Remembering Norman Horrocks

I write this post with great sadness and a sense of personal loss. Norman died last night at the Halifax Infirmary. Norman had been ill for some time, but still found time to phone us daily to keep up with what was going on at the School. The official announcements have been made; this is an opportunity for all of us to express our personal sentiments and memories.

Norman was a truly remarkable person; he’s the kind of person I’ve always wanted to be. Words and phrases that come to mind when I think of Norman are: Gentleman, kind, funny, sweet, caring, patient, generous, sensitive, empathetic, classy, brilliant, absolutely phenomenal and scary memory, soccer crazy. I could go on and on. I never heard an impatient or unkind word from Norman, and I’m sure he was more patient and understanding with me than I deserved. Norman’s contributions to the Information Management profession are legion and legendary; the people he touched and affected impossible to count. I can’t imagine the School without him.

My fondest memories of Norman revolve around soccer, a passion for which we both shared. Norman was an avid Manchester United fan, while I’m a Gunner (Arsenal) girl to the core. Norman and I would never fail to remind each other of our respective team’s victories, and commiserate or rejoice at the results of the World Cup, UEFA Cup, Euro Cup, and so forth. When it came to international competitions, Norman and I shared a common bond in our ever-optimistic support of England. I shall always picture Norman smiling down at me whenever I watch a Man U match, particularly if they beat Arsenal.

Norman left this world a far better place than he found it. We miss you, Norman.

“We are United.” Manchester United.


Universities need to target students at an earlier age

I came across an interesting article in this morning’s Globe and Mail that suggests that increasingly, students start making decisions about attending university as early as grades 6-8. Since most universities continue to target students in grades 11-12 for their recruiting efforts, this article could have a significant impact on such recruiting policies. The findings from the study to which the article refers may be found here. Not surprisingly, students whose parent(s) attended university are more likely to express interest in attending university. From the perspective of Information Management schools, this article and study present interesting food for thought. At Dalhousie, certainly, our school has focused primarily on undergraduate students as well as people who are currently working in an information management environment, but who do not yet have an MLIS. Increasingly, however, I think we need to reach out to students much earlier. I have serious doubts as to whether career or guidance counsellors know very much about the information management profession; at best, they may be familiar with librarianship, but do they know that you need a Master’s degree to be a librarian? In my initial forays at recruitment, I realized very quickly that the undergraduate career counsellors I met did not know of the existence of the MLIS, nor of information management as a career choice. Clearly, we need to do a better job of promoting our profession to other educational institutions.

New academic year

Tomorrow will start the two-day Orientation event for incoming students for the 2010/2011 academic year. This is will mark also the beginning of my term as Director of the School of Information Management. The only major thing I regret about being Director is my reduced teaching load and the fact that I won’t be teaching the core course “Organization of Information,” of which I am very fond. Still, the course is in the very capable hands of one of our part-time colleagues. The up side is that I’ll be teaching cataloguing again after a two-year absence (sabbatical and reduced teaching load). This will be the first year that the advanced cataloguing course will be offered; I am gratified that the class enrolment for this new course is already high, especially considering that it won’t be taught until Winter. I love teaching cataloguing; I know the subject has a reputation for being dry and boring, but I think it’s great fun to delve into catalogue records and to actually create something that has an impact on retrieval.

Scotland bound

I’ll be heading to Glasgow on Tuesday to give a paper at the 9th Networked Knowledge Organization Systems workshops, as part of the 2010 ECDL conference. I’ll be presenting on the preliminary results of the research I’m conducting with my research partner, Laurel Tarulli (Halifax Public Libraries) on the log analysis data we’ve compiled from the AquaBrowser (Halifax Public Library) and BiblioCommons (Edmonton Public Library) social discovery from June-August. Since we haven’t yet collected all the data, I’ll be talking only about general observations we’ve made so far, as detailed data analysis will take place over the next two months. I’ll post the slides once they are published officially.

While in Glasgow, I’ll be meeting with two of my former SIM students, who now work in Scotland. It is, indeed, a small world.

Future scenarios for academic libraries

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) has released this thought piece: “Futures thinking for academic librarians: Higher education in 2025.” The document proposes the following future scenarios:

1. A college degree for every citizen
2. Academic niche networking
3. Activist seniors keep on working
4. Archives on demand
5. Breaking the textbook monopoly
6. Bridging the scholar/practitioner divide
8. Community over consumerism
9. Creative conscription
10. Design for disability
11. Everyone is a “non-traditional” student
12. I see what you see
13. Increasing threat of cyberwar, cybercrime, and cyberterrorism
14. Kinesthetic fluency
15. Longevity is the new wealth
16. Meet the new freshman class
17. Money makes the world go around
18. No need to search
19. [Libraries] Out of business
20. Pop-up campus (e-learning)
21. Renaissance redux
22. Right here with me
23. Scholarship stultifies
24. Sign on the dotted line (no tenure)
25. Think U
26. This class brought to you by…
27. Woven learning

Appendix A contains a very-well explained guideline for how academic librarians could address these possible scenarios. It’s a fascinating document

The quest for lip balms

I had a rather frustrating experience this weekend at one of our local retailers: I was in dire need of lip balm. Finding lip balms in many stores often requires orienteering skills, complete with a supply of breadcrumbs, the patience of Job, and a strong appreciation for the ridiculous. I have yet to find a consistent (let alone logical) place where lip balm is displayed from store to store; even within the stores of the same chain of stores, lip balm never seems to be displayed in the same place. Granted, I’m a self-professed lip balm junkie, but as a metadata specialist, lip balm poses an interesting challenge. How is lip balm to be categorized? In both virtual and brick-and-mortar stores, I’ve seen lip balms displayed with make-up, with skin care products, with sunscreen products, and in the first-aid section. Who would have thought that the humble lip balm could have so many homes? Lip balm is one of those categories that defies traditional classification theory whereby categories in which one places an item should be mutually exclusive; if ever there was an item that cries out for cross classification, it is the simple lip balm.

From a practical perspective, the hunt for the elusive lip balm is problematic. My friend and I (we are both proud metadata geeks) spent several minutes trolling up and down aisles and different sections of the store to find lip balm. We nearly resorted to texting each other from different aisles to keep track of our progress. We eventually found a display of lip balm by the checkout aisle; a logical place if every I’ve seen one. Naturally, once we found them here, we then came across another display of lip balms at the end of the aisle that sold vitamins. At this point, I was prepared to scoop up the entire display so that I would not need to engage in this endeavour again for a very long time.

Consistent metadata really does affect everyday life.

Helping people build their own libraries

A few years ago, Dan Chudnov summarized his mission as a librarian in one simple statement: “Help people build their own libraries.” I think this statement summarizes nicely my research interests into social discovery tools. For the past five years or so, I’ve been arguing that library catalogues need to be more dynamic and have the potential to be an environment where people can interact with each other and library staff, and discuss and share their reading, listening, viewing, etc., interests, via social tools such as tagging and posting reviews. Social discovery tools have the potential to foster a sense of community amongst library clients. My local public library serves clients that are scattered over a municipality that includes urban, suburban, and rural areas. Not all residents of this municipality are fortunate enough to have easy and close access to a library branch; a number of these residents cannot visit easily their local library because of health, limited mobility, lack of available and convenient transportation, and so forth. From a cataloguing perspective, client tags allow me to determine the extent to which my assigned LC headings reflect the language of the client, as well as their perception of the content of the item. Tags can not only complement the descriptions offered by the LC subject headings, but allow the expression of the the different cultural perspectives of the community, which is particularly important in Canada, where cultural pluarity is an essential and encouraged aspect of our society.