Monthly Archives: July 2009

Loving diesel

Three weeks ago, Dean and I bought a new car.  Ostensibly, it is my car.  In fact, of the 367 miles that we have put on it to date, the vast majority have been “his” miles.  The car is a Volkswagen Jetta Wagen, TDI.  That TDI stands for, I think, turbo-diesel injected.  Translation:  This car is going to get really good mileage. It is also beautiful.

One of the cool things about the display in the car is the DTE (distance to empty) indicator.  When we got the car, it registered 400.  As we drove it, the DTE number increased!  Our official odometer reading is now 367, and the DTE is reading (drumroll) 200!  I drive it very little, and I do a lot of coasting.  I am mezmerized by the display.  I know that eventually I will have to fill the tank, but getting “free miles” until then is pretty satisfying.


Tools of the Trade

My position as Library Director has recently taken on a new dimension.  Because of budget rollbacks, when our Archivist retired this year, another staff member assumed the responsibilities of the position, resulting in the need for him to give up some of the things he was already doing.  One of the things that he gave up was “Facilities Management.”  I had managed to avoid that aspect of my job for eight years.  Now was the time to step up to the plate.

During my first week as facilities manager, I quickly got on a first-name basis with Nancy, who answers the phone and triages problems at the Office of Physical Plant.  I acquired all of the building keys, and my own set of allen wrenches.  I developed a tracking system so I could keep up with the reporting and completion of work orders.

But yesterday I really came into my own as facilities manager.  A plug broke, leaving a metal piece stuck in an outlet.  I called it in, but also decided that I should cover the outlet pending the repair.  Voila, duct tape!  I can do this job.

Learning in the Archives

The Phillips Academy Archives contains countless treasures.  The OWHL’s summer student workers, Cassie and Ashley, have spent time exploring those treasures while helping Interim Archivist Tim Sprattler work on projects this summer.

DSC00654In response to an inquiry from an Andover alumnus who was part of the Academy’s Jazz Band “The Aces” during the 1950’s, the girls found and scanned pictures of the band.


They were surprised to learn that the Academy also had a marching band during the fifties.

marching band1

Arranging itself into the letter “A” was the band’s signature move.  Another request (for information on Andover’s “Secret Societies” led the students to discover that not too long ago, Andover had what ammounted to residential fraternity houses.  This is the house inhabited by the members of PBX.

pbx houseMany of these old houses still exist around campus.  It would be fun to do a scavenger hunt to see how many could be identified.  Cassie and Ashley enthusiastically agreed that it is great to have a summer job where you can learn interesting things while you are working.  The entire staff of the OWHL is in complete agreement.

Tim’s shirt says it all:


Primary sources at your fingertips

As recently as a generation ago, primary source research in American history required a great deal of patience and persistence.  Some of the best resources for contemporaneous accounts of historical events–newspapers–were available, if at all, on microfilm.  Few high school collections had the budgets necessary to offer users access to  the micro forms or the equipment needed to view them.  Fast forward to 2009.  Phillips Academy students  are indeed fortunate in being able to draw from a vast trove of digitized primary source material, including full-text access to important historical newspapers licensed by the OWHL.  The librarians are very proud of the resources that we offer, and frequently remind students that they can’t get to this excellent content using Google, because the materials are proprietary and hence not available on the free Internet.

While this remains true, the list of excellent free resources sponsored by universities and government agencies continues to grow.  A case in point is a rich site offered by  the Library of Congress.  The LC  has created Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers as part of  the National Digital Newspaper Program.  This site provides  digital access to historically significant  United States newspapers published between 1836 and 1922, and is freely available on the Internet.  The site is searchable and browsable, and the full-text page views are in PDF format and have durable URLs.  The site will continue to grow as additional states receive grants to digitize local papers.

Students of history have a much easier time these days finding primary source materials, so that they can devote their efforts to the hard work of interpreting and using them.  Come to think of it, that will still require patience and persistence.

YouTube and Education

It is impossible not to have an opinion about YouTube.  Based on an unscientific survey of my colleagues, many intelligent, thoughtful educators have little regard for the enormously popular video-sharing site.  But if you haven’t looked at YouTube lately, you might want to revise your judgement.  Many top colleges and universities–including UCLA, Stanford, Dartmouth and many more–have created excellent educational videos and uploaded them to YouTube’s educational site

YouTube EDU functions as an aggregator of the YouTube channels of the participating institutions.  Content includes lectures on hundreds of topics, as well as speeches and special presentations.  For example, commencement addresses (including the one at Notre Dame by President Obama, and the one at Duke by Oprah Winfrey) are archived for free viewing.  If you haven’t been to YouTube lately, you are in for a pleasant surprise.  What began as a fairly frivolous vehicle for self-promotion has morphed into an important educational resource.

Access to scholarly journals in print: A thing of the past?

Librarians have known for some time that this day was coming, but still, the announcement last week by the American Chemical Society that it is ceasing the distribution of the print editions of  all but three of its academic journals, and will offer the journals only online, was sobering.  It is hard to argue with the rationale for this decision, that “printing and distribution costs now exceed revenues from print journals.”  But are we really ready to give up, cold turkey, access to print-based publications? Continue reading


Twitter (a free social messaging service “for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” has finally gained “academic respectability.”  According to a recent article in the British online journal the Telegraph,  “The social networking tool, which has 1.8 million users, will be listed in the 30th anniversary edition (of the Collins English Dictionary) to be published later this year.  The website, which allows users to send brief online updates to their friends and family, will appears as both a noun and a verb.”

Remarkably, after being a staunch Twitter-resister for more than a year, I recently took the plunge and created an account.  I did so because Elizabeth Thomsen, whom I highly respect, has encouraged me to do so, and Marci Silverman, with whom I rode my bike cross-country, twittered the whole trip.  In addition, at the recent National Educational Computing Conference, it would have been totally uncool to admit to being Twitter-less.  I began by “following” a few interesting people.  During NECC, I decided that it was time to “tweet.”

I sent one, very banal post.  Following the rules, I tagged it so that it would become part of the pool of NECC tweets by using the #NECC09 tag.  It was, I am confident, completely within the guidelines.

Imagine my shock and dismay when I attempted to log in to Twitter a couple of days later only to find this very harsh message.

Aviary twitter-com Picture 1I have again followed the instructions and appealed my suspension, but haven’t heard back from the Twitter police.  If you know me, you know that I am a dedicated rule-follower.  I was a girl scout and girl scout leader!  I am a librarian!  If you have a Twitter account, please tweet them on my behalf (@Twitter)  Please help free my account!