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 10, 2013
I’ve just started to read Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth by Sasha Lilley, David McNally, Eddie Yuen, and James Davis, which is a short book about our tendency to frame political and environmental issues around impending doom. It’s hard to do the work of change; so much easier to point out problems and wait for the collapse. And when faced with impossibly big problems – the economic crisis, global warming – we feel so small and helpless. The only equally big thing on offer is total ruin.
January 3, 2013
The last cliffhanger episodes of Democracy Theatre: 112th Congress have been disappointing to say the least. With these shenanigans, it’s hard to believe that government ever works, but sometimes it does. Today I’m remembering a man who could make it work really, really well.
December 17, 2012
Like many academic librarians, a major piece of my job is helping students find their way around information they might use for course assignments. This fall I met a few times with a class full of smart, curious first year students who were quick to grasp their course content, quick to pick up on ways of finding out more, quick to follow leads into odd corners of the library, and wonderfully articulate when asked to reflect on what they observed. But when asked to write a modest paper using at least one primary and one secondary source, they seemed suddenly insecure and anxious.
December 13, 2012
Mita Williams, of the University of Windsor, recently posted her slides from an amazing talk that she gave last month. Anyone who follows me on Twitter might have noticed my ALL CAPS enthusiasm for what she had to say. It was a wide-ranging talk, but it projected the kind of future we can have if we pay attention to what’s going on and keep hold of one important idea: the future of the academic library is free.
December 3, 2012
Over the weekend I had a fascinating conversation over Twitter with Aaron  Tay, a brilliant young academic librarian at the University of Singapore. (I’m not the only one who thinks he’s smart; Library Journal named him a Mover and Shaker last year.) We were discussing Library Journal’s recent report, covered right here in Inside Higher Ed, about students’ views of academic libraries.
November 29, 2012
Massive, open to all, a democratic space that offers people from all walks of life exposure to the greatest thinkers of our time, and while we’re at it, a fabulous branding opportunity - welcome to the 19th century municipal public library. 
November 20, 2012
Almost before I pushed “publish” last week, the Library Loon responded to my gushy love letter to the stacks with an essay of his or her pseudonymous own, titled “On Hating the Stacks.” It’s a bracing reminder of why library stacks can be anything but inspiring.
November 15, 2012
There was a terrific post a little while ago on ACRLog (cross posted at Library Hat) by Bohyun Kim about what it is that appeals to us about being in the stacks of a library. She suspects that the reasons we give when we yearn for the stacks isn’t actually the ability to serendipitously discover things through browsing. The real value is ambience that is inspiring and conducive to promoting a sense of “flow” for researchers. Being in the stacks inspires awe because we sense the physicality of knowledge.
November 8, 2012
I get a little testy when every attempt at developing a new way to share scholarship is required to pass a sustainability test. What we’re doing now isn’t sustainable. So why should new things have to prove they can do something our current system cannot do? I’m all for thinking through the implications and having a some kind of plan. I’m not in favor of abandoning ideas because we can’t figure out how to put them to a test that the status quo has already failed. Miserably.
November 1, 2012
Who controls journals? Good question. The mass resignation of board members of the journal Organization and Environment raises some familiar issues that scholars should take seriously.

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