a few things I would have emailed you about…

Hi there, I spent a chunk of my weekend selecting images from the NYPL digital valentine gallery and sending them around. Hope you had a decent weekend. I’m heading to San Francisco this week for the MaintainIT steering committee meeting. Should be an interesting time, the MaintainIT project has been an interesting one and they’ve produced some great information, but the funding cycle is ending and the big question is “What now?”

With that in mind, here are a few things I’ve been reading online over the past few days that didn’t hit escape velocity enough to merit their own post but that I thought you’d like.

  • The Future of Reading – a NYTimes article about a school librarian that doesn’t resort to the usual cliches and drives home the point that I like to make – in the age of information overload, being able to separate good information from bad is more important than ever and librarians can help you do that.
  • YANAL stands for You are Not a Lawyer – one of my favorite blogs, Freedom to Tinker talks about the difference between technology being able to introduce doubt into a legal proceeding (hey you have no idea if *I* was the one who downloaded that movie illegally) and what would happen to you if you’re even suspected (i.e. a world of hurt) so why you should understand the laws.
  • CRS Reports to the People – part 1, part 2. The Congressional Research Service writes white paper style reports for Congresspeople. These are generally not made available to the public despite being paid for with tax dollars and being incredibly useful and well-researched documents. FreeGovInfo has been agitating for them to be made publicly available as a general principle, not just continually leaked via Wikileaks or Open CRS
  • A portrait of Spencer Shaw, the first black librarian in Connecticut, who received a lifetime achievement award from the Black Caucus of ALA in 2005.
  • Freedom to Read week is next week in Canada. I like this idea of a readers’ holiday better than Banned Books Week.
  • TicTOCs a table of contents service. I was reading about this in Computers in Libraries and it’s great. RSS feeds of Tables of contents for many many journals. A great project.
  • Library phobia – my goal in my professional life is never to be the sort of librarian people are afraid of.

I’ll try to write some actual longer posts this week but I wanted you to know what I’d been reading

Banned Books Week is next week

Banned Books Week is next week. ALA has nifty little web badges that they have made freely available and, in typical ALA fashion, given a bunch of instructions for how you’re supposed to use them (link to this URL, include this ALT text, etc.). If it were me, I think I’d just put the images on my own server, give people the HTML to include the image on their site and use some handy stats-tracker to keep track of how many people had been viewing the banned books buttons, maybe even in realtime. That would be cool. Oh wait, I can do that.

Want to use it? Copy this HTML (and mind the line breaks): <a href=”http://newprotest.org/details.pl?495″><img src=”http://librarian.net/tempo/bbw.gif”/></a> and thank the folks at newprotest who made it originally.

If it were me, I’d definitely make sure that the main Banned Books Page was a bit better at explaining why Banned Books Week exists, rather than just linking me right to the ALA store. ALA’s Action Guide is probably a better place to start.

Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) is asked why the week is called Banned Books Week instead of Challenged Books Week, since the majority of the books featured during the week are not banned, but “merely” challenged. There are two reasons. One, ALA does not “own” the name Banned Books Week, but is just one of several cosponsors of BBW; therefore, ALA cannot change the name without all the cosponsors agreeing to a change. Two, none want to do so, primarily because a challenge is an attempt to ban or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A successful challenge would result in materials being banned or restricted.

So this is saying two things really: one, they can’t change the name; two, they wouldn’t change it if they could. Couldn’t you just say that? Why is this explanation so obtuse? “none want to do so because…” because why? I’d be much happier if they’d just said “Look, we sank $5000 into t-shirts that we haven’t sold yet. We’re keeping the name” And if this question is asked every year, shouldn’t it maybe be on the FAQ by now? Since ALA talks so much about its cosponsors, let’s look at what they’re doing this year

Since ALA is really the main go-to organization for this “holiday”, maybe it’s time they had more of a destination site (ireadbannedbooks.org is taken, sadly) instead of just cramming all their information into the ALA template and enduring terrible URLs (link goes to “quick and easy” guide to BBW for librarians, wouldn’t you like to write down that URL and share it?) This would beat pseudoparticipatory pages like the Vote for Your Favorite Banned Book page which is clearly geared towards the YA crowd which asks you WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHALLENGED BOOK (PICK ONE) (emphasis theirs). It also highlights the thing we know about Banned Books Week that we don’t talk about much — the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it’s totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all.

My plan is to spend this year’s Banned Books Week reflecting on the nature of intolerance, predjudice and flat-out anxiety, motivators that causes people to want to control the ideas and issues that other people can have access to. Libraries and schools are two places that this happens in the public sphere, but we all know there are many more. So buy a bracelet if you want to, but don’t kid yourself that you can shop your way out of this problem. You can’t buy a ticket to freedom, not one that works anyhow.

update: 1,272 4,785 hits on the image so far!