October 25, 2014

Feedback: Letters to LJ, February 1, 2013 Issue

What about our work?

Here’s the problem: if this was space to “play” in for those with time to play (Jennifer Koerber “The Harvard Labrary: A Design Experiment in Library,” ow.ly/gurnE), there is still all that work that has to be done. None of those who don’t have enough time to get the work done have time to “play.” Most of us who are longtime library employees are trying to cope with the same (or even more) responsibilities with fewer resources and fewer staff.

So the people who have time to “play” get both the fun and the glory and display very little working knowledge of actually delivering services.

I don’t think this diminishing support for the everyday work is a Harvard-only thing. As serial subscription prices have risen, the budget for staff has been diminished in many places to attempt to compensate.

I’d like to see a legal and economic laboratory. I’d like to see some smart people figure out how to slice through the legal and economic landscape that has placed a huge burden on libraries. Among other things, I’d like to see visionaries address the costly (to universities) academic publishing model and stop the profits (and budgets of libraries) going to publishers like Elsevier.

—Name withheld upon request

Close the feedback loop

At the Chattanooga Public Library…like Harvard (but, uh, different), we’re working on completely rethinking, reinventing, and reinvigorating our library and the services we provide (Jennifer Koerber “The Harvard Labrary: A Design Experiment in Library,” ow.ly/gurnE). We’ve got a space called The 4th Floor. It’s 14,000 square feet of raw, previously unused space with a brand- new gig-per-second Internet connection. We face the same challenges of trying to create an innovation and prototyping space while also remaining true to our roots and showcasing the consistent, core services that our highly qualified team of librarians deliver every day. Unlike the Labrary, the 4th Floor is a permanent venue. We’ve got four public floors here in our main building, so this is a quarter of the whole library. Along with this comes different challenges.

Name withheld [letter above] finds the attention the Labrary received “demoralizing” in the context of all the “massive staff shortages, horrific morale, and diminishing ability to do our jobs, which is to get resources to users.” I can sympathize with the feeling of not getting enough attention for your good and important work. Been there. Still…things that get recognition and make a media splash are always the new and shiny attempts to change or push good and important work in different directions. That is not unique to libraries; that is life.

I wonder, which of the Labrary experiments has the great potential to disrupt and impact Harvard Library operations in a positive way? They were design experiments that took place outside of the constraints of the library itself. That can be liberating for the sake of rapid prototyping, but to implement any of the experiments, the constraints have to return.

I’ve watched…library experiments come and go for the past ten years. They almost always remove themselves from the systems within which a library operates in order to facilitate the production of new ideas. It’s time to close the feedback loop. It’s self-serving for my own community, but I challenge the Labrary to close that loop and return its new ideas back to the system. Implement something in the Harvard Library proper or better yet bring them to the 4th Floor, here in Chattanooga, where our space is permanent….

—Nate Hill, Asst. Dir., Chattanooga P.L.

A loving mother, too

Maurice Wheeler’s essay about my mother (“Remembering Clara Stanton Jones,” ow.ly/gupXl) has left her youngest son in tears of appreciation and fond memories. Those who knew her publicly and professionally thought very highly of Clara Stanton Jones. To my brother, sister, and me, she was “Mama,” who showed us unconditional love. Her absolute first priority was to be there for our needs, providing a shining example of her teachings that we, too, can achieve our dreams while fulfilling our responsibilities.

Please think of Clara Stanton Jones as a pioneer, a leader, and an intellectual power but also think of her as a loving wife and mother who taught strength of character. She would remind us all that we are not in competition with others but with the best that we can possibly do.

Her accomplishments as a mother and professional were also greatly complemented by the fact that she was married to a prince, truly a man for all seasons.

Thank you for your remembrances of my mother.

—Kenneth Jones, Los Angeles

Correction

This year is the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, not the 200th as we erroneously stated in our review of Volume 1 of A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era (LJ Reference 2013, p. 36).


LJ welcomes letters and will publish as many as possible. Those that exceed 250 words may be excerpted by the editors. Email ljfeedback@mediasourceinc.com; or write to: Feedback, LJ, 160 Varick Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10013; FAX 646-380-0756/0757

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