New Website

February 13, 2012

This on-again, off-again blog is moving to a new location!

Please adjust your bookmarks/RSS accordingly…




September 3, 2011

A community needs analysis is the method used by information professionals to define appropriate goals, and to pursue continual improvement in the quality of service, for themselves and their institutions. In order to describe how this method is used to produce the stated outcomes, I shall break down the phrase “community needs analysis” into its constituent terms and examine each one in context.

A community in the most general sense of the word is a subgroup of society as a whole, defined by common elements – generally of geography or culture, but also governance, economics, communication or technology. Organizations, of whatever variety, may also be considered as a type of community (Grover et. al. 30-34). From an information science perspective, however, a community may be defined more technically, as a subgroup of society possessing the following common elements: first, a shared knowledge base; second, shared resources through which this knowledge base is utilized; third, a pattern of interaction and communication (with respect to said knowledge base and resource set); finally, a shared set of values, which depending on the type of community may express themselves as rules, laws, goals, best practices or a combination of all of these (Grover et. al. 25-26).

For many librarians, however, “community” is defined in advance as the municipality/district or educational institution that their library serves. This renders the above definition less useful, as the library’s total population of patrons would therefore consist of a heterogeneous mix of many such communities. Following the work of Roger Greer, such librarians have applied a complementary definition known as the Community Analysis Research Institute, or CARI, model. This model defines a community (through demographic and socioeconomic data) in terms of: individuals; groups; agencies, i.e. businesses and public-sector organizations as distinct from “groups” generally; and lifestyles, which includes shared historical, cultural and other elements (Grover et. al., 44-48).

A community has information needs. We may restate the first definition of “community” above as a group of people engaging in the Information Transfer Cycle towards a shared outcome; they may require the assistance of information professionals at any stage of the cycle. In terms of the CARI model, we must assume multiple, ongoing cycles of information transfer in pursuit of various outcomes – any or all of which may require the assistance of information professionals.

We describe the information needs of a given community as subject to analysis for two reasons. The first reason is to indicate that (as with individual patrons) an LIS professional must arrive at an understanding of what those needs are before he or she can take action to fill those needs. The second reason is to suggest that the information needs of a given community are best understood by applying the theories of social science – specifically information science, but also complementary theory from the disciplines of psychology and sociology – and the methods of scientific research, namely constructive, qualitative research as practiced in the social sciences (Grover et. al. 39-41; 50-55).

At the outset, I stated that a community needs analysis is a method used to improve LIS practice. Therefore, the question of why community needs analysis should be performed can be more effectively restated as: Why should information professionals and their institutions commit to a policy of continuous improvement? For many librarians, the answer may simply be in order to secure and maintain appropriate levels of funding, by demonstrating return on investment to their particular school or municipality.

This answer may be appropriate so far as it goes, but is too narrowly focused. To begin with, community needs analysis seeks continual improvement in terms of goals – that is, demonstrating ROI through successful outcomes, not just performance efficiency (LaRue, 2). Moreover, scarcity of funding has forced librarians to recognized that their institutions cannot create successful outcomes through their mere existence, nor by attempting “to be all things to all people,” (Achleitner, 101) but by tailoring collections and services to meet community information needs as they change over time. Returning briefly to the idea of a community as containing multiple information transfer cycles, we can think of community needs analysis as a way to not only respond to, but ideally to anticipate, points of intervention in existing cycles and even the formation of entirely new cycles (Achleitner, 103-4).

On a more idealistic note, commitment to a process of continuous improvement is the hallmark of a professional. “A professional of any kind possesses specialized knowledge that enables the application of that knowledge on behalf of a client” (Grover et. al., 39). For information professionals, then, information needs analysis and the recommendation and implementation of appropriate resources should always be followed by evaluation of the outcome, and commitment to successful outcomes of this “service cycle” necessitates commitment to continuous improvement in all its stages. In short, the reason to perform a community needs analysis is to ensure that one’s job is being done correctly.


Grover, R. et al. (2010). Assessing Information Needs: Managing Transformative Library Services. Denver, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

LaRue, J. (2009, Sept. 3). Libraries should measure community impact. Douglas County News Press. Retrieved from:

Achleitner, Herbert. (1984). “Assertive Librarianship: A Means of Customizing Services.” in Marketing for Libraries and Information Agencies, Darlene E. Weingand (ed.) Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation, pp 100-105.

Well, when I resurrected this blog I determined that I would update it more frequently, so here goes…as the man said: “I’ve suffered for my art, now it’s your turn.”

We have had nearly a month’s worth of spring break at the ESU School of Library and Information Science…despite which, the transcript for spring semester has not been posted, only two of my three classes for summer term are live on the school website, and my financial aid appears to have fallen into the Black Hole of Calcutta. It seems a damn sloppy way to run an institute of higher learning and I can only conclude that the registrar is zonked out on a beach in Cancun, updating the distance ed server on a poor iPhone signal between margaritas.

Meanwhile, I am digging into the reading…my required class this semester is on research methods, aka “how to conduct a survey that’s actually scientifically valid.” After what passes for methodology in journalism, it’s good to see a little disciplinary rigor on the horizon…a further reminder that I am learning an actual profession. Journalism calls itself one, but it is a trade at best…at worst, the redheaded stepchild of the entertainment industry.

Getting ready for class this weekend, I decided to swap the Linux distro on my netbook. The subsequent Facebook update confused a number of my acquaintances, but to summarize: I bought the thing with factory-installed Xandros Linux. It came with a sucky interface, but I bought it knowing that I could switch it to a real desktop and promptly did so…but the result wasn’t really suited to a small screen, so when I suffered a system crash I took the chance to install Ubuntu, a different “flavor” of Linux…with a “netbook edition” much better suited for tiny screens. Or so I thought. I loved the interface, but it proved to be a serious drain on the battery life, so the most recent install is Easy Peasy, which is also Ubuntu Linux, but stripped-down and built to maximize battery life (it was originally my second choice after Ubuntu Netbook Remix).

So we’ll see how it goes! I’m still giving serious consideration to just saying “fuck it” and buying an iPad, if the financial aid office ever comes through…As someone once said, free software is only free if your time has no value, and I have come to see the wisdom of that statement. Speaking from my own experience, running Linux is rather like driving an elderly Italian sports car, inasmuch as it’s a fantastic experience when everything works…but when something doesn’t work, you’d better be willing and able to fix it yourself. And in both cases, the process of “fixing it yourself” is one that gets very complicated, very quickly! For this reason, I remain somewhat skeptical of Android…

Finally, still awaiting word from the Vancouver library. I begin to fear the worst…

P.S. the title of the post is a reference to these guys

Version 2.0

April 25, 2011

After two years of shameful neglect, I am re-starting this blog. Yay me!

As noted in my updated “About Me” page, since launching The Soft Lobotomy I have changed careers…which will be a subject of future posts. For now, I’ll merely note it and move on.

The style of this blog will also be changing: less snark, more personal reflection. A different set of priorities.

And of course, more frequent updates…

Even Homer nods

November 5, 2009

An amusing slip of the thumb from Glenzilla’s Twitter feed. Background is here

Red wine for red states?

October 27, 2009

From the blog of J. Bradford DeLong, economist, the latest dispatch from the front lines of the Culture Wars. A colleague, deep in the heart of West Texas, discovers that even the hubcap-belt-buckle crowd enjoy a good vintage. The money quote:

I remark how ironic it is that liberals from the East like me are always excoriated by Texas Republican types for being wine snipping snobs. His indelible response: “Most liberals have really shitty taste in wine…”

Heh … Because Eric Lemelson the environmental lawyer and major Measure 49 donor, or Nancy Ponzi the organizer and fundraiser for migrant worker health care, or, y’know, the rest of those NIMBY activist types out here in Yamhill County, Oregon, are widely known for their abysmal taste in wine, you betcha…

Well, liberal or conservative, at least we can all agree wine tastes good with barbecue.

That’s what s/he said…

October 13, 2009

Hm, what to blog about today? … what strongly-held beliefs do I strive to present to the world, wrapped in the mantle of elegant prose?

Should I reflect on my deep and abiding love of reading, and the essential role that books have played — and continue to play — in my life? Oh, wait, it’s been done.

Here’s a thought: Monty Python’s Flying Circus makes you smarter, and an appreciation of their work is the mark of a civilized person? Nope, scratch that one…

Couldn’t it be said that almost any random blogger would make a better opinion writer than the tripe they publish in the Washington Post? Could be said, and has been —definitively so, in fact.

Is it time to reveal the awful truth, that the maggot which crawled out the end of Rush Limbaugh’s dick is named Glenn Beck? Too late!

Damn you people — Get out of my mind!

UPDATE: Yet another of my ideas stolen…

The Wingnut Zone

October 8, 2009

“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of demented right-wing zealotry. It is an area which we call… The Wingnut Zone!”

Jesus is coming -- look busy!

Jesus is coming -- look busy!

Enter the mind of a Bush voter — if you dare — via the link above, with alt-text hilarity courtesy of Shortpacked.
H/T to Wonkette, who links to the original, in case you want to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes …

UPDATE: Via Balloon Juice, a member of the huddled masses in the painting above is holding a copy of Cleon Sousken’s “The 5,000 Year Leap,” a paranoid, racist work of “end-times prophecy” — and the favorite book of Ol’ Crocodile Tears himself.

Can’t you see it’s all connected?! We’re through the looking glass here, people! (adjusts tinfoil hat).

Forget it, Jake

September 28, 2009

Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and the innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.

Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.
–W.H. Auden, “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”

Noah Cross: ” ‘Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” — Roman Polanski, “Chinatown”

The arrest of Roman Polanski has already brought all manner of supporters out of the woodwork to argue in his defense. It’s total bullshit, of course, intended to obscure the facts of the case: Polanski drugged and sodomized a 13-year-old girl. The fact that it happened three decades ago, or that he happens to be an Oscar-winning director, is beside the point.

Nonetheless, we can expect to hear quite a bit about how his genius, his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, or the murder of his wife have somehow rendered him not responsible for his actions. The egregious Anne Applebaum goes for the hat trick in a recent column, with a scoop of conflict of interest on top.

Which is interesting, because anyone who truly admires Polanski’s movies should realize that the man himself has already forestalled any such defense, and done so out of his own mouth — in his best-known movie, “Chinatown.” Spoilers following, in case you’ve never seen it.

It’s fairly obvious on a first viewing how Noah Cross’ molestation of Evelyn Mulwray is a metaphor for the wide-scale theft of water rights — based on historic events — inasmuch as both crimes represent the corruption of institutions (government, the family) to victimize those whom they were intended to protect. Moreover, the repercussions of both crimes will permanently alter the course of others’ lives — indeed, both crimes seem to have been undertaken primarily in order to exert that kind of power, rather than for any mundane reward. “The future, Mr. Gittes, the future …”

And that’s a valid reading, so far as it goes, but let’s reflect for a moment on the back-story of Noah Cross, as told by Evelyn to Jake Gittes. Cross is respected, influential … and traumatized by a violent event, which leads him to sexually victimize a young woman, then use his status to escape punishment. The details are different (home invasion and murder vs. collapse of a dam; incest vs. date rape) but the basic outline is the same as Polanski’s own crime.

Granted, this is a textbook example of biographical fallacy, especially since “Chinatown” came out several years before Polanski committed the rape … but while we can’t logically argue that the movie is actually “about” Polanski himself*, we can certainly use it as a reference point.

Noah Cross is seen as a villain, indeed as a monster, by audiences. Whatever trauma he may have suffered does not excuse his actions. Why, then, should others offer Polanski this type of excuse for a real-life crime when he, as the director, cannot bring himself to extend such benefit of the doubt, even in fiction?  

Leni Riefenstahl was a hell of a director too, and you don’t see people lining up to excuse her. Just let it go…

UPDATE: “The truth is, that if Roman Polanski had been a priest, there is very, very little chance that he ever would have been prosecuted in the first place. And that’s wrong—not for Polanski, who deserved prosecution, but for the thousands of victims of sexually predatory priests who had their complaints ignored for years.” (via Balloon Juice)

* In addition to the similarity of Cross’ abuse to Polanski’s own, note that Polanski himself appears onscreen in the movie (that’s him with the switchblade) and that the rape was committed at the home of Jack Nicholson, “Chinatown”‘s lead actor — like Fight Club and 9/11, it’s virtually impossible not to view the film in light of subsequent events.

UPDATE 2: Then again, on the other hand … “It’s interesting to contemplate why Polanski did Tess while on his champagne and caviar exile tour, since of course it’s based on Tess of the D’urbervilles, Thomas Hardy’s story of a woman whose entire life is ruined because she’s raped by….wait for it…..a rich, powerful, older man who is therefore shielded from justice while all the blame is shoved off on Tess. Is he mining his own life for inspiration while still refusing to submit to justice?” (H/T: Pandagon

May the Schwartz be with you

September 17, 2009

Someone alert Ta-Nehesi Coates:

A New Hope

A New Hope

(Also present: former VP Dick Cheney, just off camera to the viewer’s right.)

I’ve been saying since last October that GOP wingnuts were turning politics into a real-life reenactment of Blazing Saddles, but when this hits the AP wire, they’ll go to plaid.

Mark my words: even as you read this, Fox News producers are scouring the nation for an overweight, ungroomed cosplayer who will appear on TV and compare, with total seriousness, Obamacare to Senator Palpitane’s overthrow of the Old Republic. I give 2-1 odds it airs within the next 48 hours … and 15-1 that the words “No sir, I didn’t see you playing with your dolls again,” are heard from the vicinity of Glenn Beck’s dressing room.

H/t: Wonkette, more snark there and on Gawker, plus bonus Photoshop goodness.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike