6 Responses to Potpourri

  1. Tracy Lightcap May 18, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    I’ll now make a prediction that I am absolutely positive will be 100% accurate:

    The retrieval system at the new UC library will not work.

    This whole arrangement reminds me of the failure of the infamous “automated” baggage retrieval system at the Denver airport and for the same reason: the whole system depends on both human beings and machines doing the right thing all the time. What if the wrong bin is retrieved and a librarian places a book in it by mistake? In a regular library this is no problem: the book will be noticed as out of place on the shelves by those replacing the volumes and re-shelved or an interested user will look for it and find it slightly out of place. In the new UC library that relatively painless solution becomes a matter of using the “specially designed cranes” (My God, I thought, what if they break down? I hope the maintenance budget is up to snuff.) to retrieve bins in a search that will cost substantially. Result = there won’t be many searches for mis-shelved books.

    Well, it’s their movie and they’ll have to live in it.

    • p j May 18, 2011 at 11:16 am #

      Never fret, the sponsors of this ill-conceived scheme will be long gone and perhaps forgotten before the price of maintenance will come due. The same style of short-term thinking goes into just about everything having to do with large budget planning and construction. It’s this type of thinking that permeates modern management in both public and private projects.

      Unfortunately, it is those whose job it is to clean up such messes who bear the brunt of the criticism and inevitably the cut in their budgets. But they usually don’t sit at the table where the decisions are made.

  2. Adam Hughes May 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    Tracy and p j – the automated book retrieval system is not untested technology. Similar systems exist at the University of Utah and Colgate University, among other institutions. I actually helped fill the U of U cavern with metal bins one summer when I was younger. For librarians, the chance of mis-shelving a book actually decreases, as you can only mis-shelve the book within the bin that it is linked to. In stacks, people often pick up books and replace them incorrectly, sometimes far from their original position. Further, the books kept in these systems are not commonly checked out – it’s better to have trained and qualified librarians managing them then risking it with careless patrons. And yes, cranes can break down, but so can elevators, and you don’t see any libraries longing for the days of carrying books up stairs by hand, do you?

  3. Adam Hughes May 18, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    *librarians, not libraries.

    I also wanted to add a comment about the above ground architecture – it looks like a low budget version of the British Museum, and quite unattractive from the outside. If U Chicago wanted to spend that much on an automated book retrieval system, you’d think they’d find a better architect for the part everyone sees.

  4. andrew May 18, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    The UC system looks a lot like the University of British Columbia system, which has been in place for a few years and seems to work well enough.

  5. Matt Dhaiti May 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    Before he was blog famous, I had two classes with the blogfather, and we were not allowed to have laptops open in class. It would be interesting to have the spyware study replicated with an ease in the consent part (we’ll do *something* to your computer and you’ll get paid! vs. we’re gonna monitor your usage, though obviously that would bias the study in other ways), as self-selected samples are seemingly suspect. But, methodologically, i wonder how the study classified wikipedia, either as constructive or disruptive. I’m not saying I’ve always used wikipedia for class, but there have definitely been times where I consulted it for spelling, dating, etc. Painting sites as constructive or disruptive based on the website and not on the content of the website seems wrong.