Friday, December 11, 2009

Spelling of Hanukkah

Since tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, answering the question about the spelling of the name is worth discussing. A librarian from Independence, MO wrote, "Chanukah or Hanukah or Hanukkah. What is the respectful way to spell this sacred holiday and why do we have choices??? Google wasn't helpful. Please help educate me."

First, Hanukkah is a minor holiday, not mentioned in the Torah or rest of the Bible. That men work is not forbidden on the holiday. It is an historical holiday to commenorate a miracle. I would hardly call this a "sacred holiday." Second, the librarian should realize that Google was not intended for answered like these. That is the reason we have librarians and teachers is to help point students and other in the right direction. Google is great for searching on key words and even guiding us when there is an alternative spelling, but it does not explain the reason for anything found.

This question has multiple correct answers. Hanukkah חנוכה is from the Hebrew word meaning rededication of the Temple after the Maccabees threw out the Assyrian-Greeks. The Maccabees choice the date of the winter solstice holiday for the rededication as this was the same day that the Temple of Jerusalem desecrated.

The beginning sound of the word, Hanukkah is not native to English. Some English words use "ch" or "h." In transliteration some use "kh" and others "h" with or without a dot underneath.

If a reader comes to the reference desk to ask about the spelling, the librarian would need more information before offering a proper answer. If you are writing for yourself, you can spell it however you want. If you are cataloging books then you have to follow the rules for Hebrew transliteration codified by ALA and LC. See this book for information on systematic romanization for Hebrew and Yiddish: Hebraica cataloging : a guide to ALA/LC romanization and descriptive cataloging / Paul Maher; Library of Congress. Descriptive Cataloging Division. Washington, D.C. : Cataloging Distribution Service, Library of Congress, 1987.

There are at least two books written on the subject.

This is an academic book.
How do you spell Chanukah? : A general-purpose romanization of Hebrew for speakers of English / Werner Weinberg. Cincinnati : Hebrew Union College Press, 1976.

This is a humor book.
How to spell Chanukah : 18 writers celebrate 8 nights of lights / Emily Franklin. Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 2007.

If you are cataloging then look at: Hebraica cataloging : a guide to ALA/LC romanization and descriptive cataloging / Paul Maher; Library of Congress. Descriptive Cataloging Division. Washington, D.C. : Cataloging Distribution Service, Library of Congress, 1987.

In September I wrote an article on the transliteration of Hebrew,

The short answer is: that the transliteration depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Who is your audience? If you are transcribing a title page in Hebrew you have to follow ALA/LC rules for romanization. If you writing something to a friend, you may choose another spelling. Librarians depend on literary warrant i.e. you must find a valid source for your choice. It really doesn't matter to most readers if you use one or two n's or k's. However, most would not use two n's and most spell checkers tag the two "n" version as a mistake. Most of us write it as "Hanukkah. "

For this question there are multiple correct answers. However there are many wrong answers, too.

Happy (C)Hanukka(h) everyone.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lady Moon Song

Today someone sent me a link to a picture from Library of Congress's American Memory collection. This is a picture from classroom with the words from Lady Moon on the blackboard in the background. The image is 51 mb. If I reduced the resolution the words would not be legible.

TITLE: "Steamer Glass" in Hancock School, Boston. Immigrant children. Location: Boston, Massachusetts.
CALL NUMBER: LOT 7483, v. 1, no. 0861[P&P]
REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-DIG-nclc-04529 (color digital file from b&w original print)
LC-USZ62-25109 (b&w film copy negative)
CREATOR: Hine, Lewis Wickes, 1874-1940, photographer.

desafran de-safran wrote this

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Librarian's Lobby for November

The spelling of a word is not always an easy straight forward answer. Last Sunday someone asked about the spelling of Yerushalayim in the Hebrew Bible. 360 times the spelling is without the yod-mem but the pronunciation as if that was the spelling. This month's column examines the etymology and meaning of Yerushalayim.

This month's column, "The Spelling of Yerushalayim," may be downloaded from:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Librarian's Lobby Passover Story

One never knows who will find my columns. On November 11 Justin Shubow wrote me about a revision of information for a column I wrote in March and April of 2000. He is the great-grand nephew of Rabbi Shubow, whom I mentioned in the column. My column talks about a Passover seder held in Goebbels' castle during World War II. I said that we don't know if Goebbels knew about it. Shubow pointed me to a biography that stated that he did know of the seder and it bothered him. I edited my column to reflect this new information. Read the whole revised column : Passover Story from Harvard

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hello November -- Last Night in Reference

Monday night we had some interesting questions at the reference desk that are way beyond what we can do at a college library. I present these cases for your entertainment and edification. I am merely describing, not complaining.

Two 8th graders came by with a father of one for help with their science fair project on preserving meat with salt. They said their teacher recommended going to the college library. I asked them if they requested help from their school librarian; they had not. I showed them some web sites that might help and explained to them that our library is small and we only have books that support our courses. We don't have any books for their age level. I asked if their teacher contacted the local public library. The teacher had not. Sorry, we don't have the resources to help 8th grade science fair projects. I recommended they try their local public library because they have books on science fair projects.

A woman came to ask for help with the data bases; a common question. I explained how to do a search and the student asked if she could do the searches at home. I gave her a card with the instructions. She said that she was a student at a community college in another city and she couldn't get into that college's library system. I went to that library's web site. The user name and password that her teacher gave out did not work. On the web site was a phone number for their reference librarians. I suggested to the student to call the number. The student looked puzzled as if I could wave my hand and help her with another library's security features. After repeating, "call the number listed on the screen," more than four times. I think the student finally understood what to do.

A telephone caller wanted to know if we are still giving flu shots. The library is not giving flu shots. We're not allowed to practice medicine ;-). The city health department is offering flu shots and using the College's facilities. We did not know the hours.

Two adjunct professors came by to ask for help with the state mandated ethics training. The computer in their office asked for a password that they didn't have. All the library staff took the training and had no problems entering the system. These professors had never before tried to use the College's system. They had never used any of the College's web sites including the Library and Human Resources sites. Here were two teachers who were challenged by the College systems. I was able to help them. They had to access the system to retrieve their College IDs and passwords first.

Students came in to ask for research help for their English papers. This is normal. We are able to help them if they know their topic. Usually I show them Pro-Quest or Opposing Viewpoints. This is enough to get them started.

Then there was the students who wanted help with the color printer. He reported that the printer gave a message, "Order yellow cartridge. " We know about the message and are just waiting until it says, "Install yellow cartridge." I asked the student if the printer refused to print his job. "No I haven't even tried to send it yet." Rule 1 -- When expecting the printer to print, don't forget to send the job first. "

It's all in a day's work. Without stories like this what would I have to write about?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Song My Grandmother Sang -- Lady Moon

My grandmother sang a song to all the babies and toddlers in our family entitled, "Lady Moon." This was a lullaby used to entertain the little ones. I never thought much of the song because it was not a catchy tune, the words didn't mean very much, and no opera singer needed to be concerned that Grandma would take over their role. I never learned the words to the song. We also never heard this song from any other source. Until today I thought that Grandma had made up the words or changed them so much that the original would not be recognizable.

Last week my mother was reading the book,
Her Face in the Mirror / edited By Faye Moskowitz. (Boston, MA : Beacon Press, 1994) The book is a collection of biographical and autobiographical stories about Jewish women. One story, "Mother, I hardly knew you," by Letty Cottin Pogrebin caught my mother's attention. Ms. Pogrebin mentions that her mother sang a lullaby, "Old Lady Moon." My mother wondered if this was the same song that her mother sang. Music was a catalyst that reminded Ms. Pogrebin of her childhood. She remembers the songs of the Haggadah and the classical music from radio station WQXR. My mother turned to me for help finding Ms. Pogrebin's email address. I did a Google search for the author's name and didn't find the email address. I did find biographic material about her. I then searched in the data base, Literature Resource Center and found her name easily. I was pointed to Pogrebin's biography in Contemporary Authors Online. (Detroit: Gale, 2005.) I sent my mother the address on Monday.

Immediately my mother sent an e-mail to
Pogrebin. On Tuesday night my mother reported back that a reply was received. The song Pogrebin remembered started "O' Lady Moon, so fair and bright." This is not the same song as my Grandma sang. The first line of the song she sang was, "Lady moon, Lady moon Sailing up so high." I used Books.Google to search for the composer and lyricist.

The song is mentioned in the article, "First steps in language development" / by Harriet Luddington in the periodical The American teacher (vol 4:3, 1890) Luddington says that the singing the song was a good way to help with language development in kindergartners. The full text of the lyrics appears in Pinafore palace by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin, Nora Archibald Smith (New York : Grosett & Dunlap, c1907) on pages 222-223. I found an alternative name for the song is: "The moon and the baby." Searching for this title led me to the full musical score in : The songs and music of Friedrich Froebel's Mother play / by Friedrich Fröbel, Susan Elizabeth Blow (New York: Appleton, 1903). The composer is Freidrich
Fröbel and the lyrics are by Kate Kellogg. There is a note that the song is from: Songs for Little Children for the kindergarten and primary schools, by Eleanor Smith. Springfield, Mass., Milton Bradley Co., 1887. This book is a fully viewable using Books.Google.

Freidrich Fröbel (1782 - 1852) was well known for the founding of the kindergarten in Germany. Many Germans, trained in his methods emigrated to the United States and started the first kindergartens for children of German immigrants. In 1873 William T. Harris superintendent of the St. Louis public schools was the first to integrate kindergartens as part of the public school systems. His curricula included reciting poems and singing songs as a way of expanding language skills.

My grandmother probably learned, "Lady moon" in kindergarten in St. Louis. By the time my mother was in kindergarten they were no longer singing it. The song that I thought my grandmother was the only one in the world to know is really one of many songs a 19th century German education reformer wrote to help young children learn language.

Here is the version of the song transcribed from a video recording of my grandmother.

The Moon and the Baby

Lady moon, Lady moon
Sailing up so high,
Drop down to baby
From out of the sky.
Baby dear, baby dear
Down far below
I hear you calling,
I hear you calling,
But I cannot go
But lady moon sends to me
Soft shining rays,
The moon loves the baby
The moon must stay
In her house dark and blue
So she must stay
I think she'll watch me
I think she'll watch me
'Til dawn's bright new day.

Here is the version from Kate Kellogg

Lady moon, Lady moon
Sailing up so high,
Drop down to baby
From out the great sky.
Babykin, babykin
Down far below
I hear thee calling,
I hear thee calling, I hear thee calling,
Yet I cannot go
But Lady moon sendith thee
Soft shining rays,
Moon loves the baby
The moon-light says
In her house dark and blue
Though she must stay
Kindly she'll watch thee
Kindly she'll watch thee
Till dawns the new day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Language Grows -- Compounds

Yesterday a librarian in a middle school in Rogers, Arkansas posted a query on lm_net, a list serv for school librarians. "Is
minivan considered a compound word? We are having quite a discussion about it here at school."

I posted a short answer to lm_net, but I would like to expand here to cover a few more points of linguistics. List servs are great for asking question and sharing ideas from the collective knowledge of the group. Beginners in the profession have a chance to interact with veterans. Sometimes the teachers in their school are colleagues and sometimes librarians and teachers are in two separate educational worlds. Frequently school librarians are the only librarians in their building and have to seek advice from colleagues in other places. Librarians serve the information needs of everyone in the school, while teachers are focused on their classes.

In the language curriculum there is probably a unit on "compound words." Even college writing guides talk about compound words. The first challenge to answering this question is to understand how language grows. How does a new word enter the language? The first words were monosyllabic imitations of natural sounds. We call the descendants of those words onomatopoeic words. Examples are: ding-dong, ring, swish, bang, etc. Eventually grammars and vocabularies developed so that sentences could be created.

These first words were combined to create new words that represented more abstract objects or concepts. For example "sweater" and "sweet" began as onomatopoeia. In Hebrew, which is more root based than English, words formed from roots in a more systematic way than English. For example the root,
ספר (samekh- peh - resh) once meant "to cut." Now we have words such as

סֵפֶּר (safer) meaning book, סִפּוּר (sipur) meaning story and סָפַּר (sapar) meaning both to cut and to count. Early writing was in stone; hence "to cut" was the operation required for writing.

Another way for language to grow is to coin a new word. Someone invents a word based on another word, based on a foreign word, or totally synthetic. Examples are; telephone, television, geography, and microscope. Words can be invented by companies to use as product names. Some of these words have entered into common usage such as: Xerox, Kleenex, and Twinkies.

In linguistics a compound consists of two or more lexemes (meaningful parts)each of which could stand on its own. A prefix or suffix has meaning, but is not a lexeme that can stand alone. When these parts are put together the meaning is a combination of the parts, but with a new meaning. Usually the parts are the same part of speech (i.e. all nouns or all verbs). In German the parts may make a long word with or without a connector. Two examples are "Autobahn" and "Eisenbahn." "Auto" means automobile,"Bahn" means path or road, "Eisen" means iron. "Autobahn" is a limited access highway for cars. "Eisenbahn" is a railroad. In Hebrew and other Semitic languages two words may be combined with the vocalization of first one changing to the construct state. For example "Bayit" בית means house and "kenesset" כנסת means assembly. When combined the vowels change to "beit kenesset" בית כנסת and the meaning is synagogue. Compounding two or more words is a way to create a word for a concept that will be understood even by speakers who previously had not heard the words.

In English the compound may be connected to form one word such as "seaman," connected with a hyphen such as "do-it-yourself," or just in proximity such as "high school" or "tea bag." In speech the emphasis or stress is on the first part. In the conventions of writing make proximity a largely ignored group of compounds. Compare how we pronounce, a white house and the White House

In your example of "minivan" the question is, "Are the two parts stand alone lexemes?" While "mini" is frequently used as word it is still jargon, slang, or proprietary usage. "Mini" is considered a prefix or combining form in most dictionaries. Since "mini" is not a full word, "minivan" would not be considered a compound word in English.

If one uses "minivan" it has a specific meaning as coined and defined by the American automobile market. The spellings "Minivan," "mini-van," and "mini van" are used. "Mini Van" (1960­ - 1982) is a propitiatory name introduced by British Motor Corporation (BMC).

However, why should anyone care if the word is compound or not when the history of the word and the use of compounds is much more interesting?

Here are some of the comments that I received today and yesterday ---

How delightful to start the day off with a little linguistics discussion! It is a neglected little passion of mine, and I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing and for brightening a gloomy autumn morning.

Malin Lauschus

Oh my goodness, Dr. Stuhlman! You just sent the best reply! I absolutely adore words of every language, but I can see that my knowledge is nothing compared to yours. I have forwarded your reply to our academic facilitator who was needing to know... Thank you SO much!

Melissa Artman

Amen, Dr. S.! Amen and bravo, too!

Dianne Meyer

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Problem Patrons

Last week we had a problem patron. The person was not disruptive, mean, loud or malicious -- just needy and not even a student. Let's call this patron LD (for lady). LD self identified herself as a non-student. Since we don't restrict access to the building or library, LD was allowed to enter. She had a hard time expressing herself. It took many questions to figure out want she wanted. We finally figured out that she wanted help writing a job reference for herself. I found some sample references in several web sites and sent her to these sites. She wanted to write the reference and have her employer sign it. LD kept asking for all kinds of help with the computer and printer. She complained about the 10 cent cost per copy. Some of the questions are covered in an introduction to word processing class given in elementary schools. Some of the questions required "hand-holding" because she didn't understand. One of the student library workers tried to get LD to go to the career counseling office, but they closed at 6:45 and the time was 6:50. LD wanted to borrow a reserve book. To borrow a reserve book one needs a school ID. Sometimes if a student forgets their ID and is in the system, we allow them to use a reserve book. Since LD was not a student, she had no ID. LD tried to argue with the library clerk say that her ID was stolen and she had to go to the Police Department to get it back. LD even interrupted my dinner and a reference conversation with a student.

LD was in the library more than 3 hours. Her task could have been completed in 15-20 minutes. Last year LD attempted to apply to the nursing program because she wanted to help people get well. She was not accepted. You should thank the school because they saved us from a potentially poor nurse.

It is difficult to write diplomatically about a problem patron. Some college libraries do not allow non-students to enter the library. Some colleges don't even allow people without proper ID entry into the building. This person was not a threat to safety of anyone. She just needed the kind of help that we are not able to deliver. In a college library our students and faculty must come first.

In the same night I helped students with English papers and computer problems that they would have no way of solving without help.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Publishing in Scholarly Publications

"Publish or perish! " has nothing to do with the requirements my current position. I like to research and write about my findings. Last May I wrote an article about Hebrew-Yiddish name pairs because the subject had been bugging me for a while. I wanted to publish a more scholarly version for a wider audience and also to get the approval of my peers. First I tried, Tradition, the journal of the (Orthodox) Rabbinical Council of America. After they acknowledged receipt of the manuscript, in May, I waited and didn't hear anything. In July I sent a query. The editor said that it wasn't received. I sent a second copy. After waiting another 4 weeks, they politely turned me down because it was not about a Jewish law (halacha) topic. No where does their information say the articles need to be on a Jewish law topic.

I searched for another journal. I have a large run of Judaism, Quarterly, but strangely the latest issue was dated 2006. I found the web site of the publisher, the American Jewish Congress, and went to their publications page ( .) The cover picture of Judaism was dated Winter 2006 ( issues No. 219/220 volume 55, Winter 2006). I figured someone was not updating their web site. The site included subscription rates and gave no indication that the publication was in trouble. I searched come libraries and found the Winter 2006 was the latest they received. I called the AJC offices and learned that Judaism, Quarterly has suspended publication indefinitely. No indication was found on their web site that publication had ceased. This is a headache for librarians. Since the publication did not cease to exist, the library still has an open entry for the publication. If the publication resumes, will it take the 2007 date or the date it resumes? I couldn't submit my article to them.

I then investigated Jewish Quarterly Review published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. JQR with a long history of publishing Jewish scholarship started publication in 1889 at Dropsie College. Articles, written by top Judaica scholars cover the full range of Jewish scholarship from the ancient to the modern. I sent a query via e-mail and the address on the web site bounced. An alternative e-mail address bounced. I was concerned, did JQR cease to exist. I phoned their office and found out the correct e-mail address. I edited the article to fit their requirements and submitted it by e-mail on August 19. The exchange of e-mail with their office was very professional. They explained the review process and stated how long the process would take. However, on September 26 a letter of rejection was received. They liked the article, but it did not fit their editorial needs at the moment.

I started to search for other publications to submit the article. I knew of other journals that I felt were not the right place. Even though Moment Magazine is not a scholarly journal I sent them a query. They said that because of their small staff I may not hear from them if they are not interested. I waited a week and did not hear anything. This week I sent two more queries to journals that I have never seen. I hope one of them will requested a full copy and publish my article.

It is getting harder to find the right publication for my articles. I published an article on Torah scroll in a journal of book preservation. Some people read it and cited the article in their papers.

On Facebook one of my professor cousins once said, "No good deed goes unpublished." The mitzvah is sharing the information, now the person I'm trying to share with needs to reach out.
Oct. 14
The email address found on the publication's web site for submissions did not work. The address didn't bounce immediately, but I got message that my message couldn't be delivered.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Librarian's Lobby for September

After taking off from writing the column for the summer here is the first column for 5770 תשס"נ

Last August someone asked me why a writer used a particular system of Romanizing Hebrew. I gave a quick answer then, but the topic deserved greater study. The challenge of transcribing sounds or transliterating words from one script to another is an ancient challenge. The Romans when they entered ancient Israel were the first to have a need to write Hebrew words in Latin characters. No orthography fits the oral language precisely.

This month's column, Transliteration of Hebrew, may be downloaded from: It is in PDF format to accommodate the Hebrew and illustrations.

I wish everyone שנה טובה ומתוקה shannah tovah umitukah. May this year be one of peace, respect for one another, prosperity for all, and good health. May your family and friends be a source of strength and support to enable us all to make this a better place to live.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Visual Information

Information is organized data. Yesterday someone showed me an article in the July 1, 2009 issue of School Library Journal "It’s a Mad, Mad Wordle: For a new take on text" by Carolyn Foote. The article is about another way to present information. Wordle ( is a free program that takes words or an RSS feed to make a graphic representation. Words that occur more frequently at bigger or more predominate. This is a fun way to play with words or represent articles graphically. Read the full article on line at:

Below is a Wordle picture created from this blog.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

This Week in Reference

Sometimes I like to write about amusing questions that cross my desk. Now I want to tell of some questions that really show off a great interaction with the reference desk.

A student came in a hurry, almost out of breath. "I need to know when the next full moon is." She explained that the full moon affects her and she need to take medication on the full moon. I looked the calendar and counted 15 days from Rosh HaShanna forward for October and backward for September. After she left I found the web site: . My answer was the same as the calendar, September 4 and October 4. The reason my calculation works is that Rosh Hashanna and other first days of Hebrew months are on the day of the new moon. The new moon is when the first glimmer of light is seen on the moon. The full moon is the middle of the lunar moon. Since the cycle of the moon is 29.5 days the full moon is on the approximately the 15th of the month. Actually the calendar date could vary from the 14th to the 16th because the calendar measures days not the hour of the full moon.

The precise answer for the full moon is: Sep 4 16:05 and Oct 4 06:11 . The times are listed in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) Chicago is GMT -5 (five hours earlier in Chicago during daylight savings time). Jerusalem is GMT +3 during daylight saving time and GMT +2 the rest of the year.

Person 2 asked, "There are supposed to be four new Lincoln pennies minted this year. Have they all been released?" I went directly to the U.S. Mint web site: The home page has a link to order the third Lincoln ( "Profesional life") one cent coins and says that they will be shipped after September 11, 2009. The first two in the series, "Birthplace" and "Formative Years." are listed as sold out. There was no date for the shipment on the fourth coin in the series.

Person 3 was a faculty member. Her first question was whether the library had an DVDs that she could show her class about World War 2. The quick answer was, "No the library does not collect DVDs they are all in the Media Services Department, but I can check them in our catalog." Since ee could find anything in the catalog they would help her, I suggested that we check the Internet Archive ( The site has more than 200,000 videos. (Actually almost 1000 were added from when I did the search in the and now when this is being written.) The faculty member said that her classroom didn't have a computer. I told her that was no problem. She could go to Media Services and reserve a cart with a computer and projector. No one had told her this before. The Internet Archive has historic videos including news reels, educational films, historic advertisements, cartoons, and even feature films. The site also has texts and audios. One only feature is the "Wayback Machine." This enables one to view a web site as it looked in a previous moment. If you thought a web site goes away when you change or delete it, this will prove you mistaken. Enter the URL and view previous versions of web sites.

We also searched the Public Broadcasting System, Library of Congress, and the BBC sites (, http:/, and and found more videos and texts to help with her classes.

This faculty member learned not only about new digital resources but also about what services the college could offer.

These questions are so much more challenging to answer than, "Where is the Science Building?"

Friday, September 4, 2009

Using First Names

I just received a phone call from someone who never met me whose first word was, "Daniel?" Right away this is red flag to me because none of my friends or family would ever call me by that version of my name. The caller did not even ask, "Is this Daniel? or "May I speak with Daniel?" I usually reply in my best public service voice, "This is Dr. Stuhlman, may I help you?" Sometimes they continue to use "Daniel" as if they are familiar with me. Sometimes they will reflect back, "Oh, Dr. Stuhlman, I'm Joe from XYZ company."

I went to visit a Chicago high school a couple of weeks ago. Everyone on the faculty there is addressed with a title, "Dr., Mr., Ms, etc." The person I was meeting with had never met me before. He introduced himself as, "Dr. A." No first name was given. I have not even sure how he spells or pronounces his last name. I replied, "I'm Dr. Daniel Stuhlman, nice to meet you." I handed him my calling card to make sure he knew my name.

Perhaps unsolicited callers have no training in derech erets (good manners)? Or perhaps manners don't exist any more? What if I didn't answer my own phone? What if the caller started talking and solicited or reveled something that the person answering should not know? Here are Stuhlman's Rules for phoning. 1) Make sure the person on the other end is the person you want to talk to. 2) Use full names to establish that the person is the right person. 3) Do not assume you can call someone by a nick name. For example I am not "Dan," "Danny," or "Don." Anyone calling me by those names will not get my attention. I will just think they are trying to find someone else.

I were calling from the place where I work I would identify myself ("Hello, this is Daniel Stuhlman from XYZ Library.") and then make sure I have the right person ("May I please speak with Sally Jones?")

How do you want strangers to address you?



ML: I first encountered the phenomenon when working for a bank in the early '90s. While helping a couple of departments with mail merges, I noticed that they were omitting titles of respect and using "Dear [first name] [last name]:" as the salutation. When I asked about it, I was told that this was because a) some women are offended by being called Ms. So-and-So, while others are offended by Mrs. So-and-So or Miss So-and-So; and b) with all the gender-neutral and just plain unusual first names that parents have chosen since the 1970s, you no longer know from the first name whether you're addressing a man or a woman. That, coupled with general a trend towards less formality in today's society, has led to the conclusion that you're less likely to offend someone by addressing them by first name or first & last name than by attempting to use a title of respect. In your case, you were talking to someone working with a list of first and last names and a script.

RF: Debt collectors are not allowed to use a last name until they have the correct person -- same with doctor's offices. This is for ensuring privacy.

DS: My point was that the caller did not establish he had the correct person. This morning's call was not a debt collector call; he was from a trade publication that I subscribe to.

RF: He was just rude.

DS: Yes. This is kind of rudeness is common. I was also seeking the experience of others.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Asking the best questions

Last night a class was sent by their English 101 teacher on a library scavenger hunt. They were given a list of questions to answer based on library resources. The questions were of the “busy work” type rather than the analysis type. For example, “Where is the library catalog?” Answer – “On line.” “Does the library own Time Magazine in microfilm and which years?” Answer -- “Yes, 1923-1997.“

One student asked where the book check-out desk was located. I pointed him to the big sign less than 15 feet from where he was standing. He then asked where can he find the reserve book collection. I answered right here. He looked puzzled. I asked him what he wanted to know. After much thought he wanted to know what books are on reserve for a biology class. He asked a question, got a correct answer, but the answer did not give him what he needed to know. The teacher wanted the students to know that the reserve books are found behind the circulation desk. However, knowing what is on reserve for a class they don’t take will not help them.

A better approach for the teacher would be to tell them how to check the list of reserve books. This listing system changed this semester and it is doubtful that the teacher knows about the changes. Students need to be taught how to ask questions that will lead them to what they need to know. Asking, “Does the library own any microfilm?” will not teach them how to find the titles they need. Some students asked “Where are the microfilm kept?” Since the New York Times and Chicago Tribune are the most frequently requested films, the students were directed to their storage space.

The task of a reference librarian is to help library patrons use library resources to their best advantage. It is better to teach the patrons the principles of looking up answers than to give them the full answer. Figuring out the best questions is the major part of the research.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Manuscript Style Sheets

The best writing is direct, straightforward and focuses on ideas. Style sheets are used to facilitate written communications among scholars, students, and writers. The style sheets use conventions of language, consistency, and formatting to enable readers to concentrate on the message rather than the form. (At least that is what they claim.) Many teachers in high schools and colleges teachers require their students to follow a particular style sheet. Many professional and scholarly journals require adherence to particular style sheet.

ord choice is sometimes dependent on the field of study. Storytelling and narratives are best left to fiction and creative writing works. All scholarly publications depend on using and citing sources.These citations give credibility and support to the ideas expressed. Stuhlman's rule of citations is: All citations must be reversible. That means if I see a citation I must be able to look it up without ambiguity or confusion. One way of citation is the public view of a library catalog entry. If one searches Carter, C (that is last name Carter and any first name beginning with C)

This is the result from one library catalog. APA style sheet says to use on the initials of the author's given names. If you knew the author's last name and only the first initial you would not know which entry to choose. This is one example of the reasons APA style sheet is not sufficient for library searching. For library searching knowing only part of a name is not enough. Name authority is a system of entering names in catalogs. The system will bring together variants of names and spellings in other languages. One can't expect an author of an article or book to do the same name checking work as a librarian-cataloger, but it should be reasonable to copy the full name as listed in the source. Using the source name will give the library searcher a reasonable starting point to finding the bibliographic reference.

APA suggestions for author citations should not followed because it goes against their stated goal of clarity of communications.

Other features are legacies from the pre-computer word processing age. APA requires a serif type such as Times Roman face in the main body. This is the imitation of a typewriter. San-serif type faces such as Ariel look cleaner and more modern. The double-spacing between lines was done so that editors could make corrections on the paper. On the computer screen double spacing makes the document harder to read. We read by scanning in the upper parts of the letters. Double spacing confuses this ability to read quickly.

I challenge the makers and users of APA style sheet to start talking to librarians and library users so that changes can be made to bring the features into the age of computer word processing and library data base searches of articles, books, and other documents. This is just a short rant about style sheets. I challenge others to share their opinions.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Submitting articles

Last April I wrote a scholarly article for publication. I submitted it and never heard from the publication. I followed up 6 weeks later and they claimed to have never received it. I sent it again. Since I didn't hear from them I followed up yesterday and the e-mail address of one editor didn't work. I finally found another editor to contact and he said that the article did not fit their publication.

I tried another publication, Judaism, Quarterly. I went to their web site and followed the directions. That e-mail bounced. The web site did have directions for submissions and subscriptions. What was strange is the latest issue was from 2006. I looked other places and could find an issue later than 2006. This morning I called their office and found out they suspended publication indefinably. Why does their web site not say anything? Why do they have directions for subscribing when they don't publish?

I looked for another publication, Jewish Quarterly Review. I followed their instructions for submission. The e-mail bounced. I wrote to someone else in the office. This morning they answered me. The address on the web site was incorrect, the server was done, and the person is out of the office until Wednesday. Perhaps on Wednesday the article will get to the right person?

In case the article is not for JQR, does anyone know of a scholarly journal I can try? I'm not looking for a name of a journal, but a place to search for the name. So many of the ones I know are not appropriate for this article on Hebrew-Yiddish names.


August 19.

JQR answered my submission. It arrived safely, but they want a PDF file without any references to my name so that it can be sent to their reviewers anonymously. I made some edits and decided to add another paragraph at the end.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Scholarly communications and copyright

This summer at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention I attended a session given by a lawyer on the topic of copyright law and what Google is doing to scan library books. I just want to give some of my opinions.

First -- I once had a dream that I would have one union index that would list all the books that I own. I could look one place and find a subject and then know which book to open. The dream partially comes true when I use Google Scholar or Google Books to locate texts. I get a special delight when I seen a quote from a book or periodical and then I can go to the shelf and get the item.

When researchers look for intellectual material they want to be able to find materials quickly. Databases and scanned books help make the search and reading materials easier. Students, scholars and the general public depend on open and easy access to books and other intellectual content.

Second -- authors and creators have a right to be compensated for their creativity and work. In commercial ventures the compensation comes from sales. In academia the compensation comes from salaries paid by universities, grants, or institutional budgets. Sometimes publications charge an author for publishing their work.

It is obvious from the provisions of the copyright law that the lawmakers did not consider the needs of libraries, librarians, students and scholars. The law provides for fair use, but it does not provide for an accurate or convenient way of knowing who owns the copyright. The copyright period is life of the creator plus 70 years, yet there is no easy way to check dates of death. I have an alternative length of copyright.

  1. Copyright is automatic as in the current provision from the date of creation. To claim this protection the item must be dated. Any item not registered would be placed in public domain after 25 years.
  2. Copyright period under the automatic provision is for a period of 25 years. To obtain a longer period the item must be registered with the Copyright Office. When registering the owner may request 56 years, lifetime of the author plus 50, or indicate when the item will pass into public domain.
  3. Corporate owners of copyright protected materials must register for protection if they want more than 25 years of protection. The copyright may be renewed twice for a total of 75 years of protection. After that if the item is still commercially viable and the owner wanted to receive copyright protection they would need a special extension. After 100 years all items would automatically be placed in the public domain.
  4. Any item not registered would be placed in public domain after 25 years.
Copyright protection is a separate issue from ownership of intellectual property. Intellectual property is owned forever. That means one can not take the work of someone else and claim it for your own. If a publisher wants to reprint a book in the public domain, they do not have to pay royalties, but they may not claim the work is by another writer. Mark Twain owns Tom Sawyer forever.

If the items are registered with the Copyright Office that would indicate that the creator cared about protection. With registration Google, a library, or any member of the public could check on the copyright status. Once the owner is known it will be easier to get permission for reprinting or use in another manifestation of the work. Not registering would be prima faca evidence that the owner does not intend to claim protection of the copyright laws.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Installing a new computer.

Let me share some of my experiences installing a new computer. I purchased a program from LapLink called PCMover. First it has a strange price structure. One can download a version for $50 and spend $40 on a special USB cable or buy a retail box for $70 that includes the cable and another program called Filemover. The box claims they will send you a $20 rebate.

The installation process takes more than 30 minutes and requires a serial number from the package and key code from the company web site. The process asked for my name and address at least 6 times. When I installed Filemover, the serial number on the package refused to work. I had to spend time on the phone and in their text chat to get help.

Right out of the box the program required a new version download. The installation had to be repeated on both machines and the versions had to match. This is a reasonable expectation, yet it was annoying.

PCMover asks a few set up questions that enable one to choose what kinds of files to move. I did not want to move any temporary files. The program claims that it will move all settings, programs and data. First the program scans the new computer. This is the basis for importing the files from the old computer as no current programs are overwritten. I had 14 gigabytes to transfer. The actual transfer is about 1 meg per second, but it take 15 minutes or so until the transfer is ready to start. The transfer took more than 5 hours. At about 95% complete the process gave an error message. By that time LapLink support was closed for the night.

I sent an email request for help and received and answer saying to start all over. I did not want to spend another 5 hours of transfer, but it didn't take that long the second time. The second and third times it failed, too.

These two programs are annoying to install and use. I sent feedback to LapLink and I want my money back because the program does not do what it promises. It is not acceptable for new program to require a call to tech support for a straightforward installation. Support costs money. If products work right, calls are not needed.

This is only the short version of my annoyance with these LapLink products. I should have listened when I was told no transfer program that works.

I reinstalled MS Office, Eurdora, Firefox, Skype and other programs on the new computer. PCmover did transfer my data to the correct directories. I am still trying to restore all my settings. I lost the Firefox history. They were erased from the old computer. I still haven't found the settings to change to make sure I can type and view Hebrew in all my programs. MS Office and OpenOffice have no problems with Hebrew and Cyrillic. Eurdora will not display either on the new computer, but displays them on the old one.

I still can't believe computer makers and software companies can't figure out a way to make the new computer like the old. It seems that tool would be a good sales tool. I was told that Apple and Linux based systems are easier to move to new machines.

Happy computing!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Break

I am not taking a summer break from learning or teaching. Today I started teaching two 7 week courses. One is in managing a school library/media center and the other is in science and technology literature. Next week is the Association of Jewish Libraries annual conference and it will be meeting in Chicago. I will have to go to part of that especially since I will be the MC at the awards luncheon. I'm already thinking of funny stories to keep the banter going.

My Librarian's Lobby column will take a summer break while I'm teaching.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Untitled Art Works

A visit to the Art Institute of Chicago inspired this article. It is meant to be a parody of an art critique and poke fun at artists who do not title their work. Except for Chaim Potok’s fictional character Asher Lev, all the names, bibliographic items, and art works are products of my imagination.

In the cataloging of books and most other published library materials the author and title are very important in the identification of a work. The title page is what the publisher wants the world to know about identifying the work. When we saw many untitled works at the Art Institute many questions popped into mind about the cataloging of these items.

In a museum collection every object is given a unique identification number, but these numbers are internally generated and have nothing to do with bibliographic description.

Coby D’Artist was born Ya’akov Artovsky, in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in the Williamsburg neighborhood, where he first heard of the work of Asher Lev. He had a traditional yeshiva education, but always loved to draw. His first works were views of life in his neighborhood. In 2008 his work turned to the more abstract and the current exhibition in the Chiganmi Art Museum. Early in 2009 the museum warned us the exhibition would be strange and wonderful. The works would show us a new side of D’Artist that would cause us to think, wonder and be excited. The exhibition does not disappoint us.

As a tease for this exhibition individual works were on display in the entrance gallery. After one week they were moved gallery 199 on the first floor. The gallery and full exhibition were closed until May 31. The entrance gallery is a busy exhibition space. The revolving door traffic, the shuffle of the crowds, and the constant interruptions, make contemplative examination of the works difficult. But D’Artist’s work is so absorbing, distractions are moot. People stopped and looked at the works and wondered. Mysterious thoughts filled the air as people discussed the individual works without seeing or understanding the context of rest of the art. People asked, is this art a figment of the paranoid protagonist's imagination or part of a complex plan that comes from the trained mind of a Talmudic scholar? The works start out as simple and flow to the complex.

The problem I have
in describing the works is that they are all lacking titles. Obviously D”Artist never consulted me for ideas for titles. Usually a museum can list the works by artist and date, but all the works are by the same artist done in 2008. Luckily we know the month they were completed.

Like his earlier works, "Untitled" [1] starts out simpl
e. It is two blue shapes in the upper portion of the canvas. Is this a diagram or does it represent the coldness of winter? This roundish, blob could represent some sort of circle that has irregular borders. The intensity of the blue softens to a blur on the edges. Some people claim the shapes reminds them of blueberries.

untitled [2]
"Utitled" [2] could represent spring. D’Artist could be making a reference to the green served at the Passover Seder because this looks like a stalk of Romaine lettuce. The green background is the sprint growth of grass. The jagged edge represents the sleepless nights. I overheard one critic say it was a salami sandwich waiting to happen.

"Untitled" [3] is two
-untitled [3]dimensional storytelling with words that are created in the eyes of the viewer. The feeling is in each drop of color; they're aesthetically pleasing yet fascinating, but the actual ploy is hard to verbalize. The yellow represents summer sun.

"Untitled" [4] is the most complicated of all the works. The two red dots at the bottom represent the fall season, but they untitled [4]are not parallel to the edge. The splash of yellow and red are the color of the leaves changing. The blank areas on all the works is reminds the viewer of God as the creator of all. As a group they are hard to talk about because they are not titled.

Call the museum or visit their web site for hours and visitors’ information.


Amanut, Munhe. Life and work of Asher Lev. New York : Morningside University Press, 2008.

D’Artist, Coby, 1972- [Untitled] completed Feb. 1, 2008. 24" x 46" latex on canvas. Acquisition number 2008-9734. Purchased from the artist on Jan. 3, 2009

D’Artist, Coby, 1972- [Untitled] completed April 4, 2008.
24" x 46" latex on canvas. Acquisition number 2008-9735. Purchased from the artist on Jan. 3, 2009.

D’Artist, Coby, 1972- [Untitled] completed June 14, 2008.
24" x 46" latex on canvas. Acquisition number 2008-9736. Purchased from the artist on Jan. 3, 2009.

D’Artist, Coby, 1972- [Untitled] completed September 30, 2008.
24" x 46" latex on canvas. Acquisition number 2008-9737. Purchased from the artist on Jan. 3, 2009.

Driver, Solomon. "Coby D'Artist: conceptual art exhibition, April 30, 2000" in
New York Art, May 3, 2000. p. 12-17.

Potok, Yoseff. The legacy of Asher Lev. New York: Fifth Ave Press, 2007.

Zemanim, Iyar. The four seasons in art. New York : Morningside University Press, 1975.

Copyright 2008 by Daniel D. Stuhlman; the paintings are copyrighted by Coby D'Artist.

All artwork is this article was photographed by the author with the artist's permission.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Visting the Chicago Art Institute

On May 17 the Chicago Art Institute opened its new modern wing, an expansion that increased display space by about 30%. In honor of this occasion they offered free admission for the week. My son and I went to visit on different days and compared notes. He asked how does one catalog art that has no title. I said by the artist's name. Then I got to thinking that the name was not enough and so I asked my fellow catalogers via Autocat how it is done. Since cataloging art is so different from cataloging books, published media or even manuscripts all sorts of ideas ran through my mind. I decided to create an imaginary and humorous review of some untitled art works complete with a full bibliographic description of each work and fictional reference works. Watch this space for the finished article.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Visit to the Illinois Holocaust Museum

On Sunday (May 10) my son and I went to the Illinois Holocaust Museum. The building is very impressive. On the left is a picture of the back. Strange, this is the street side with the name on the wall. The entrance is on the side away from the street. Before entering they make you walk through a metal detector. The guard at the entrance told us that no photography was allowed, but there are no posted signs. It bothers me that a museum dedicated to remembering does not allow me to take pictures to remember my visit. They don't have many artifacts. Most of the floor space is taken by video screens, photographs, and printed information. A long time ago people thought that flash pictures would harm museum artifacts. This has been proven to be inconsequential. The amount of light from electronic flashes is so brief that it would take thousands to equal the background light. If there were a lot of flashes it could bother other visitors, but the museum was not very crowded.

Is any one else bothered by the prohibition on taking pictures?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Week in Reference

Here are some happenings from this past week. They are presented to inform and amuse. The names of the people are changed to protect their privacy.

LD = Library Director FM = Faculty member ST = Student

1. The library was co-operating with the history department's Civil War re-enactment. The library had a film festival of films dealing with the Civil War era, books displayed connected to the era, and some realia on display. There was a quiz for patrons. If they answered all the questions correctly they could win prizes. FM-1 came in and asked for a quiz sheet FM-1 has a very rough temperament. FM-1 wanted to know if the answers could be looked up. We said go ahead and look them up. Two hours later she returned in a huff. "Where's LD?" she demanded. When I said in a very calm voice that he had left for the day and asked if I could help her. FM-1 answered gruffly, "I just wanted to turn this quiz in. I want to make sure it gets into the right place." I said that I would be happy to take care of that. Now-- any of the student library helpers could have placed the quiz in the right envelope. It was not a job for LD.

When I told LD about the incident without mentioning FM-1's name, he guessed immediatly the name. He said that other people have pointed out anomolies in FM-1's behavior.

2. A faculty member FM-2 asked for help determining if a student paper contained sentences that were not original i.e. was part of the paper plagerized? First I checked the bibliography. The book listed did not exist as listed. There was a similar title by the same author. In my opinion this is a serious error, but FM-2 didn't agree with my strong opinion. I found with GoogleBooks the listed item. I checked for copying of sentences and I didn't find any. While I don't know the student, the sentences on the paper just did not seem to come from a contemporary college student. However, we did not find any evidence of plagerism.

3. ST-1 came in with a question about murder statistics for Illinois. The FBI keeps such statistics. We found a web site with historical statistics for Illinois cities with the latest date of 2006. We also found that Illinois reports every single homicide on a web site. With this information ST-1 could synthecize the information that she wanted for her paper.

4. ST-2 wanted help looking up CFRs for something her father wanted to know. First I had to learn that CFR is the Code of Federal Regulations. We found all of the CFR online at: After further questions I determined that ST-2 wanted Title 21. I gave her the links and told her that I hoped this is what her father wanted. ST-2 couldn't believe how easy it was to find the answer on line. She said that her father (aged three years older than me) was not very skilled at using the computer because he was "older." I said that age is not the reason. I was using personal computers for 12 years before my first child was born. (For those of you who are counting-- that is 2 years before IBM started selling the PC.)

Names and reactions

I have gotten many nice comments about the Librarian's Lobby article for May. In fact as of today more than 813 people have downloaded the file. This is about 4 times the average number of downloads. Some people pointed out areas that they disagreed with me. One person told me that I missed one letter in a footnote. The word was not really misspelled, but it was alternative spelling. Now I know people really pay attention. Some people gave alternative explanations for names. In particular, the name Jessica. "Jessica" was a name Shakespeare used in the
Merchant of Venice. It is possible that he coined the name. Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz in his commentary on Genesis 11:29 says that Iscah יסכה is the basis for Shakespeare's "Jessica." Others say the source is the feminine for of Yeshai ישי (Jesse in English). Both make sense linguistically. So far I have not found any way to verify what Shakespeare had in mind. I did not find any listing of the name before Shakespeare. I did find hundreds of names from what is now Great Britain that have not been used in more than 500 years. Most names that pre-date the Norman Conquest are not used.

Parents are free to choose any names they want. They may even invent their own meanings. When that is done they create folk etymologies. These etymologies are not usually connected to a linguistic etymology. One commenter suggested that name "Simha Bunim" is from a play on words, based on Psalm 113 which ends "He transforms the barren wife into a glad mother of children [em habanim smeicha], halleluyah". The commenter says, "With a little imagination, you change the reading of em habanim smeicha to 'the mother of Simcha Bunim.'"

Names transform for one language to another because of the way each language deals with phonemes. Written letters both consonants and vowels have different sounds. There is even a regional difference within one country or language tradition. When words are borrowed among languages the word may take on a meaning that is exactly the same, more general, or more specific meaning. For example: in German Tier means animal. The cognate in English is: deer is an example of the general becoming specific. Wolf is the same in both languages.

Names also follow fads. Jews have followed these fads somewhat. There are certain names that are more associated with Jews just as there are some names more associated with other ethic groups. There were hundreds of years that Biblical names were rare. Today in Christian and Jewish families Biblical names are used. Even names very English sounding names like Elizabeth and Jessica are from Hebrew roots. There are many names in from the Bible that are not used. Some like Esau and Ismael are used by non-Jews. Some like, Terah, Cain, and Lot are just not used.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

May Librarian's Lobby

On April 15 someone on AUTOCAT asked about the transliteration of Gotlib, Zeev and found a NAF reference to : Gottlieb, Wolf, 1910-. At the time I answered that I was preparing an article that addressed the question.

The article that I was preparing on Hebrew-Yiddish name pairs is done. Ze'ev--Wolf is one of those pairs. This article will help the reader understand more about names. Over half of the popular given names are from Hebrew sources, but the English spelling and pronunciation is filtered through the Greek Bible translation. For example the Hebrew Shmuel becomes Samuel in English because Greek does not have an /sh/ sound. Greek used the letter sigma to represent the Hebrew letter shin. In English "sh" is a digraph (two letters for one sound).

The article has implications for catalogers and others interested in names. I gave examples of authors who had books in a library catalog. Not every name had an author.

You may download the article from my web site.

Please feel free to comment as I able to revise it before it is published in a scholarly journal.

April 24

I received many favorable comments on the article. One person named his son Simha Bunim and had no idea that was a name pair.

Comment from :Jill Rosenshield, University of Wisconsin--Madison Library. Included here with her permission.
I very much enjoyed your article on double names. We named our first son Simcha Velvel after his late grandpa; but he had a plaque made for his room Simcha Zev because we thought we had mixed Hebrew and Yiddish. Maybe we should have gone the other way and named him Zelig Velvel.

Incidentally, I have always been puzzled by two forenames: I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian and had relatives who criticized the practice because they said it was Roman Catholic. I think Catholics get a second middle name on some day such as Holy Communion. [Stuhlman comment -- I checked about this Catholic practice. Many Catholics get an additional name at confirmation. This is in addition to the names given by parents. Some confirmands use the additional name and some don't.]

Of course, now that there are so many people and so many shared surnames, there is probably a very good reason to give several forenames. I should talk: Rosenshield is a very rare name in its spelling.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Librarian's Lobby

I uploaded the Librarian's Lobby column for April. It's on the topic of electronic books.

April 12 -- I fixed a typo in the date of Pesikta Zutrasa. It was written in the 11th century, not the 19th.

April 13 -- I received a question about how I found the Hebrew quote Pesikta Zutrasa on the web site.

The web site does not offer a good search engine for searching text and the texts do not show up when using google.books. Since I knew the section of the quote was Shemos 13, I loaded pages until I found the right one, then I read the page until I found the words. Pages have to be loaded individually. The whole book may be download, but I did not try to download it and test the find command for a PDF file. This was tedious, but there were no alternatives. If I had the book in hand, the search process would have been the same, but I could turn and scan the pages faster.

If this makes no sense, then refer to the full article.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reference Interviews -- continued 2

When a student asks for reference help how do you determine what is too much information? Sometimes there is nothing wrong with the individual student responses, but taken in context the responses or interaction is almost amusing (
Amusing as in --"What is going on here?")

Recently a student came asking for help. The voice was quiet and the pencil sharpener was so noisy, that I had to ask the student to wait a moment before I could hear the question clearly. No problem here. The student wanted books on "human nature." Almost any book could be on "human nature" from the scholarly to the most entertaining or popular fiction. To prevent saying something curt or foolish, I paused. First mistake. The student began chatting with irrelevant and repetitious chatter. I did not need to know that the class meets on Mondays from 6:30-8:00, that the class was not meeting that night and that instead the student came to the library to get a head start on the paper due April 26. It is not my style to chat while I am thinking about solving a search or reference question.

I did a search for the words "human nature" in the title field. There were 18 hits. I looked through the list to determine the best ones for the student. I was surprised that the list of books covered a wide range of subject headings including social biology, social psychology, testosterone, philosophy of nature, and human ecology. I asked the student what the subject of the class was English or psychology. The student said, sociology and proceeded to chatter about the fact the paper was supposed to be only opinion and the book was only needed for ideas. The point was made multiple times. Finally I recommended two books, had the student copy the call numbers and pointed the student to the correct place in the stacks.

The student found the books and returned to the circulation desk. The student so very appreciative of my help and also glad to have found a third book even though only one was needed. I assured the student that reading three books on a topic is okay. The student then had to tell the circulation person (CP) the whole story of why only one book was needed, the fact the class usually meets on Mondays, but that night. CP was not amused to hear the whole story multiple times. The student fumbled when asked for the ID to check out the books. CP told the student that the books would be due in 2 weeks. The student asked for longer because the the paper is due on April 26. "No problem, just renew them on April 13. " The student asked is that after Easter. CP didn't know. I said not to worry since the library is closed on Easter. I don't think the student realized that the library is always closed on Sundays.

The student was very thankful and grateful that we were able to help. CP and I wondered if this student needed more help than available in a library.

At the reference desk the logic needed to answer quiries is much more fuzzy than computer help desk questions, however, I did need to filter the chatter from the student. It is helpful to know the subject area for the paper. The date due is sometimes helpful because it tells me the urgency of the information need. Sometimes knowing the teacher's name is helpful, but usually the time that the class meets is not needed to give a student the right directions to the library resources.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Electronic books and reading them

I once had a dream to be able to carry around a full library so that I could look up what I needed when I needed it. It would be great if I had instant full text access to the 30,000 or 50,000 books that I am most likely to need this month. The week of March 9 - 14 was Read an E-Book Week. The e-book vendors promoted e-books in PDF and other formats.

Project Gutenberg ( practically invented the e-book in 1971. The first e-books were text typed by volunteers. The process was slow and tedious. They added not value to the text on the screen. Only public domain books were in the collection.

For more information about the project read:
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Project Gutenberg (1971-2008), by Marie Lebert. Toronto, Ont., NEF, University of Toronto & Project Gutenberg, 2008. Available online:

In August 1997 Gutenberg had 1,000 books online and by March 2009 there were 29,000. They add about 340 books each month. Now it is possible to purchase a 1 terabyte hard drive for less than $100. That is enough to store about 1 million books, which is larger than most research libraries.

Currently e-mail are sold in a variety of formats that imitate the printed page. They are sold by commercial publishers, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. I am planning a larger article on the use and place of e-books in the library and in the individual private library. If you have any comments about how you use e-books either for pleasure reading, learning, or scholarship, please let me know.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Purim Torah --> Extreme Kitchen Makeover -- Passover Edition

[Note: This is a work in progress.]

In honor of Purim this entry is an attempt at some humor. It takes a while for me to write humor, because I am limited to words without audio expression. I hope this quick version is funny.

Extreme Kitchen Makeover -- Passover Edition

Our show today is going to help a busy and anxious family. From now until Passover starts everyone is very busy and anxious about getting their home ready for Passover. One lucky and deserving family will have their kitchen totally readied for the holiday on today's show..

1. Send family away on vacation to visit grandparents. If the kitchen is getting repaired you wouldn't want the family to see the mess. After all shouldn't the grandparents share in the joy of a new kitchen? Grandparents will feel they are part of the process.

2. Remove all memories of the of the old kitchen. There is no reason the family should ever remember what the eating experience was in the old kitchen even though the changes are only on the preparation side of the kitchen.

3. Remove old counter tops. Those counter tops are havens for dirt, crumbs, bugs, and hametz. By removing them, we make sure that hametz will not be a problem.

4. Remove sink. Everyone knows the water does not always wash away problems. Give the family piece of mind and make sure no water will go where is it forbidden.

5. There is no reason to keep the old range, refrigerator or other appliances. This is a TV show; we can afford give them the very best that our sponsors want to get rid of. No sponsor leftovers or overstock is too good for this family.

6. Since hametz may be found on the floor, get rid of it. Remove the old floor down to the sub-floor. It is a lot of work to prepare the floor, but it is worth it. No one likes an uneven floor.

7. By now the job is looking even bigger than planned. The time the family will return is close. To make sure all that remains of the old kitchen is left -- implosion time. No need for any more demolition. Set the explosives and watch the walls fall. Remember dust and dirt are not food.

8. Opps the implosion turned into an explosion and the whole house is ruined. Time for a new house. We must work 24 hours a day to complete the home before the family returns.
Five days later here is the new kitchen in the new house. Just in time.

Here's the excited family returning to their house. The bearded man in the middle is the grandfather, who is exited that now the new house will be ready for Passover. This year he did not have to take apart the stove or pour hot water on the countertops. Note the little kids were so excited they would not sit still for the picture.