Damn the man.

image used without permission. Damn the man.

It should be no surprise that I have taken a pretty bold stance in regards to how I conduct my scholarly activities. Since I began my career in an area of librarianship that just happens to be rousing the rabble, I’ve taken on some of those characteristics. A youth spent in punk rock doesn’t hurt either.

Typically, I’d do anything to help out a colleague. I’d go out of my way to contribute to a team effort and to build/create/make something worthwhile for the field. But the line has been drawn. I was fortuitously asked to review a manuscript recently, and inspired by Heather Piwowar’s recent post Sending a Message, I jumped at the opportunity to clearly state my reasons for refusing the review.

“Respectfully, I’d prefer not to.”

Thank you very much for the invitation. Congratulations on the Editorship, I’m sure your guidance will continue to produce high quality scholarship for the journal. I am absolutely interested in the subject matter of the journal, and the title of the paper you sent is very intriguing.

However, as I am working in the area of Scholarly Communications, I hold to some pretty strict standards for the publishers that I’ll work with. I have signed on to The Cost of Knowledge boycott of Elsevier, because I strongly believe we need a scholarly communication system that works to the benefit of the authors, rather than the benefit of the publishers. I’d be very interested in working with you if I knew that your goals as an Editor of this journal were to advocate for changing the copyright transfer agreements to Licenses to Publish, and to push Elsevier to revise their policies regarding archiving in institutional repositories. Currently, their “green open access” policy is that authors can if they want to, but cannot if they have to. My colleagues at institutions with mandated open access archiving policies are therefore restricted from pursuing that as an option simply because Elsevier wants to flex its muscle in the scholarly publishing arena.

Again, I sincerely appreciate the invitation, and hope you will take my comments into consideration. We librarians, contributing our service time and our collections budgets to the scholarly publishing venture, have the opportunity and right to ask that the system evolve.


Micah Vandegrift

Damn the man. Change the Empire.

Standing Ground

I’ve been invited to serve as a reviewer for a Journal. I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to grow as a scholar/librarian, especially in light of my work with scholarly communications. That said, if the system sucks, change it. Perhaps I’m shooting myself in the foot by doing this, but you know what, you gotta start somewhere. My response to the journal’s invitation is copied below.

Your move. 



Thank you very much for the invitation. I am pleased to accept and review the manuscript mentioned in your email. I have registered as a Reviewer on the OJS system. Please let me know how to proceed, and when I can access the article. 


I would like to publicly state that I have significant concerns and withholdings about the Copyright Notice for the Association for Library and Information Science Education. Authors do not need to, and should not be required to “grant and assign to Publisher all rights, title and interest in and to the Work and all copyrights therein or relating thereto including the right to renew.” I take the word of the Journal, as written on the Vision and Goals webpage, that “this journal should take a leadership role in the [transformation of scholarly communication] through demonstrating proactive, state-of-the-art editorial practice,” and I request that the editors seriously reconsider their stance on Copyright to submitted articles. 


I will serve as a reviewer under the condition that these concerns be considered by the editorial board. Please feel free to contact me regarding this issue. 




Micah Vandegrift

PS. I’m pretty surprised to see such a restrictive copyright statement from a library science Association. Aren’t we the one’s who have been fightng and complaining about this for a while? Or wait, is this the defining difference between practioners (working librarians) and educators (faculty)? Hmm… 


[Guest] Kindle Review

Through my internship at Brooklyn Public Library I did quite a bit of research on ebooks and the issues surrounding them for libraries. I am an iOS user, and have had mixed experiences getting ebooks onto my iPhone and iPad, so as part of my internship I built this page for BPL about digital media generally, with some ebook tips mixed in. So, this has become sort of a professional interest of mine now – I use Curated.by to grab all tweets, articles, etc related to ebooks for further research.

I was surprised when I got a call from my best friend Josh Mason saying that he was going to purchase a Kindle. He’s always been a book kinda guy, so I never thought he’d go for the ebook. I asked him to write a review from a non-librarian point of view so I could have an idea what the common user experience of this device is like. His thoughts are below. Follow Josh on Tumblr and Twitter for interesting things related to art and sound. NOTE: Josh is an artist and so approaches the world by examining the aesthetics of things. His insights are always eye-opening for me because of that fact.


Right out of the box the Kindle 3 was ready to go. It came linked to the Amazon account which I purchased it through (with the option to unlink if you bought it as a gift for someone). I can’t remember the last thing I bought that was truly ready to go right out of the box. All that was included with the device was a usb/powercord and a quick start guide. Once the device powered up, the quick start guide seemed a bit useless. For someone who is even a little technologically inclined, this device was no problem to start poking around in. Plus, all the manuals were already loaded onto the device (who’d have thought). It’s no more complicated than a flip phone from 2000 and felt a lot like learning how to play a Gameboy.

One of thing things I liked about the Kindle was its physical presence. It was compact but big enough to still read. I could see how people would be annoyed by the fact that the screen goes black for a split second every time you turn a page. It does this so that the e-ink can reorganize itself for the next page. It might seem slow—but considering when you are done with a page you have to turn it in a real book, it doesn’t seem too bad. It reminds me a lot of reading a novel where you fold the left spread around to the back and hold it with one hand because you’re tired of using two or cramping your fingers. It also fits in the back pocket of my jeans, weirdly enough.

Click for a surprise!

I would say within 15 min., I had done and figured out all there is to do. Surfed the internet, figured out how to convert just about any ebook format to a Kindle friendly format, connected to Twitter and tweeted a passage from an Emerson essay. My device is equipped with only WIFI which seems to work well, although not as strong as my Macbook Pro or my iPhone. People seem up in arms about having 3G on everything—but really, how many books are you downloading? No one these days has enough time on their hands that they need constant contact so they can download something when they need it. I guess if you were getting magazine or newspaper subscriptions it would make sense to pay the extra balloons for 3G. Otherwise, there is a WIFI hotspot like, every 5 min in any direction.

The problems I have with is so far lie in the navigation—which is only exacerbated by the fact that I deal with the graphical organization of information for a living. One thing I have gotten used to in other forms of navigation is the ability to select your way down a list and when you get to the end the cursor or highlight returns to the top of the list and can be endlessly repeated. With the Kindle you make your way down a list and that’s it. You have to start clicking back up a bunch of times to get back to the first of second menu item. In the end, it’s not a huge deal, just something that I might would have expected to be there.

The next issue I have with it is another “I have gotten used to it” thing. If you are reading a book that has a table of contents you can jump around in the book by selecting that chapter—but if the original book you are reading the eBook version of didn’t have a TOC, such as my personal favorite “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy, you are crap out of luck. I want that to make sense, but it just doesn’t because we take stuff like being able to grab 50 pages at a time and flip to another chapter for granted.

But, one cool thing about the Kindle is that Amazon released the source code for it. This is good because it comes with a stock screen saver of images of everything from literary tools to book covers to famous authors. Bloggers and infonauts tend to agree that the image of Emily Dickinson provided is especially creepy.

So the obvious course of action? Dunna nunna nunna nunna nunna nunna nunna…

All in all I am pretty happy with it. All I wanted was to be able to read books anyway. All the extra stuff is just that. Extra. If you would like to be totally distracted from your book by the rest of the world, get an iPad. If you just want to read a have a solid device that does what it was designed to do and doesn’t fry your eyeballs, you can’t beat the K3.

The overwrought and many months late iPad review

Why take the time to review the iPad after every major publication and website has already done so? Well, I said I would when I got the device and wanted to keep my word, and also the iPad has affected my web habits significantly enough that I really felt like a dissection of the how and is important. So lets skip all the stuff you already know about the magic of the iPad and get right into my analysis. 

The computer/non-computer status of the iPad is the part I like most about it. I still tend to gravitate to my computer for regular computery tasks (long-form writing, major media projects, multitasking) while the iPad waits for a real reason to be used. And when I find something that the iPad does well, it gets used… a lot. For instance, I’d say 90% of what I use the iPad for is media consumption in two forms: Netflix and RSS feeds.

The quality of the screen was so stunning at the beginning that I made a point to convert some DVDs just so I could watch them on the iPad. And the live streaming Netflix app has been such an amazing feature. Its great to have it sit beside the desktop computer with a show/movie on that you can kind of watch or ignore as you are working on anything else. I’d say that our video streaming use increased 10 fold since we got the iPad. 

It is really important for me to keep up with new articles and trends in webtech and I had not yet found an RSS reader that I would use actively. I had quite a few feeds in Google Reader, but never got into the interface. The iPad has really made me a much higher functioning reader since I can now import all my feeds into the Reeder App (highly recommend) and flip through the top stories quickly, comment, share, and generally stay at the forefront of the field. 

Other than that I use the iPad for quick tasks here and there, general reference and fun/games (when I get the time). The news apps are built really well and scanning those sites is really a joy on the iPad. I have NPR, BBC, NYT, Mashable and USA Today on my homepage. Social networking, another hobby/priority of mine, is great on the wide screen of the iPad and I tend to use Twitterrific for iPad as my #1 networking app these days. 

At the recommendation of Profhacker, I have really been enjoying SimpleNote and Dropbox for managing my important files in the cloud. I have both accounts synched between my smartphone, computer and iPad and have all that data so readily available has been great. Surprisingly, I don’t use the iPad for reading books at all. Then again I am a cheapskate and haven’t gotten any books that weren’t in public domain yet. 

Details: 99% of the time I use the iPad in landscape mode. The keyboard takes some getting used to, but I type on it now almost as quickly and with as many errors as I do on a normal keyboard. The lack of multitasking can be annoying but its refreshing also to have to unitask. I have yet to load any music onto the device. I would get a lot more use out of it if more magazines I read had apps. 

Generally, I think the iPad is a gamechanger. It’s dynamic in a way not other device has been. Future incarnations of the iPad will be interesting to see how the basic ideas develop, but right now I am pretty pleased with what it does, and what it does well. 

The End?