Monday, August 01, 2011

The more things change, the more they stay the same

"The more things change, the more they stay the same."

I wonder if Alphonse Karr (Les Guêpes, January 1849) would say the same today, when all I had to do is type his familiar words (in English) into Google and within seconds find out that he is credited with saying it over 160 years ago. After scanning the Wikipedia article on Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr with my favorite keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+F or, on a Mac, command+F), I learned enough to dig a little deeper.

Because the Wikipedia article said he was “a French critic, journalist, and novelist”, I used the GaleNet Literature Resource Center (LRC) database to look him up in the Gale Biography in Context where I learned that he didn't use his full name and that, according to Merriam Webster's Biographical Dictionary, Alphonse Karr was the founder of the satirical review called Les Guepes.

Simultaneously, I opened another tab in my Google Chrome browser to search for this author in our new catalog. I was pretty sure we didn't have any of his works in the Darling Library but lest you think I read French novels, I was looking for something else. I wanted to know more about the author. After entering Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the search box, I ended up with a list of results including books held by other libraries worldwide.

Once in a record, I scrolled down to find a button under the Details section to “Find more information about Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr.” This led me to WorldCat Identities Entry for Karr, Alphonse 1808-1890 (Authors, French--19th century).

Since I had no idea who he was, nor was I going to take the time to study his biography before posting this blog entry, I just wanted to be reasonably sure that I wasn't quoting the Marquis de Sade or Yogi Bear (although, I was kind of hoping for a quote from Yogi Berra.) I wanted to be relatively confident of its origin and that it came from a fairly reputable source.

WorldCat Identities, gives an overview of an author's works – how many were published and how many are held by libraries worldwide. This can give a sense of their popularity. But it also lists their subject area and creates a publication timeline which graphically shows how prolific they have been over time (including posthumous publications) and how often they have been the subject of other writings. This can be an indicator of their impact and importance.

As I concluded my investigation of Monsieur Karr, I determined that he would be a worthy source. And because of the description of the Les Guêpes as a satirical review, I reasoned that he would have been the kind of man who might enjoy being quoted in this context... and that he might be amused to learn that he has a page on Facebook.

Finally, I come to the reason for wanting to use this quote. We have dubbed this “The summer of change.” The Library staff is no stranger to change and we don't complain because all of the changes are good. But even good change brings stress. So, it is comforting to remind ourselves of what stays the same. Providing for the information needs of the Hope community remains our mission and how that occurs remains flexible.

Some changes that will affect how our patrons use the library include:
Hang onto your hats and glasses boys and girls 'cause this here is the wildest ride in the library!

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