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

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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.

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Most Recent Articles

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.
December 15, 2011
Mark Bauerlein’s recent critique of the scholarly habit of producing a voluminous amount of research in literary studies that is rarely cited has prompted a number of responses.
December 7, 2011
Last week, I found myself fascinated by Tim Sherrat’s observation that interfaces are sites of power. Similarly, the architecture of a library says a lot to its users about the position they hold in the realm of knowledge, as visitors, consumers, or as members of a discipline or a tradition.
December 1, 2011
Sometimes I worry that libraries that try to create alternatives to big publishing are just adding more publications to the already bloated number of scholarly journals being published. I worry that well-intentioned alternatives too often end up filling a niche that may be valuable, but doesn’t do anything significant to change the way we share knowledge.
November 22, 2011
In the New York Times this past Sunday, there was a front page article on the inadequacy of law schools in preparing lawyers for the work they will do. The culprit? The faculty write too many law review articles, according to the reporter. If they were teaching (or even practicing law) instead of writing arcane articles they wouldn’t be so out of touch. The journalist cited a law review article on how few law review articles get cited.
November 17, 2011
I’ve been reading a lot of reactions to the way the Occupy Wall Street library was removed from Zuccotti Park when the Occupy Wall Street encampment was broken up. It’s a situation charged with symbolic meaning. The initial reports that the library’s 5,000 plus books had been destroyed by the police was countered by a chirpy tweet from the mayor’s office with a picture of books safe and sound in a sanitation department garage. Many tweets later, it turned out that around half the library was missing and much of what was salvaged was damaged.
November 15, 2011
Ten years ago, Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper published a nifty book about how and why people use paper in their workplaces. The Myth of the Paperless Office reported ethnographic observations of people struggling to do things with computers that they were used to doing on paper; sometimes there were good reasons why paper was so persistent. The title reminded us that the “paperless office” we were promised decades ago is a joke - on us. We use more paper than ever and manage to have disorderly desktops both literally and digitally. That's a funny kind of progress.

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