Pascal’s place


Views on technology and libraries

Meeting summary: Chinese Academy of Sciences Library

Today we had meetings with the executive staff of the National Science Library of China (NSLC), Chinese Academy of Sciences library, in Beijing. NSLC is the public library service system of CAS, as well as the National Library of Sciences in the Chinese National Sciences and Technology Libraries (NSTL) system. Under a Board of Trustees appointed by CAS, NSLC consists of a Main Library (based in Beijing, formerly the Library of CAS) and three branch libraries.

NSLC functions as the key library nationally, for collecting information resources and providing information services in natural sciences, inter-disciplinary fields, and high tech fields, to researchers and students of CAS and for researchers around the country. It also conducts services such as information analysis, digital library system development, scientific publication (with its 14 journals), and promotion of sciences. It also operates the Archives of CAS.

NSLC has a staff over 370, and a collection of about 11.5 million items. In recent years, it has acquired or developed more than 30 databases, covering over 5,000 foreign STM full text journals, 11,000 Chinese full text journals, 80,000 foreign theses and dissertations, 180,000 e-books, and an increasing numbers of full text proceedings and reference books, all of which are accessible from 108 CAS Institutes in over 32 cities in China. NSLC provides an interlibrary loan system, connecting every CAS institute, as well as connecting to NSTL and major academic libraries. In addition, NSLC has developed many innovative services and tools, such as cross-database searching, integrated journal browsing, online reference, subject portals, remote and mobile authentication, and the ScienceChina system, that incorporates abstracts, citations, and full text of key Chinese scientific literature.

There were a number of striking things with this meeting. First, the Executive Director of the NSLC was completely fluent in English, having been educated with an MLS and Ph.D. at Columbia University’s library school back in the late 1980s. He gave an excellent presentation on “Toward Knowledge-Based Information Professionals”, which outlined the NSLC’s programmes and capability in two periods, first from 2001-2006 and second, since that time. The NSLC supports 30,000 scientists and 40,000 graduate students in the areas of basic sciences, life sciences, geologic science, and technology, and provides a sophisticated suite of services to these clientele. They build scientometric analysis systems and services, current awareness, federated searching, a union catalog representing over 500 libraries in China, embedded library services and librarians (although these subject librarians do not have library science credentials) in China’s many scientific institutes, and a number of sophisticated desktop integration and other user point-of-need systems and services.

I was very impressed with the breadth and sophistication of the services offered, and it was interesting that they are very focused and intentional in serving the needs of scientists with the goal of helping them identify and innovate in new areas of research across these disciplines. They have both subject specialists as well as information analysts, and 93% of their subject specialists have science/technology/medicine (STM) backgrounds,with over 70% of them having Masters or Ph.D. subject degrees, and an even higher percentage of these for the information analysts. The one major difference these have from North American research libraries is the fact that these subject librarians and information analysts are not required to have library science degrees. It seems in North American academic libraries, we are much more concerned with having the library science credential and people socialized into the profession, and here in China they are much more outcomes oriented in terms of maximizing the contribution and sophistication of service that these subject specialists have on the research enterprise. I sometimes wonder if academic librarians in our institutions would be more credible if we had advanced subject degrees; it seems like here they can and are, so the question to ask is for some of our subject disciplines that are particularly complex, should an MLS be required over a candidate who has advanced subject degrees and still some socialization into the library profession?

The NSLC also is very outcomes oriented, which surprised me. Merit increases are tied to the success of the scientists that the subject specialists/information analysts serve,and if goals are not met, then their job isnot thought to be complete, and they must continue to work on this.

All of this has compelling implications for innovation in science & technology for China. It is interesting that these resources are being focused on enabling research outcomes.I think that our national science libraries focus more on collecting scholarly and research resources and providing access to them. The National Library here has this but focuses on making science happen much more intentionally. The thought of a nation of 1 billion focused on scientific innovation outcomes will pose a significant challenges to the more developed G8 nations, I can imagine.

We also spent time in discussing future collaboration between the NSLC and ASIS&T (Nancy Roderer is a Past President of ASIS&T) and SLA (one of our delegates is current President of SLA), and of staff exchanges between China and the United States. Some wonderful opportunities here for US libraries to host Chinese professionals!

Tomorrow we have two visits: the China Science & Technology Information Institute in the morning, and the College of Information Science & Technology at Beijing Normal University in the afternoon.


Filed under: librarianship, travel reports

Finally in Beijing!

We finally arrived in Beijing after an 11 hour 20 minute flight from San Francisco on one of United’s 747s. It actually went faster than I thought it might, although I am pretty close to zombiehood right now, with my body being up for going on 19 hours. Maybe its also the ozone I’ve been sucking in since arrival. The Beijing airport is impressive, hugely impressive, even. On the plane was an interesting Discovery Channel segment on a massive 3,340 ft bridge completed about a year ago in Hong Kong, called the Stonecutter’s Bridge. China seems to really revel in engineering feats. This bridge is one example; the massive Beijing airport, which is apparently the world’s largest by some measure, is another. Beijing has a population of 18 million with four million cars (hence the pollution), and Shanghai has 19 million. Next week in Shanghai, we’ll be stopping by the Shanghai 2010 Expo grounds, which open May 1st.

For now, I sip my Tsingtao and contemplate a nap before dinner.

Filed under: librarianship, travel reports

People to People delegation on “Educating the Information Professions” in China

So, last October I received a letter inviting me to be a part of a delegation of library and information science practitioners and teaching faculty that would be visiting with colleagues in China to discuss “educating the information professions” in our respective countries. This was proposed and being led by Nancy Roderer, Director of the Welch Biomedical Library at Johns Hopkins University, who happens to be my first mentor and Director that I worked for (at Yale’s medical library, back in 1995-1997), fresh out of library school. Wow, what an opportunity, but how to come up with the money for this in a short time frame?

So I wrote a grant proposal to the in-house grant program that we have at the Hesburgh Libraries at Notre Dame, which provides funding for research in librarianship for its library faculty. I proposed to study and contrast the formal and informal education of systems librarians in the United States and Canada with those of China. Those of us in the sub-discipline of systems librarianship know how much of an ad-hoc process it can be to actually get into this role in libraries, and despite more technology focus than ever before in LIS programs, we still talk much about the ‘accidental systems librarian’, one who through a confluence of technical skills, learning ability, intellectual curiosity and need, gravitates towards roles in providing support for library computing infrastructure in the institutions in which we serve. I’m intrigued whether this has been formalized any more in professional programs than when I went through my studies (McGill MLIS ’95). I’ve also been reading up on the idea of ‘communities of practice’, and I think there are some excellent examples of where communities within the sub-discipline of systems librarianship come together and organically form themselves into an intentional community of practice, where the informal education along with a group of peers bridges the gap between the formal education one receives in MLS and related programs, and the practical hard and soft skills one needs to be a successful systems librarian, for example in a higher education institution in North America.

Take the Code4Lib community, for example, a group of library computing professionals (not all degreed librarians, which is important to note) that are engaged with the possibility and practice of leveraging open source software to provide solutions for library needs. This is quite an interesting ‘community of practice’ in that it grew up organically from within systems librarianship, first with a mailing list, and IRC channel and a website, and then with a major national annual meeting that regularly sells out and has more recently spawned a whole host of regional Code4Lib meetings through the US, Canada and Europe.

So what is so interesting about all of this? Well, for one there continues to be a dearth of published research on the topic of systems librarianship. Its important to understand the role of systems librarians within the context of libraries and where they can best contribute, particularly when technology approaches in libraries seems to be accelerating. We have a handful of good books on the subject, beginning with Tom Wilson’s excellent 1998 work “The Systems Librarian: Designing Roles, Defining Skills” and Rachel Singer Gordon’s more recent “The Accidental Systems Librarian”, and then perhaps a dozen articles, but that’s pretty much it. Tom’s work posits that there have been systems librarians since the last 1960s and although they have had various titles, they have cluster of important characteristics, skills and roles within libraries, and as technology changes the titles change but the raison d’etre for the position remains largely the same: enabling the use of technology to support the mission of the library and the communities in which the library serves.

The combination of examining these questions within the context of a rapidly emergent nation such as China, and the increasingly significant state-directed information industry there seemed even more interesting to me. If we have developed some of these norms of defining what the sub-discipline of systems librarianship over the course of the past 40 years in North America, what is the experience of this like in China, where modern library and information science only began following the ‘Great Reforms’ of the 1980s in deconstructing the Cultural Revolution period (1966-1975) which severely damaged higher education institutions in China. To what extent are the roles of the equivalent of systems librarians in Chinese libraries equivalent to those of their colleagues in North America, and what is the mix of formal and informal education for successful members of these roles, and to what extent are there communities of practice around systems librarianship in China?

I’ll be exploring these issues on my visit to China with the delegation, April 17-26 in our visits to six library organizations and schools in Beijing and Shanghai. I will document and share my thoughts as much as I can here throughout this trip, and welcome your comments and insights as I do so.

Filed under: librarianship, travel reports

Classical Cafe, 2/17/10 noon-1:00 pm WSND 88.9 FM Notre Dame, IN

Dmitry Shostakovich
Jazz Suite no.1
Russian State Symphony Orchestra; cond.: Dmitry Yablonsky
Naxos Classics (2002) 8.555949

Jacques Ibert
Piece romantique
Francaise: ‘Guitarre’ pour le piano
Le vents dans les ruines
Hae-won Chang, piano
Naxos Classics (1992) 8.554720

Leopold Hoffman
Flute Concerto in G major
Nicholaus Esterhazy Sinfonia; cond.: Bela Drahos
Naxos Classics (2000) 8.554748

Filed under: Uncategorized, ,

Jazz Traditions 2/15/2010 10pm – midnight 88.9FM WSND Notre Dame, IN

Patricia Barber
Live A Fortnight in France (2004)
Blue Note 78213
Dansons La Gigue!
Blue Prelude
Norwegian Wood
Call Me

Ron Carter
When Skies Are Gray (2000)
Blue Note 30754
Loose Change
Besame Mucho
Que Pasa
Cubano Chant
Mi Tiempo

Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke (1974)
Nemperor NE431, Atlantic (Eu)W50485
Vulcan Princess
Yesterday Princess
Lopsy Lu
Spanish Phases for Strings and Bass
Life Suite

Filed under: Uncategorized, ,

Jazz Traditions, 2/1/2010 10:00 pm – Midnight WSND 88.9FM

Boy, some real gems here tonight! We start off with Oscar Peterson and a great orchestra with songs from Nat “King” Cole. Oscar sings them all and he has a great voice!

Oscar Peterson Orchestra
“With Respect to Nat”
Limelight Records, 1965.
When my sugar walks down the street
It’s only a paper moon
Walkin’ my baby back home
Sweet Lorraine
Little girl
Gee baby ain’t I good to you
Orange colored sky
Straighten up and fly right
Calypso blues
What can I say after I say I’m sorry
Easy listening blues

Next up, one of my favorite Milt Jackson performances, here recorded live in 1965 at MoMA in NYC. James Moody on flute and other reeds, Ron Carter on bass, Cedar Walton, piano and Candy Finch on drums accompany my fave vibes player, Mr. Milt Jackson.

Milt Jackson
“At the Museum of Modern Art”
Limelight (1965)
The quota
Simplicity & beauty
Flying saucer

We complete the show with a fine live set from 2003, Benny Green (Piano) and Russel Malone (Guitar). Mellow and sweet, as is the night!

Benny Green & Russell Malone
“Jazz at The Bistro”
Telarc (2003)
Ask me now
Tale of the fingers
A bientot
When lights are low
Killing me softly
How deep is your love?
The intimacy of the blues

Filed under: WSND, ,

Jazz Traditions, January 25, 2010 10:00pm – midnight WSND 88.9FM — playlist

Ray Brown Trio
“Walk On” (2000) Telarc
Stella By Starlight

Allan Botchinsky & Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen
“Duologue” (1987) M-A Music [Germany]
The Bench
My One and Only Love
St. Louis Blues
Love Waltz
Samba Petite
Tre sma soldater
I’ve Got Another Rhythm
Flamingo Struttin’
Subconscious Lee
Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair

Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny
“Beyond the Missouri Sky” (1997) Polygram
Waltz for Ruth
Our Spanish Love Song
Message to a Friend
Two for the Road
First Song
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Precious Jewel
He’s Gone Away
The Moon Song
Tears of Rain
Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme)
Cinema Paradiso (Main Theme)

Filed under: WSND, ,

FUDCon Toronto 2009: Day 1, Part 1

A bit late, but finally have some time to post about the Fedora Users’ and Developers’ Conference, aka FUDCon, which was recently held in the Seneca College buildings on the York University campus, in north Toronto.

Apart from attending the Fedora Ambassador Day at Ohio Linux Fest 2008 in Columbus, this was the first ‘official’ Fedora event I’d ever attended, and didn’t know quite what to expect. There were an amazing number of people attending from across North America and quite a few from Europe as well, so I knew this was going to be a great learning opportunity and chance to contribute!

The York campus is pretty large, but well-marked and after driving around a bit I was able to locate the parking garage behind the York Lanes mini-mall. A short walk south a bit and in to the Seneca @ York building.

I happened to meet Mel Chua from the Red Hat Community Team and she got me my nametag and t-shirt. I was just in time for the barcamp pitches that would be the focus of the first day.

Wow! That was really the line for the barcamp pitches?! There must have been 40-50+ people in line, waiting to give their 30-second summary of what they wanted to present that day. I’d been to one barcamp before, but it was nothing like the size of this, and it was amazing really to see how this model can scale to a meeting with 175+ people. It was really great to put faces to names that we see on the Fedora lists and in the Fedora Weekly News beats each week. The sessions were broken down into two tracks: User and Developer. This offered a nice mixture of general to specific, novice to advanced topic sessions, and with such a variety that it would be hard to choose what to actually attend!

As people finished their pitches, they passed their one page sheets to get posted outside the room on the wall, where people could vote on the sessions. Considering each proposal that we’d heard, all the attendees placed a mark on the sessions that they thought were worth having from a broad perspective, not just what they planned to personally attend. A bit of controlled chaos here, as folks were released into the hallway to vote a couple rows of seats at a time. Next, after everyone had voted, the sessions that had the most votes were placed on another wall, into the schedule for the day! There were about 10 concurrent sessions, running 50 minutes each from 11:00 am through 6:00 pm with an hour for lunch. A lot of the sessions were team-presented, really showing the collaborative community that is Fedora, and also leveraging different and complementary skill sets that co-presenters brought to the session.

The schedule went up on the wiki, so both attendees and remote folks could see what sessions were going on in which room at what time for the remainder of the day.

We had five rooms on the first floor of the building and then another 4-5 on the second floor.

Attendees were encouraged to live transcribe the meeting on IRC channels that were set up for each room, which was an interesting way to engage remote attendees in each of the sessions. Fedora uses something called zodbot on the fedora* channels on, which allows one to record a meeting and have log files automatically output to a location where they can be linked to to more widely share. A great idea, as this essentially documents the Con as we go along through the schedule with very little effort!

Tomorrow I’ll get into the rest of FUDCon Toronto 2009 Day 1. Stay tuned!

Filed under: fedora,

Jazz Traditions, 2009-11-30, 10:00 pm – 12:00 am WSND 88.9FM

Modern Jazz Quartet – Third Stream Music (1960)
1. Da Capo
2. Fine
3. Exposure
4. Sketch
5. Conversation
Milt Jackson: Vibraphone; Jim Hall: Guitar; John Richard Lewis: Piano; Connie Kay: Drums; Percy Heath: Bass; Bill McColl: Clarinet; Manuel Zegler: Bassoon; Paul Ingraham: French Horn; Bo Di Domenica: Flute; Jimmy Giuffre: Calrinet, Tenor Sax; Gerald Tarack: Violin; Joe Tekula: Cello; Betty Glamin: Harp

Theolonious Monk – Brilliant Corners (1957)
1. Brilliant Corners
2. Ba-lue Bolviar Ba-lues-are
3. Pannonica
4. I Surrender, Dear
5. Bemsha Swing
Theolonious Monk: Piano; Sonny Rollins: Saxophone; Clark Terry: Trumpet; Ernie Henry: Saxophone; Oscar Pettiford & Paul Chambers: Bass; Max Roach: Drums

Wayne Shorter – Night Dreamer (1964)
1. Night Dreamer
2. Oriental Folk Song
3. Virgo
4. Black Nile
5. Charcoal Blues
6. Armageddon
Wayne Shorter: Saxophone; Lee Morgan: Trumpet; McCoy Tyner: Piano; Reggie Workman: Bass; Elvin Jones: Drums

Filed under: WSND, ,

Classical Cafe, 11/26/2009 12:00-1:00 PM, WSND 88.9FM, Notre Dame, IN

Henry Purcell
1. Sonata no.3 in D minor (1683)
2. Sonata no.4 in F major (1683)
Sonatas of Three Parts (1995)
Editions de L’Oiseau-Lyre 444 449-2

Aaron Copland
1. Scherzo Humoristique: The Cat and Mouse (1920)
2. In Evening Air (1966)
3. Midday Thoughts (1944, 1982)
Complete Music for Solo Piano (1994)
Performed by Leo Smit, Piano

Ludwig van Beethoven
1. String Quartet in F minor, Op. 95 “Serious”
Living Quartets, Op.18, no.4, Op.95, Op.135
Performed by the Tokyo String Quartet
BMG Classics 0926-68038-2

Filed under: WSND, ,