Goodbye, World!

July 13th, 2018

Harvard emailed me to let me know they will no longer host j’s scratchpad in August because of changes they are making to their blog platform. Among other things, administration is moving away from the Berkman Klein Center to the more centralized Harvard IT office. My past affiliation with Berkman Klein and running the blog group and inspiring lots of Harvard bloggers does not matter to them.

It has been a fun 15 year run.

As of this point, I don’t plan to reincarnate it anywhere.

Even though I certainly don’t post as often and actively as I used to, I still enjoy the occasional contributions I can make.

It is sad this resource is coming to an end. I’ve heard from some of you that you still find value in some of the older posts and whatnot.

So long and thanks for all the fish!

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

March 5th, 2018

Over the weekend, I finally read Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter. On my reading list for years, it was worth the wait. Not only does Vicki cover the life of Dewey Readmore Books, the official cat of the Spencer, Iowa, public library, but she also discusses her career as a librarian and life as the librarian of a small, Midwestern town. The book is as much about this public library and its role in a community changing with economic times as it is about how a cat brings people together.

I hope I’ve also captured something else: the magic of libraries. Libraries aren’t warehouses for books; they are meeting houses for human beings. A good library is less an institution than a home. It has comfortable seats, desks, computers, friendly people and, yes, sometimes even a cat. Libraries are society’s great leveling agent: they offer job listings, financial information, technology, entertainment, any book you want. For free. I hate it when people tip-toe through a library. “This isn’t a graveyard,” I want to shout. “It’s alive. So live a little!”

I was lucky to come across the book while browsing a branch of my local public library.

If you’ve been following this blog for years and years, you might recall a post from back in 2006 marking Dewey’s passing. It looks like a second book with Dewey stories exists, too: Dewey’s Nine Lives.

Boy Steals Books from Library, Becomes Influential Lawyer

July 28th, 2017

Catching up on StoryCorps podcasts this morning, I heard this fabulous (and amusing) story about a young man who wanted to read books, but feared being seen reading would ruin his tough reputation. He stole some books from a library, read them, and returned them. Years later, he learned the librarian had a surprising role in his thefts.

This fellow went on to have a landmark career in law. I can’t help wondering if being able to secretly read some books when he was a teenager made a difference in his choice to go into a profession with a lot of reading.

Spotlight, LSC, MIT, Fri. (2/26) & Sat. (2/27)

February 26th, 2016

The group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that shows movies, LSC, is screening Spotlight this weekend, Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th at 8 pm in Building 26, room 100.

“Under the direction of new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), the Boston Globe’s elite investigative team, known as Spotlight, is tasked with delving into decades’ worth of child-abuse claims against the Catholic Church. …”

I’ve heard from a few sources it’s a good film about investigative journalism.

Free Culture, Copyright, and Aaron Swartz

January 18th, 2016

This week’s episode of On the Media has a long story about Aaron Swartz and his legacy. It winds its way through the Free Culture movement, copyright law, intellectual freedom and property (a bit), the case for and against Aaron, and lots of surrounding background. Based on Justin Peters’ book The Idealist, the story is worth the thirty minutes it takes to listen.

Yes, I’m biased. I often find myself thinking about Aaron Swartz this time of year, though not for the same reasons some of you might think about him. I remember him puzzling with the MIT Mystery Hunt team I’m on. As I’ve said before, I knew him casually from a few different activities we had in common. While driving to a meeting during On the Media’s Saturday slot, I caught the first ten minutes of the story about Aaron as I arrived. As much as I wanted to get to the meeting, I thought, “Well, the story may only be a few minutes more, and it’s very interesting, so I’ll sit in the car and listen.” After it wrapped up after another twenty minutes, I sat in the car a bit longer to let my brain settle, deciding how to blog it and trying to get my concentration back for the meeting.

I’m sure I’ve said before On the Media inspires me to write almost every week. I don’t always follow through, but I often find myself thinking “I should blog that” when I listen. For Aaron and his legacy, I wanted to be sure to actually make it to my blog this time.

Three years after his death, ripples from his life’s work are still being noticed, people are still talking about him, and we still remember who he was.

On the Media Salutes Librarians’ Efforts to Protect Us from the USA PATRIOT Act

June 6th, 2015

The radio show On the Media featured a great segment this week about how librarians reacted to the USA PATRIOT Act and how they fought (sometimes actually against the government) to protect Americans’ freedom to read and access information (especially in libraries) without the federal government monitoring their activities. They remind listeners how librarians stepped up at other times, too. The American Library Association’s Freedom to Read document comes up, especially the last lines:

We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.

While this segment was timed to air while the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act is on our minds, it is also quite relevant to think about freedom and America’s defense of it on the 71st anniversary of D-Day.

Our Mentor Barbara Semonche Passed Away

May 14th, 2015

Someone forwarded to Newslib a note from the North Carolina Special Libraries Association chapter announcing the May 13 passing of Barbara Semonche, a beloved and well-known retired librarian from the University of North Carolina’s Park Journalism Library. Her family is planning a remembrance celebration for family, friends and colleagues that I think aligns with the SLA Annual Conference.

Barbara was amazing. She was a, uh, “libraryhold” name among many news librarians. She put together a wonderful, giant, helpful book on news librarianship that became an essential read in many settings. I referred to it often when I was in grad school and a new news librarian. When I first met Barbara at an SLA conference, I remember feeling at a loss for words when meeting this superstar. We corresponded regularly when I was a professional librarian. She was always very kind and wise. And often funny (ha ha). One of the conference regulars, we always looked forward to her presence in our gatherings.

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen her at conference. I knew this day would come eventually, but that doesn’t make it easier.

The thoughts of an entire profession are with her family, friends, and colleagues.

I can’t help thinking about a conversation I had with her years ago about how news librarianship is in decline and who the future mentors would be when folks of Barbara’s ilk retire or otherwise leave the profession. She basically replied, “That’s your job. You all need to become stellar mentors like we were.”

Barbara, we hope you are reading our “verbal bouquets.” People’s remembrances include comments about how she gave a lot of us wings and now has her own and how she’s probably already gathered all the news librarians in heaven together for some great conversations. Gotta love her!

PatientsLikeMe’s New iPhone App: Connect

March 19th, 2015

PatientsLikeMe, my employer, released an iPhone app on Wednesday: Connect with PatientsLikeMe. Having had a few fingertips in the project, I’m pretty excited that some social features of the site are now even more mobile.

(This post makes me feel like a little kid hanging a great piece of schoolwork on the fridge. =) Did I mention I’m pretty excited about the app?)

Special Libraries Association Annual Conference June 14-16, 2015 Boston Convention Center South Boston

March 10th, 2015

The Special Libraries Association is holding their annual conference/INFO+Expo June 14-16, 2015 at the Boston Convention Center in South Boston.

Leigh Gallagher, Assistant Managing Editor at Fortune magazine, will be the keynote speaker.

Registration cost:

SLA Members:

Member Full – Early Bird Feb 2 – April 17, 2015 $565.00
Member Full – Early Bird + VIP Feb 2 – April 17, 2015 $662.00
Member Full – Advance April 18 – May 29, 2015 $745.00
Member Full – Onsite May 30 – June 16, 2015 $855.00
Member 1-Day Feb 2 – June 16, 2015 $405.00
Student Member Feb 2 – June 16, 2015 $205.00


Non-Member Full – Advance Feb 2 – May 29, 2015 $1099.00
Non-Member Full – Onsite May 30 – June 16, 2015 $1275.00
Non-Member 1-Day Feb 2 – June 16, 2015 $529.00

For more conference info:…

Posted by Rich

The 9th annual Digital Commonwealth Conference April 2 Holy Cross Worcester

March 10th, 2015

The 9th Annual Digital Commonwealth Conference Cloud Bursts and Brainstorms is being held on Thursday, April 2, 2015 at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Digital Commonwealth is a non-profit collaborative organization that provides resources and services to support the creation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage materials held by Massachusetts libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives. Digital Commonwealth currently has over 130 member institutions from across the state.

The keynote speakers will be Clifford Lynch, director of Coalition for Networked Information and Dan Cohen, Executive Director of the Digital Public Library of America.

There will be various breakout sessions including Policy Writing, Social Media (both marketing and interacting with patrons in different ways), Introduction to the Digital Commonwealth, Lightning Round, Digital Do-Overs,
Digital Preservation Tools, Packaging Collections for Public Consumption, Copyright, Muddy River Musings,
Boston Public Library/Metadata.

Registration cost:

Members: $100(before March 20) $120(after March 20)
Non-members: $130(before March 20) $145(After March 20)

For more conference info:


Posted by Rich