Barbara Fister

I'm a librarian who works at the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library, Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota and and a writer of blog posts, articles, grocery lists, columns, twitter posts, and mysteries

Creative Commons License
The content of the Library Babel Fish blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. I'm grateful to Inside Higher Ed for being so open-minded and progressive about these things. Feel free to share, reuse, and remix. Attribution would be appreciated.

To reach this person, click here.

Most Recent Articles

February 24, 2012
In my circles, the answer to this question is fairly obvious. But as I was trying to explain to undergraduates how messed up scholarly publishing is, I realized it's hard to grasp unless you already have been bruised by current practices. When you're just learning how information works and have only gotten as far as "you ought to use scholarly sources," it's very puzzling indeed. So I thought I'd try to break it down.
February 16, 2012
Somehow, like an unusual alignment of planets, SOPA, PIPA, RWA, and Penguin’s decision to withdraw the ebooks and audiobooks they publish from public libraries have all contributed to an unusual tidal swell. People are beginning to notice that big publishers are not really all that interested in authors or readers; they are interested in consolidating control of distribution channels so that the only participants in culture are creators who work for little or nothing and consumers who can only play if they can pay.
February 10, 2012
Too Big to Know is a surprisingly small book (around 200 pages - you can sample an excerpt at The Atlantic) that covers a lot of ground, touching on issues of interest to anyone who wonders where knowledge is headed and what shape it is taking in this unstable era. The subtitle, written in the elevator pitch style that is so popular with publishers these days, provides a hint of what's inside: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room.
February 1, 2012
We increasingly depend on companies whose business is collecting information about us – what we read, what we say, what we watch, what we buy, where we go, and who we know. It’s scary how much the tools that we use every day capture and use personal information - and how little we care. But perhaps that will soon change. Both Facebook and Google will be revealing some of the astounding amount of information they’ve gathered about us, and it may make people uncomfortable enough to stir things up. 
January 22, 2012
It's a sign of the times. Long before my copy of the New York Times arrived Sunday morning I had read tweets and blog posts responding to an article in their occasional Education Life section. Though it somewhat defeats the purpose of having a newspaper delivered to your door, on Saturday I found myself looking for the online incarnation of the article that sparked responses, Matt Richtel's "Delete Term Paper, Enter Blogging: To Raves and Rants, the Digital Medium Muscles in on a Tradition" or, as it's slugged online, "Blogs vs. Term Papers."
January 19, 2012
Apple's announcement shows us one of three routes we can take toward the future of knowledge and education. Will academics follow the path blazed by Apple and Kindle and use these open publishing platforms to buy and sell - or will they feel educational materials are more valuable if untethered from the digital marketplace?
January 18, 2012
The People have sustained libraries longer than the companies that legislate against libraries and the Internet have been in existence. There is no reason we can't spend our money differently to sustain a model that respects openness and sharing to advance knowledge for all - if we choose to.    
January 12, 2012
Last week, two things were peppering my Twitter stream – posts about digital humanities from scholars attending the Modern Language Association and American Historical Association annual conferences mingled with expressions of concern and outrage over the  introduction of the Research Works Act, a bill supported by the publishing association to which both associations belong. It just dawned on me (duh) that these two issues are a perfect demonstration of the collision course we’re on.
January 3, 2012
Joshua Kim raised an interesting question on Tuesday. In just an hour, he was able to get a whole bunch of books and chose among formats for preference and price. The fact that Amazon makes it insanely easy to buy books – but makes it difficult or impossible to share them (thanks in large part to publishers) leads him wonder about the dominance of Amazon and the impact on libraries. If Amazon is able to instantly satisfy those who can afford to buy all of their books, will those happy shoppers opt out of supporting libraries? Are libraries, crippled by publisher restrictions, becoming unattractive options by design?
December 19, 2011
I have been thinking about my last post in which (taking a leaf from Mark Bauerlein) I questioned the emphasis we put on quantity of peer-reviewed publications as the primary determinant of who will be recognized as a scholar worthy of tenure. Publications become a kind of currency traded for a safe job – a currency that is suffering from inflation.

Pages

Back to Top