SciHub: good or not?

Scihub_ravenAs a non-academic librarian it’s easy to realize the struggle of locating good scholarly information…after all as a librarian it is our due diligence when assisting the public to ensure the information they are locating is accurate and plentiful.  If you’re in a university, generally they subscribe to a wealth of databases that unlock a door to all walks of scholarly knowledge…for example when you see a report on television about the latest study on the dangers of Aspartame in soft drinks…with access to these databases you can actually view the real report in all its detail…but outside of academia that is not possible.

All this information is online but inaccessible to the majority of the population.  It’s almost comical to think we have created a major information super highway full of information when some of its most well researched is inaccessible to the major population.  Most of these articles are available from their said vendor (EBSCO, ProQuest, etc) to the public for a cost…usually around $30 for access to just the one article.  Sometimes your local public library may provide you limited access to this information with your library card, however, since people don’t generally search for information this way (we are all accustomed to using the Google), most public libraries don’t invest in these expensive databases.

In 2011, Alexandra Elbakyan, had had enough of this.  She believed that much of the research contained in these databases could be beneficial if accessible to all.  There are so many great things not created because John Q. Public is not going to pay $30 out of their pocket per article.   Elbakyan created a website that accesses this paywalled content through its traditional proxys by using a variety of academic credentials from different universities around the world to authenticate.  The website basically inserts these over and over until one works (all seamlessly and quick) and you have access to the PDF version of the document.

Elbakyan claims she would not have been able to do the bulk of the research she needed to through her university if it was not for this project.  In fact, many of the credentials the website uses are volunteered by professors and academics alike around the world who also believe in complete open access to information.  The site’s operation is completely funded by bitcoin donations.  The website claims over 200,000 requests pass through every day.

As you can imagine, publishing companies of these papers argue that this undermines their business model since these profitable companies are needed to begin with to publicize the information.  Sci-Hub claims that some of its most wide use is in some of America’s largest IvyLeague schools, since those schools too are victim to the very increasing cost of database subscriptions.

As for myself…I am graduated and not really affiliated with any high education institution anymore.  Sure, most public universities offer access to their library for alumni or the general public for a nominal fee, but usually electronic resources are contractually excluded from this arrangement.  As someone who writes and often finds himself researching all kinds of various information I (somewhat shamefully) will admit I use SciHub.  I have been able to produce great works due to the fact that I have accessed so much great scholarly knowledge through SciHub.

I noticed other librarians admit to using this resource as well.  The authors of a lot of this work are not making money off it it, just the providers are.  Where is the line drawn?  On one hand I’m sure most of us realize the importance of this pay walled information and feel it should be open to all…and on the other hand there is a sense of professional ethical standards that argues against it.  I, however, just cannot get past the idea of if knowledge is available, we should be able to use it.  If you can find it, you should benefit.


Losing a Piece of My Childhood

Part of me thinks I became a librarian because I am one that somewhat thrives in nostalgia.  I love reminiscing, not in a crazy way, but for entertainment.  I love history, researching, and technology.  Sometimes however I think technology has come at a cost I don’t feel comfortable with.  One of those is the world of online shopping.  I shop online sure, but I don’t get everything online.  I like going out and having human interaction and experiencing new things outside my ordinary everyday environment.

Perhaps that’s why the topic of the American shopping mall has always interested me. Historians, archivists, and librarians here in South Florida know that I am the person to come to for retail related histories for the area.

Growing up in the Boynton Beach area of Palm Beach County, I spent a great


Boynton Beach Mall in 1986

deal of time at the Boynton Beach Mall.  The mall, which opened in 1985 and was built by the Edward Debartolo Corporation of Youngstown, Ohio, was a perfect example of the world South Florida was in the 1980s and 90s.  It was light salmon pink color inside, echoing to the Miami Vice tones so appropriate at the time.  A gold lining ran along the wall contributing to popularity of art deco seen around South Florida at the time.  The center of the mall had a massive fountain featuring a 1500 pound monarch butterfly surrounded by brass reeds and a unique waterfall that fell in special burst making an unusual sound, so powerful it made the wind in your hair blow if you got close. Neon signs illuminated from nearly every store front; Waldenbooks, Scribbles, Camelot Music, B.Dalton, Burdines, LechtersJordan Marsh, Spencers, Barefoot Mailman, Morrison’s CafeteriaSunglass HutKayBee Toys, are among just a few of the 135 stores that filled the mall.  It was central/south Palm Beach County’s main shopping mecca.

Maybe it’s even more bittersweet since I often remember a one in awhile weeknight routine my late father and I had where we would visit MasterCuts for our haircuts.  Afterwards we headed to the food court and would always be bombarded by the free sample lady in front of ManchuWOK (who knew that was still at thing?!).  We would always take some and then head over to Sbarro.  We each would get a slice and sit right in front of the lady that gave us the free sample. After we would split, he would head to Barnies Coffee & Tea Company and I would head to Electronics Boutique (EB). It is that store I focus this article on.

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Electronics Boutique original 1985-1995 location

For a young boy, this store was amazing.  In its life it existed in two locations in the mall. Originally near the west entrance where H&Ms store front is now.  That store was tiny but packed full of stuff for your Macintosh, Windows 3.0, Amiga, etc you get the picture.  They even sold computer parts in the store.  I had purchased my first copy of the original Sim City in this location.  Later, perhaps around 1995 when the mall reached its 10th anniversary and leases rolled around it relocated to an area in the center of the mall next to the food court.

By the 1990s EB was selling everything from computer hardware to virtually

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EB location 1995 onward

every software title in as many categories you could think of. More and more game systems bounced back into popularity with the Sony Playstation, SuperNintendo, SEGA Genesis, etc.  We got our first home computer in 1993 and I was always drawn into checking out the latest titles and strategy guides.  I can’t even count the amount of times I remember begging my dad for a game I found.  Carmen Sandiego’s Great Chase Through Time, Titanic:Adventure Out of Time, The Sims, Maniac Mansion, Bad Day on the Midway, Dust; A Tale of the Wired West, Myst…those are just a few of the amazing titles that took me into a world of my own that I was immersed into when I would get home.   I was almost always able to get one title though!


EB Spring Catalog 1994

The feeling of anxiousness and excitement reading the box while we drove home is a feeling that I likely will never have again.  Today, most software is downloadable, even if you’re a console gamer.  I did dabble with some consoles back in the day, mostly portable.  I had a SEGA Game Gear, Genesis, and later Nintendo 64.  EB always had a colorful catalog available that I would take with me to excitedly plan my next visit.

As with all good things though, progress happens.  EB eventually went away and became Gamestop (moving from their roots and merely selling console gaming stuff and gaming memorabilia),  I grew up,  videogames faded from my life, and my dad is no longer around. Having worked at an Apple Retail store for 4 years, I did get some discounts on games I still will jump into occasionally like the new Sim City, but for the most part, work, homeownership, and grad school took more of my time.

Though my father is gone, I still get my haircut at that particular MasterCuts, I still get my Sbarro slice, and I still stop in that Gamestop and browse around what is new.  Something comforting came from my routine, perhaps it put me closer to my father and all those trips we did there together.  I can’t say I bought anything at that Gamestop in the last year or so.  I dont even own a modern gaming console.  The shelves, while I could picture the exact spot I found so many titles I still own today, are completely unrecognizable in content.  Gone are the PC gaming boxes, replaced with WiiU and XBox One titles. I just accepted the fact that the baton had been passed along to a new generation.

This memory was shattered from me the 3rd week of January 2016.  I was doing my usual routine only to walk by Gamestop to see signs that said “we’re moving!”  I was puzzled since there are in the middle of the mall and there probably aren’t many better locations in the mall.  Upon walking in I was told by the young girl behind the counter that they were merging locations with the location across the street.  I thought about it for a second thinking how could they do that if they are cleaning this store up…then it hit me…OH you’re CLOSING this store basically.  She responded “yeahhhhh the rent is like kinda high here.”

This was very surreal to me.  The once mighty Boynton Beach Mall I knew as a kid


Gamestop (former EB) Closing at the Boynton Beach Mall

has been eclipsed in recent times by other modern concepts….the mall, while still quite bustling, shows signs of disarray, particularly at the north end. Gone are most of the neon signs, gone is the monarch butterfly sculpture, and the mall was completely simonized in 2001 eliminating most of the facets that made it special. About 10% of the mall’s space is vacant.  Though it’s clear the staff operating the mall are dedicated. Events happen every week and new stores like H&M will continue bring in modern crowds.  But still…why would they price out a retailer like Gamestop? I realize Gamestop is not a modern example of a successful company, but a quick search on the internet shows that their mall locations are among their most profitable.  Plus, other area malls, such as The Gardens Mall, where I worked at Apple, charges far more in rent than Boynton does but Gamestop remains there.   I went outside the store and sat down since I was a bit beside myself in that a store that brought so much joy to my childhood would soon be gone.

It took me a few days but I knew I wanted to write about this and get it out of my system. I realized I’m not the only one with this sense of nostalgia either.  I found an online retrospective by a guy called Hughes Johnson who recounts his time working at another EB during the same times I visited mine.  It is WELL worth the read and certainly jogged my memory so much, especially since I worked in retail as well.  Read it HERE.  The Irony here is he mentions EB CEO J.J. Firestone, well known in the gamer world back then and instrumental in the inevitable disappearance of the EB brand, who in his retired life lives right here in Palm Beach County.

I’m sure there are many others that have the same memories and feelings I have about EB and its competition back in the day; Software etc, Egghead, and Babbages (all now apart of Gamestop).  What a great time to have grown up in.  I kept many of the things I bought from EB over the years, even my Pokemon cards.  What’s important to remember here are the memories I do have.  They are mine, they belong to me, and nobody else would have lived them like I did.  And yes, as long as MasterCuts remains, I’ll still go to that location to get my haircut, but next time I guess I won’t be stopping in Gamestop.  As with all, time marches on and I just have to march along with it…

The Secret, A Treasure Hunt

9780553014082In my journey to studying the career of library science, I have stumbled upon something interesting that I never knew about (how about that!).  In 1982, a book was published titled The Secret.  Not like the book we think of by that title today.  This book contained 12 artistic images and 12 verses (in addition to some interesting information about fairies and goblins).  One must match the verses with the pictures to locate a specific treasure that the author had buried in a casque somewhere in North America.  Actually, the casque contained a key which when given to the puzzle’s author Byron Preiss, he would present to them a gem worth about $1000 at the time.

To date, only 2 of the 12 have been found. The first was located in 1984 by a group of students in Grant Park, Chicago.  It was a match of verse 12 and image 5, a walkthrough can be seen here.

The second was located in 2004 in Cleveland by a group of a treasure hunters online forum.  The casque was found in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.  The group presented the casque to Mr. Preiss who at the time had misplaced the key to the safe deposit box where he had been keeping the gems since 1982.  A few months later he did locate it and present them with their treasure.

Preiss had insisted that upon his death, he would reveal the final locations and the game would end.  Sadly, Preiss was unexpectedly killed in a car accident in 2005.  His wife does not wish to be bothered by those still trying to locate the remaining casques and claims that he never revealed to her any of the locations.

On an interesting note, the artist he chose to paint these gorgeous images was John Jude Palencar, who in the early 80s was unknown.  Today he is a well known artist who created the images seen in the Eragon series.  He claims that Preiss only ever gave him Polaroids of the locations and some clues to include, but he never knew the actual locations.  Palencar did once mention in a newspaper article about the location found in 2004 that he had been present when Preiss was burying that casque.

So there is a Florida connection to all this.  One of the casques is allegedly buried here, around St Augustine.  It is perhaps tied to image 6 as seen below:



It is said that this image matches up with Verse 9 which is as follows:


The first chapter
Written in water
Near men
With wind rose

Behind bending branches
And a green picket fence
At the base of a tall tree

You can still hear the honking
Shell, limestone, silver, salt

Stars move by day
Sails pass by night
Even in darkness

Like moonlight in teardrops
Over the tall grass

Years pass, rain falls.

This perhaps describes the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.  The parks entrance gates have the words “First Chapter” engraved.  The park includes many trees, a planetarium, benches, all of which could be deciphered in the verse.

One issue it appears that may plague the puzzle in many locations were the fact that Preiss had wrongly assumed his clues weren’t all that difficult and would have all been located shortly after the book was published.  So many of the clues he used were things like trees and branches, which may not exist today like they may have in 1982.  Even the mention of a “green picket fence” by the “base of a tall tree” may refer to two things that had once existed in the park that are no longer there.  There had in fact been a green picket fence and Wheeping Willow tree.

It’s a treasure that is likely still buried and because the park is now private property and a protected digging site, it is unlikely it will ever be recovered.

More can be read about The Secret and the other verses and pictures here.

When the Wind Blows

I never really understood the graphic novel craze, but as a potential librarian I felt it was very much my duty to learn as much about the topic as I could.  I took a Graphic Novels class in my librwhen-the-wind-blows-raymond-briggsary science program at Florida State University.  I chose a rather interesting graphic novel to read as part of one of my projects and have never felt so compelled to share my thoughts on a book than the one titled When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs.

The graphic novel was published in 1982 and later adapted into what I have learned was an extremely popular animated film in Great Britain, its country of origin.  The book was written at a time in the early 80s when there was still some nuclear uncertainty in the world and it follows an old british couple living in the countryside somewhere in Great Britain.  The husband has lewhen-the-wind-blows-movie-poster-1986-1020694991arned from reading material at the public library that the country is on the brink of nuclear war attack and he has clipped out a guide on how they can survive.

Perhaps it’s Briggs use of a peaceful elderly couple who commonly bicker in the same many ways about little things we often can relate to that make this tale so daunting.  Or, perhaps being one of the first graphic novels I have ever had the pleasure to really delve into, it’s the haunting smokey image of jet planes drawn over the couple’s peaceful serenity before my very eyes that have allowed this tale to bring anguish to my imagination when reading.489946

The book has seen at least 2 or 3 printings and has apparently been sold around the world though it appears to be getting harder to find.  I was only able to track it down in a university library as most public library’s have probably long since weeded this from their collections.  I also noticed this book was featured on where I found it interesting that some librarians had mentioned this item was catalogued into their children’s section.  Upon first look it might appear childish, but the themes are mature and can be very unsubtle.  Nevertheless I highly recommend it as a read, as well as its animated film you can find below, and yes the theme was performed by David Bowie.






Hello, My name is Graham Brunk, I am a recent graduate of the Florida State

University Library and Information Science program(iSchool).  I am also an undergrad graduate of Florida International University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration.15219606_10154782131749116_186045982399041554_n

My ultimate self fulfilling prophecy is to provide a world class enriching experience to the lives of people through the study of technology and information.  I’ve spent 4 years working for Apple, Inc at an Apple retail store and I have about 6 years of experience working in public library service as well. I am confident my mix of unique retail experience with my strong knowledge of the public library sector creates the perfect blend of skills needed in the ever changing career it is today.

I was born and raised in Palm Beach County, Florida and would like to continue my career in the same area.  I am working my first non-fiction book and am currently employed full time at the amazing Society of the Four Arts King Library in Palm Beach, the town’s public library.  I am also Vice President for the Palm Beach County Library Association  In my free time I like to write, read, instagram (@instagraham1001), and Tweet.

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