#LISmentalHealth and the state of the me


This is me, all the time, i have no off switch.

Since I last seriously posted on this topic, things are different.  My job is still insane, I wear so many hats, I resemble a hat stand.  I’ve also picked up some professional association appointments along the way, because apparently I seem responsible and competent.  So, with more and more stuff on my plate (oh dear god, so much stuff), how do I keep all my balls in the air?

I have no idea.  I have a to-do list, a calendar, an overflowing email, fencing practice and a running schedule.

The issue with mental illness is that you’re just waiting for the next bout to strike.  It’s lurking there, like that cold your cubemate brought to work from home, and you try to disinfect your side of the desk, but it is no match for the germs.  Eventually it will come.

This seems fatalistic of me, but I’m never far away from a depressive episode.  My goals this year, brain wise are to continue the good habits I picked up last year, and to add a couple of good habits (the first one, “eat balanced meals” has been going well).  That being said, my mental health was not 100% for the entire year.

I am hoping that a raft of good habits can help me stave off depression and anxiety a bit longer between episodes.  It might not.  But every little bit can help, and with something like 24 years of experience with depression and anxiety, I can tell you that it’s a battle fought and won by inches.

There’s hope.  And when every victory is hard, it doesn’t hurt to celebrate a little.  So here’s to making through another year and meeting my goals, and here’s to a year where my goals are bigger and hairier, but achievable.



In which your blogger loses it about the library field

I got into an internet argument, and wrote multiple long comments about library technology, subscription services/collection development (because I’m doing that now apparently), and how the library field has screwed itself.

What brought this on?  Well, for those of you who are living under a rock, Elsevier has sued Library Genesis and SciHub for copyright infringement and millions in damages.  The editors of Lingua, currently published by Elsevier, resigned en mass over the cost of open access publishing with Elsevier.    In response, open access advocates have posted an open letter, which you can read here.

I have been spending the last few weeks working on a subscription model for our library that will save us many tons of money, get us more journals overall, and give us a lot more flexibility.

This brings me to the point where I got into internet discussions about scholarly publishing and libraries.  The main point is as follows:


A certain publisher quoted us a price in the 100,000 range for journal ACCESS. not a subscription where we own the content… ACCESS.

Another lowered their rate to 27k after being 35k for years because we got a group discount. We pay for access on a system that only works nights and weekends on campus.

When people can’t get access to their articles, they yell at the librarians. We, being librarians, are not made of money and can’t pay 5k for ONE journal.

I have many incoherent feelings right now, but they generally form the shape of a middle finger

Part of the issue is that libraries don’t have much leverage, because we gave vendors that power. Here’s how:

  1. Don’t provide adequate training to library students, instead focusing on technology basics from the late 80s early 90s.
  2. Don’t pay librarians to code and innovate even if we can, because if you can code, you’ll go to one of the vending companies. Paying a librarian well to do something that would provide this substantial benefit is apparently too much money.
  3. Decide that paying for a company to do this is easier than paying a librarian or even working with open source solutions, which do exist.
  4. Cut your staff so even your skilled librarians do the job of 3 or 4 librarians. (Eg. I’m the college archivist (The reason I was hired). I am also the college record manager(other hiring reason, fine makes sense, whatever). I also am a reference librarian and outreach librarian, the digital publishing/copyright librarian, the nursing librarian, the biological sciences librarian as well as being in charge of English and History. I am also a system admin and do collection development. I report to two people, my actual boss, and her boss and they never agree on anything so I just do whatever needs doing 90% of the time and assume they’ll just argue and stay out of my way).
  5. Because the librarians are doing 50 bajillion jobs, no one bothers to read the contracts, they just look at money. For example, Ebsco just quoted us 5k to do something they already do for us (index ACS journals, not full text, just index) and we may have gone with it if I hadn’t caught it.

We should and often try to work collectively and collaboratively, but the massive brain drain from low wages along with a lack of time and training for those who are willing to learn means that these efforts are frequently stymied when the lead developer or a majority of the coders go to our vendors because they are paid and appreciated for those efforts.

The fact that I’m now looking at our subscriptions (even for part of our collection) SUPER critically for the first time in years is a huge step for my institution. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. Basically, libraries have somewhat fucked ourselves on this one with administration joining in who want everything but don’t want to pay for it to be done by their own staff because that would require us to be paid what we’re worth.

We’re making bricks without straw or mud.

(Edit: And regarding that nights and weekends system, it was in place long before I got here and my boss refuses to argue with the vendor about it because she’s not very confrontational. I, on the other hand, am very confrontational which is why I’m not allowed to negotiate that particular service, which is probably for the best.

Also, in hindsight, I should have made this whole thing look like an ASCII middle finger, but I’ve got misconceptions to remedy in my email and knowledge to drop.)

Authenticity, Archives, Storytelling, and Gaming

As an archivist, I spend a lot of time thinking about documentation, what makes one document indicative of one period or another, what makes the probable date of a photograph be the 1890s instead of the 1870s, what makes this computer file the authentic copy that the donor wanted to send me, versus some weird copy I got off a disk.   Basically, I think about the things that make something real.

Authenticity is important in a host of areas, from relationships (is this person being honest with me?), to websites (What do you mean the certificate isn’t good?), to what your aging relatives say (I’m pretty sure the internet isn’t a series of tubes…). It is especially important in academia, and storytelling.    Writers have this mostly down already.  There’s a whole host of ways to fact check your latest story. There are communities dedicated to checking to see if a story “feels” real. No one expects a 1:1 relationship to reality in fiction, so the feeling of authenticity is especially important.  I would argue that it is one of the things that drags you into the world.

Games however, sometimes seem to miss this, which drives me up the wall.  As someone who spent her early years steeping in history like the world’s strongest tea, watching games tackle various time periods (and/or fantasy worlds) nearly always ends badly, which baffles me, because it’s easy to find various pieces of evidence that will make your world more realistic.  Basically, if you’re making a game located in the last 200 years or so, you have documentation of what it was like back then, often with photographs, or plates, you have newspapers, diaries, invitations, pieces of clothing, artifacts… There’s no excuse to miss this stuff.

I’m going to pick on The Order 1886 (Located in a real time period, in a fantasy London), since it started this whole line of thought.

Ironically, the production designers for The Order did see old photographs from London:

Which is pretty nifty.  That looks like Big Ben.  Good job.

Let’s ignore the landmarks and look at some street views of London:

There are at least 7 questionable things in this image

Ok, there’s a lot going on here.

First, let’s talk about what they did right.

-The post box is pretty much correct.  It might not be 100% accurate, but it’s A.) close enough, and B.) an important recognizable marker of modern British life.

Except it doesn’t entirely feel authentic.

This place is way too tidy.  It feels sanitized.  There are no homeless children ( a HUGE issue during this period).  This looks like England a la Epcot.

The building on the far left is probably more at home in 1930 than 1880.  The overhanging thing looks more French than British.

Weirdly enough, the designers made the woman’s dress wider than it was, showing a lack of restraint in skirt width that fashionable member of 1886 society would have found old fashioned, but I’m tempted to give them a pass on this since I’ve never seen a video game render a skirt well.  Still, one would suspect it would be easier to design an authentic skirt and it’s movement than a wider skirt.  The gentleman on the right is wearing hunting clothing(?) which makes him look out of place on a city street.

There’s a few markers here, but the one that struck me immediately were the fonts.  They don’t look right.  They look very modern. for example, here’s an 1890s picture of Elephant and Castle.

While modern design prides itself on it’s cleanness and simplicity, the Victorians did not seem to care for ANY of that.  Look at all that text. All those fonts. The game image?  It shows restraint, something that Victorian sign makers clearly didn’t think applied to them.

Again with the fonts:


Look at that white space.  Look at those photographs (probably too expensive to print which is why there aren’t a lot of photographs on extant mass media).  Here’s a flyer for an event taking place 4 years later.

1st font, second font, 3rd font, 4th font, floor

I could go on and on with this stuff.

If your story or game play are good, then you can maybe be less accurate in your portrayal of a time period of location. Little details can make or break an environment, and when you ignore them in favor of something else (The Order 1886 did not receive glowing reviews), then you’re basically saying you don’t care if the world is believable. People want to enjoy themselves and will give you the benefit of the doubt.  If your story or game play are not great, focusing on the world building details can help people gloss over the problems (see: Bioshock Infinite).

Authenticity matters, especially if you want to tell a story.  This has always been the case.  Stories are great because part of us wants to believe that they are true, even if the story is as implausible as werewolves and magic in London.  Anything that pulls the audience out of the world will damage your ability to tell a story or create an experience.  People who tell stories must be aware of that and understand the important role it plays in hooking an audience.

Image sources are as follows

  1. Image from The Order 1886‘s website.
  2. In game still from The Order 1886.
  3. Elephant and Castle intersection, taken from playingintheworldgame.wordpress.com. If someone could provide a better citation or repository, that would be wonderful.
  4. In game still from The Order 1886.
  5. From the Jewish Museum, London. Image taken from http://www.theguardian.com/politics/gall/0,,1443388,00.html