Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The LibraryThing Conference-Pen Olympics

The New England Library Association (NELA) has come to a close. The final event–not publicized in official documents–was the LibraryThing Conference-Pen Olympics, consisting of Tim taking (sometimes stealing) pens from all the exhibitors and taking them back to the LibraryThing office for a test drive. As regular conference-goers know everyone has pens, but not all pens are created equal. NELA was a low-pen-quality event—no Pilot Precise V5 Rolling balls, no “Wavy Clip Pens.” But some were better than others.

The Competitors

The Judging
Judges evaluated feel, stroke and appearance. Syracuse University wrote well, but twists rather than clicking—life is too short for that. The University of South Carolina achieves a satisfying heft but is too fat to hold comfortably. OCLC’s entrant was cheap–flimsy and blunt, with their logo reduced to black and white–and came with a microprinted “usage policy” on the side, claiming ownership of anything you write with it.

Second Runner-Up: Access Engineering
Chosen by Loranne for its heft and grippy-thing. The pen advertises some sort of engineering program available from McGraw-Hill.

First Runner-Up: ProQuest
Chosen by K.J., who opines “I chose my pen because I like to fiddle with pens during meetings, and the metal clip is bendable but likely won’t snap.” I appreciate its pleasing kaleidoscopic interior, reliable-sounding “click,” and sharp writing ball. Advertises ProQuest, a major provider of library content and services. (They’re also sister-company to Bowker, who sell our products to libraries—but that’s not why they won!)

The Winner: Equinox
Chosen by Tim, Abby and Matt. Matt described it as “wholesome.” I’m not sure what he means by that. I like it for its satisfying click, smooth writing and decent weight. Advertises Equinox Software, a (rather good) provider of open source ILS systems. As the winner, Equinox will be the first pen Tim destroys by chewing on it.

Labels: conference


  1. Abby says:

    The Equinox pen also has pleasing angles. It deserves the win for many reason.

  2. Jacob says:

    I totally laughed at the OCLC “usage policy.” May we have a picture?

  3. Tim says:

    We should have hooked them up to a rolling thing of paper, and discovered which ran our last.

  4. elenchus says:

    I just discovered this, and also found the OCLC snark to be well done.

    I also love the depth of field in the photo with the posterboard: it gives an almost Hitcockian sense of dramatic tension due to the obscenely large plastic container in the foreground. Is it as large as a knapsack?! Perhaps you commissioned an oversized model built out of wood, to achieve the effect.

  5. Matt says:

    Yes, that’s an obscure lunch-time optical illusion we add the photo; it was completely intentional, like the famous skull in painting “The Ambassadors” by Hans Holbein the Younger. 😉