On Dr. Howard D. White's first talk (SLIS Distinguished Visitor)

During the week of October 5-11, Dr. Howard D. White from Drexel University's College of Information Science was a Distinguished Visitor at the University of Alberta's School of Library and Information Studies. He presented three excellent lectures during this time period.

The first lecture was on the use of author-centered citation data. This lecture explained the use of citation data with reference to determination of the utility and impact of various publications in a particular research field and beyond. He referenced his article: Bibliogram that he wrote for wikipedia in his talk. He also taught us about a tool that can be used with Google Scholar to be a citation analyst: Publish or Perish. Dialog and Web of Science are other options for citation analysis, however each tool provides different citation data depending on what is being tracked, whether it is references or actual articles cited. These tools can be used to help determine who the top people are in a particular area, as citation counts can be said to measure impact.

There were two aspect of his talk that I found the most interesting. The first was the fact that the log counts of different authors can be useful in determining their fame. Log counts are used because it is the order of magnitude that is important. 1-10 citations is obscure, 11-100 is an author recognized in a specialty, 101-1000 is well-known in a discipline, 1001-10000 is well known cross-disciplines, and 10000+ citations is world famous. This was easily discernible when we looked at particular examples. I recognized nearly all the names listed in the category 5 on his Log Reputation Scale (10001-100000), but didn't recognize any of the names listed in category 1 (with each category in between varying as indicated above. So this seemed to hold true.

The second aspect that I found interesting was the fact that he listed there to be three components of citation identities. Firstly, self-citation is almost always in the top rank (or tied). Secondly, recitation (where one author is cited more than once) indicates major influences. Finally single citation indicates broadness of influences. Using these three components one can look at three citation styles of identity: what Dr. White described as scientific paper style citation where there is lots of recitation, wide-ranging essay style where there are many citees but little recitation, and literature review style where there is lots of both.

I realize that I'm writing this a fair bit after the fact, but I really did enjoy his lectures, and knew that very few people saw this first lecture of his and so I thought I would share some of what I learned with anyone who might just be interested.

On a closer examination of Dr. Howard D. White's website, I noticed a particular web page that caught my attention: On Librarians which references many librarians' depictions in popular media. While many of his links are broken, I find this train of thought to be a most interesting one to follow. What other depictions of librarians are there in popular culture, I wondered? Upon a quick Google search, I found this intriguing site listing films in which librarians or libraries feature prominently.

The idea of a librarian is found in many elements of our popular culture, which is an aspect of librarianship I never really paid much attention to before. While I am now tempted to have a library-movie watching night or spend more time procrastinating more important things, what I realize is that the perception of what a librarian is, does, and can do is strongly influenced by popular culture. Perhaps I (and others in or contemplating an MLIS or equivalent) should better take this into account when looking at job prospects and otherwise in the coming months/years etc.