Librarians in Pop Culture

It always makes me especially happy to see Librarians represented in books, movies and TV shows. So I thought I would share with you a few of my very favourites:

  1. In Terry Prachett’s Discworld series, the Librarian of the Unseen University Library (full of magical books for the wizards) has some time ago been transformed into an orangutan, and he doesn’t really want to be changed back. Though all he says is ‘ook’ his character is quite endearing, and I love the description on the fan website (which really could be describing any one of us 😛 ):

    When worried, the Librarian tends to hide under a blanket in his book-lined nest in a cubby hole under a desk in the middle of the library. He is generally naked but he does wear an old green robe after he has had a bath. He is also a Special Constable of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. In his spare time he visits the pub, leaving a trail of peanut shells behind.

  2. Did you know that Batgirl, aka Barbara Gordon (Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, NOT Alfred’s niece as shown in the movies), is a Librarian by day? HEAD Librarian of the Gotham City Pubic Library to be more specific. It’s nice to think of us Librarians as butt-kicking superheros, thank you very much.
  3. Speaking of butt-kicking, Evelyn ‘Evie’ Carnahan – the female lead in ‘The Mummy’ movies, is an exceptionally intelligent and strong Librarian. Her knowledge of ancient Egyptian mythology and hieroglyphs would shame any scholar. And she won’t let no undead jerks tell her what to do!
  4. I was recently shown an amazing movie called ‘Desk Set’ from the 1950’s starring Katharine Hepburn as ‘Bunny Watson’ – a sassy and highly intelligent Librarian whose role and department is at risk of being replaced by a fancy new computer (sound familiar?!) There’s also a pretty cute love story intertwined in the very witty and humorous dialogue.
  5. While not technically a Librarian, I absolutely love the sneaky Carl Conrad Coreander who runs the antique book store in the ‘Neverending Story‘ film. I always think of the library as a safe place for all, especially for those kids who need a place to go at lunchtime in school, just as Bastian is saved from the bullies by entering the book store. I can’t help but laugh at Coreander’s sentiments “the video arcade is down the street, we just sell small rectangular objects, they’re called books and require a little effort of your part – and make no pllffbb beeps! Now on your way” haha oh I feel you!
  6. I could go on and on, so I’ll leave you with a quick few others to check out on your own – if you haven’t heard of Rupert Giles, the Librarian in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, definitely have a watch. Of course, ‘The Pagemaster‘ film has a great eccentric librarian, Mr. Dewey (lol), who is willing to bend the rules a little. Then there is ‘The Librarians‘ film series and TV show from the USA which again has supernatural elements and a very clever Librarian. Finally, ‘The Librarians‘ TV show from Australia takes a more realistic approach, with a horrible librarian who is actually painful to watch (but its very funny).

So, from this list you can see: there is mostly an even split of male and female Librarians – interesting. Also we seem to be quite eccentric, and involved in lots of supernatural events, and are also very intelligent, quite funny and sort of rule breakers. I’m quite happy with this profile 🙂

Who are your favourite Librarians in pop culture?

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Copyright and book covers in Aus

It can be easy to forget as you are diligently working away, but every book cover in the library is covered by copyright law, not just the content within the book. Often the book cover will contain an artistic work, and some may be particularly unique.

So if you are using thumbnails in a catalogue, or a blog, or on a library poster – is this breaching copyright law?

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Peer Review by AI?

An interesting article by Janne Hukkinen in Wired has introduced me to a new concept, peer review conducted by artificial intelligence!board-2181407_1920

The article argues it is risky business, and I agree. While it can streamline the process and lead to faster publishing, I seriously doubt an algorithm could review a paper to the same quality as a human expert. Nuances would be missed. As the author states it would fail to consider values, “such as ranking two scientifically equal texts on the basis of their social relevance”. Hukkinen also tells a story akin to Hal in 2001: a Space Odyssey, where a rogue program sent “terse letters” without the knowledge of the company.

Clearly there is space for computer assistance, searching for plagiarism and obvious errors for one. It can immediately discount some manuscripts based on particular criteria. But peer review done solely by AI? I am sceptical. Of course, I suppose people are sceptical of every new technological development. Perhaps in the future it will simply be accepted as the norm.

The article poses some interesting questions for the future of publishing and science, and is well worth a read. The possibilities really are endless…

Beall’s list – what happened?

Since I wrote about Predatory Publishers and Fake Academia back in January, there has been some updates on Beall’s list, which had been taken down around the time of the post.

The author of the list, Jeffrey Beall, has come out with an article titled What I learned from predatory publishers, which provides “a first-hand account of the author’s work identifying and listing predatory publishers from 2012 to 2017.” This article provides some interesting insights into predatory publishing, and also suggests why Beall felt it necessary to remove the list – he was under “intense pressure” from his employer and feared losing his job.

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Seed Bank Flooded!

I like to think of the Global Seed Vault as a form of archive and library. I can only imagine how they have catalogued and organised all those seeds!

The vault is supposed to be

an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever.

Unfortunately, even deep in the Arctic circle it is still not perfectly safe. An archive/library’s worst nightmare – FLOOD. According to The Guardian, due to climate change and much warmer temperatures than usual, loads of melted snow and rain have breached the vault!!

Thankfully no seeds were harmed. But this questions the vaults ability to preserve the seeds for eternity, and also shows the dramatic effects of climate change. I’ve seen flooding before in a library, and its not a pretty site. Paper clearly does not withstand water very well. I can’t imagine having the responsibility to preserve my library items for eternity!

 

Web publishing and image files

As part of my course at Charles Sturt University, I have just learnt something simple yet amazing – which file format to use for images and when!

I had always wondered what the difference was between a PNG, JPG and GIF, and when I should use each of these file types. If you are making eLearning content, webpages or printing posters with images, then you should know the difference between these files types. To summarise what I have learnt:

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Machine Learning

Continuing on from my earlier post about Facial Recognition, let’s talk about machine learning. This is a type of artificial intelligence that lets machines ‘learn’. So just as facial recognition software is able to ‘learn’ by building templates of faces, other machines can learn a vast array of useful information.

For example, a company called Jigsaw has recently announced a new technology to help identify trolls and inappropriate comments on websites (via Engadget). These types of systems are usually given a data bank of typical examples of the content they are learning. Here, the machine (known as ‘Perspective’) was given a huge amount of comments labelled as ‘toxic’ by human reviewers. It can then use these as templates to identify more similar comments. Each time it is correct, or incorrect, it becomes more accurate.

4-04-2017 3-40-02 PMAnother example, which is a whole lot of fun, is Google’s ‘Quick, Draw‘ game. Simply press play, and you’ll be given 20 seconds to draw a simple item. These doodles are then saved to “the world’s largest doodle data set” to help with machine learning research in the future. As you draw, you can see the machine recognising your pictures (or not) in comparison to other pictures people have drawn of the same item. Give it a go, it’s very addictive!

Other examples include algorithms that recognise and filter email spam, provide you with ‘you may also like’ suggestions and targeting advertisements at you.

So what does this mean for us humans? Is this the beginning of the end a la Terminator movies? Hopefully not. These systems still need a lot of human guidance, but every new development is truly amazing. And if it simplifies my life and work, I’m all for it!

 

SLV overhaul

Exciting times – the State Library of Victoria’s ‘Vision 2020’ project will see a huge refurbishment and the creation of new spaces, with a 40% increase in public space!

There’s a website dedicated to the project if you’re keen to learn more, and you can even donate (hey it’s going to cost an estimated $88.1 million to complete!) According to Broadsheet Melbourne:

To fund the library upgrade the State Government has pledged $60.4 million, contributing $2 for every $1 raised through philanthropy.

Donations to date have reached $21.8 million, with large contributions from Maria and Allan Myers, the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation and the Ian Potter Foundation.

The remaining $5.9million will be sought through a public fund raising campaign.

I can’t wait to see the final result!! 🙂