ProQuest Launches Udini

ProQuest has been busy: not only has it paired up with TurnItIn, but now it's launched a service called Udini:

May 7, 2012 (ANN ARBOR, Mich.) — Knowledge powerhouse ProQuest is launching an inventive new research service that provides individuals with access to premium content and cutting edge tools. Instant and on-demand, Udini bundles an extraordinary range of information, including peer-reviewed and trade journal articles, dissertations, international newswires, newspapers, magazines and more from thousands of publishers in a comprehensive cloud-based workflow management tool designed for individual users. For knowledge workers without access to research libraries, Udini™ provides unprecedented ease for finding and using the highest quality information for professional projects. For publishers with already-strong academic distribution, Udini™ opens a trusted and compelling new channel to reach an under-served group of users who want and need their content.

“Research libraries play a critical role in our knowledge economy, but not everyone who needs serious content is connected to a scholarly library. Research for these unaffiliated users is confusing and inefficient unless they know exactly what they’re looking for. Premium information — when it’s accessible at all — is distributed behind many different paywalls all over the Web,” said Rich LaFauci, Senior Vice President and General Manager, ProQuest Research Solutions. “Udini™ curates and licenses high-quality content and makes it incredibly easy to discover, acquire and use. The entire service is crafted from the end-user’s perspective – from the content to the tools to the commerce model. It’s simple, easy and flexible.”

This is interesting news, and the implications for re-thinking the entire process of research are huge. The value of institutional access to high-priced (dare we say, exclusive) database vendors and document available on a aggregators available to individuals? That's insane!

It may also be wrong. Emma Moore, our new Technology Librarian put is this way:

Interesting news (even if the name does sound like a food/a word out of Star Wars.) Especially of note is the bundling of the content and the "cloud-based workflow system" (which I'd like to get a look at). They seem to have identified a possibly undeserved population; the kind of (presumably affluent) user who a) has used this kind of content in the past, but no longer has institutional access to said resources. Question is, will said population be big enough/identifiable enough to make Udini viable?

 That would, of course, depend on whatever pricing model ProQuest chooses to utilize for the service, which the press realse does not mention at all, which leads me to wonder whether mere peons will be allowed access to the crown jewels. Even though, as the release states, Udini is meant to serve "growing ranks of independent researchers, from freelancers, to workers in organizations without their own libraries, to unaffiliated authors." Hey, guys, I'm an independent researcher and unaffiliated author. Where do I sign up?

Kate Adler, our reference Librarian noticed that this announcement "comes in the wake of a rush of press about online-education, but, because of pricing restrictions, is not exactly "open.""

Well, I signed up for an account . . . it's free for the cost of an e-mail address. Here's what I found.

 You get an In Box, a workspace they refer to as Your Udini Library, and access to the Udini store, which is essentially a pay for service site. Some content is free, but most isn't and while they do allow you to save any article you come across on the web as content in your work area, the good stuff–academic journals, news publications, and professional magazines–is on a cash only basis. They start you off with the right to five free articles, but I didn't test what levels that extends to.

Additionally, there is a "flexible" access model in place, which I expect will be modified as time goes on. They are not apparently charging to create or store project on Udini's servers, but that's a long way from being able to scream, "Come and get it!" while ringing the dinner bell, as it were.

So, while I am hoping that this service takes off, I'm not exactly going to be first in line to pay scads of cash it. At least, not until I know more about what the user costs involve.


RIP Maurice Sendak

I'm just going to let the obituaries speak for themselves here:


I remember the first time I saw a Maurice Sendak book. It was In The Night Kitchen. I was eleven or twelve, and had been given a small allowance by my parents to buy my littlest sister, who did not read, books, if I would read them to her. I loved books and reading aloud. In The Night Kitchen was liberating, transgressive, and a dream come to life: I understood the nakedness, could not understand why all the chefs were Oliver Hardy but loved that all the chefs were Oliver Hardy. Years later I discovered Little Nemo in Slumberland, and In The Night Kitchen came into focus.


Maurice Sendak looks like one of his own creations: beady eyes, pointy eyebrows, the odd monsterish tuft of hair and a reputation for fierceness that makes you tip-toe up the path of his beautiful house in Connecticut like a child in a fairytale. Sendak has lived here for 40 years – until recently with his partner Eugene, who died in 2007; and now alone with his dog, Herman (after Melville), a large alsatian who barges to the door to greet us. "He's German," says Sendak, getting up from the table where he is doing a jigsaw puzzle of a monster from his most famous book, Where the Wild Things Are. Sotto voce, he adds: "He doesn't know I'm Jewish."


I didn't set out to make children happy. Or make life better for them. Or easier for them…. I like them as few and for between as I do adults. Maybe a bit more because I really don't like adults.


In 1993, the great Art Spiegelman visited Maurice Sendak and drew the experience for the New Yorker. With the passing of Mr. Sendak, the magazine has unlocked the two page comic – as suggested Neil Gaiman on Twitter. Thank you to the New Yorker for making this available to all.


Sendak appeared on Fresh Air with Terry Gross several times over the years. In 1989, he told Terry Gross that he didn't ever write with children in mind — but that somehow what he wrote turned out to be for children nonetheless.


Good night, Sir, you will be missed.

Make That Paper the Best You Can

One of our work-study students wanted her own account on TurnItIn, even though her professor was not in the habit of using that database. I couldn't figure out why, so I asked.

"It's so that I can test my papers for plagairism before I hand them to the professor."

That confused me. So I asked why.

"Well, better safe than sorry. I just want to make sure, that's all."

TurnItIn is a massively useful database, and since its recent announcement that it would be joining ProQuest, has become even more useful. The press release described the venture thus:

Turnitin, the global leader in originality checking and plagiarism prevention, today announced a partnership with ProQuest, an information company serving the global research community, to include more than 300,000 dissertations and theses from 2008 to the present in the Turnitin comparison database. The agreement enhances Turnitin's repository of scholarly content while extending its massive plagiarism-checking database, which now tops 20 billion current and archived web pages, 200 million student papers and more than 110 million articles from scholarly journals.

There is no way that being able to scour a couple of hundred million documents in the search for plagiarised content can be a bad thing per se.  However, it was making this student a little tense.

So, I told her, here's the thing. It's admirable that you care about this enough to be proactive in dealing with it. But let's talk for a minute about what plagiarism actually is. Okay?

"Okay," she said.

You see, I said, plagiarism is not when I study a set of papers and describe their contents in my work. That's more like paraphrasing. A literature review, which your paper will almost certainly need, is going to need that. It has to, to show the professor that you know what's going on in the subject you've chosen to write about. And I attribute the articles I found, to their authors then list them in my references, and it's all good. If two people write on the same subject, even assuming that they are writing the same paper, the chances of one person's paper matching the other's exactly is just about zero. It's possible, but highly unlikely.

Plagiarism is different. That's when I take the contents of your paper, and paste it into my own with the intention of passing it off as my own work. No attribution, no references, no nothing. The wording of multiple paragraphs as well as the order in which those paragraphs appear will be identical. That is what TurnItIn looks for.

"I see," she said.

And if it really is that important for you to use TurnItIn, I said,  then I can create a a join password for you. But I think it makes more sense for you to just work on that paper until it's the best one you can possibly write. Also, make sure that your professor know who you are and what you're up to. If you have an idea for a paper, or a strategy for writing you're not sure of, ask her for advice.

"Well, that's part of it," she said. "Mostly, I find that my writing style changes depending on whether I really care about the subject or not."

That can be a drag, I agreed. The trick, if there is a trick, is to try and write about what you care about. If you absolutely have no choice, that's one thing, but if you can choose your subject matter, so much the better. Make that paper the best you can.

That's the trick our students need to learn. Make that paper the best you can.

I Am Losing Faith In Capitalism

I am losing faith in capitalism. Some will say I'm late to this realization. Others will say that I'm just plain wrong. But know this as I know it: when things go wrong, they do not automatically right themselves. Many times, things go wronger and wronger until in the end everything is totally fucked up.

We are royally screwed, says Chris Hedges. He makes a great big point and he doesn't mince words. Our civilization is dying because we have lost our souls in a maelstrom of bullshit, petty politics, and consumerism. I haven't always believed that capitalism was necessarily destructive but now I'm barely hanging on to the idea that it had more utility than not. I am losing faith.

While I've always identified with capitalism, I've always had a giant socialist streak, but if you've seen my past May Day posts, you know that. The trouble with socialism or any other ism as a solution to the country's problems is that Americans deep down are not into collective solutions, even when they make sense. Even with 75 years of history proving that they can be beneficial. We just plain suck at this. We hate to trust anyone but ourselves and even then we lack the imagination to come up with alternative scenarios where one can, say, have an economy without jobs, or enacting living wages for people who do have jobs.

We're smart enough to do better, but our hearts aren't in it. We're way too happy with a doomsday that we can see to imagine a paradise that we can't.

In the meantime, there will be actions. Confrontations. Occupations of public grounds and landmarks. Count on some of them to be unruly, and count on the police to act like an invading army in some cases. These things are attempts  by people who care to save our collective soul. That alone is worth praising. If you can, get out and help them. Save yourself. Save all of us.

Happy International Workers' Day, damn it.



NYTSL 2012 Spring Program Announcement

Spring 2012 Evening Program

E-Books: New Links in the Chain



Denise Hibay, Assistant Chief Librarian for Collection Development, New York Public Library

Susan Marcin, Licensed Electronic Resources Librarian in the Continuing and Electronic Resources Management Department at Columbia University

Barbara Rockenbach, Director of the Humanities and History Libraries at Columbia University


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Refreshments: 5:30pm

Meeting & Program: 6:30-8:00 PM


The New York Public Library

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building                               

South Court Auditorium

476 Fifth Avenue (at 42nd Street)

New York, NY 10018



 Register and pay via PayPal at

Reader’s Advisory: Fifty Shades of Long and Boring

My wife brought home the book Fifty Shades of Gray on her Kindle app and has been working her way through it over the past few days. It's making her crazy. But not in a good way. It's making her angry. The she gets bored. Then she gets angry again.

She's 150 pages into a 500 page book which is ostensibly a BDSM novel and there hasn't been a single beating yet, with only one vanilla sex scene. Had this thing been a physical volume she'd have thrown it against the wall by now. I'm just glad she thinks more highly of her iPad.

Usually, in a reader's advisory post I take the trouble to read the book, but sometimes you just have to let the links do it for you. To wit:

 I decided to read Fifty Shades of Grey on my Nook while using public transportation, in an attempt to experience that furtive feeling that has been described in so many major news articles.

 If by some chance you can picture yourself in love again, by all means, express that in a story about a domineering, rich bastard who abuses young virgins.

If you've ever read the book, like I unfortunately have, you were probably as shocked as I was at how boring the whole (loooooong) thing is.

"All that? But…how is that possible? It all sounds crazy! And yet…when I look into your charcoal eyes under that irrepressible lock of ebony hair, as I run my searching, trembling fingers across the steel buttons on your sable silk shirt, all I can think of is…Jesus Christ, I am so horny I can die. I think. But I don't really know, because of the virgin thing!"

Friends don't let friends write boring porn.

Public Librarians, Community Members Invited to Participate in Pew Study

From the METRO-L listserv:

We received the following from ALA's Washington Office and wanted to pass it along. We strongly encourage METRO's public librarian community to participate in this survey, and take advantage of the additional information on encouraging your community members to participate in the study as well.  

The ALA, IMLS, COSLA and other library leaders are advisors on a national research effort studying the changing role of public libraries in the digital age, as well as the experiences and expectations of public library users.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project to conduct surveys and provide analysis related to reading and e-reading; the changing world of public library services and the choices public libraries must make; and a typology of who does – and does not – use public libraries. As many of you know, Pew is a national leader in this kind of research, and their reputation and reach are high and wide – and the Project is interested in learning about the work and opinions of public librarians.  We believe this effort will provide the kind of data-based information public libraries are demanding to proactively meet changing community needs and advocate for the future.
And, like all research efforts, it can’t happen without you. The first major report in this series was just released and examined the “rise of e-reading” and how people find and consume long-form digital content. That report is available online at .
The next report in this research series will look specifically at people’s experiences in public libraries, especially their use of e-books and other digital services. To inform this research, Pew is supplementing its usual nationally representative phone surveys with two online surveys to draw out the deeper, richer stories behind the data:
  1. The first survey is targeted at librarians and other people who work at public libraries that lend e-books. We’d like your input; please take the survey!! It is available here: and takes about 15 minutes. To log in, please use your preferred email address as your username; the password is PEWLIBS 
  2. The second survey is for patrons who check out e-books from their local public library. It is available here: It also takes about 15 minutes. This survey is not password protected.
Pew has created a brief message (available below) that you can share via your website, e-newsletters, social media and other dissemination methods, as well as a flyer and code that can be used to embed the survey on your library’s website. To get the Web code and/or flyer, please contact Kathryn Zickuhr at
The surveys will be live April 16 through May 18, and the next report will be available this summer. Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, will provide an update   on the Pew library research on Sunday, June 24, at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim.
Thank you in advance for your participation in and support of this effort!
Larra Clark, ALA representative to the Library Advisory Group and Associate Director of the ALA Program on America’s Libraries for the 21st Century
Patron message template:  Have you ever checked out an e-book from your public library?
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, a non-profit research organization in Washington, DC, is conducting an online survey of public library patrons who borrow e-books. If you have checked out or downloaded e-books from a public library, please consider taking Pew Internet’s survey, available at the link below. All responses will be confidential, although your answers may be quoted anonymously in a future report. The survey should take about 15 minutes.
The Pew Internet Project will also be doing broader surveys of public library patrons general, as well as people (including non-library-users) who own e-readers or tablet computers. If you want to participate in those, you can sign up to be notified of future surveys here.

To learn more about the Pew Internet Project’s research on e-reading and public libraries, which is entirely free and available to the public, visit . 

“A Novel About an Electronic Book in an Electronic Format That Pretends to be a Paperback”

Ben Cameron at the Huffington Post has noted an essential difference between print volumes and their electronic versions: rules of process, i.e., how they get used by readers.

In his introduction to the 2009 edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies praises the tattered old paperback copy of Douglas Adams' sci-fi classic that he carried around in his back pocket in his school days. I had one too and I loved it just as much.

Davies ends his introduction with, "Maybe ebooks are going to take over one day, but not until those wizzkids in Silicon Valley invent a way to bend the corners, fold the spine, yellow the pages, add a coffee ring or two and allow the plastic tablet to fall open at a favourite page."

In a word, it's the experience incurred in one's use of a thing that defines its substance.  And it gets worse:

There are two ironies at work here. First, I read that introduction on the ebook version on my Kindle, which the publisher digitised straight from the print version of the book without a second thought. And second, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the book that Adams' book is about, is an ebook. Here is how Adams describes The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "…a device which looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press-buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million 'pages' could be summoned at a moment's notice."

He has just described my Kindle.

Ironies aside, Cameron actually does an enormous service in thinking about his paperback turned e-book this way. He informs us that E-Books have rules of engagement that print volumes don't.

The rule of process for a paperback are easy:

Step 1: Pick up.

Step 2: Open.

Step 3: Read.

Step 4: Close when finished (Optional).

Step 5: Place in a secure location (Recommended).

The rules of process for an E-Book are rather more complicated:

At the moment publishers are quickly churning out ebook versions of the mainstays of their print backlists. But more often than not they are doing so without giving a moment's thought to making even the simplest of changes to the printed book. So we end up with an introduction to an ebook that sings the praises of paperbacks or ebook cover images taken straight from printed books that boast of illustrations – when the illustrations have been stripped from the ebook editions.

Rule 1: the contents do not always reflect reality.

That's a cheap shot–there are plenty of print volumes that don't reflect reality due to their age, the limitations of the author, or the fact that they're not meant to inform as much as propogandize–but it bears thinking about. A more precise statement would be that the contents of an E-Book does not always reflect the medium. Part of that is human nature. It's just plain impossible to keep with with every new thing that presents itself and very little of the new apps, coding languages, or gadgets take advantage of how people think or behave. We adopt to the tech, not the other way around. Meanwhile a publisher needs to make money now, not lay the groundwork for what will be happening in five or ten (or fifteen or twenty) years. Shortcuts are taken, expediency wins over c0ntext. That thirty year old introduction is taken verbatim from the print edition and slapped into the electronic version. Stuff happens.

Rule 2: E-Books are naturally fragile.

I think that Russell T. Davies said this better in the above quote than I could. Print books don't break when you drop them, short out when you spill coffee on  them, or disappear into the ether when a publisher stops producton. E-Books (and their readers) are known to do all that. Show me a Kindle that has survived as well as the Edwin Smith Papyrus and I'll rethink my position.

Rule 3: E-Books are often published as afterthoughts.

This is starting to change as publishers and editors who are used to working primarily with electronic editions come into their own. That said, when the big five publishers and their subsidiaries try to do this, the results are rather like what Cameron describes in the case of Douglas Adams: a direct port into a what is essentiqally a giant PDF. At the moment, small press publishers and writers who write for niche markets have a real advantage over the giant. Want the really cool electronic titles? Keep an eye on that space.

Cameron concludes by noting what should be obvious to us to live and breathe among these gadgets:

Certainly Douglas Adams was a pioneer of computerised content including game versions of THG2TG, so my guess is that he would have been pushing forward the boundaries of book technology – a fact that should play to his publishers' strengths. By and large publishers are creative people. Creativity is what they do well and enjoy. And with creative publishers technology can be used in ways that expand traditionally printed books. The app version of Stephen Fry's Chronicles, My Fry, was a great example of this. Recognising that it was a book for dipping in and out of, Penguin Books created an electronic version that emphasised the index so that readers could move about the book in a non-linear, topic based way.

So, with all that technology has to offer now, why am I reading a science-fiction novel about an electronic book in an electronic format that pretends to be a paperback?

Solid question.


METRO Event Calendar Update

On April 4th–that is, this Wednesday–I'll be at METRO talking about my chapter on library security for How to Thrive as a Solo Librarian, including a report on Todd the Library Vandal, who appears (briefly) in the chapter. There's still plenty of room so if this sounds interesting to you, RSVP to Tom Neilsen.

Hope to see you there!


NYTSL Event Calendar Update

Just a quick reminder that this Friday the 23rd of March will be the New York Technical Services (NYTSL) Spring Reception. The event will be at the Butler Library at Columbia University, Room 523 from 3pm to 5pm.

This is an opportunity for librarians, archivists, and information professionals from the metropolitan area to meet informally. It is also a chance for library school students to learn about the various professional organizations in the metropolitan area and to meet future colleagues and employers. Nobody ever lost a job by networking.

It's free and wine and cheese will be served. The only catch is that you must register beforehand. We have a few spots left, so if you'd like to register for the event, just drop me a line.

I hope to see you there.

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