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

August 2, 2012
Why do we love apocalyptic metaphors so much? Nobody reads. Libraries are doomed. Higher education must change radically or die; no, wait, it’s already dead.  R. David Lankes (author of The Atlas of New Librarianship) says it’s time to close the crisis center when it comes to libraries, and I agree. Yet there is something about heightened anxiety that is so tempting.
July 26, 2012
As I put together the annual report for the library, I spent a lot of time looking at numbers. One of them was the average cost of articles we provided to faculty published in journals we can’t afford and which we couldn’t get free through interlibrary loan. The average cost we paid per article? $41.89. This is making me think about the costs of our stern new religion of austerity.
July 18, 2012
A lot has changed since I first started working at the Little College on the Prairie. When I arrived, one of my first tasks was to explain to the community how to use the online catalog, which arrived a month or two before I did. Searching then involved typing commands into one of a handful of terminals that were surrounded by the card catalog that we weren’t quite ready to dispose of. A few years later, we were able to search for articles through those terminals with their beady yellow characters. The library filled with the chatter of dot matrix printers.
July 12, 2012
A recent series of three blog posts by Kathleen Fitzpatrick chimed nicely with two things I am thinking about these days: how scholars can best share their ideas in a digital age (and what the decisions scholars make will mean for libraries as we rejigger positions and allocate resources) and how I’m going to pull off a conference we’re holding this October on Nordic women crime writers. Event planning is not in my skill set (hey, my idea of a perfect wedding is eloping), but I’m really excited about putting readers, writers, and scholars together to see what happens.
July 5, 2012
As I write this, I am having a rare off-the-grid moment, looking over my laptop at a view that reminds me of the coast of Maine except that it doesn’t smell like the sea and there are no tidal pools full of sea urchins and starfish. But the North Shore of Lake Superior is, like Maine, a country of pointed firs, and interlaced among the conifers are the white trunks of birch trees. The hillside bristles with them rather starkly, because many of them have lost their crown of whispering leaves.
June 28, 2012
I just wrote a memo to a group of budget people explaining (again) why it takes library staff with good technical skills, time, and lots of patience to make sure that when you click on a button in a library database to find an article, you actually find the article. Since it’s all online, now, it’s much less work, right? Well ... no. And why that's so is one example of the issues John Palfrey and Urs Gasser address in their new book, Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems.
June 20, 2012
I am getting a bit obsessed with the news coming from the University of Virginia.  It is frightening, and it’s all too familiar a scenario. A group of political appointees decide to take the very real power they have and use it under the mistaken impression that they must know better than anyone else how to run a university because, well, they’ve been given that power.
June 14, 2012
When it comes to publishing, Charles Dickens was half right. It’s the worst of times, and it always has been. But forget what all the pundits say; there is some good news.
June 5, 2012
One of the online communities where I lurk and occasionally shove in my oar is a listserv for writing program administrators (which, lucky for me, is inviting even to those who are no such thing). It’s a virtual water cooler where people who teach writing talk about all manner of things. One comment by Doug Downs, who teaches rhetoric and composition at Montana State University, really struck me as containing a key to many of the frustrations that bubble up in libraries.
May 30, 2012
I teach a course in the spring called Information Fluency (rather a lame title, but I was suffering from lack of creativity when I submitted the course proposal years ago; maybe I should hold a “name this course” contest). It’s an upper division undergraduate course pitched to students who are planning to go to graduate school, giving them a chance to learn more about the way the literature of their field works as well as generally how to use library and internet tools for research. One of their assignments is to interview a researcher in their field.                                                                                                                                                               

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