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We the Librarians? (Go Buy Dan Gillmor’s Book!)

I’m seeing tremendous blogbuzz about “We the Media,” Dan Gillmor’s new book about the impact of blogging on journalism and news reporting. But I haven’t seen any citations for this book (even a notation of “purchased”) in any of a half-dozen major library catalogs I checked.

Dan is a great thinker and writer, and he won the Pioneer Award a couple years ago for his efforts on behalf of civil liberties. Besides, even if Dan couldn’t reason his way out of a revolving door, people are talking about this book. Put it on library shelves! Now! Where is Marvin Scilken when we need him? (Oh, right: he’s where he should be, scolding us to run to the local bookstore and put this book on the shelves, today.)

Dan Gillmor put his book on the Web (with an accompanying blog worth tracking), and do use that to look it over. The Table of Contents alone is a treat, and poking through the book’s content makes it clear this is good reading. However, by the time I print out the PDFs, I would have spent more in toner than the book actually costs. Cites & Insights is worthy of that effort (and short enough to be a worthy tradeoff for the cost), but a full-length book isn’t.

I suppose I could do a Rube Goldberg device: download the PDFs and import them into my Treo, which would in turn convert the chapters to a quasi-text format–but then again, reading a book on a screen the size of a playing card sounds like unnecessary punishment. And don’t I deserve a shiny new hardcover? A present for finishing my first semester? Sure I do…

Meanwhile, as I talk myself into this purchase while feeling sad about the state of collection development, I’m also recoiling in pain and horror at how bad basic search is in most major library catalogs. Too often it feels like a bad afterthought. I was spooked by how poorly most catalogs handled a keyword search for Gillmor’s book. And don’t treat it like an exception: I’m regularly spooked with all searches I do–and I do a lot of catalog searches.

If only enough of us with the power to change things really cared about helping users find things, and not about stoking the engines of locomotives running along abandoned tracks.

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