 by Canadians). So clearly, no one takes the category that seriously.

If I go to Amazon.com and repeat the survey at Books › Literature & Fiction › World Literature › Canadian, at least the first 50 books are fiction. 16 are by Canadians, 6 by Lucy Maud Montgomery, who apparently makes good Kindling.

I'm always amused when people tell me how much they'd rather find books at Amazon than through library tools. It's fine if you know what you want, but it's a misery to browse. That could just be a function of size or that browsing requires human input which costs money. I don't know.

P.S. The new Chapters Indigo interface: what were they smoking when they designed it?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


The Canadian Library Association released its proposed future plan yesterday. In it, there's this paragraph:

In the past decade, the library landscape has changed tremendously. In this context, like many other library organizations, CLA has struggled. The Association has lost focus and has not always responded effectively to member expectations. Indeed, membership numbers have decreased to half as many as in 2000.

There's little in the plan about turning this around. Sure, there's a sentence about a membership drive. They'll be creating a "Corporate Member" category and revamping the "Institutional Member" fee structure. I don't think it's a question of the organization's focus. I think it's a question of the organization's utility.

I was a member of CLA years ago when I was student and being a member was cheap. I haven't thought about being a member in years because I haven't had any interest in going to the conference. I look at other organization's job boards. Other organizations have been better advocates for my interests.

CLA has to find out why membership has halved in the last ten years. If it's because librarians are finding the services you used to provide on the web, then all the membership drives and fee tweaking in the world aren't going to help.

I wish this were less harsh. I hope I'm wrong and you find the answers you're looking for.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Civic Duty

I don't pay much attention to local elections at the best of times, and these aren't the best of times. However, someone I used to work with sent me an email - not me personally, everyone in the university faculty I expect - to promote one of the candidates for mayor. So, I thought I should at least learn who were the candidates. A colleague had put up a useful site which directed to the local paper's listing of candidates.

One candidate doesn't have a web site, so I can write him off. It's 2010. If you can't be bothered to create a web site, I can't bothered to vote for you.

A second candidate wears heavy metal t-shirts on his site. He'd make the council meetings interesting. Still, if you can't be bothered to put on a collared shirt for your web site, I can't be bothered to vote for you. I'm old school that way.

Which leaves the mayor and the challenger. It comes down to: do I think the mayor has done a good job for the last eight years? I wish I had a good answer. I really do.

I don't think it's a good time to be a mayor. I'm not optimistic about the economy. The electorate is in no mood to pay more taxes and fees. I can't see why anyone would want the job. Civic duty, I guess.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is This Any Way To Run A Business?

I'm a librarian. Every so often I choose some Canadian books for our collection. About a month ago, someone from a small press I will not name sent an email to my director who forwarded the email to me. The person had checked our catalog and seen that while we had some books by one of their authors, we didn't have a book by this author from this publisher. The email suggested that we should correct that. And we will. What I don't understand is the economics involved. Someone had to spend the time to a) find our catalog, b) search the catalog, c) find my director's email and d) send the email. The goal of this effort was to get us to order a 13 dollar book. We're not going to order it directly from the publisher - because if we did that we'd drown in invoices. We'll order it from a wholesaler or a big bookstore. So the publisher's going to get a dollar for all this work. My guess: either the work was done by an unpaid intern or done by an employee whose salary is regarded as a sunk cost. I know no one runs a small press to make money, but I can't see how handselling single copies to libraries helps.

From The Top...

I'm trying this again. This time it will be mostly writing with the occasional bit of linking. I've deleted all the earlier posts, although you can find them somewhere else on the internet. Nothing ever completely disappears in the realm of electrons. I will try to write regularly, but I'm not going to stick to a schedule. The two posts a day schedule simply led to the link with a smart ass headline post, which were fun in their way but reductive. I'm trying to open a bit, which doesn't come naturally to me. Have some patience - it's an experiment.