Tag Archives: technology

Testifyin’ about the Command Line

17 Jun

Anyone who’s ever worked in a library knows that among the interesting reference interviews and information literacy projects are also tedious kill-me-now projects. I was handed one of these projects last week — I’m to find the official website for 1,300 health sciences journals. This involves pasting each title into google, running a search, finding the official page and pasting that back into my spreadsheet. Kill me now, right?

Doin\' It the Hard Way

Well, no. Because I thought to myself “there has to be a better way.” Then I called my friend Dianne. She was so delighted by the fact that I wanted to automate that she didn’t seem to mind that this would turn into a two-hour coding project.

So, we asked ourselves, if computers are really good at doing things over and over and over, and this is a task that requires repetition, why wouldn’t we just have the computer do it?

Here’s the idea — we’ll write a script that inputs our list of journals into google, spits back the first ten results, and puts them into an html document so that all I have to do is check, rather than search. As we played with it, we realized that we didn’t want any results from google or its cache, we didn’t want anything from elsevier or science direct, and we wanted to make sure to add the word “journal” to our search string so we didn’t get unrelated results.

So, here’s Dianne’s code (in all its glory):

for i in `cat testjournals2008.txt`; do
	search=`echo $i | awk -F "\t" ' { print $3 " journal"} '`
	lynx -dump -force_html -listonly $search | grep -v google | 
        grep -v youtube | grep -v elsevier | grep -v sciencedirect | 
        grep -v wikipedia | grep -v cache | grep -v amazon | grep -v 
        nytimes | head -n 13 | tail -n 10  > results 
	echo -n $i
	for j in `cat results`; do
		if [[ $j != "References" || $j != "" ]]; then 
			echo -n "	"
			result=`echo $j | awk ' { print $2 } '`	
			echo -n $result

She talked me through this as we were doing it, and I understand most of what’s in there. As well as the spreadsheet, we produced an html page so that I could just click through and test sites.

And, I have to say that our results are AWESOME. In most cases, the first result is the proper page — it just goes to show that where mad librarian skills (setting up a good search) and a healthy approach to technology (making it work for me) combine, magic can happen.


My Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus with the command line

5 Jun

So let me say here and now that I always KNEW somehow, intuitively, that I should learn the command line, that it would change my life. Proselytizing from a good friend (of Escape Characters fame) for months has told me that automation is the way to go — if librarians deal with information overload, well then, we’re going to need the right tools for the job. Why spend hours clicking from page to page searching for a certain character string or file type when we can batch download all of these pages and then extract the information we need in just a few keystrokes? Sure, the command line LOOKS scary, but it’s really the smart way to go.

Of course, she puts it better than I ever could.

If you’re a librarian, I think part of your skillset should include knowing how to use the command line. You might say that you’re not that type of librarian, we hire other people to do the work with the computers, librarianship isn’t about this kind of technological skills, someother explanation — but, hrm. No. I respectfully, wholeheartedly disagree. You need to know this. You really do. If you’re a librarian, and you’re working with lots of information — and I mean, lots, like information overload lots — you need to be equipped with a way to handle this information without resorting to mind-numbing data entry methods. No, really. Every time someone says, “I guess I have to do this exhaustingly repetitive task by hand, I cry a little. It doesn’t matter if you’re one thousand miles away; I know, and I weep.

So please, visit Escape Characters and her series on useful ways to use the command line in your everyday work.

And I’ll keep you updated on how this is changing my life.

My New Favorite Blog

29 May

I just happened upon The Sullen Librarian, and I think it’s my new favorite blog. S/he has this magical ability to channel some of the distributed rage and frustration that I sometimes feel (don’t lie, you have those moments too) into extra-concentrated snark. And her comments on the uses and misuses of web 2.0 (what a bloated, meaningless term) are spot-on.

project scope

7 Dec

In addition to all of that lovely reading, I’ll also be doing a four-credit project.

I originally wanted some way to think about continuing professional development (particularly training new technologies/information technology) for mid-career librarians, operating under the assumption of a knowledge gap, and was approaching this problem through the feminist/community/zine/DIY tradition.

Thinking about it more, I think what’s more interesting than “fixing” a knowledge gap would be first, ascertaining whether one exists, and second, thinking about how knowledge is acknowledged in professional environments.

So, in some ways, I’m not sure where this project will go. I was excited about the idea of actually producing something – a graphic tutorial, I guess – about not just how particular resources can be used, but also about how to re-frame conversations about technology so that they aren’t conducted in fear and uncertainty (and with the associated jargon and gaslighting that too often happens). I was talking to a friend who works as a librarian at the AADL who mentioned that mid-career librarians with whom he works are often apprehensive about calling tech services — which is odd, I think, because librarians produce a culture where asking questions is okay, encouraged, and the reference interview is all about making people understand that they’re not stupid for not knowing this already. So, I was thinking about producing some sort of material that helps de-mystify the tech training process — maybe thinking about tech support the way one thinks about a reference interview.

And again, I assume a knowledge deficit. I think that the first order of business is to do some research, both within the professional literature and talking to persons who think about this regularly (professional librarians) to see what the state of mid-career professional development is, what people really know and what they’re presenting to their communities, and where the need lies.

Regardless of my findings, I’m not convinced that there isn’t a place for conceptualizing what continued professional development for librarians would look like — there are two models that I’m grappling with, here. First is the university extension service model, by which these people would be sitting in the same bullshit classes that I find myself in (although, hopefully, they wouldn’t be infantilized to the same degree that we are, and I certainly hope it wouldn’t operate under the same usurious tuition model). Writing a “fantasy” proposal of how my school could reach out to the rest of the state could be an interesting exercise and culmination of my research.

The other approach would be the zine/DIY model, which honestly sounds like a lot more fun but would sort of do different work. I would need to do quite a bit of research about how this kind of community learning happens, and what makes for an effective guide. There’s also the problem of not providing the same credentialing mechanism. I firmly believe that a funny, smart, clear piece of literature could have taught me more about professional searching than fourteen weeks in a classroom did, but my classroom experience is what makes me ALA accredited.

This is where, I hope, my reading projects will dovetail nicely into this project — I want to understand how people demonstrate knowledge, how (if!) they’re rewarded for it, and how this works across professions and race and gender lines.


plenty of librarians here – scope of work

4 Dec

Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to be thinking about librarians. Below is the scope of work for two credits of reading about labor, librarians, gender, information technology, tacit knowledge and the digital divide (among other related topics, as they surface).

What I Want to Know: (questions subject to change!)

  • What is the process by which the value of a person’s labor is determined?
  • Through what means do workers represent themselves to capital and to one another? How do historians represent workers from the past in a responsible manner, and to what end is this done?
  • What is the nature of group consciousness or class consciousness among women workers, if such concepts exist? How has this changed over time?
  • I want to know more about the origins and development of librarianship in Europe and North America. How did it become a gendered profession?
  • What do librarians do? (I think that this is a much more complicated question than it appears to be.) How are their performances measured?
  • What processes make technology scary, special, mysterious, or otherwise contribute to the fact that we can all be somewhat idiotic in our compensation systems for people who work with technology? How has technological prowess been gendered male and what is the reality of the “digital divide?” What exactly does that mean, anyway?

Keeping Track

Each week, I will write 500 words on this very blog about what I’m reading, what I think about it, and how it relates to my central questions. Depending on how my counterpart project goes, this may all end up as a kick-ass lit review for an article about these subjects.


I will choose, in consultation with the project adviser, the first six weeks of readings in early January. We will choose the readings for the final eight weeks after project trajectories emerge.

Possible themes and readings include:

Weeks 1-2 Labor 101 – Revisiting Favorites and Stuff I’ve been Meaning to Read

Here I want to get at a sense of the genealogy of labor history, what historians of labor worry about, and what kinds of methods have been used to understand workers in the past.

  • Selections from Marx (Das Kapital), Hobsbawm, Scott (“The Sears Case” and “A Statistical Representation of Work: La Statistique de l’industrie a Paris, 1847-1848” in Gender and the Politics of History), Thompson
  • Geoff Eley. “Labor History, Social History, ‘Alltagsgeschichte’: Experience, Culture, and the Politics of the Everyday–a New Direction for German Social History?” Journal of Modern History 61 (June 1989): 297-343.
  • Alf Lüdtke, “What Happened to the ‘Fiery Red Glow’?” in The History of Everyday Life
  • others

Weeks 3-4 Gendered Workers Today

  • Robin Leidner, “Serving Hamburgers and Selling Insurance: Gender, Work and Identity in Interactive Service Jobs” Gender and Society 1991
  • Christine L. Williams, “The Glass escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the ‘Female’ Professions” Social Problems 1992
  • Joan Acker “Hierarchies, Jobs, and Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations,” Gender and Society, Vol. 4 No. 2, June. pp. 139-158.
  • Annette Barnardt, Matina Morris, and Mark S. Handcock . “Women’s Gains or Men’s Losses? A Closer Look at the Gender Gap in Earnings,” American Journal of Sociology 101, pp. 302-328.
  • Nancy Maclean, “The Hidden History of Affirmative Action: Working Women’s Struggles in the 1970s and the Gender of Class” in Feminist Studies 25(1), 1999: 43-78.
  • Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equality: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America, Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • others

Week 5 The Technology Problem

I have almost no familiarity with the literature in this area, so I’m going to have to count on my project mentor for suggestions. I’m mostly interested in problems of how technology becomes gendered and the related process of how it becomes reified (dare I say fetishized?)

Week 6 The Rewards Systems

Here’s where we get into the interesting stuff – not just compensation, but the systems by which compensation is measured, the place of tacit knowledge, the gendered structures/roots of rewards systems, etc.