Review: This Book is Overdue

Marilyn Johnson gets it.

In This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, she manages to avoid the false generalizations:

  • Librarians are obsolete in the age of Google
  • Hip young librarians are putting everything online and leading the way to a brighter (and paperless) future

Johnson spent enough time with librarians — in real life and in cyberspace — to learn about the complexities of librarianship in the 21st century. She interviewed the New York Public Library administrators who are filling the 42nd St. research library with programming and digital offerings and a children’s room, but she also interviewed the head of the Asian collection who pointed out what was being lost when his specialist staff was reassigned to more generalist duties. She interviewed the librarian in the library of the real-life Deadwood, S.D., and her counterpart in the Deadwood of Second Life. She interviewed the bloggers and Second Lifers and zine mavens who are pioneering new services and showing the way for the rest of us, but she also interviewed the librarians in the trenches of her local public library who have to tell patrons that the catalog is down for two weeks during “migration.” (And just when I thought she would have nothing to say about special libraries, she goes to see a “dog librarian.” I thought I was specialized!)

What’s most amazing about this book is what Johnson does with her research. She weaves stories about people. Without glossing over the difficulties or complexities, she helps non-librarians understand and she makes librarians proud of what we do.

As Johnson says near the end of the book (p. 251):

Perhaps I was suffering from a touch of information sickness? If I could weed out my thoughts …

There was one reliable cure I’ve found, a bit of the hair of the dog — the release in reading. Not a manual: something with a narrative. A chute built by a writer and waxed until the reader fell into it and skittered right to the end without stopping. The relief of being in someone else’s hands. Yes, exactly: I needed to be under a spell.

This describes Johnson’s own book. Her stories make what’s going on in libraries today more clear than any ten manuals.

Update: if you’re like me, you wish this book had an index. Well, now here is the index, compiled by Chris Dodge.

Proof of anthropogenic greenhouse gases as the cause of climate change

I recently pointed out a great summary of the evidence in response to a climate change denialist:

More CO2 does worsen climate change:

Yes, Global Warming is real and it’s still happening:

Don’t miss this part:

“Finally, we have greenhouse gases. In this case, things work out well. Both the timing and magnitude of today’s warming are well-explained by greenhouse gases.

“This is why scientists conclude that humans are likely responsible for most of the warming of the last few decades. Greenhouse gases provide a reasonable explanation for the warming, while no other factor can explain the entire warming (though other factors, such as solar, might be playing a minor role).”

The climate models have it right:

He apparently couldn’t get past the titles, even though the second one was right on point. There is no other explanation for the phenomena we are seeing.

But I guess the political nature of that site and the simplified nature of the explanation were just too off-putting. All right, fair enough. If you’re looking for an explanation that’s

  • Fair
  • Unbiased
  • Scientific
  • Lengthy

this is the one for you. It’s called Advancing the Science of Climate Change and was published by the National Academy of Sciences last week. The National Academy of Sciences is a very prestigious body. Even conservative members of the U.S. Congress ask it to investigate scientific matters of public policy.

This is from the summary:

  1. Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems; and
  2. The nation needs a comprehensive and integrated climate change science enterprise, one that not only contributes to our fundamental understanding of climate change but also informs and expands America’s climate choices

But don’t stop there. Please, feel free to read all 392 pages.

(Edited to add: minor corrections.)

UC Berkeley’s plans for the Water Resources Center Archives

I received the following e-mail. Here’s a chance for interested folks to hear about UC Berkeley’s plans for the Water Resources Center Archives.

DATE: May 17, 2010

TO: Supporters of the Water Resources Center Archives (WRCA)

FROM: CNR Dean J. Keith Gilless

The UC Berkeley campus is preparing a joint (College of Natural Resources (CNR), University Library, and UC Digital Library) proposal to retain the Water Resources Center Archives (WRCA) on the Berkeley campus. The proposal is due to the UC Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources (ANR), by close of business this Friday, 5/21/10. I am hosting a listening session for WRCA supporters to describe the Berkeley proposal and seek WRCA supporter input:

Wednesday May 19th 3-4 pm Room 133 Giannini Hall

Please RSVP to my assistant, Adrienne Hink ( if you plan to participate and let her know if your participation will be in person or remotely by phone. Adrienne will email dial-in information for those who RSVP to her by 5 pm Tuesday, 5/18.

For those of you unable to participate either in person or by remote call-in, I encourage you to send your written comments to Adrienne by noon, Wednesday, 5/19.

As you are likely aware, UC Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources has dissolved the UC Water Resources Center and is seeking to find a new academic home for WRCA. We understand that other UC campuses are likely to be submitting proposals to receive the collection as well. Berkeley has hosted the archives for 50 years and is considered “home” to the collection. We take very seriously the role of stewarding this collection and will not propose an acquisition plan that cannot be maintained. The library has operated out of space in the College of Engineering and there is an MOU in place allowing WRCA the space until June 2013. It is our understanding that the space will not be available for library uses after that date, making consideration of the future management of the archives very timely. Our proposal sets forth the creation of a transition team that will evaluate many aspects of maintaining the collection, including the pursuit of space that is guaranteed for the long term. We will seek to maintain the collection as a single unit provided that space and funding for designated staffing can be maintained, but we must also prepare for the reality that no space can be provided and it becomes necessary to integrate the paper (non-digital) collection with other units of the campus library system.

We recognize the Archives are a unique and valuable resource and are deeply committed to ensuring their long term preservation. We welcome you input as we finalize the proposal.


Dean J. Keith Gilless