Today I attended my first breakfast with Alexander Street Press, and it was amazing.
First: I love ASP. I think they offer a lot of interesting and innovative products in interesting and emerging fields, so I feel they are future minded. This became more evident as they discussed the evolution of a new architecture for some of their databases using Web 2.0 and community into their databases. This architecture allows for more immediate updating, handles external searches, has cross-search abilities, allows peer and student interaction through playlists, feature releases, OpenURLs, permanent URLs, tag clouds, folksonomy, and RSS. They’re also doing some really innovative things, allowing collaboration across different media databases. For example, you can pull together text, a score of music, and a recording of music into one place. If you stumble across one of their pages from an internet search, it has a real “Amazon.com” feel to it. These databases can be an endpoint of a search (after using a search engine) as well as a starting point (from a library website).
Second: Angela Davis was the amazing speaker. She started her talk explaining the importance of the library to her as a child, but that the libraries in her community were segregated. She then talked about her use of a library as a scholar. She remembers spending lots of time hunting down journals and making photocopies, but now, like a lot of us, primarily uses databases. She misses the tangibility of books and paper, but also sees value in the ease of finding information today. She continued on to talk about legacies and the importance of realizing that for every “leader” there is a community doing a lot of work to make change happen. I talk more about that over at the COSWL Cause. She considers her life work to be what she is doing around prison issues and emphasized the importance of educational opportunities for those in prison. She also posed an interesting question: how do you imagine a self-abolishing academic field? (For example, the field “critical prison studies” focuses on problems with prisons; if they are successful there won’t be prisons, so there can’t then be a “critical prison studies.”) Overall, her talk emphasized the importance of community work towards change and the need to be critical of people’s current stances regardless of the stances they’ve made in the past.