Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Letter from the Editors: Spring 2010

As students, we are in a unique position to view librarianship and its reach into areas not traditionally associated with librarianship or information management. Many of us come from other professional areas, or work in non-library jobs while pursuing our master's degrees. The experience we gain from other areas informs our work in library and information science by giving us broader insights into search habits and can also shape our expertise and information niches.

Several articles in this issue address how experiences outside of library school inform our work as students and continue to enrich our journey as professionals. From Kathy Elliot’s previous career helping her win a scholarship, to finding reference experience in an unlikely place like Marissa Martin, students are finding that information science reaches farther than might be expected.

It has been our pleasure to work with our student contributors over the past few months and we continue to be impressed with our classmates and their accomplishments. From putting together tours to organizing innovative programming for internships, SJSU-SLIS students are active in the field before, during, and after their education. We would like to thank our contributors for allowing a window into their lives through their writing about their experiences.

I (Jane) am looking forward to co-editing again next semester with Kimberly Galloway, our newly elected co-editor. I would like to thank my current co-editor, Tiffany Mair, for a great introductory semester to the Call Number.

As I (Tiffany), pass the baton and editing duties on to Jane and Kimberly to concentrate on my last semester at SJSU-SLIS and my e-portfolio, I would like to encourage students to consider how our holistic experiences contribute to our skills and service in librarianship and information management fields. We are all unique individuals who bring a diversity of experience and perspective to the profession. Upon returning from ALA 2010 in Washington DC, the importance of our energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to get involved and bring our entire selves to librarianship has never been more clear to me. Believe in your contributions, show up, and serve in whatever ways you are called.

Jane Gilvin & Tiffany Mair

Going for the Gold: Making the Most of Scholarship Opportunities

by Kathy Elliott

I received a delightful surprise the other day – I was awarded the 2010 Medical Library Association (MLA) scholarship! I would like to encourage all of you to consider applying for financial support, and I thought it might be helpful to share the process. It is worth the effort – my scholarship will cover approximately 25% of my tuition for the entire SJSU-SLIS program.

To begin, where do we find scholarship information? A great place to start is at You will see many options available through SJSU and other agencies. A careful perusal of the lists may generate several possibilities that overlap with your background and specific interests.

But, honestly, that is not what I did! You have always heard that networking is the key for finding jobs. For me, that applied to scholarships as well. My sister, Judy Kammerer, is a medical librarian who inspired me to undertake the adventure of a midlife career change.

I had worked as a molecular biologist and genomics researcher for over twenty years, primarily in biotech companies. I was eager to leave the for-profit scene and redirect my scientific knowledge into a service-oriented information career. The SJSU-SLIS program was the ideal choice. Judy forwarded me an e-mail advertising the MLA scholarship for a beginning MLIS student interested in medical librarianship. At first, I thought that chances of winning the award were pretty slim. On second thought, I decided that I had a unique background I could use to market myself. I was energized by the idea of leaving my job and starting a whole new career. I told myself, do not be shy – go for it!

Once you have found a possible match, the next step is to check the eligibility and application requirements and due dates. The MLA scholarship application required a simple form, transcripts, three recommendations, and an essay describing my career objectives. The first two were easy. Do not forget to submit your transcript requests well in advance of the deadline, since they may take several weeks to process. Requesting the recommendations was a little harder. I needed to think about not only who knew me well, but also who would best describe the strengths I could bring to a medical librarian career. If you are like me, the step of actually asking your colleagues for references is challenging. But everyone was very supportive, and they appreciated the fact that I supplied them with descriptions of the SJSU-SLIS program and MLA scholarship and a copy of my essay. The recommendations were the most difficult of the requirements to get in by the deadline. People get busy and forget, so I sent out gentle e-mail reminders the week before the deadline and followed up by phone a few days later. Even so, one of my references ended up having to FedEx her recommendation for next-day delivery.

Some organizations require an essay on a specific topic of interest. For example, the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Environment & Resource Management Division asks scholarship applicants to discuss issues facing information professionals in the environment and natural resources fields. But the majority of scholarship applications require an essay describing your personal background and professional goals and how these can advance the mission of the granting agency.

To write an essay that catches the attention of the reviewers, you will first need to think carefully about who you are (unique skills and experience) and where you are going (career goals and specific areas of interest). You will also need to read about the scholarship organization's history, mission, and challenges. When you find an overlap, you have identified a theme around which you can design your essay.

For myself, I decided that my experiences performing genomics research and genetic testing were a unique strength. I began my essay by speaking about how the rapid growth in genetic information is changing the practice of medicine. Then I described my academic and professional background and presented myself as a person ideally suited to help communicate new developments in genetics and pharmacogenomics research to medical students, professionals, and patients. All I needed was training in library and information sciences to develop the tools that would enable me to act as a bridge between the two worlds. Once I had identified the “hook,” the essay flowed naturally. If you are worried about writer's block, try devoting a set amount of time to research and thinking before you sit down at the computer. You may discover that the essay is easier to write than you had expected.

Many scholarships, awards, and grants are available for library and information science students. If you are a true funding entrepreneur like my sister, you can find financial support to cover your entire education – Judy paid for her first MLIS semester with three local scholarships and got the tuition reimbursed for her remaining semesters through the California State Library's "Public Library Staff Education Program." So be bold, figure out which options match your background and interests, and apply!

Kathy Elliott just completed her first semester in the SJSU-SLIS program and is looking forward to a career in an academic biomedical research or health sciences library.

The Reference Receptionist

by Marissa Martin

I often feel that my work is a lot like the movie “The Wizard of Oz." This is not just because I spend all day thinking, “There's no place like home,” and wishing I had the power to hand out brains. Sometimes, my job emulates that of one of my favorite characters, the Great and Powerful Oz. Sure, you are probably thinking I might have an ego, but hear me out. Everyday I come in, a new person calls me seeking my disembodied voice because they believe it to be wise and filled with answers. Do you assume I am a reference librarian? But I do not work at a library. I am a receptionist at the Chamber of Commerce.

Like many other library students, I would love to find a job in the field. At this point, I would be happy to know my resume warranted at least some consideration before hitting the round metal filing cabinet on the floor. I live in Michigan, though, where the word “recession” was in common use long before the rest of the country followed suit. People may think the Midwest is not on the “cutting edge,” but we were trendsetters in this. Finding the dream job isn't an easy feat. I was lucky enough to land a good, steady job that could support me through graduate school, even if it did not seem likely to apply to my future field.

Before this job, I never really knew what a Chamber of Commerce did. When forced to guess during my interview, I said it had to do with business, and visitor's information. That is part of the story, but not all of it. To offer a very simple explanation, the Chamber is a member-based organization that provides a multitude of services to the businesses that pay to join. As their receptionist, I am expected to provide various support services to the main staff, answer phones, and greet visitors. It all seemed very simple and straightforward, and I came in on my first day expecting it to be pretty uneventful. “It's a job,” I said. Like all jobs, I hoped to learn something from it; I just assumed that what I learned wouldn't have much to do with library and information science. And then, the phone rang.

The questions I hear every day range from simple to thought-provoking, and occasionally border on alarming. An elderly man once asked me to spell the word “eagle” for him. No particular reason, he just could not remember how to spell it, and he was sure the Chamber could help him. My favorite reference question occurred when I arrived to work one morning to hear a 3-minute voicemail message from a woman who wanted to know a list of any famous and influential people that lived in this part of Michigan in the 15th and 16th centuries, among other things. I was not even sure where to begin in responding to that one, but she forgot to leave her contact information, so it was not an issue. She has not yet called back, but if you have any advice on how to handle it in case she does, your professional collaboration is encouraged.

At first, I was shocked by all the questions. I would never have thought to call the Chamber of Commerce with such questions, but for many people, I was the first person on their list when they did not know where else to look. Once I enrolled in the Reference and Information Services class in the SJSU-SLIS program, I was finally able to describe what I was experiencing, and realize that my seemingly uneventful job was unexpectedly providing me with excellent skills that could translate to my education and career objectives. My fellow receptionist joked that she sometimes felt like a 4-1-1 operator, but I feel more like a reference librarian.

I would say the most common questions I get are “ready reference." People want to know the size of the population in the county, where to get immunizations without health insurance, how to find scholarships for their high school graduate, and similar questions. None of these are services provided by the Chamber, but I was encouraged to try to answer them if I knew the correct answer and had time to do so. This is in order to foster good relationships and serve the community. And so I do, taking to heart the principles I learned in my class.

I follow the American Library Association's Reference Users Services Association guidelines. I attempt to engage the user and not only deliver them an answer, but show them how to use the very sources I employed to answer their question. I tell them the population, but not before telling them how to access census data for the area online. I have instructed quite a few callers on how to effectively use a search engine. At least a handful of Michiganders who had never heard the word “Boolean” before now incorporate it into their everyday work, and spend their time thinking of alternate keywords when their first try doesn't net them their desired results.

When the questions get more complicated, I do my best to point them in the right direction to get started, but then I suggest my favorite place to go with questions: the library. I explain to them how reference librarians are trained to help their patrons locate the answers to their questions, and have many resources at their disposal to help users find information. And then one lovely older woman told me, “You should do that job, sweetie. You would be good at it.” I explained to her that I was already studying for my Master's in Library and Information Science, and I hoped to one day find a job in the field. She laughed and said the school was training me well.

I came to the Chamber expecting to collect a paycheck and maybe learn something about my community, but I also learned an incredibly valuable lesson. Sometimes, we can gain experience in the most unexpected places. I do not have a lot of library-related experience, but I know that I can explain how my time at the Chamber of Commerce helped me become a better librarian to prospective employers. I am hoping to convince my bosses to change my official title to Receptionist and Reference Specialist. Either that or they could call me “The Wizard,” but I do not think that will get the right kind of attention for my resume. And I will always remember the lesson that, just like Dorothy's experience in Oz, you can make the best of situation, even if it is not where you thought you belonged. So until I find that dream job, I will be answering questions at the Chamber while clicking my heels together and saying “If I only had the money to pay back my student loans...”

Marissa lives in Midland, Michigan, and when not complaining about the snow, spends her time frantically looking for ways to increase her library experience. The search has recently paid off, as she has started her first paying job in the LIS world as a part-time analyst for a local research firm.

Reader's Theatre at the Library

by Margo Tanenbaum

Looking for a fun and easy event suitable for kids in elementary school, as well as for tweens and teens? Try a reader's theatre event at your library. Reader's theatre can improve kids’ reading fluency, comprehension, and social skills - all skills the library is suitable for developing. Parts or roles are read rather than memorized. Small props can also be used, but there are usually no costumes. Some reader's theatre scripts are copyrighted, but free scripts can be found online or through books at your local library. An excellent series of links for reader's theatre are available through Scholastic’s website. For extra fun, write your own scripts!

I had extensive story time experience before my internship this semester at the Little Tokyo Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), but I had never done any reader's theatre. The teen librarian kindly agreed to let me try a reader's theatre project with their after-school teen group. We decided to use the Greek myth of Bellerophon and the Chimera. This was a timely project given the success of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief book series and movie as well as the film Clash of the Titans.

Since I hadn’t looked at these stories in many years, I requested copies of different versions through LAPL’s interlibrary loan and used these to cobble together my own script. I decided to make masks to represent the different characters. I was able to find images through various free clip-art sites; I enlarged, printed, colored, and then mounted the images on cardstock to make them a bit sturdier. Craft sticks were taped to the masks to make them easier to hold. For props, I used a piece of gold braid for a golden bridle for Pegasus, a plastic sword, and a borrowed tin-foil/newspaper helmet, as well as a puppet of a fly on a stick, representing the gadfly who stings Pegasus.

Most of the kids who came to the activity were in elementary school, and some were as young as six. I was glad that some of the parts I had written did not really require any reading but just animal sounds like “roaring” or “neighing” since several of the children didn't read fluently yet.

At the beginning of the program, I first presented some background about Greek mythology. I used a whiteboard to draw a chart of the 12 major gods and goddesses. We reviewed the identities and the role of gods and heroes in Greek myths. Next was a “table read” (rehearsal while sitting at a table) of the script; after, we acted out the play. The kids were laughing at each other's antics and asked if they could do another play at another meeting. Afterwards, they each made a drawing of their favorite part of the story. Using these, we made a display with the Greek mythology books I had requested. The display enabled them to see how various artists had interpreted the story.

I was really delighted with how the program went and would be happy to pass along the script to anyone who is interested. It was a very inexpensive (virtually free) and educational program to organize. Writing my own script enabled me to tailor the length and number of parts. This is a program idea I would definitely do again for either teens or elementary school children. It would also be a great project for teens to present to younger patrons at the library.

Margo Tanenbaum is more than half-way through her library science degree. She looks forward to working as a children's or YA librarian. Her blog reviewing children's books is The Fourth Musketeer. She lives in Claremont, California, with her husband, two teenagers, a miniature poodle, and books in every room.

Seattle Public Library and K&L Gates Law Firm Library Tours

By Katy DiVittorio

On Friday February 19, 2010 LISSTEN hosted a luncheon and tours of the Seattle Public Library (SPL) and the K&L Gates Law Firm Library. The majority of the students who attended the event were from the Seattle area, but students attended from Portland and one student came from California! The tours and lunch were a great opportunity to meet classmates and learn from professionals in the field.

The students first met for lunch at the restaurant Wild Ginger and discussed their experiences in the program and why they chose to attend SJSU-SLIS. Student Melanie Bottari said “It was great to meet other SJSU-SLIS students face to face. Since the University of Washington (UW) has a MLIS program, I wasn't expecting so many SJSU-SLIS students and it was very gratifying to meet them and hear about their experiences.”

After lunch the group went over to the SPL for the first tour. The tour started with a presentation by Jeff Christensen, Event Services Tour Coordinator, who discussed the history of the library. The 11-floor library was built in 2004 by the architect firm Rem Koolhaas. Building materials from the previous library were recycled and used in the new building. The library has Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification and was designed with growth in mind. LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system. A building designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance in energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts can earn LEED certification.

The library has a capacity for more than 1.45 million books and materials. There are approximately 5-7 thousand visitors a day and 20,000 items are checked out daily. Currently there are 1 million items in the collection and 9,906 shelves devoted to books. All of those books move around the library in a high-tech book-handling system that operates for the most part out of public view.

The tour group went behind the scenes with Tim Morrison, Operations Analysis and Enterprise Manager at SPL, to see the library’s automated materials handling system (AMHS), which uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to sort the books as they are returned to the library. RFID is being used in libraries to replace traditional barcodes on items. The tag contains identifying information, such as a book’s title. RFID saves time for patrons and staff, since multiple items can be checked in/out at once instead of scanning each item's barcode. It also works as a security device. Once the items are checked out the tag is deactivated, so that it will not set the alarm off.

The library has more than 400 computers for public use and wifi access. Just a few of the features the tour covered included: the Mixing Chamber where staff assist patrons; the Seattle Room, which contains the special collection of materials related specifically to Seattle; and the meeting room floor. The importance of clear signage and building design were emphasized by our guide. Mr. Christensen explained that the library was originally designed and built with very little directional signage. The escalators were also designed so that they skip floors. These design factors resulted in many patrons finding the library difficult to navigate. The library has since added more signs, but some patrons are still confused by the escalators skipping floors.

One of the highlights of the tour was talking with Jodee Fenton, Managing Special Collections Librarian of the Seattle Room. The group learned about some of the challenges of managing a special collection, including digitization, cataloging, and the damage call number labels and RFID tags can have on materials. This special collection differs from many other library special collections in that the public is allowed into its stacks.

After visiting the Seattle Room, the group went to the meeting room floor and was pleased by its unique design. Dark red curving walls met the students as they entered the level.

The group then headed across the street to the K&L Gates Law firm library to learn about law librarianship. K&L Gates is a large international law firm; most of the librarians provide legal and business reference services. Librarians who work in a law firm library have a specific clientèle consisting mostly of the firm's lawyers. This atmosphere is different from a public or academic library where reference librarians will often be assisting a wide variety of patrons. The subject areas are also very specialized, mostly in law or business.

LISSTEN tours provide a great opportunity to meet classmates in person, talk to professionals in the field, and get behind the scenes experiences of various libraries. To learn more about upcoming tours and networking opportunities visit LISSTEN.

Katy DiVittorio is the Reader Services Assistant at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, OR. She has completed her second semester in the SJSU-SLIS program. She is a LISSTEN Board Member and hopes to offer opportunities for students to network.

Photos by PJ Bentley.

gau ko vreji fi le samymri (or, Save the Email!)

by Jennifer Davis

The origins of languages are not usually well-documented. But as the brand-new language, Lojban, is being created in modern times, with details and decisions being hammered out via electronic communication, there is an opportunity to capture the linguistics and history from the very start. I talked to Robin Powell, the web administrator for, about archiving and preserving the language's history.

Lojban is described as "a carefully constructed spoken language designed in the hope of removing a large portion of the ambiguity from human communication" on the official Lojban site. The web page states that Lojban began development in 1987, and Robin Powell, web administrator, treasurer, and secretary of the parent organization, says that a related mailing list has been around since 1989. Recently he took it upon himself to collect the group's emails from various venues since that time and consolidate them into a Google group. His experience might serve as a template for other web historians or those who are interested in archiving public electronic records.

Robin is a Linux systems administrator for EngineYard. He's been working with the Lojban organization for years; he has helped publish a book on Lojban and has organized Lojban-related conferences. At the time of this interview, he had spent about 60 hours on the email project.

The following conversation was conducted, appropriately, via AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).


Jennifer: Can you describe how you've been ferreting out the emails? I assume you've had to look in multiple places?

Robin: Well, there was an archive that was on the site when I took it over. Which was woefully incomplete, and covered about 1989 to April 1998. Far from complete coverage in that range, too.

Jennifer: So where did you turn from there?

Robin: I've mostly been breaking it down by months; without a known-complete archive, and without being willing to go through by hand and look for mails that seem to be replying to nothing or not have replies or that sort of forensics, I can't ever know what I'm missing for sure. There are mails from most months in that time period in the old site archive, but not all. Then there's the archive I've kept since I took over handling the mailing list on my computer; that one, I trust implicitly, but it starts in mid-2002. From late 1998 through to that time, it was on ONElist, which got taken over by Yahoo Groups, which still exists. I was able to retrieve their mail. The rest was covered by simply asking members of the community for what they had, which was woefully incomplete, it turns out.

Jennifer: How did you do that, exactly? The Yahoo Groups part?

Robin: I found someone's script for extracting mails from Yahoo Groups (yahoo2mbox) . The Yahoo Groups archives cover about 28K mails, so not something I could do by hand. Then I had to deal with the address munging [a process of disguising email addresses]. For instance with old mails, they would come in as bob@XXXXXXXX.XXXX instead of, or whatever. That was semi-manual; hunt through the mails to find the real address, copy & replace throughout.

Jennifer: Where/how did you find the scripts?

Robin: The first script was something I had known about for years, and also friends mentioned it. The second was found through Google.

Jennifer: Were there any permissions issues for grabbing all those emails from Yahoo?

Robin: I can't see how there would be; it's a publicly accessible archive. I didn't ask, though.

Jennifer: Ah, membership required then?

Robin: I think if you're not logged in, you always get munged emails. If you are, only for the older ones. But I'm pretty sure you can see them without being logged in, other than that.

Format Conversion

Robin: It was trying to de-convert MHonArc emails that I ended up finding another script for. Well, MHonArc was one format. That's a system to archive mails on a website. So it converts them to HTML.

Jennifer: So then people sent you what they had stored up. What formats did they send them? Were they bundled, as in zip files?

Robin: They were all bundled. One of the people who sent me mails sent them already imported into MHonArc, which means they look nothing like UNIX mail files. But it turns out all the information, in particular the Message-ID, which is the most important bit, was in the MHonArc files.

So I started playing with de-converting them, because it covered periods I did not otherwise have coverage for, and discovered other people had already done that. I suspect the search I used to find the script was "mhonarc mbox", but I couldn't swear to it.

Jennifer: So it was good to have the MHonArc format in the end; it preserved more information?

Robin: I would MUCH rather have had a standard UNIX mailbox format. But it was better than nothing, and better than some of the other archives I was sent, which did not have Message-ID headers, which makes them nearly useless. Other than the MHonArc mails, there were mostly in variants of UNIX mailbox format; that is, plain text with some amount of headers.

I got enough that I have just shy of 60K mails (after extensive de-duplication) in the archive folders, and only a very small list of months have less than 30 mails, which is my arbitrary cutoff for "that month is probably missing stuff.'

Jennifer: Wow. So the MHonArc...does that give you a lot more info, or is it just a lot of header cruft?

Robin: A UNIX mail file with full headers is as much information as any mail format, at least for mail that's going out over the general Internet. Everything else is either (1) a strict subset (this is the most common), (2) a re-arrangement of the same data (MHonArc) or (3) contains idiosyncratic information particular to the person who archived the mail.

Jennifer: Did you ask for people's emails in email, IRC, or where?

Robin: I asked both in email and IRC. I did not specify format. Mostly it was zip or .tar.gz. In some cases it was one giant file with lots of mails in it. Which is a standard UNIX thing, actually; pretty much all mail used to be like that.

Jennifer: About what percentage response do you think you got? In terms of people who answered versus people you asked.

Robin: I asked a mailing list with about 800 members; I got perhaps half a dozen helpful responses. But then, only a few people have been around long enough to have decent archives anyways.

Jennifer: You got 6 responses out of 800?

Robin: I have everything from Jan 1999 on, you see. So I was asking for the stuff I didn't have.

Jennifer: Okay, then, 6 responses out of how many ideally? Like, how many major long-term players?

Robin: I actively communicated with every long-term player that I could easily get ahold of. I wasn't about to go rooting around for ancient email addresses or anything. Everyone I explicitly asked, responded. Just turns out that people's archives have been lost/destroyed in various ways. Or never existed. Several people simply didn't archive in the first place; short on disk space.

What Was Lost

Jennifer: Were there any stories of how others lost stuff?

Robin: Quoting: "I searched through the backups I have on my home computer and found complete mailbox copies for (1993-10 - 1996-02), (1996-04 - 1996-08) and (1996-11 - 1997-09) plus the whole of 1992 split into individual postings and converted to HTML. My personal mail archives at work (including the backups) were shredded when I retired so I cannot check whether there might have been any additional saved archives." One member lost his to a drive crash.

Jennifer: And as far as you know, none of the emails that you've saved through the years have been lost--i.e., you haven't had any of those disasters yourself?

Robin: I do not seem to have my own archives of Lojban list mail before about 2004, but then I didn't look carefully because I only joined the list in 2001, and as I said all that time period is covered. Certainly the archives that I caused to be made automatically once I took over the list are fully intact, and with complete headers, and formatted usefully, and so on. I went to some effort to ensure that. It's a thing--a personal goal/pride. The idea that a mailing list I run would not also, as a side effect, generate archivally - useful versions of itself is abhorrent to me.

Jennifer: Do you have more you think you need to collect?

Robin: There is more I would like to collect. I'm almost certain, for example, that we're missing much of March 1998. But I don't see any way to get it.


Jennifer: So what else do you intend to do on this project?

Robin: The rest of it has been merging, converting, de-duplicating, and uploading to Google Groups. The actual goal here is two-fold: (1) have an as-pristine-as-possible archive of the list, and (2) move the list to Google Groups so I don't have to manage it anymore. I would feel bad if I moved it without also uploading a decent archive.

Jennifer: Are you doing these things by hand, per email?

Robin: Heh. There are, right now 47,855 emails that my scripts considered "good". Counting all the duplicates and rejects that I've expunged, the grand total is 95,554, it seems. Since if I took 30 seconds per email, that would be about 30 days of 24/7 work.

Jennifer: Okay. So how are you accomplishing those 4 fine things? Especially considering that you are dealing with emails in multiple formats--UNIX standard, MHoArc, and I assume others?

Robin: Variants on UNIX standard; missing headers, extra headers, that sort of thing. Many many mails without Message-ID, which is the worst. The one guy whose emails include, in the body above the regular text, a copy of some of the headers, for no apparent reason, blocked out in a special format. *shudder*

Jennifer: No unique identifier?

Robin: Correct.

Jennifer: So how are you doing these things?

Robin: Scripts. Some of which require a small amount of input from me, but mostly automated. Whole pile of scripts. Mostly /bin/sh, but also some Perl.

Jennifer: Have you done any testing on these scripts?

Robin: I suppose it depends how you define "testing." But certainly I test each before I let it loose on the archive as a whole. It's hard to recover from mistakes at this stage of the game.

Jennifer: Do you keep a copy of the originals?

Robin: As much as I can without causing myself too much extra work, yes. I have 3 or 4 copies of the whole archive right now, snapshots taken at various points.

Jennifer: So give me an example of testing.

Robin: Copying a month's worth of data and running the script on the copy. And then deleting and copying again, cuz it didn't work. :)

Jennifer: How can you tell it didn't work? You check a few? You read through the whole thing?

Robin: Depends on the script, and what it's supposed to do. Because of the nature of this process, I'm usually leaving debugging output turned on. So I'll watch that scroll past and eyeball for problems. Which means that every time the script makes a change, it either says what it's going to change, or shows me diffs [a UNIX command that finds all differences between two files] afterwards, or both. My basic testing usually means take a copy, running the script, and then diffing.

Jennifer: Where are you keeping all these copies?

Robin: On my hard drive? No particular organization, if that's what you're asking.

Jennifer: And how do you back that up? Nightly? Offsite?

Robin: Yep. It's all automated; has been for years.

Weeding for Duplicates

Robin: I actually haven't talked about any of the hard bits; I've had to do 3 different types of de-duplication, for example. Crazy stuff.

I have one script that, for any given month, compares all of the email bodies with all of the other email bodies stripped of whitespace, and considers any identicals to be duplicates and tosses one out. (Not permanently; it gets moved aside, that whole 95k vs. 48k thing) Got thousands of hits on that; no idea what information might have been lost (like if one copy says the mail is from Alice but the other copy says it's from Bob; I just toss one at random). But since the bodies are the same, any loss will be minor.

Another that does the same thing, but with the headers, ignoring the body. Because if all the headers are the same, it's the same mail; any differences are encoding, or errors. But again, since one mail might be an error and the other not, I may be losing information there, too. Which is why I don't actually throw them away; if someone comes back years later and says "Hey, where's the rest of this mail?", I want to at least have a chance of being able to answer the question. Got thousands of hits on that one too.

Third one is header-based, but respects Message-ID. It treats any two mails with the same message id as potential duplicates, but this one tries to be smarter; it tries tossing away some headers, and re-arranging others. If it can make the headers look identical by doing that, it calls them duplicates. If it can't, it asks me. Probably only a few hundred hits with that one, but since it's manual and I'm not done uploading, I'm not actually done running it.

I have almost everything automated at this point. The two stopping points are that I refuse to automate everything, because then things could get shredded and I'd never know, and Google Groups doesn't like how fast I'm uploading things. :)


Jennifer: Are those scripts that are so specialized to this process that no one else could use them, or could they be useful to others who might have to do something similar? And if the latter, would you be willing to make them available on your website?

Robin: That's kind of a toss-up; they're pretty idiosyncratic. I probably will make them available, but mostly undocumented. It just seems like way too much work at this point to document them properly, but I don't see any reason not to provide the scripts themselves and one-liner explanations.

Jennifer: Maybe they would be useful as a kind of template, for the types of things someone might need to do. Do you despair about having to archive emails that are "Me too!"--i.e., no useful content?

Robin: Not a bit. Because it's part of our history. Maybe someone flamed a "me too" poster in Lojban; that would be great historical stuff for us. If I worried about tossing useless mails, I'd have to risk losing context. And I don't have a prayer of wading through 50K mails for content anyways. :) Besides, bits are cheap.

Robin went on to comment that the project was far more work than he expected. He said that the community has been grateful for his work, which has helped fuel his ongoing efforts. He feels that these archives will provide insight into why decisions were made about language nuances. They will also document old usage because Lojban, even though it is a new language, has already evolved. This archive project, and others like it, are the new face of historical documentation. People like Robin with patience and training are needed to cull and preserve electronic conversations for archival purposes.

Jennifer is in her third year of a seven-year MLIS at SJSU. She hopes to become a data curator one day. In the meantime, she tests software part-time at a biotech company and savors one class per semester.

SCALL's "New Attorney's Research Skills" Workshop: A Learning & Networking Opportunity for Students Interested in Law Librarianship

by Sandy Li

Upon entering SJSU's SLIS program, I was in a situation that I think many fellow SJSU-SLIS graduate students can relate to - specifically, I had very little experience in the field of library science. Having worked at many law-related jobs before entering the program, I did not have a long list of library-related jobs that would demonstrate my interest in the field. Making a career change, I knew, would not be easy. Despite these hurdles, I knew that the best way to meet any challenge was head-on.

One of the first steps I took was to gain more information about the area of library and information science that interested me. My particular interest is in law librarianship and I recently joined Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL). The organization is a great way to meet other law librarians, network, and gain valuable insights about the field.

On May 21, 2010, SCALL presented the "New Attorney's Research Skills: What They Have vs. What They Need" Workshop at the USC Gould School of Law. At the workshop law librarians from law firms and law school libraries discussed a variety of relevant topics, such as how to teach law students who are digital natives versus digital immigrants, and how to keep law students engaged in learning about legal research.

Workshops like this are ideal opportunities for SJSU-SLIS students like myself, who want to learn more about a particular library science field. There is certainly no better way to learn what law librarians from both the private and academic sector do than to attend this workshop.

For example, the workshop included a dynamic roundtable discussion, where law firm librarians, law school instructors, legal research instructors from the private sector, and former law school students discussed a range of topics. These topics ranged from what material to teach in legal research classes to the types of research skills expected of new attorneys. The participants of the discussion presented thoughtful opinions and perspectives based on their real-life experiences. Just from listening to the dialogue, I felt that I had learned a great deal about the field.

The workshop is also an excellent way to meet other law librarians and develop contacts. By networking with other library professionals, you can find out if an organization needs interns. You can also find out how these library professionals obtained their present positions. Additionally, by attending events such as these in an area of your interest, you are demonstrating to future employers your passion and commitment to the field.

Hopefully, I'll see some of you at future SCALL events.

Sandy Li just finished her second semester at SJSU-SLIS and is interested in becoming an academic law librarian.

"The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb's Book of Genesis" Tour at the Hammer Museum

By Alison Leonard

Do you recognize the name Robert Crumb? No? Crumb is famous as a subversive comic strip artist whose work was mostly in the public eye during the late 1960's and early 70's. Crumb is perhaps most famous for his artwork and associated slogan, "Keep on Truckin'!," originally published in underground Zap Comics in 1968.

ALASC Co-Chair Susie Quinn helped organize a tour at the Hammer Museum of the exhibit, "The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb's Book of Genesis." The exhibit featured all 207 original panels from Crumb’s new graphic novel entitled, "The Book of Genesis Illustrated." The exhibit was displayed in a circular room that contained a smaller circle within it. The black and white comic panels covered all the walls. The tour was led by Danica Gomes, UCLA Art History major and Student Educator at the Hammer Museum. After the tour, the group gathered in the museum's courtyard for lunch at the Hammer Cafe.

Crumb stayed true to the story of the Book of Genesis using several sources, including the King James Version of the Bible, but mostly Robert Alter’s recent 2004 translation of "The Five Books of Moses." Crumb concludes his colossal project with an eight-page commentary in which he states, "In setting out to illustrate the Book of Genesis, I quickly learned that I had to read the text very carefully and closely in order to render as accurately as possible the words that were actually written there."

He goes on to say, "If my visual, literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis offends or outrages some readers, which seems inevitable considering that the text is revered by many people, all I can say in my defense is that I approached this as a straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes. That said, I know that you can't please everybody."

Pleasing everyone, or anybody for that matter, was never what Crumb was about. He is frequently criticized for his obsession of overly sexual images of women often portrayed in submissive roles.

This project is not a departure from the raunchy material followers of Crumb are used to seeing. The biblical storyline in the Book of Genesis lends itself to Crumb’s appreciation of sex and violence. In an NPR interview he said he focused on the illustrations because, "...the stories are so strange it doesn’t need satirizing…it stands up on its own as a comic book."

Crumb drew in black and white ink, complete with the use of plenty of White-Out®. The project took four years to complete, and on average, Crumb did one page every three days with about six to eight vignettes per page. His wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, remarked that the project required him to go into “monastic isolation” to complete. However, the end result of his efforts was the completion of all 50 chapters of Genesis in just 224 pages, in what may go on to become the most definitive version of the illustrated book of Genesis.

During the project, Crumb pondered his rendition of God. He considered varied images including a woman and the patriarchal Charlton Heston-like version. His decision to settle on the latter came to him in a dream. Crumb is fuzzy when it comes to reasons about why he embarked on the project. He started by drawing a satirical version of Adam and Eve and apparently at some point, the project evolved from there. A neighbor may have pushed him to do more, as he recalls. But before the project was even completed, Crumb said, "I am completely sick of the Bible. I began to hate it when I started working on it. I’ve had my fill. The idea that millions of people have taken it so seriously – is totally nuts. The human race is crazy." That definitely sounds like something Crumb would say.

Hollywood and the art world have tried again and again to embrace Crumb in various ways. But Crumb does not always answer the art world’s call. However, it seems his work has made it to the Hammer Museum one way or another. I also discovered that the founder of the underground comic movement somehow decided that the Internet is good enough for him. You can check out his site and items he has for sale there at

Alison has a background in fundraising with Haiti Democracy Project, Meridian International Center-a contractor for the U.S. Department of State and WNVC International Public Television. Alison holds an undergraduate degree in history from Virginia Tech, and a Masters in International Transactions from George Mason, which included study abroad at Oxford in England. She enjoys swimming laps, biking and hiking.