Current Cites

August 2013

Edited by Roy Tennant

Contributors: Warren Cheetham, Alison Cody, Nancy Nyland, Roy Tennant

Almeida, Nora. "A New Polemic: Libraries, MOOCs, and the Pedagogical LandscapeIn the Library with the Lead Pipe  (21 August 2013)( - This article from the online journal "In the Library with the Lead Pipe" gathers together a lot of recent thinking and analysis around MOOCs - Massive Open Online Courses. Almeida sees much of the disruption that MOOCs are causing as a potential force for positive change. For example, the need to provide course readings to thousands of people who are not all affiliated with libraries that can provide access is forcing some textbook publishers to look into new models. And likewise, it's encouraging those teaching MOOCs to consider open access publications, and to perhaps winnow down the number of readings they might otherwise assign, focusing on only the most relevant - a focus that's of benefit to a course of any type or size. She also looks at the MOOCs themselves as pieces of intellectual property. This review of research and opinion so far is an informational and thoughtful piece, and could easily be used to open up wider discussion amongst wary faculty and librarians. - AC

Anderson, Rick. "Can't Buy Us Love: The Declining Importance of Library Books and the Rising Importance of Special CollectionsIthaka S+R Issue Briefs  (1)(August 2013)( - I've long been a fan of Rick Anderson's clear-eyed and articulate viewpoints, whether I agree with him or not. But frankly, I can't remember a time when I didn't agree and this time is no exception. Anderson (Interim Dean at the University of Utah) cogently and forcefully argues that the future of most large research libraries lies not with commodity publications but with unique and special materials. Anderson asserts that while we have largely been focused on making the transition from print to digital (simply a format shift), "We have failed to prepare for the emergence of a reality in which our very role as brokers, curators, and organizers has itself been fundamentally undermined. In other words, the gap that should most concern us in research libraries today is not the one that lies between physical and online documents, but the one that lies between commodity and non-commodity documents...What the world needs research libraries to do now—and this need is both powerful and growing" Anderson continues, "is provide broad and easy access to the intellectual content of rare and unique non-commodity documents that would otherwise remain unfindable and unusable." He had me at the title of this important and articulate argument for where the future lies for academic libraries in a world dominated by Amazon, Google, and Apple. - RT

Australian Communications and Media Authority. "Near-field Communications: ACMA Emerging issues in media and communications occasional paper  (June 2013)( - If your library has implemented RFID technology, chances are you may already be losing a little sleep over Near Field Communications (NFC) on your customers’ smart phones. If you don’t use, or haven’t heard of RFID and NFC, this paper presents an excellent non-library introduction to the technology and should hopefully get you thinking about both the opportunities and possible threats that NFC poses for libraries. An application (app) on a NFC –enabled smart phone can read and write information to a chip (like an RFID tag) on an object (like a book, box of breakfast cereal or a point-of-sale terminal). Library RFID systems just read the tags – it’s this new ability of NFC to write to the tags that may be causing the sleeplessness of some. Imagine a library user being able to change the data on an RFID tag on an item in your collection – either to circumvent the security system, or just as an act of digital vandalism. Conversely though, image your library users being able to tap their smart phone to their library books, and walk out the door with a properly recorded loan. As with other consumer technology, the greater the take-up and use of NFC by retailers and customers, offers an opportunity for library services to leverage the technology and develop user-friendly services for library members. A brief section in this paper on the financial and privacy risks is useful too. While this paper is based on the Australian context (smart phone statistics and regulatory framework) the content is sufficiently general to be useful to an international library audience. - WC

Groys, Boris. Google: Words Beyond Grammar  Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2011.( - Groys delves deeply into the relationship between search queries as expressed in grammatical language and the results produced when words are defined by the context in which they appear. “Google dissolves all discourses by turning them into the word clouds that function as collections of words beyond grammar. These word clouds do not ‘say’ anything – they only contain or do not contain this or that particular word.” (p. 7) Google is concerned only with how many times a word appears, being unconcerned with whether it is “in an affirmative or negative context....” (p. 13) Most Google users remain unaware and unconcerned that the majority of these contexts are not available to them in any case, being hidden in the “Deep Web.” The “context that Google creates by observing the search practices of individual users” is also hidden. (p. 15) One could say “caveat emptor” if the users of Google were the buyers of the product, but they are not – they are simultaneously the users, the content providers, and the product being sold. - NN

Paz, Anita. "In Search of Meaning: The Written Word in the Age of Italian Journal of Library and Information Science  4(2)(July 2013): 255-265. ( - Another useful explanation of why Google Search is not what it seems. Most users will never question, explore, or even touch on, the inner workings of Google. Paz references the “new cultural algorithm: reality > media > data > database” (p. 256) to illustrate how the data in the Google database does not reflect reality. Data does not equal information, and information does not equal knowledge. Google is fine for two of the three identified types of Web queries: navigational, or finding a Web site, and transactional, a purchase or download. (p. 257) But users searching for information will find the individual words of their query transformed into bits of data. The bits of data then return sites linked to those bits of data, whether linked for positive reasons or negative ones, “assigning a whole new meaning to ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity...’” (p. 259) A true understanding of Google’s mechanism reveals that it returns data, but not knowledge, and, depending on the search, not necessarily even information. - NN