by David Horvath,
Media & Current Periodical, Ekstrom Library
Sabbatical. Leave granted at intervals to a university professor for study or travel. Pertaining to Sabbath: rest day, absence of work and play.
--Oxford English Dictionary
For my sabbatical leave, completed on August 4, both definitions held true, except of course for the absence of play. The leave, as intended, was good for me professionally and personally, and I believe the Libraries will benefit from the work I did accomplish. The Owl asked for a sabbatical report, so I'll start with a description of the nuts and bolts stuff and fill in the other spaces later.
The purpose of my sabbatical project was focused on gathering information about news sources available online. I planned to assess the current state of the art and possible directions for future planning in this area. I began with a study of the literature, and I sent a questionnaire to colleagues who work with newspaper collections.
I also offered my services and time to database vendors as they develop these products for the academic market. This could have included focus groups, discussion lists, or other consultation. It was a good plan, but it assumed a more reasoned and planned approach to market development and the luxury of time for the vendors. Instead, I discovered vendors who were literally running full-tilt-boogie to develop and market products for the online market while juggling their own corporate mergers and other complexities. While I was consulted by several vendors in response to my letters, none had the time to engage in a thoughtful or deliberate way many others outside their own development and marketing staff. Several vendors did talk with me about pricing and content issues, however.
For example, Knight-Ridder (Dialog) contacted me early and talked about a new Web-based product they were about to introduce. It was to be called "The Dialog Basic Academic and Reference Collection" and included both newspapers and other databases. They asked if UofL would consider being a beta testing site for it. I was sent product literature, complete with descriptions and pricing. I waited to receive more details but none were forthcoming. Why? Because another division at Dialog was on the verge of completing and marketing Dialog@Carl, a product which is now their premier Web-based service. What happened to the previous package? Good question.
The point is that the shifting sand of rapid change in this area is affecting vendors ad consumers alike. I learned that both of us are just juggling our options and moving forward as best we can. Vendors want to make a much money as possible for their products, and libraries have the same limited pot of money to spend for them.
But of course the questions for us are: Which vendor? Which information? How much will it cost? Since my study related to news resources (newspapers, wire services etc.), I'll summarize a few of the options:
Lexis-Nexis: In terms of news resources it doesn't get any better than this and Lexis-Nexis seems to be high on many people's priority list. Some of their hundreds of newspaper backfiles go back to the early 1980's. The cost: nearly S200,000 a year, but stay tuned, as this will probably go down.
Dialog@Carl: This recent online service also includes an impressive array of newspapers but, unfortunately, no Courier-Journal.
UMI: Since taking over DataTimes, UMI has many newspaper files it can add to its ProQuest Direct family, including The Courier-Journal and most of the other national papers we're interested in. Offsetting the cost of canceling microfilm and indices could make the difference for us.
World News Connection: A great collection of translated international papers made for the U.S. Intelligence community and now for our information pleasure. Unfortunately, the cost is relatively steep.
So basically, there are lots of options and possibilities. It may be possible to get some of these services with cooperative purchasing with local or regional libraries. But we'll be making some changes soon in terms of how we deliver newspaper information. Our users will be happy and well be able to add and modify services more easily.
I'm almost out of room and I haven't gotten to any of the fun stuff yet!
After a few weeks of puttering around, running errands and actually reading a few books, I began to twitch slightly, recognizing a definite lull in my normally active pace. I was looking for a little distraction. On March 1, fourteen inches of rain provided much more than that. In fact, it began one of the largest local disasters relief efforts in recent memory. Since I had a little time, I volunteered for the Red Cross and received training as an Emergency Technician. For several weeks I worked in shelters, did intakes, distributed vouchers and went on home visits to do damage and needs assessments.
I co-designed and submitted a successful grant project to the Jefferson County Public Schools/U of L Coordinating Commit- tee for Collaborative Ventures 1997-98. The project will combine the introduction of basic information literacy skills, including both access and critical evaluation with a year-long unit to study in a West Louisville primary classroom. So for two mornings a month I get to be Professor Horvath for a real cute bunch of kids!
Along with Erlinda Paguio, I've been working with the Thomas Merton Center Fonndation (Bellarmine College) in the devel- opment of a major world conference in the year 2000. The conference will gather men and women whose spiritual ground- ing has been expressed through effective poltical engage- ment. Suggestions for main speakers/participants include: Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Oscar Arias, Thich Nat Han, the Dalai Lama, Irvin Lazlo, Claes Nobel and others. Robert Muller former Secretary-General of the UN and a person of great world-vision, has agreed to join us in the planning for the event. Bill Moyers has also been approached. Several days of the conference would allow the participants to enjoy a retreat-like setting for thought, mediation and conver- sation with each other. Facilitated conversations, speeches, interviews and panels will be transmitted / broadcast world- wide, including colleges and universities, libraries and other public sites. Part of the conference would be held at the Abbey Gethsemani in Bardstown. Public events would probably be held at the Kentucky Center for the Arts.
The Playing Part
In April, I spent ten days in Trinidad and Tobago with a old friend, a music producer and nature photographer. We spent our time exploring and taking pictures of the incredible rain forest and coastline of the islands. My job was to lug equipment, make digital recordings of jungle noises and make sure we weren't late for rum punch. Maybe I'll be talked into telling this story in a later Owl issue.
I took a 2500 mile, seven-day trip to New York City and Maine with my son, Jason, who was about to move away to school in Kansas City.
Since bonding is equally good for fathers and daughters, I took the opportunity to travel with a daughter Michelle to Chi- cago for a few days of walking, shopping and eating too much.
Ask my wife Mary about my sabbatical, and I think she would agree that it was good have more time together, and certainly good to have someone around to do most of the house stuff, but it took awhile to get used to having someone around ALL the time. Finally, we all enjoyed a two-week stay at our perennial haunts on the Outer Banks before coming back to work.