The insanity that is my life right now should be winding down by the end of next week, but not before a spectacular flurry of activity. Finals are next week, I’m in a race to get a really tedious digitization RFP out before we close down for winter break, and I’m meeting no less than 3 sets of friends over the next 4 days. And fucking forget about Christmas—if it wasn’t for the incessant presence of holiday music and décor everywhere, I wouldn’t even know there was a holiday. I don’t have time for it.
In the middle of all this, next week, I am going to the VALE OLE workshop in New Brunswick for 2 days. The purpose is to help design a new integrated library system for New Jersey's academic libraries (i.e., VALE). From what participants in this week’s version of the workshop said, it pretty much sounds like a waste of my time. They want to discuss library departmental “workflows”. Give me a break. It’s true that the traditional workflow is probably different now, but that’s the wrong focus for a meeting like this. Most of our tech tasks have nothing to do with the ILS. Besides, integrated library systems, even the open source ones, aren’t structured for consortia. (Earth to programmers: policy matrices DON’T WORK for more than 3 libraries, and even that is dubious). They’re always designed with the ideal assumption that everyone will work together and agree on everything, when the reality is that any given library in the group is likely to storm the consortia office fully armed before they will submit to have the same loan period or fine structure as another library. Additionally, you have the libraries with really bizarre policies that were apparently created by a deranged person (“we lend DVDs for 1 week with a $1.00 fine, but if it’s a full moon and a Thursday we lend them for 8 and half days with a 50 cent fine rate”). And they will be indignant if the system doesn’t accommodate this. I am assured that VALE will not work this way. Just wait.
Anyway, all of that is boring, and I’m increasingly becoming a malcontent in this field, so you don’t really want to hear all of that. I am “retiring” after 7 years of teaching at Rutgers University in the MLIS program this week, the first step in getting away from Library and Information Science altogether. I had an earlier post on this blog on the future of cataloging, which was picked up by 2 major cataloging blogs—I think I have had more views on that post than any other. If you’ve read that one, I have more confirmation that cataloging as a profession is dying a slow, painful death on life support: I have heard that the Library of Congress has cut their cataloging staff nationally by some absurd number—54,000 to 4,000 is the figure I was given. I’m hoping I misheard that one, but it doesn’t look good in any case. Time will tell.
Moving on to stranger things—last week I got my copies of the Found Footage Festival DVDs. Currently there are 3 volumes, with a new volume due out after next summer’s show. Found Footage Festival was created by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, two guys from Wisconsin who are now in New York. They collect old VHS tapes from estate sales, old warehouses, garage sales, etc., and then put what they consider to be the “best” of this junk together for a live show.
Some of the items featured on these DVDs—a McDonald’s custodian training video, a video by Corey Haim attempting to show everyone how he was “clean” after rehab (it was more of a case for putting him back in, actually), 2 religious “showdowns” comparing the truly fucked-up styles of two sets of television preachers, Jack Rebney (world’s angriest RV salesman), How to Seduce Women Through Hypnosis (an attempt to legitimize rape for the truly pathetic male, though the woman in this is pretty dim as well), and a variety of public access television shows and godawful music videos.
Besides the hypnosis thing, the most disturbing videos on these collections were the “Potpourri” on Volume 1 (Joe and Nick actually apologize to the audience before and after showing it), and “Disrobics” on Volume 3 (enough said about that). Nonetheless, if you like or are at least curious about the bizarre and trashy underbelly of American culture, these are amazingly funny to watch. On the downside, you will probably have the songs of Jan Terri or Harvey Sid Fisher stuck in your head. Not to mention the images from the videos that go with their songs.
Overall, these were a worthy purchase. I stayed with my friend’s teenage son and daughter last week, and showed them the DVDs. Mind you, these kids are good at locating the most bizarre videos on YouTube (I get at least 1 to my e-mail every week from one of them). They both laughed so hard that they almost couldn’t breathe. And of course, my friend Liz and her fiancé are “Found Footage groupies” by their own admission. They are looking forward to next summer’s new show, and I will probably go with them.