the tools and the hammer/nail problem in the digital divide

“The way you talk about the [digital divide] changes people’s view of who is responsible for resolving it…. This issue has been around for years, but its meaning is in constant flux and is manipulated by political agendas.”

I’ve switched some of the tools I use for keeping current over the past few months. I’m finding that I use RSS less and less for keeping up on blogs and rely more on Twitter lists and searches to sort of keep my hand in. I also read a lot of print material still [some of my best "things to think about" things are still coming from the pages of Library Journal and Computers in Libraries magazines] and am trying to keep to my book-a-week plan for 2011. Oddly I also get news from seemingly random places like other people’s facebook walls and I made a little image-milkshake over on a site called MLKSHK. You might like it.

I have a standing search for “digital divide” on Twitter that just auto-updates itself onto my desktop via TweetDeck. The thing that is so interesting about this, to me, is how often the term gets used and for how many different things. This morning there are discussions about the digital divide and gender, how the EU is trying to narrow the digital divide (referring to access to broadband) and a report about how switching to online social services in the UK would adversely affect people who are digitally divided already, mostly talking about seniors.

Which leads me to the paper I read recently which was really pretty intersting and on topic: Who’s Responsible for the Digital Divide? Public Perceptions and Policy Implications (pdf) It’s not long, you can read it, but the upshot is that depending how we define the digital divide, we will develop different strategies to “solve” the problem. This is not just hypothesized in the paper but addressed scientifically. So if the problem is lack of compturs, we throw computers at the problem. If the problem is broadband, we work on network infrastructure. If the problem is education we design sites like DigitalLiteracy.gov and then wonder why a website isn’t teaching people how to use computers. Tricky stuff, endlessly fascinating, thorny problem.

Public libraries: the most ubiquitous of all American institutions

Still getting back to my routine after having a great time at both MLA and CLA. Will post lsides and comments later, but for a morning pick-me-up, read this article in praise of public libraries. You will enjoy it.

In 1872, the right to know led the Worcester Massachusetts Public Library to open its doors on Sunday. Many viewed that as sacrilege. Head librarian Samuel Green calmly responded that a library intended to serve the public could do so only if it were accessible when the public could use it. Six day, 60-hour workweeks meant that if libraries were to serve the majority of the community they must be open on Sundays. Referring to those who might not spend their Sundays at worship Green impishly added, “If they are not going to save their souls in the church they should improve their minds in the library.”

privacy and library data: email, IPs and &c.

I’ve been reading with interest the news stories lately about Epsilon. For those of you who don’t know Epsilon is a company that does marketing. Many companies give Epsilon customer lists and Epsilon uses that information to, say, email you about the latest Hilton Honors promotions. Except that there was a data breach and Epsilon lost up to 250 million email addresses along with information such as who those people were customers of. So, for example, they’d have my email address and the knowledge that I was a Hilton Honors member. So, a lot of people got emails in the last mont from companies saying “Um, be especially on the lookout for phishing attacks” and a lot of people were asking “Why did Epsilon have my email address in the first place, didn’t I sign a privacy policy with Company X?” And the answer is complicated. When you let Hilton Honors use your information to send you marketing information you are, in a way, letting them give the email address to marketing companies.

The reason I care about this at all is two reasons. One, there is a useful analog with libraries and how they handle their email lists of patrons. Obviously patron data is private and comes under whatever privacy laws a state has and whatever policies the library has. But is a library allowed to market to patrons? Or give these lists to peopl to market on the library’s behalf? This was the concern when the public library in Dixon California emailed patrons to let them know about ongoing library renovation plans and asked them to consider making donations. People who are not pleased with the library renovations, the Dixon Carnegie Library Preservation Society, is arguing that the librarian acted improperly when they gave patron email addresses to a consulting company without patron consent. Now let me just state I pretty well side with the library on this one, but it’s sure to be an increasingly contentious topic as libraries have more and more diffrent kinds of patron data to keep private.

And the second reson is just a cautionary tale. Many people with iphones are aware by now that the phone tracks where you go. I mean it has to in order to be a phone, but it stores this data in unencrypted form on both the phone and the synced compueter, forever. This means that anyone with access to a simple open source tool such as this one can make lovely maps like the one above. Good to know, and good to understand. As libraries move more towards mobile applications and mobile awareness generally, understanding how this sort of data works will be an important part of making sure we know how, when and why to keep it private.

What is my hot librarian fantasy? THIS is my hot librarian fantasy.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain why augmented reality apps might be useful in a library setting. Until now. QR codes, and an app that tells you when your books are out of order. Rowr.

Library Journal: Libraries who are altering their relationship with HarperCollins

Interesting to look at the various ways libraries are reacting in policy fashion to the HarperCollins “You can have 26 checkouts at this price” decision. Library Journal has a recent round-up.

Information & links regarding Japan’s libraries

This list of information came to the VT Libraries list, via the IFLA list. I found one copy of it online in a sort of random place and it’s a few days old but it’s got a nice comprehensive-seeming outline of what’s going on in Japan and especially in the Japanese library community. IFLA has also made their own resource page which is full of pointers as well as comments from notable Japanese librarians. People who read Japanese will probably get a lot of information from the Savelibrary wiki which has up to date information and a lot of links. The photo comes from this thread (original thread in Japanese) where librarians were posting photos of their institutions just after the earthquake. If you continue to scroll, you’ll see some better photos now that recovery work has started.

The Digital Public Library of America and you, and me

Those of you who follow my antics know I was at an all-day meeting for the Digital Public Library of America project on Tuesday. While I have vague ideas what I was doing there, I have to say that I was still surprised at how few other representatives of rural and/or digitally divided folks were there. You can see the invite list here. I felt lucky that many of my viewpoints were ably represented by Josie Parker from Ann Arbor Public Library, Tony Marx from New York Public Library and Molly Raphael incoming president of ALA. Also in attendance were some of my favorite free culture folks: Brewster Kahle from the Internet Archive, Chris Freeland from the Biodiversity Heritage Library and my friend Richard Nash who runs Cursor Books. I also got to sit right next to Steve Potash from OverDrive right when everyone wanted a piece of him. That said, you can read the list and I’m sure you only vaguely care who I had dinner with. The meeting took place using Chatham House Rules meaning that in the interests of people being able to speak freely, nothing people said would be directly attributed to them.

So, let’s talk about what actually got me out of bed early on a Tuesday morning and has had me all hoppitamoppita since then. I’m going to use the “more inside” thingdoo on WordPress for possibly the first time ever. (more…)

smart people use smart libraries – library ireland week

This was sent to me over Twitter and I loved it. It’s a promo for Library Ireland Week which starts March 7th by Areaman Productions.

Kos: Ten Years Of Library Internet In A Small Town

This is not anything you don’t know, but it’s a nice eloquent “why you should support your public libraries” essay in a place you wouldn’t maybe otherwise see it.

The local library near where I now live made five computers with an Internet connection available to the public around a decade ago, as well as wireless for those patrons who brought their own laptops.

I’m a recent resident of the area, but a deep family history means that there hasn’t been a season since the system went in when I haven’t spent a sizable chunk of time sitting and listening in the building, within 100 feet of those five computers. Except for a period when the wireless access was removed for a security overhaul, there hasn’t been season I haven’t used the wireless connection there.

This diary is a testimony to what I’ve witnessed in a single small own library.

some amazing international libraries, not the usual set

Biblioteca
photo by Laureà, thank you!

I never get tired of these gorgeous photos of library buildings, but I do feel like I’ve seen the same ten libraries ten times each. This list of lovely libraries has a few new ones and is using a nice non-click-bait format where you can look at them all at once. I wonder sometimes if photos of libraries are more likely to be Creative Commons licensed than other sorts of photos? [thanks eileen!]