Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vendor-Librarian Negotiations

Dear Colleagues, 
       A little while ago, I forwarded to members of the AALL Consumer Advocacy Caucus an e-mail I had received. A researcher was requesting librarians to participate in a survey on vendor-librarian interactions, in preparation for his presentation at the Charleston Conference. I have sent tech services staff to that conference and they have always found it excellent, so I participated gladly, and encouraged any members of the caucus willing, to participate as well.  I received an e-mail back today, with instructions on how to receive the results, and info on when the presentation will be at the Charleston Conference.  I hope others will be equally interested in this:

Thanks to all of you who responded to my Vendor Negotiation Survey last month! We had a tremendous response rate – well over 200 respondents. Responses are wide-ranging and thoughtful, and offer great insight into the library’s perspective on the negotiation process and dealing with vendors. Anybody that is interested in receiving the results, please type “SEND ME THE RESEARCH DATA” in the subject of an email and send to . We will be sending the results out on or about November 14th.

For those of you attending the 2013 Charleston Conference, I’ll be presenting Secrets in Vendor Negotiations with Carl Grant (Associate Dean, Knowledge Services & Chief Technology Officer, University of Oklahoma Libraries & former Chief Librarian & President of ExLibris and President of VTLS) and Mike Gruenberg (Gruenberg Consulting, LLC), on Friday, November 8, 2:15 pm – 3 pm. We’d love to see you there! For more information and to register, visit here. We will provide actionable takeaways you will be able to use immediately in negotiations with your technology, content, and service providers. I firmly believe that more clarity in the process of negotiations provides a more level playing field, opens up budget dollars for new and innovative products, promotes greater competition among vendors, and raises overall product quality.

Of course, I will be attending sessions and would love to talk to anyone interested in all the innovative things we are doing with statistical content at Data-Planet. We have published 19 guides on statistical content since June, and will soon release overview statistical guides for US states and subject categories – our guides have direct links to infographics, DataSheets and data, providing much more detail available than any other statistical compilation. For a sample, take a look at our Climate Change subject guide. And even more exciting, we are getting ready to preview our next generation Data-Planet Statistical Datasets UI – a JAVA-free version with more powerful charting, new mapping, and much simpler and cleaner usability. We will start to preview the new Statistical Datasets interface to current customers in December. If you haven't seen it yet, we have added Snapshot Statistics to our Ready Reference interface. All Snapshots include related data links, DOIs, infographics and links to the full DataSheet.

The e-mails have been from Matt Dunie, who turns out the be the president of Data Planet.  Should be interesting, since data gathering is what they do.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Grab this Rake

Rake is utterly charming television series produced in Australia.  The first season aired in 2010, and the second season aired in 2012.  It has been renewed for a third season, which is good news for anyone who enjoys well-written, well-acted dramas focusing on lawyers and the legal profession.  I recently learned that there is an adaptation coming to American television (Fox) later this fall; I hardly see the point, as it is difficult to imagine how an adaptation could improve on the original.

Rake stars the excellent Richard Roxburgh, shown above, who is also one of the creators of the show, as Cleaver Greene, a brilliant barrister who engages in egregiously self-destructive behavior, e.g., frequenting bordellos, drinking to excess, gambling, using hard-core drugs.  He makes lots of bad choices and creates chaos wherever he goes; all the while, however, he successfully defend his clients, most of whom are actually guilty.  Some of his cases are drawn from the news, but all of his cases introduce us to interesting characters and provide a glimpse of politics and the legal system in Australia.  I have only two more episodes of season two to watch, and I will be eagerly awaiting season three's availability on DVD.     

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

More on Effects of Shutdown

The always provocative Barbara Fister has published a cogent article on the effects of the federal government's shutdown on access to such public goods as libraries, information, museums, land, parks, etc. at Inside Higher Education.  To quote Fister, 
There are few institutions that are open to all and beloved by Americans regardless of their political views.  Libraries and parks are among them.  But the very idea of sharing, of having goods in common, is contrary to a worldview that believes individual freedom trumps everything else and caring for those who cannot care for themselves is a betrayal of the natural order of things. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Shutdown's Effects on Website Maintenance

There have been a lot of articles about the effect of the federal government shutdown on the public.  One I hadn't thought about was website maintenance.  A student in my Advanced Legal Research class brought to my attention this morning this notice posted on the website of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  The public is informed that the website will not be maintained until after the shutdown comes to an end.  The DHS website carries a similar warning, and I assume that the websites of other federal agencies do as well.  This has a material effect on my students who are creating LibGuides (online research guides) as the major work product for the course.  More importantly, it has a serious impact on the public, who rely on the websites to interact with the government.  The ICE notice states, for example, that "Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted."    

Sharing with students - a fine balance

Janis Joplin: Take another little piece of my heart (YouTube clip)

Over the years that I have been teaching, I have walked a fine line about how much of my personal life to share with students.  The times that I have shared my personal life, though, students have been so grateful, it is something to contemplate. 

Some years ago, when my hands were very painful with arthritis, I was, for a while, wearing the plastic splints that occupational therapists fashion.  I was following the doctor's (not very well-thought-out) advice to wear these ALL the time.  It was only after my physical therapist questioned the advice that I myself thought to question it.  Joints need to move to stay healthy.  Even when they are sore, they need to move and exercise in order to retain the maximum mobility and strength.  I knew that and so did my doctor -- when I asked about it.  So eventually, I just wore the splints at night to hold the joints in a neutral position when they were especially sore.  But when I was wearing the splints constantly, my students were very curious when I came to class looking like the crab woman!  So I told them why I was wearing the splints.  Afterward, several students told me about relatives in similar straits and thanked me for sharing with them.

Then, more recently, I had a student who volunteered for a project.  Completely a volunteer thing, where he was supposed to update a memorandum of law.  I didn't hear from him for quite a while, and then had an e-mail apologizing.  His brother had gotten horrifically sick on the West coast.  All his family had rushed to the brother's bedside, and were keeping vigil, including my student.  It played havoc with this student's semester. Fortunately, he worked with the dean of students, took a leave of absence, and just dropped all those courses.  He was not even sure for a while that he was returning to law school or coming back East.  Eventually, the brother recovered, almost entirely well again.  The student returned to our law school and is working on his project again.

When he popped back up on my e-mail, all apologies, I told him not to worry and that I certainly understood. Then I told him about when my daughter got bacterial meningitis in her freshman year at college.  I just dropped everything.   Projects dropped in mid-stream, e-mail conversations dropped in mid-sentence, I think.  Very unprofessional of me.  I think I must have continued to teach my class, but I am not sure at this point.  I can't imagine how.  I fell completely apart and pretty much lived at the hospital, fortunately in the same town where I live and teach.  So I told my student now, that I certainly understand how one can just drop things, and that I thought he had the right priorities.  I said that afterwards, when my daughter made a complete recovery (a miracle, and thank heavens for Beth Israel hospital and their ICU staff!), I came back to my projects & conversations and explained why I disappeared, that people were so supportive and so kind.  I also began to find out how extremely lucky we were.

My student has been so grateful to have my story back in exchange for his own. I got much more detail as I traded my own story for his.  I completely understand why he dropped away from view. And he seems like a much more sane and reasonable person than when he just "disappeared" from my view on the volunteer project.

And yet this sharing of oneself is a delicate thing and very easy to overdo.  There is a real reason for that imposed formality of the classroom.  It is an unfair thing to invite students to presume too much friendship with a teacher until they are graduates.  I want my students to feel comfortable with me, and feel they can come to me with problems.  But if there is a perception that they can expect favors because I am their friend, or that one or another student is a special friend, that will lead to all sorts of problems.  I am not their friend (yet).  I am their teacher.  Whether I like it or not, I am obliged to judge the quality of their work, to sort the relative merit of the class's output. I would be happy to be the friend of many of my students -- after they graduate. 

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