in Uncategorized

Internet Detective Work

One of the interesting things about the Internet is when you can use it as a barometer for taste. For example, I am able to find out what the feeling among computer scientists in my alma mater Trinity College, Dublin about Kent Beck’s books.

What I did was go to the Trinity library catalogue and searched for ‘Beck, Kent’ (for some reason, title searches can be a bit flakey on this database). Then I checked how many of the books they had in stock (quite a few. They are entitled by statute to get a copy of every book published in the UK of Ireland. The fact that they actually got it indicates that the librarians don’t consider the book to be complete junk.

The next thing to check is where the book is kept. If the book is kept on a shelf, it is a book that is in demand, and has probably been specifially requested to be made easily available to students by a lecturer. If it is in ‘reserve’, you know that it’s probably a prescribed text for some course or other.

If the book is kept in ‘Stacks’ it means that they keep it close to hand on the campus, so users can call on it within an hour or two. If, on the other hand, it is considered a little down-market and unlikely to be of academic interest, it might get relegated to Santry, an out-of-town repository that has deliveries to the reading rooms about twice a day.

Finally, you can check whether the book is currently out on loan. If it’s out on loan and it doesn’t have a ‘LEN’ or ‘S-LEN’ in the shelfmark, it’s almost certainly on loan to a postgraduate or staff member. This suggests that the book is being read.

Anyway, my survey shows that Kent Beck appears to be a little read in Trinity, but probably isn’t the subject of any academic courses (which is a pity, but there you are). However, someone is reading up on him, so who knows what will happen in a few terms?

This is the sort of thing that would be impossible to fathom in the old days, unless you were very friendly with the librarians …

Write a Comment