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

March 13, 2012
It was a good day in class. We’ve reached the end of the “here’s how things get published and how libraries deal with all those publications” section of the course (a semester long workshop on how information works) by tying off a couple of loose ends. We visited the college archives to get a sense of how archivist organize things and what researchers might get out of using archival materials. Then we took a quick cruise through the reference section, with a special focus on specialized encyclopedias.
March 8, 2012
I keep thinking about a couple of blog posts Miriam Posner wrote on gender and digital humanities, particularly on the male privilege that invisibly influences the value surrounding learning to code and the cultural exchanges that will determine who feels comfortable in geek culture.My field, librarianship, is a shot through with contradictions, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it has long been perceived as a women’s profession.
March 1, 2012
Some random observations on the economics of digital information
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.    


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