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Death of the expert. Or was it demise?

This semester I am taking readers’ advisory in addition to digital collections. The other day in class we were talking about reader reviews on Amazon and their usefulness. Another girl was in agreement with me and our professor mused something about amazon reviews being part of the death of the expert. or demise. It was death or demise.  Same concept. I suppose she’s right, people don’t have to rely on expert opinion anymore. Pre-online customer review (pre-my own adulthood) I suppose people probably had to wait for formal book reviews in newspapers or magazines or tv (you get what I’m saying) or a word of mouth recommendation before gathering an opinion of an item. Now you can have multiple opinions (good and bad) of a bookor movie or cd within moments of release or announcements of releases. As an almost librarian, I know I should keep on pushing the expert opinion (and I will) but is it acceptable to be ok with consumer reviews as well? I use them all of the time! Before most of my major (and not so major) purchases. It’s not like I read one and call it good either.  I really read them. Good, bad, so-so…all of them. And I think they’ve all helped me out when selecting materials. However, when reading book reviews I don’t really let user comments sway my purchasing decisions like I do a movie or product unless it’s nonfiction. I don’t think I could let myself buy a poorly rated cookbook or parenting book. It just would feel wrong. But I would buy a poorly rated novel if I thought I was going to like it anyway, does that make sense? Like, it doesn’t matter if Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 4 is rated 1 out of 5 stars (don’t know if it actually is), I’m going to get it because I liked the other 3 and I want to read it. For the record, I checked it out the library and thoroughly enjoyed it. But I digress. Oh how I’ve digressed.

Death of the expert…

One place where I really appreciate user reviews is allrecipes.com. This website has helped me plan countless dinners. Reading the reviews here is so important because users give great suggestions for modifications and substitutions. You can search by keyword, by ingredient, by type of recipe, the list goes on. It’s a great resource for bumbling chefs or experienced cooks looking to share their wealth of culinary knowledge. My only complaint about the site is that recipes are user submitted and there are lots. Meaning, type in banana bread and you’ll get 169 results. It can be a bit overwhelming but I usually look for one that’s highly rated AND been rated many times. This means I probably overlook gems but the technique seems to work for me. It also means I must cook like the masses but, eh, who cares?

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Other losses

I meant to post this last week but felt funny about it. I’ll explain why in a minute…

I was an anthropology/sociology major as an undergraduate at Arkansas. The Anth part of the degree required that I take archeology one semester. It was surprisingly fun searching for tiny fossils (“or is it a rock?”) at the University Farm in the blazing sun. for an hour (thank god, only an hour).  At the end of the semester everyone wrote a paper on the  subject of their choice, mine being the excavation of the courthouse block in the Five Points neighborhood in New York City in 1991. For those who don’t know, Five Points is the setting of the movie “Gangs of New York” and New York City’s “mythic slum” of the 19th century. The authenticity of the film is apparently questionable* but it’s a neat movie. The excavation recovered nearly a million artifacts. These artifacts give us glimpses into the lives of the people who lived in this gritty working class neighborhood. You can read about the project here.

ANYWAY, I’m reminded of this paper and archaeology site so many years later because nearly every single artifact was destroyed on September 11, 2001 in the basement of 6 World Trade.  So I think of it and then feel a little guilty because obviously so much more was taken from us that day. But I do think of Five Points and every other piece of cultural heritage we lost that day and now I’m blogging about it so there you go.  I really didn’t know how much was destoyed until I came across this report done by Heritage Preservation. Art, documents and records, artifacts, historic building, all gone like that. Most collections didn’t have a complete or offsite inventory or even photographic evidence that their items even existed. Not enough budget money for that. (For those archivists reading, the report contains several recommendations for emergency management plans).

Going back to Five Points, 18 items had been loaned to another collection and were not destroyed. With the exception of some boxes recovered which may have contained some photographs (need to follow upon that) they are all that remains. Thankfully the project had financial backing and there are photographs and inventories of the lost artifacts. Here is an incomplete digital collection of the artifacts.

This post has evolved into a lot more than I originially planned. I didn’t intend on introducing the Heritage Collection and other lost artifacts. If you are interested in New York history I think that Virtual New York is a potentially neat website. It’s not very user friendly though. I had a hard time navigating it but did use the search function to find some pictures successfully.

Sources Used

1. *Timothy J. Gilfoyle . Scorsese’s Gangs of New York: Why Myth Matters. Journal of Urban History, Volume 29, Number 5 (July 01, 2003), pp. 620-630.

2. Yamin, Rebecca. New York’s Mythic Slum. Archaeology, Volume 50, Number 2 (March/April 1997).

3. http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/wtcartifacts/index.html

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YouTube

Many things can be said about YouTube. It’s entertaining. It’s a great social networking tool. It’s enormous and constantly updated. I no longer need to bother watching morning television because if there’s a good fight on the View it’ll be on YouTube in no time. But it can be messy and hard to navigate. It’s the internet equivilant of reality tv and reading tabloids (I like tabloids, not reality tv) aka a major time waster. It’s sometimes fly by night. A favorite video will be there one day and gone the next. Copyright, schmoppyright 🙂

But is it a digital collection or a digital collection resource? Technically it’s a large collection of videos but it also can be a way to educate the public about digital collections at libraries. A person/organization could use YouTube to upload videos (for free!) for their own digital collections. <— that link is to a collection of MIT lectures available on YouTube. Pretty cool (and quite useful). Side note–there really is alot of content on YouTube! I’ve mostly just used it for watching clips from tv and *talking dogs. I just found Revision3-an Internet television channel-featuring lots of pop culture shows. This video (3 minutes in) features embarrassing Google Streetview images (about 3 minutes in)-who doesn’t want to see that?

Whether it’s a collection of its own or simply a potential resource, I wanted to share my favorite type of YouTube video-the homemade music video. Particularly this video of the Peanuts gang dancing to Outkast’s “Hey Ya”. (If they might not disappear tomorrow I’d put together a list of some kind.)

Here’s one of Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage” to clips from “Once Upon a Time in the West”

Battlestar Galactica to the Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”

Garden State clips to The Shins’ “New Slang”-kind of cheesy but I like the song..

*Funniest video EVER

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Raindrops on roses

I wish I knew all the words to that song. I know bits and pieces but when I tried to sing it in the car this morning I sounded awful. A) because I can’t sing and b) because all I know is the “when the dog bites, when the bee stings” part. I’m pretty sure the children weren’t impressed. I should really watch The Sound of Music sometime. I think I’m the only person I know who hasn’t seen the entire thing. Judge me if you want but I’m not a big fan of musicals. I only wish I was when I want to sing the songs in my car to my trapped audience.

So why am I dusting off the old blog, you ask? Blame it on Doc Martens! This semester I’m taking Digital Collections and blogging is a requirement. Actually, to be more specific, blogging about digital collections is a requirement. That little detail is the tricky part. I guess we’ll see how it goes, won’t we?

Now for the good part. For my first entry I’m supposed to show you three digital collections that I find interesting. I had a lot of fun researching this. I just can’t believe how much stuff you can see without leaving home. Pictures, notes, videos, books! All of it scanned or uploaded and waiting to be seen/heard. It’s really exciting. So drumroll…

1) Land of (Unequal) Opportunity at the University of Arkansas Libraries

Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas is this first and only library I’ve worked in and is where my interest in librarianship started. I worked there all through college and a little after and always had a special place in my heart for Special Collections. It was top-secret and hidden in the basement so naturally important things must have been happening there. I guess I was right. This collection documents the civil rights movement in Arkansas and is really fascinating. I just read through a 1972 statement from the Chairman of the Board of Trustee at the U of A regarding the desegregation of the university in 1948. He was, of course, chairman in 1948 not 1972. The U of A also has several other online exhibits on their website. Most deal with the University’s history, something that appeals to me. Woo Hogs!

2) “I Do Solemnly Swear . . .”: Presidential Inaugurations at the Library of Congress

Ah, presidential memorabilia. I love it. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve enjoyed learning about presidents. Presidential trivia is not something I really keep up with now but I still think that it’s entertaining. And I do love a good Kennedy book. “I Do Solemnly Swear” from the Library of Congress is a collection of 400 items dealing with every inauguration from Washington to W (2001). There are transcripts, notes, invitation, pictures, and everything else. George Washington had really nice handwriting.

3) The JCPenney Dynamo Collection at Southern Methodist University’s Central University Libraries

While I am totally not a Penney’s shopper (despite buying some shoes there last weekend), I think this last collection is awesome. It’s a collection of issues of The Dynamo which was a newsletter designed to motivate and educate J.C. Penney employees from 1917 to 1932. When I picked this collection I was hoping to find all sorts of gems to quote but unfortunately The Dynamo really is just about department stores and merchandising. I’m sure there is something funny hidden in there, like referring to their all-male gang of store managers as “The men who make the wheels go round” and the advocation of pushing hair pins on their lady customers, but who has that kind of time to look? Apparently I do since I started this blog entry over an hour ago! One bit of trivia from The Dynamo: hair nets fell out of favor in 1924 in favor of electric curling irons. It’s about time, ladies. Anyway, I chose this collection because I used to be a department store employee (Sears) and I never got a motivational newsletter (as far as I know).

Archiving is just so cool. I’d be happy with collecting and preserving any of this stuff for a living. I suppose I should have chosen collections from a public library so I could have related it to my future but, really, as of now my future is pretty open. I don’t know what I’ll end up doing. I may end up as an archivist at 65 collecting pictures and newspaper clippings of Jenna Bush’s underage drinking shenanigans. Wait, I probably wouldn’t be be cutting out newspaper articles, would I? Eh, you never know.

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and we’re back!

Maybe. I think I might start updating this blog again sometimes. I’ve had a nice long break from it and I don’t just want to abandon it. I’m still not quite a librarian and, while I love writing about libraries and how I love library school, I might write about other things too. How’s this for starters? I think as soon as I can afford to buy all new jeans I’m going to boycott stretch denim. What the heck is up with wearing jeans once and feeling like I have freaking sweatpants on by the end of the day? That’s been my recent pet peeve. I like my jeans in the morning but they make me want to scream by 5 pm.  Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it’s the stretch factor.

That’s all I’ve got. for now. I’m going to go read a cataloging article so I can do my lovely take-home test. Yay RDA!

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No time to blog! or even breathe!

Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve been too swamped to even wish anyone a happy Turkey Day! The semester is winding down so I’ve been quite busy finishing up projects. Of course that means my personal life had to get swamped as well. In the past two weeks my toddler got sick with a fever and cold/cough plus broke his arm, we went to Thanksgiving in Missouri, and my baby got sick while there. So she’s got a fever and runny nose, he’s still got a broken arm and cough, and I’m going crazy with school. Thank goodness my husband was home yesterday to let me work. The good thing that’s come out of the past few days is that my website for class is done. You can look at it here. Ok, that’s about all I can say now. The baby is screaming. Talk to you later, I hope!

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"If I’m going to get a story, I’ll get a movie."

This is a quote from the yesterday’s AP article that states one in four adults did not read a SINGLE book last year. This just blows my mind! Well, initially it rendered me speechless because I love books with a capital L and the thought of 25 percent of adults not cracking open a true crime novel (my mother’s weakness) or Oprah’s latest book club pick (does she still do those?) just makes me feel sad. Then I read that it was a poll of 1000 adults which doesn’t seem like a ton of people to me. But yet 250 grown people not reading ONE book does seem like 249 too many. So it still upsets me. ‘Mon People (as my two year old puts it), don’t just rent the movie. They’re never as good.

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