When a college takes the music library of a college radio station.

Music Library. by Pitseleh Pitseleh
Music Library., a photo by Pitseleh Pitseleh on Flickr.

Earlier this week @LibrarySherpa sent me this article about UT Austin accepting and processing the KUT music library.

Thanks to its purchase of the entire physical library of the university’s public-radio station, KUT, the university’s Fine Arts Library has 60,000 CDs and 4,000 LPs to process and store—400 boxes’ worth. The archive comprises music of all genres, including albums by little-known bands that were at one time or another part of Austin’s long-thriving music scene.

My initial thoughts were:
1 – That’s a small collection.
2 – How will the DJs use it if it’s circulating with the whole campus?

Then I finished reading the whole article. KUT is now a news and talk station, so the collection is fairly useless to them. As for the logistics, in a normal year the UT library processes donations of 800 CDs and 4,000 LPs. This makes the KUT collection a bit of a stretch. Will be interesting to see how it pans out despite my concerns about the future of college radio.

This isn’t the first time something like this happened in Texas. In 2010 Rice University sold the license for KTRU to University of Houston, which turned it into a classical radio station, effectively killing KTRU. Thankfully (?) their music library is now part of the Rice archives.

Closer to home, the University of San Francisco sold its FCC license for KUSF to USC so that now in the Bay Area 90.3 FM is also a classical music station. KUSF lives on via online streaming and the library is intact.

This all interests and concerns me as I’m co-director of the KALX music library. We have a collection of about 100,000 pieces of music — 45% LPs, 45% CDs, 10% 7″s. We’ve been collecting records since we started in 1962 and throw nothing out. If a KALX DJ says we should keep it, we do. The value of the collection is not only the size and the breadth, but also the reviews and comments scrawled on almost every record and CD. This is the history of KALX. Our copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind has a dialog about “selling out”, the grunge explosion, and the role of college radio. For some reason the original Star Wars soundtrack was also contentious. While it would be interesting to open this up to the public, it’s a working collection for the DJs, and the primary value is it being at the DJs’ ready at all times. KALX has a culture that really appreciates this, almost revering the library as a sacred collection, which is why theft is so low. KALX is an atypical college radio station in many respects, but the library is one of the better ones. If by a cruel twist of fate we become a classical station, I would hope the main library would take the collection, but I really hope that day never comes.

DIY Cohort: Professional networking online to keep you sane.

First, watch the full 58 minutes of this Stax Volt Revue from 1967. Then read this post.

Today I stumbled across this blog post from Inky Reviews about building her own community on Twitter while getting her MLIS online. She used it to build her community and engage with the profession in lieu of face to face relationships over sugar cookies in a physical class.

I covered this topic a 5 years ago, but I think it’s a good time to revisit since things are always changing and I’m definitely not the librarian I was back then. Well… not entirely.

Knowing people in online and “meating” them is pretty standard now. It’s not like it was back in 2006 when I flew to the UK to stay with a friend I met on a weird message board. We lied when I met his friends and sister that we had a mutual friend who I met on study abroad. The stigma’s largely gone. My conference roommates are my colleagues from Twitter. In fact, I’ve used Twitter a lot to work on stuff for SLA. It’s really helped me keep on top of what’s going on across the association (and with other library associations), and helped me forge partnerships (and friendships) that probably wouldn’t have happened any other way.

It’s also really helped me find a cohort within transportation. It’s still weird to think about how when I joined Twitter, it was nothing but a bunch of librarians. Now there’s a huge and vibrant transportation community on there, and it’s made going to transportation conferences way more fun and engaging. For one, it’s helped me meet people beyond the libraries and beyond my local group, so I get different perspectives. For another, more people to get coffee with. Oh how much that matters.

So yeah, I built a cohort for myself on the internet that serves me well off it. I encourage everybody to try it, or at least be open to it. The thing I sometimes worry about is that it’s not for everybody. I can extol the virtues of live Tweeting conferences, using it for random polls, and helping people out, but I also know a lot of people just won’t take to it. That’s fine. Yeah, they’re missing out but I also know there are lots of other venues of networking out there, and I’m definitely missing out – fancy dinners, whatsapp, tumblr, whatever the kids do these days.

But to you, my Twitter friends, thanks for keeping me sane and connected. I’ll pay you back with puns and music videos.



How do you define access in scholarly publishing?

academic journals by davidsilver
academic journals, a photo by davidsilver on Flickr.

I’m taking this time before the semester and the TRB Annual Meeting and SLA Leadership to whip some data into shape.

I’m analyzing the citations from our PhD students’ dissertations from the past 5 years. I hope to learn something about our collection development (is it on target?), how many citations each paper has, the age of the citations, and how do they use Open Access material?

I’m stalled with defining “access”.

If somebody cites an article in a legit journal (say, Australasian Transport Theories) from a well regarded, big subscription publisher (say, Springer) which is freely available on the web (not through the publisher), how do you define the access? Say this example isn’t Open Access. It’s just a good old well intentioned but not quite legal PDF on the web. For my research, how do I define these citations?

It’s a tricky thing because I feel like I know too much. I know the grad students just look to see if they can find the text and don’t much worry about whether or not the paper should be available on that site. Of course this behavior makes them think that sort of thing is OK and then they do it. Not to say I don’t agree with them, but as I said, I know too much. I know that they probably didn’t clear it with the publisher. That’s assuming the PDF came from an author. Often, it just is out there.

That said though… I’d rather see these sort of things out in the open. But how do I define access? What’s better? Something of dubious origin crawled by Google bots or a box of old journals in the corner? I think we know the answer.

I can’t hear you, you’re not prestigious enough: Thoughts on Open Access and respected, white men.

1950s Ted in office by BigJohnWingMan
1950s Ted in office, a photo by BigJohnWingMan on Flickr.

This post isn’t so much about Open Access (OA) so much as it is about people talking about Open Access.

The OA movement has gained traction recently. The OSTP Memo has definitely helped raise awareness in some circles and given it weight. People are starting to pay attention and get more familiar with OA issues.

Like anything that starts to become popular, it’s sort of annoying to see who is recognized as the leaders of the group. For a group of people, the voice of OA was Jeffrey Beall, well known for Beall’s List of predatory OA publishers. (Yes, it always had his name in it – important marketing tool.)

I’ve never understood Beall’s appeal other than he wasn’t too radical, he was a respectable, older, white, male librarian (therefore perceived authority), and he is great at self promotion. He’s a hype machine, and while I didn’t really agree with him and his tactics, I didn’t feel any point in calling him out because nobody would listen to me and he got people talking about OA.

Thankfully this week other well regarded people (also white men) called him out. First was Michael Eisen (Berkeley professor and co-founder). Then Roy Tennant. Soon Beall’s star had fallen and Scholarly Kitchen cut ties with him. (Not that Scholarly Kitchen is a great place for OA.)

For a great perspective on this, read the Library Loon’s character assessment.

I’m thankful for Eisen’s blog post so that I can point to something next time people try to get me excited about Beall’s list, and tell them, “This is why I don’t care what he has to say or support him.” It’s concise and people will pay attention. It’s just frustrating that for many people, it took people like Eisen and Tennant calling Beall out to do something about it. This isn’t anything against them (I personally think they’re both pretty awesome), but it’s against the collective whole. Start paying attention to people beyond the big names. Stop dismissing people who reference blogs (gasp!) or people you’re not familiar with. Especially if you’re a librarian/info pro, you know how to find this stuff. I understand it’s hard staying up to date on everything, but only looking towards the establishment does stifle conversation. Thankfully we have people like Eisen and Tennant who pay attention to the fringe conversations.

Peer Review is full of excuses

No Excuses by LowerDarnley
No Excuses, a photo by LowerDarnley on Flickr.

Is peer review broken?

Probably, but it’s sort of all we have. We’re stuck with it. There problems are varied: long and vague turnaround times, the lack of transparency, and the need for incentives other than good feelings and prestige.

I just tried my hand at shepherding the peer review process for a conference, and let me just say… it sucked. I appreciate how broken the system is. The problem is us.

We all know we have to do it in some form. We need to write and publish. That means we need to be reviewers as well. It’s collegial. The problem is nobody has the time. We have the time to write. We have the time to sit in meetings and conference calls. We have the time to talk about the need for peer-review and furthering the academic discourse, but we don’t have time to review and comment papers.

I sent out the review reminders. I emailed the reviewers. I got silence. Or I got excuses. I messed up. Part of me is mad at myself for even trying, but that’s just giving up. This is on my shoulders, but really it’s a collective problem. Telling me after the deadline that you are unable to review is little better than saying nowt. Submitting papers and then begging off as too busy to review others hinders the process.

This is why I like blogging. The discussion is open, transparent, and has far fewer hurdles.

So to the reviewers who got the job done on time – thank you. To those who filled in at the last minute – thank you. Everybody else, well… this is one reason I hate peer review. I will only do it again if it’s with a bunch of faculty who can pass papers off onto their grad students, because librarians aren’t cutting it.