more economic crunching at MA libraries statewide

According to j’s scratchpad, Massachusetts libraries are seeing their consortial system go from six regional consortia to one statewide system. If this were a move being planned for reasons other than “we don’t have any money” I’d be cautiously optimistic that maybe this would get the state some economies of scale and improvement of some services. As it is they’re going from 45 FTEs to 22 and I can only imagine how much ILL in the state of Massachusetts is going to suck [as opposed to some other programs that will just be halted altogether. Good luck Massachusetts!

end of the week links

There was a while during which I’d pretty much only blog on Fridays. MetaFilter was a little more relaxed, I was catching up on things, I usually wasn’t working. The downside was that a lot of people weren’t reading many blogs on Fridays, so anything timely sort of seemed to fll between the cracks. Of course if I know it’s timely I want, Twitter and facebook have me covered. And yet, I really like having a blog. I like longer form explanations. I like telling you why I think something is intersting or special, more than just saying WANT. Anyhow, here are some links that didn’t fit in over the week. Certainly more than odds and ends, all of them worth a longer read.

  • Sarah Houghton-Jan talks about what it’s like to live with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Not just an interesting outline of what it’s like to have a misdiagnosed disease for a long time, but also what it’s like to live with chronic pain and a busy life. Many interesting notes in the comments as well.
  • Kevin Kelly writes about The Triumph of the Default. I’ve mentioned similar things before. It’s surprising to me how many novice computer users have no understanding that all software comes with a bunch of pre-set configuration options, all of which have a default setting, a setting that was chosen by someone who makes software. In many cases, these defaults affect our impression of how usable a piece of software is. Remember when the talking paperclip was the default help option for MS Word? Defaults are cultural choices, and most people don’t change them. we should learn more about them, as librarians, and think about our own presets (browser home pages, anyone?)
  • Seattle Public Library is implementing some new charges including overdue fines for ESL materials and a whopping $5 fee for ILLs. Some interesting data in the article including “7 percent of library cardholders are responsible for roughly 45 percent of the hold requests” No official mention on SPLs website yet. You can read the complete policy changes in this PDF document.
  • In another cost-cutting move, the state of Vermont is no longer going to be paying for our “branded” access to Webjunction. As near as I can tell, we still have access to all the same content, with the exception of continuing education classes, prompting me to wonder what exactly we were paying so much money for. The Continuing Ed discussion forums haven’t had a post made since November 2008.

I [want to] love libraries

Many people have worked hard on ALA’s I Love Libraries website. I know this because I was (in a small way) one of them.The site was advertised in the State of America’s Libraries published by ALA in April but didn’t go live until this week, just in time for Annual. In the intervening time we got what can only be described as a sub-par “coming soon” page which is really amazing to me considering that the URL had already been widely distributed.

I don’t see much need to pick apart the website page by page, but I do have some critiques that I hope will be illustrative or helpful.

1. Who didn’t learn anything about long URLs? ALA didn’t. There is no reason in 2007 to have that much extra junk in a URL.
2. In 2007, a “find your library” page should not go to a list of links of how you can find your library. It should go to a search box or a map.
3. Don’t hide your blog. Don’t bury new content at the bottom of your main page.
4. Things professional websites have that this one doesn’t: favicons, copyright statements in the footer or on the legal page not up top looking defensive, an overall design sensibility, content (not just links to content), an about us page with the names of real people on it, valid markup, alt text for images, accessible coding, valid security certificates, copyright statements that word wrap appropriately.
5. The rules for adding content to the Ilovelibraries.org Flickr group exclude humans and allow only institutions. Which 2.0 guideline does this violate? I asked to join. I never even heard back from the group moderator. Why is this restriction necessary?

In short, this is a 1.0 site that is pretending to be a 2.0 site and is a perfect example of how all the blogging tools in the world won’t make your organization responsive and interactive if your corporate culture is restrictive and controlling. Put another way, I’ve been clicking around this site for half an hour and I don’t even know what it’s trying to do. It’s all over the place. Is it to raise money for ALA and libraries in various ways? Is it a way to ask questions and get information about libraries? Is it a way to share content and/or my love of libraries with other people? Is it a way to push ALA content at more than the usual suspects? Is it a way to make ALA seem hipper and more “with it”? The about this site page is unrevealing: “Simply put, you love libraries, and we hope this Web site will keep it that way!” Huh.

I feel like if we could understand why ALA thinks ilovelibraries.org is a good, well-designed website for achieving their goals, we might understand more about why people have a hard time with technology and why there is such a digital divide in librarianship, much less among the public at large. For now it remains a bit of a mystery, at least to me.

I am not saying this is true, I am only saying you should read it

If anyone with more of an understanding of the Montana ILL system would like to comment on this very odd post about a small library, the PATRIOT Act and an alleged “watch list” I would appreciate it. Update: story was not exactly true, the result of a misunderstanding, good to know.

above the fold retraction: there was no Little Red Book ILL

From the Daily Kos, my comments, and I’m sure many other places. Federal agents’ visit was a hoax Student admits he lied about Mao book

update re: ILL/Mao/DHS

Two stories in Southcoast Today [also in print in the Standard Times] following up on the Homeland Security/ILL report from yesterday. ‘Little Red Book’ story gets wide publicity , an article reporting on the publicity and with several statements from additional folks involved, most notably Homeland Security officials calling the scenario described “unlikely”. Also UMass Dartmouth statement on “Little Red Book” denying that they passed on any confidential information to agents or anyone else. [thanks aaron]

Little Red Book ILL gets patron a visit from Homeland Security

A student did an ILL for a specific version of Mao’s Little Red Book and wound up getting a visit from Homeland Security. Obviously, there is more to this story than the short news article, but the article alleges that the Department of Homeland Security monitors Interlibrary Loan requests.

update from the bs detector alert: An ALA Councilor notes that there are two versions of this story circulating with different names attached which definitely sounds fishy and makes it worth further investigation into what exactly is going on. Other councilors have emailed the prof from UCSC mentioned in the second article and he said it was the first he’d heard of it. I’ve emailed the reporter and one of the professors cited in the recent article and I’ll let you know what I find out, if anything. Fellow Councilor Rory Litwin has posted this follow-up to the Council list with more first hand information from one of the profesors involved. I posted a follow-up including some feedback I’d gotten from the reporter of the most recent article. BoingBoing is faster with the summary action than I am.

This is all coming on the heels of some unpleasant revelations about the current administration’s use of the National Security Agency to surveil domestic targets without getting FISA court approval. Who would have thought that this decade would be the one where all llibrarians learned what FISA stood for? How many of you watched CSPAN a little more carefully than usual this weekend [or is my house the only house that does this] to see what happened with the USA PATRIOT Act?