[link to it] 29Sep04hi - 29sep

Hi. I just wanted to toot my own horn briefly and talk about two things happening at my library. One of them is a fines reduction program that we are running with the local food shelf. They are having a Rock and Roll for Hunger food drive with some bands and a voter registration drive next weekend. We are one of the collection sites for food and, this is the good part, offer people twenty cents off of their fines for each non-perishable food donation they bring in, up to two bucks. Slick huh? The next project isn't mine but involves our library. The Department of Libraries Regional Co-ordinator has been trying to get the libraries in our region to work together more. To that end, she created the Rutland County Fall Tour of Libraries over two consecutive high-tourist weekends here in the Land of Amazing Fall Colors. The tour highlights the history of the library buildings, is self-guided, and offers refreshments at some stops. I'm out of town this weekend but may try to do it next weekend. It's the sort of thing I'd be doing anyhow, really.

It's delightful when someone puts together a web resource that you wish you'd done yourself. I can't wait to pass around the Accessible Design for Library Web Sites pages at work. [libinblack]

Federal court finds gag order provision of Section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Act [a gag order eeerily close to the one found in Section 215] to be an "unconstitutional prior restraint" on free speech.

The ACLU noted that the Patriot Act provision was worded so broadly that it could effectively be used to obtain the names of customers of websites such Amazon.com or Ebay, or a political organization’s membership list, or even the names of sources that a journalist has contacted by e-mail.... Judge Marrero’s decision enjoins the government from issuing National Security Letters or from enforcing the gag provision. The judge stayed his ruling for 90 days in order to afford the government an opportunity to raise objections in the district court or the Second Circuit Court of Appeal.

Jenny tosses down the gauntlet "Why don't OCLCs blog or news releases talk about the new OCLC stuff?" OCLC [or the staff that maintain a non-official blog] responds. This sort of notification would have been really handy during the whole OCLC sues the Library Hotel flap where we had to dig through press releases from them to get any news. I'm not sure we would have seen more than a few official announcements but it's better than nothing at all. ALA could benefit from this as well. Right now most of the rotating content on the ALA front page is sales and marketing and public information office news. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd like to read the news that's relevant to me as a member of the organization, not as just a potential buyer of products or services. Things like "The search engine wasn't working earlier, it's fixed now" or "A list of hotels is now available on the conference site" or "New councilors added to roster" or "List of new committee appointments made by incoming ALA President." Part of the problem is that this sort of effort requires either coordination [to get news in] or trust [to get people using the tools that affect publicly viewable content] both of which are hard to come by in an organization that is tight on funds and short on IT staffing. As it stands there is currently no way to figure out what content has been newly added to the site which means users spend a lot of time clicking through to all the pages that reflect their interest. What was it that Ranganathan once said...? Incidentally, if you want to help out with the "What We Want In Our OPACs" wiki, please email me and I'll give you the URL.

[link to it] 28Sep04revlibred postcards en route!

Here are a few pictures of the envelopes and little cards I am making today for everyone who has patiently waited for Revolting Librarians Redux postcards from me.

These sex in the library articles just sell themselves. I enjoy the commentary by the library worker.

Ugh... please don't fornicate in the stacks... I work in Watson and just... ewww guys!! I don't want to find the remainder of your little liason while doing my job. I mean, at least clean up after yourselves if you really must give into your passions at the freakin' library... [thanks robert]

Law librarians in Scotland are commanding higher salaries because they are responsible for more IT. Now how can we make this true for public librarians?

Legal librarians were now responsible for managing powerful online information services and practice tools, as well as for teams of researchers and for ensuring that lawyers knew how to use the latest research tools and had all the extra information they needed for the specialisations. [shelf]

Hey, librarian.net is the Guardian Unlimited's pick of the day today, neat!

Librarians are naturally good bloggers, and many of them have set up superb weblogs that are great reading, regardless of whether you've ever darkened the door of your local library. Today's pick, Jessamyn West's Librarian.net, is one of the best.

Remember, when you download internet porn.... [sfw]

Washington State has a statewide virtual reference project that has an online core competencies training curriculum for virtual reference. Lots of good linked reading and exercises.

How does academic freedom roll into this whole USA PATRIOT Act thing? An interesting opinion piece from the Salt Lake Tribune.

Security in a free country requires respecting our fundamental liberties, not discarding them before outsiders even try to take them away. The Patriot Act is, in large part, a distraction in the effort to reduce terror. Al-Qaida is no more likely to be stopped in the libraries and Web searches of the University of Utah than it is on the   battlefields and among the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
   Free societies win because freedom and justice are stronger than their opposites. Even if we eliminate our own freedoms at home and fight brutally abroad, we will still be only a third-rate oppressor. We can never out-torture or out-spy or out-suppress al-Qaida or the dictatorships of the world.

Along the lines of what Dan was saying yesterday, lets keep our eyes open about PATRIOT II in that "won't be fooled again" way, okay?

[link to it] 27Sep04books and war

FDR reminds us that Books are Weapons in the War of Ideas [larger image]. Here's another Books Are Weapons poster.

Is it like banning a book if Wal-Mart decides to stop selling it? Interesting story about Wal-Mart deciding to stop selling "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," a famous racist tract which has long been known to be fake. Some discussion of this over at Reason.com and Metafilter.com. It's interesting to watch how the other online retailers that still stock the book have been editing their web copy, post-hubbub. Of particular note, Amazon's page [current page, Google cache] used to contain this phrase from the book description [provided by the publisher] "If, however. The Protocols are genuine (which can never be proven conclusively), it might cause some of us to keep a wary eye on world affairs." Reading all the customer reviews is a bone-chilling exercise.

Meetup.com now includes librarian meetups. While the closest one to me is 130 miles away, this might be fun to pursue in Vermont. [juice]

The Ska Librarian aka Dan Cherubin has written an excellent article on Banned Books Week for Counterpoise.

Banned Books Week does a reverse spin by focusing solely on the library as a children’s space, complete with requisite put-upon spinster. With Banned Books Week, ALA has created a safe space for generating a manageable and marketable taboo. It could be that with all the actual fighting librarians do over real issues, they wanted something that they could profess to win repeatedly. If one creates one’s own taboo, one usually knows the easiest way to transgress it.

NPR's Tavis Smiley talks with ALA president Carol Brey Casiano and Akilah Nasokhere about the impending closing of Clark-Atlanta University's library school one of only two library schools at historically black universities.

The [real] Brautigan Library may be moving close to the site of the [fictional] library in Brautigan's The Abortion. [thanks mom]

[link to it] 26Sep04hi - 26sep

Hi. I'm working on a short light-hearted article about OPAC improvement. I've set up a wiki for collective brainstorming. If you've got ideas for what you'd like to see in your OPAC [short and sweet please] email or IM me and I'll let you in on the wiki. Meanwhile, ironically, I'm in the process of gutting my librarian.net inbox which had reached embarassing proportions lately. I can always tell when I've been out of town because there's a spate of unanswered messages in those date ranges. If you sent me an email before August and you haven't heard back from me, you might want to ping me again. To those who requested postcards, I've found a novel way to fulfill your request which should be in the mail this week.

Great news, LISCareer has a new blog where you can get updates on articles added to LISCareer. Priscilla's also getting some help from new assistant editor Rich Murray.

This article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer gets at what I was talking about yesterday regarding inaccurate books, and includes some quotes from ALA president Carol Brey-Casiano. [link o'day]

[link to it] 25Sep04sticky issues surround banned books

According to ALA, the three top reasons for book challenges are: the book is “sexually explicit,” the book contains “offensive language,” or the books is “unsuited to age group.” Please note that one of the most challenged books for 2003 "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" by Michael A. Bellesiles, was challenged for inaccuracy. A cursory amount of research will show that according to many the book has been discredited. The original publisher, when faced with the evidence against the author, ceased publication of the book. A smaller press is now re-issuing it, but in a revised edition, with a 50 page addendum. The author resigned from his university job.

Where does this leave librarians? I know this is a sticky issue. I'm just wondering if it's possible that there are appropriate reasons to challenge a book? Not a storybook about raging-hormone teens or the antebellum South, but a true book about history. A book that many, including its publisher, believe to have errors of fact and conclusions based on poor or inaccurate research. Do you keep it for historical balance? Do you include a note saying "this book has been found to be untrue in parts?" Do you include a book about the errant book, setting the record straight? This seems to be the week to talk about this. On the one hand, we as a profession defend people's rights to the privacy of what they read, and say "Just because someone is reading about bombs, it doesn't make them a bomber." on the other hand, we say that "Reading changes lives." and view every challenged book -- challenged for whatever reason -- as an injury to the profession. As usual, I have more questions than answers on this one. Oddly, the ACLUs list of the "most banned books" doesn't include Arming America while the ALA list, and their press release clearly does.

Happy [Buy] Banned Books Week. I think ALA really says it best on their Banned Books web page which, if you check the URL out in Google says

Home Intellectual Freedom Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week. BBW Secure
Online Order Form
. If you want your BBW kit to arrive by...

I don't see as many companion sites hyping Banned Book Week this year as in previous years. Maybe they're just waiting until Monday, but there's nothing on the Library of Congress Center for the Book site, nothing on People for the American Way and nothing on the National Coalition Against Censorship site. PFAW does have a great little news bit about a mailer that the GOP is sending to voters in Arkansas implying that liberal politicians, if elected, would ban the bible.

[link to it] 24Sep04bookmarklets galore!

Jon Udell has come up with a bookmarklet that is non-ISBN dependent that does pretty much what our little hack does. Plus, he talks about this whole REST-versus-SOAP debate where web services are concerned which is new vocabulary for me but worth learning. In old-school library news, a whole class of 4th graders said "No WAY!!" when I told them [and then showed them in the online database] that Tony Hawk was my age and had four kids.

Q. Is it true that parts of the movie Debbie Does Dallas were filmed in the Pratt library?
A. Yes! [thanks orion]

[link to it] 23Sep04Library Quarterly, online!

While I wasn't looking, Library Quarterly went digital and has content online! This was brought to my attention when LISNews posted a story about the portrayal of librarians in obituaries but there's a lot more there worth reading too like this article about public librarians' attitudes about marketing. They'll even send you the tables of contents over email, can RSS be far behind?

"Books Cause Dangerous Thought. Leave Books Here - Don't Make Us Come Get Them" [thanks chuck]

I have an article in LLRX this month about my experiences at the DNC.

Thanks to Steven Cohen and Michael Fagan and Andrea Mercado [and me, and Michael and Andrew whose emails with similar code I didn't get til this morning], the WorldCat Lucky Bookmark lives! While I agree with Sarah that we can't expect our patrons to grok the bookmarklet thing, as much as we might like them to, this one is [nominally] for staff. Go nuts team!

Lucky 'Cat [in same window]
Lucky 'Cat [in new window]

[link to it] 22Sep04make this bookmarklet available in your library

Librarians, please go make your own library lookup bookmarklet for your patrons and install it on all of your public access machines. Make it available on your web site. If patrons are smart enough to be using Amazon to look up books, they should also be able to use this bookmarklet. I'm going to try to figure out how to add this functionality to my booklist, now that I have made ISBNs a field in my database [and just added a "buy this at Powell's" link]

I thought I had the whole day free today. That was before I discovered The Davies Project and their Database of American Libraries before 1876.

This database covers institutional and commercial libraries that existed in what is now the continental United States from the time of first settlement through 1875.  It records nearly 10,000 libraries.   The end-date of 1876 is important because in that year the United State Bureau of Education published its first comprehensive, national listing of libraries, entitled Public Libraries in the United States of America: Their History, Condition, and Management. Special Report. Part. 1 [bespacific]

If anyone would like to help Andrea and I with a little Library Lookup app of our own, we'd sure appreciate it. Full details are over on her site. I'm aware that this issue was almost dealt with a few months back and OCLC even has their own bookmarklet page but this is a little different. It combines the bookmarklet whizbang stuff with an OCLC query to take the user from Amazon right to a list of regional libraries. Sometimes you don't know which library has your book and often time, you don't know which one to ILL it from. Handy? Sure, if we can get it working right.

[link to it] 21Sep04patrons remember the sixties by sharing their memories in the library

Johnson County Library involves patrons in their six-week Sixties film series and programming by having them write memory cards about that era. The cards are then displayed in the library and also online.

What else could your ALA membership money be used for? TangognaT explores.

I have added some new pornography [pictures and links] to the naked librarian page. Nothing like Wired telling the world you have soft-core porn on your site to boost your traffic.

I fear that if you don't catalog, you might miss out on some of the great information coursing through Catalogablog. Here are two great posts from Catalogablog, one recent, one not as recent.
"If anyone wishes to contact me by e-mail here are some things to avoid" [a lot of this goes for me too]
A number of wonderful things happening in and around ISBNs lately.

What's really involved if you, say, wanted to write your own search engine? [unalog]

Roy Tennant's article for Library Journal about the pitfalls of trying to use an OPAC to find articles online is now itself online. I love it when people tak about disturbing failures of our profession.

We exert much more control over our library catalogs than we do with article indexes, where we are at the mercy of vendors. Since our catalogs are at least partly in our control (automated system vendors largely respond to market demand, and we control how we catalog our items), we need to find ways to enable users to limit searches to full text online. Users rightly expect this ability. Their not being able to do it easily, or at all, is a disturbing failure of our profession.

Wikis were one of the more foreign things I discussed at my talk. It's easy to point to Wikipedia and say "Look, a collaboratively built encyclopedia!" but it's more difficult to explain how a librarian could use it in their own libraries. Today Teleread has a post about using a wiki for a book discussion group where groups can collectively annotate a book club web site. I think this is what the National Science Digital Library was hoping for with its Annotation and Review Services wiki but it seems to have suffered from neglect. Here's a neat little wiki about blogs.

I was cleaning off my desktop and came across this little helpful list from an old ALA program How to Become the Nordstrom of Public Libraries [word doc] by Robert Spector. You'll notice most of these items don't even cost anything.

1. Provide Your Customer With Choices
2. Create An Inviting Place for Your Customers
3. Hire Nice, Motivated People; (Hire the Smile, Train The Skill)
4. Sell The Relationship: Service Your Customers Through The Products And Services You Sell
5. Empower Employees To Take Ownership
6. Dump The Rules: Tear Down The Barriers To Customer Service
7. Promote Teamwork
8. Commit 100% To Customer Service

[link to it] 20Sep04hi - 20sep

Hi. I gave my talk on "emerging technologies" to the Librarians of the Upper Valley [LUV] in Newport New Hampshire today and it went well. You can read my presentation here. You'll notice that emerging tech isn't really the same here as it might be in your locale. I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of the librarians I spoke with used email, and many of them had what I would consider to be a healthy skepticism for the licensing and marketing of ebooks and other tech initiatives even though I would consider them as a group "tech-friendly."

Do you think it's bad if search engines start receiving revenue for traffic they direct towards other for-profit sites? I'm not entirely sure I understand this article about the Google/Reed Elsevier talks. I also wonder what this means for Scirus which, by its own account, was giving Google a run for its money.

Many scientists post their research on university websites, which can be accessed free of charge. Google directs its users to Reed's sites, but Reed does not now receive a share of the revenue generated by the traffic. Google has similar revenue-sharing arrangements with other companies, but a deal with Reed would be one of the biggest of its kind. [shelf]

[link to it] 19Sep04listen to me call John Ashcroft "snotty" on the radio

In the little ripple effect of the Wired article, I was interviewed for BBC World Service which Chuck heard, but apparently no one else did. I had them email me the 4 minute interview as a digital file. If you have broadband and you'd like to hear it, you can download the mpeg here [2.7 M mpeg]

[link to it] 18Sep04hi - 18sep

Hi. An update on my ALA status for anyone who is curious. I was invited to serve on the Membership Committee of ALA which sounded good to me. I found out that I had been appointed to this committee when I found myself subscribed to the email list without my knowledge or permission. Judging by the responses from other people who got signed on -- along the lines of "why am I on this list?" -- I wasn't the only one who found this an odd tactic. Upon further investigation, I discovered that I was on the committee as a "virtual member" or an e-member. This is usually a position reserved for people who can't make conferences where a lot of the committee work occurs. E-members can't vote. Since I do make conferences and in fact have to make conferences, I was curious as to why I had been assigned a non-voting position on the committee [though I have my suspicions, ALA is rarely as nefarious as I suspect they are being]. I asked around a bit and a few people mentioned that I was a virtual member because I'm good with computers and technology, which was an interesting non-answer but I think translated into "nobody knows." After some discussion with other councilors, I decided to resign from that committee [too late to keep my name from being printed in the handbook as a member] and took a position with the Committee on Membership Meetings, a newish committee instead. Sorry there are no links to what I am talking about, I can't bear to use the ALA web site search engine one more time.

Put your reading caps on if you care about access to government information. The Government Reform Committee Minority Office [i.e. the Democrats] have published a big chunky report entitled "Secrecy in the Bush Administration" Covering topics ranging from FOIA to the expansion of "national security" and "sensitive information" classifications to the administration's reluctance or refusal to provide Congress with information necessary to their research and committee work. The ALA is mentioned on page 67, the USA PATRIOT Act on page seven.

For example, the National Security Archive is an independent research institute and library located at George Washington University, which collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through FOIA. As of early 2004, the National Security Archive had over 300 outstanding FOIA requests submitted in 2001, for which the government had provided no substantive response. [secrecy news]

The law of unintended consequences, applied to electronic content and how it works for and against information professionals.

he creative info pro will look at any new information resource and think about how to hack, er, repurpose it for other uses. I use the search functionality of the Wayback Machine to track the emergence of a catch phrase or hot-button issue over time. eBay is a great source for images of virtually any object, as well as a way to find old (but often still useful) textbooks. And some of the Whois domain name registries can be used to glean information on emerging customer dissatisfaction by locating what are delicately called "sucks sites," since many of the domain names are some form of ThisCompanySucks.com. [lisnews]

Special ed teacher handcuffed at airport when bookmark is confused with concealed weapon. [thanks bjorn]

What if your search engine really worked like a librarian does?

If only the search engine could stop after a few tries and say, "hey, I'm guessing that you're looking for something like..." You know, just like any reasonably bright librarian might. (You do remember libraries, don't you?) Yeah, it'd probably freak some people out, but what if it actually was helpful? [thanks hanan]

Jessica helps demystify why my site wound on as Feedster's Interesting Feed of the Day a few days back. I am still waiting for the day when my hand-coded RSS feed from jessamyn.com makes it there.

It's still National Library Card Sign Up Month. Here is a somewhat weird article about, in general, what your library might do for you. I am a bit creeped out by numbers 14, 17 and 19. [lisnews]

More delightful anti-USA PATRIOT Act reading from Homefront Confidential. This one focuses more on journalists, but really, isn't it about all of us? Lots of good data in this article.

Top ten reasons why anti-spyware legislation is dumb, from the new blog that I've been reading a lot of, Technology Liberation Front written by Adam Thierer over at the Cato Institute.

[link to it] 17Sep04whoops! talk to me about emerging tech

Whoops, my talk on emerging technology is in Newport New Hampshire, not Newport Vermont. If anyone wants to drop me a line and give me some good examples of emerging technology in libraries besides the obvious [blogs, RSS, IM, virtual reference] I'd love to hear about it.

[link to it] 16Sep04hi - 16sep

Hi. The Wired article link has been doing some travelling and I am getting some very odd email in my inbox. My favorite email from today would have to be the one that said "The idea that there is a coterie of guerilla librarians running around this world demanding freedoms, and liberties too often taken for granted is enough to make me smile."

But back to my number two boyfriend: Google. As you know, all librarians are in love with Google and we are all anxiously awaiting the days when it will put us out of a job.... OK I am kidding. However, we all love to talk about Google. Here are two non-librarian perspectives on Google. One which tells us how people search Google and other search engines. Is it any surprise that Google says that "Searchers become expert searchers very quickly" using Google? No, it isn't. The second article is by a sysadmin pal of mine who went to a talk about Google's place in research and librarianship. He was a bit suprised at all the gushing admiration he saw. He wrote this post: Google is Good? Talking about how while Google may not be evil, it both is and is not, good.

In the market of information, we tend to believe that the results Google provides are "most relevant". In fact, the concept of relevance is redefined.... It is as if every time you searched for Apartheid, you got back a USA Today article on the end of Apartheid. This would be useful if you wanted a generalist knowledge, but it would be less useful if you had to study a specialist sub-area of the topic. To sum, as we begin to trust Google as a central knowledge authority, we do become more "dumb." By accepting generalist documents and valuing ordered results, we're buying into the system. There is inherent danger here; I feel that for many reasons, this danger is lost on most.

One of the better things about having your naked librarian page widely publicized is that people send you more links for it. Here is a wonderful "reading is sexy" page from Scott Kepford's fashion photography club page. [thanks david]

[link to it] 15Sep04copyright renewal tool - cites and insights

Go get the latest Cites and Insights. In it you will find many wonderful things including good reporting on the INDUCE Act, some thoughts on "dead media" and this nifty tool to at least help you ascertain whether US copyright has been renewed for a book or not.

This form searches the U. S. copyright renewal records. Any book published during the years 1923-1963 which is found in this file is still under copyright, as are all books published after 1964 (although until 1989 they still had to have proper notice and registration). Books published before 1923, or before Jan. 1, 1964 and not renewed, are out of copyright. This file does not contain listings for music, movies, or periodicals.

Wired News has a "Don't mess with librarians" article that I contributed heavily to that you might find interesting.

While we're on the subject, let's talk about some bad pending legislation that could affect libraries, privacy or access to information

  • The INDUCE Act - criminalizing copyright violating software/hardware [bill/commentary]
  • new FOIA exemptions [commentary]
  • Family Movie Act - allowing software censoring of DVDs without copyright violations [news article]
  • CAPPSII - profiling passengers [eff info]
  • US v. Councilman - email privacy rehearing sought [news article]
  • various SPY acts [commentary]
There is some good news, however, section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act will "sunset" a scant fifteen months from now along with many other parts of the USAPA.

[link to it] 13Sep04hi - 13sep

Hi. I didn't link the photos from my trip yet. There are a lot of nature shots but some good ones of the Haskell Library, the one that straddles the US-Canada border. You can see them here.

Writing tires me out lately. In addition to my job at the library, I've been cranking out one or two articles a month for various publications. You saw the link to the WebJunction article a few days back. I also wrote a very basic "My First Library Web Site" article for the Vermont Library Association [not online] and a piece on the USA PATRIOT Act for Clamor Magazine [not on their site but my local copy is here]. Many librarians are librarian-writers. Marylaine Block who maintains Ex Libris has published a long essay by Steven Bell called What Works for Me: 10 Tips for Getting Published. Well worth a leisurely read.

a word about well-covered ideas, or what I might refer to as "done to death" or "jumping on the bandwagon" ideas. You know them - information literacy, blogging in the library, digitization projects, virtual reference. I don't think these are off limits, but you need to bring a different perspective to any of these topics. nmrtwriter

Eli and I may be posting a wee bit over at the commons-blog as Fred becomes a gibbering fool over his new family member.

Another incidental big-media librarian mention, along the lines of what sorts of people vote for whom, from the New York Times.

There are two sorts of people in the information-age elite, spreadsheet people and paragraph people. Spreadsheet people work with numbers, wear loafers and support Republicans. Paragraph people work with prose, don't shine their shoes as often as they should and back Democrats.... For librarians, who must like Faulknerian, sprawling paragraphs, the ratio of Kerry to Bush donations was a whopping 223 to 1. Laura Bush has a lot of work to do in shoring up her base. emily

"What is a librarian?" according to Google.

I've been messing with Flickr which is a not-very-library-oriented web site that is useful for organizing and sharing pictures. My thoughts, of course, turn to books and libraries and I stumbled across the Independent Association of Armed Librarians. Here's their wiki.

[link to it] 12Sep04Laura's Bush -- something to offend everyone

Political satire in a no-royalty play. Laura's Bush is a lesbian sex farce featuring an absurdly prudish librarian and, of course, the First Lady. [thanks tom]

[link to it] 10Sep04some systems librarian writing from webjunction, and me!

WebJunction finally wore down my resistance. After several attempts to get paid work for them over the years failed, I wrote them an article for free. The good news is that they're all incredibly nice, flexible on deadlines, and not heavy-pencil editors so my article is pretty much how I wrote it. It appears in their Focus on Systems Librarianship section [which is full of good reading by the way] and is called "Those Darned Users! how to serve your users without sacrificing safety, privacy, or your sanity."

Tara Calishain is a tireless crusader and a savvy marketer. Her weekly publication ResearchBuzz just hit its 300th issue and she's used that milestone to also announce her new book Web Search Garage. Congrats all around!

[link to it] 9Sep04hi - 09sep

Hi. Permalinking is now a bit more functional and obvious. Let me know if anything isn't working like it should. I've added a few more dates to my sidebar calendar. I'm sending my registration today for the Dartmouth conference in October. I've also been invited to somehow give a talk at a New Librarians Symposium in Adelaide Australia in December. This will probably take place via some sort of teleconference, but maybe, just maybe, I can get some funding and go. If anyone has any creative ideas on how to raise funds for a plane ticket to Australia, please let me know.

The Economist reviews a new Borges biography.

It is a challenge to write a biography of a man who did little more than read and think, whose myopia turned to blindness in middle age, who was an auto-didact whose only real job was as a librarian, and who lived with his mother and her housekeeper in a poky Buenos Aires flat until she died at 99, when he was 75. Shortly before that, he wrote gloomily: “My father's library has been the chief event in my life...the truth is that I have never emerged from it.”

Bizarre little story about the cost of grass mowing at the Auburn Branch of the Bay County [MI] library system. [thanks tom]

I spent the day at work on Tuesday working on my outreach display for National Library Card Sign-up Month. We have a lot of storefronts in the downtown area that are vacant. I spoke to the real estate agency that handles them and asked if we could use one of the windows -- the one by the bus stop -- for a library display. They said "sure" so now we have our READ posters and lots and lots of information about our library cards available to people who might not want to schlep up the hill to learn about them otherwise.

How many copies of the 9/11 Commission Report does your library have? Massachusetts Representative William Delahunt, hearing that his constituents were having trouble getting the book from their libraries bought copies for all 60 public libraries in his district. It was also heartening to hear that some libraries were showing their patrons how to access the content of the book on the internet as a backup. [thanks kate]

The Columbia Journalism Review has an article about the responsibility of journalists to demand accountability from their government. It includes a little blurb noting that librarians' response to the USA PATRIOT Act is one of the things that keeps USAPA on people's radar screens, and helps keep people aware of their rights -- pre-USAPA and post-USAPA.

Librarians participated in rallies, challenging Attorney General John Ashcroft when his road show promoting the Patriot Act came to some towns in the summer of 2003. They expect to collect one million signatures by the end of September to support amending the act. This from librarians. Where are the journalists? A fundamental tenet of the American system is that a free flow of information is essential to democracy. That flow is being pinched like never before. Instead of passively standing by, journalism should be working against this dangerous trend. [thanks chris]

[link to it] 7Sep04hi - 07sep

Hi. In the interests of screen real estate, I've made the archives for month and category into pulldown menus and removed the counts from the category lists. If this breaks on any of your browsers, please let me know. The actual archival pages will still have the old lengthy list format.

Library Juice has two very good articles this issue, a short outline of the Radical Reference project from last week's DNC and. Even better, he has written a longer piece about the "librarian image" told from the personal point of view of someone who hits many of the librareotype bullet points [as I do, as many of us do] and doesn't think it's all bad.

In a sense, I am saying that we should embrace our stereotype in order to emphasize its positive aspects (without allowing ourselves to be reduced to that stereotype, as that would rob us of our individuality and diversity). The stereotype fits only a few of us perfectly, but anger over not being represented fairly by it shouldn't lead us to deny the ways in which we do fit the traditional understanding of what a librarian is like, because there is much that is true and positive in that idea. We should be proud of being librarians according to what the word "librarian" is commonly understood to mean, and should assert our value on that basis - not on the basis that the public has misconceptions about us....

[link to it] 6Sep04hi - 06sep

Hi. I just got back from my trip and boy did I see some lovely libraries. The ones I went into included the Haskell Free Library in Derby Line [free WiFi, even when the library is closed] which had a wonderful librarian with one of those ALA buttons who gave us a free tour of the opera house as she went through to turn off the lights. Also saw the Alice Ward Library in Canaan which has unusual architecture and historical society exhibits upstairs. I have some pictures, they'll be online sometime soon. In the meantime, check out this little birthday web page that my Mom made me about the Monhegan Library on Monhegan Library in Maine.

JOHO, the Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization, begins to look at the biases implicit and explicit in the Dewey Decimal System. Incidentally David Weinberger was one of the DNC bloggers as well as the writer of this article. We kept saying we'd get together to talk taxonomy and haven't yet.

Why is the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system so embarrassingly behind the times? After all, its owners are fully modern, reasonable people, many with advanced library degrees, who report to work in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. How can they let their classification scheme get it so wrong? After all, if the US Census can finally, in 2000, acknowledge that many people don’t fit into a single racial bucket, surely the academics and intellectuals managing the nation’s standard library classification system can end its 130 years of religious bias. [stuff]

IMLS gives grant to UB to create accessible web sites for libraries. The program will also try to recruit library students with disabilities to participate in this program, helping answer the question often asked "what about the librarians with disabilities?" [libwebchic]

Chuck posts a few pictures of the Radical Reference folks and others doing their thing at the RNC.

Re: shoddy OPACS "hey, librarians, it's your own damn fault."

[link to it] 3Sep04stupid fun on a friday

Why nobody wants to be a librarian in Compton, a random nub from bash.org. Here are a few library-themed nuggets: netflix for books, computer emulates palm pilot, emulates book, charge male escorts on library card, meaning of leet.

Jenny has a very astute post wondering why our OPAC vendors don't care about us in relation to the "my checkout list as an RSS feed" meme that has been going around. I, too, have been staggered by the lack of responsiveness I have gotten from vendors about even basic functionalities like Netscape compatibility [Sirsi doesn't have it], or customizability [changing the colors on your OPAC should be stupidly easy, not maddeningly hard] to say nothing of more complex features like using CSS for layout, or RSS for content richness.

For me, this just drives home the true nature of the buyer/seller relationship and the OPAC lock-in. Support is expensive, and if it doesn't lead to more sales it's just barely worth the money of the vendor because where else is your library going to go? Do you really have the time, energy, or money to shift all of your records to a new vendor who probably doesn't have a better track record than your current one? Does your systems librarian need more work to do? Can you be allayed with promises that the next version is going to fix the problems in the current version, and ignore the fact that a new version will probably break as many things as it fixes?

For every librarian like Jenny who is going to bust some heads -- and more power to her -- there are ten librarians who can just barely keep their OPAC running, much less customize it to suit their specific needs. Don't believe me? See how many people running our current OPAC haven't customized the interface nearly at all besides entering the name of their library. I know how hard it is to customize the damned thing, I congratulate them for even being able to do that. While we're contemplating why they don't give us RSS, let's also be remembering that they don't give us much else either, particularly for libraries less tech-savvy than Jenny's. We've gotten over marvelling at the fact that the OPACs work, now I for one would like to see them working well. I bet they have RSS feeds planned for the next roll-out, but they'll probably try to sell them to us. [update: catalogablog puts up some links to open source options you can manage yourself, and don't forget oss4lib]

[link to it] 2Sep04Information Access Alliance

Professional organizations begin to push back over the serials crisis and publishing mergers and media consolidation.

ALA has partnered with ARL, AALL, MLA, ACRL, SLA and SPARC to form a coalition that believes that "a new standard of antitrust review should be adopted by state and federal antitrust enforcement agencies in examining merger transactions in the serials publishing industry."

Our library got our settlement CDs today. This is, of course, particularly poignant because we do not have a music collection, we have a book on tape/CD collection. Now we have a music collection and it is bad, very bad indeed. Andrei Codrescu has an essay on the wrongness of this settlement for public libraries. Music industry, shame on you for dumping your unwanted products on the public libraries of the country in an effort to clear your warehouses and supposedly make good on what you did wrong. Remember when they were calling this CD dumping a computer glitch? What ever happened to that defense? [thanks robert]

Here's a summary of events surrounding the Department of Justice's order to destroy government repository documents, and their subsequent rescinding of that order. I'm happy to note that my Senator who is the ranking Senator on the Judiciary Committee is one of the co-signers on a letter [pdf] asking Ashcroft exactly what the DoJ was up to.

We seek clarification of your initial destruction request because it defies logic that federal statutes could be considered solely internal to the Department's deliberations and not useful for any other purpose.

[link to it] 1Sep04join me in Vermont/New Hampshire in the Fall?

If anyone is in the Northern New England area and wants to consider attending this one day conference Beyond the Building: Taking the Library to Our Users, I'd be up for it.

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