The Corner

Wombats

From a reader (unsure of what he wanted, I edited out the name of his school):

I used to be a network admin at [Name of State University Withheld]. The amount of half-lobed projects that libraries engage in was a constant source of amazement to us geeks, even on a campus where WOMBAT (Waste Of Money, Brains And Time) was the norm. The last library project I was asked to assist with was a automated book scanner (with a nifty page turning device). The thing looked like the ACME corporation’s best effort at new market penetration since Wile E. Coyote retired. The library used it to service remote requests through inter-library loan.

What is particularly idiotic is that once the requested pages were scanned, they were simply printed, on dead tree, and mailed to the requesting library. The existing electronic version was not even saved for future requests. Higher Ed institutions, have _really_ fast Internet access (we had 20 MB/s for freaking [Our State]), not to mention Internet 2 (145 MB/s!!!) between universities, and the librarians could not let go of the paper, even though the original request came in electronically.

The sad part of the story is that the machine was paid for thanks to the service fee tacked to everyone’s phone bill to make libraries more ‘Internet friendly’. I am so very glad not to work for a state government anymore. I still get flashbacks every April 15, though.

As far as electronic journals are concerned, it wouldn’t be nearly as expensive for Lexis and JSTOR to provide centralized content repository and searching service if the participating journals submitted their issues electronically, under a standard format (which includes search keywords…) THAT would imply an unfathomable yoke on the Freedom of the luminaries writing the articles in the first place. Only Political Scientists shall rule Political Science journals! However, as a Master’s (Liberal Studies) student, I can attest that most of those journal articles, even in electronic format, are not worth the paper they’re printed on.

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