I’m on the road for a few weeks, starting pretty much now. I usually don’t even bother saying “won’t be posting here” anymore, since with RSS you don’t even have to care. However I am giving a few talks, two at the LocLib Conference in Perth Australia on March 2nd and one in Adelaide at the State Library on March 6th. I will also be going out to lunch with some librarians in Melbourne on the 10th and attending a MetaFilter meetup in Sydney on the 11th. If you are in any of these places, please try to come by and say hello. I’m also vacationing with my sister, so other than these professional and semi-professional activities, I’ll be away from the keyboard. I return on the 14th, though if the trip is anything like last time, my mind will stay in Australia for several more weeks.
This story about a guy being busted for using public wifi is making the rounds and, like the recent scrotum story, has a lot of possible ways of interpreting events. Short story: guy gets busted for using public library wifi when library is closed, gets laptop confiscated for up to a week. Longer story is in the details.
- Guy in question has been asked to not use wifi in residential neighborhoods and so moved himself to outside of the library. Police officer might have a grudge, or a point.
- Library wifi is normally turned off after hours but they have been waiting for a technician to “install a timer” (hint: look for off button, works just as well)
- The police officer took the laptop to inspect it to see what the guy was downloading but since the library director is on vacation, they’ll be keeping it until the director gets back. They claim to be putting together a warrant to search the laptop.
- The use of the word “addicting” adds nothing to this story and seems immaterial to it except to stir things up.
- The police officer claims there are “requirements” to use the wireless, but that is not elaborated on in the story nor is that information available on the library website.
- No one from the library has commented on the story as of this morning, except they’re quoted to explain how the wireless works, but it’s already around the blogosphere.
So, what to make of this? Is there a law against using wireless that’s made publicly available? Is it okay to confiscate someone’s laptop for a week while you put together a warrant to search it? How much responsibility does the library have to implement technological solutions to enforce their policies (if there is in fact a policy, which is totally unclear from this story)? How much weight does the police officer’s assertion that the guy was “feeding off something that we know the city of Palmer pays for” carry legally? Is this guy really going to face criminal charges? I’m sure there is more to this story and it may make what we know of it make more sense, but for now I’m left scratching my head.
I install wireless access points for libraries and I make the various levels of access crystal clear to them (want a password? want a new password every day? want to turn it off at night? want to limit downloading? want to block certain users? want to make the network invisible?) and let them make their own choices. These are all hardware/software problems, not social problems and certainly not legal problems. They may become legal problems if we shirk responsibility for maintaining and understanding our own technology, but can we please not let it get to that? [link o’ day]
Just a few more links to sort of follow-up the wildly popular post about the Newbery award winning book The Higher Power of Lucky and some controversy concerning the mutliple uses of the word “scrotum.” I’ve been reading a lot of the commentary and I still can’t tell whether this is a real issue with two strong sides, or if it’s a few librarians who decided not to purchase the book for whatever reason that got blown totally out of proportion. We may never know. What we do know is that people love to flip out about librarians banning books [both in “how dare they!” and “we would never do that!” ways depending which side of the fence you’re on] and the tricky issue of censorship vs selection has no easy answers. Here is some further reading.
- My Scrotum Week – I think this title is a take off on Harvey Pekar’s book Our Cancer Year in which case it’s even more brilliant than I first thought. It’s a blog by a teacher describing what happened when she read the book to her 4th graders and then they talked about the controversy, together.
- four letters to the editor about the original editorial in the New York Times.
- Neil Gaiman loves librarians unconditionally, but he is worried about some of us.
- Last but not least, as I was looking around Technorati to see who else had been writing about this, I was amused by the ads Google decided to serve me…
Hey look, it’s me and some other librarians you might know, made out of book covers.
I gave a two hour talk and a two hour workshop of sorts at that Manahttan Public Library in Manhattan, Kansas on Monday. It was rally fun and, I think, well received. I got to talk about all sorts of 2.0 stuff including all my favorite nerdy sites and even got to talk about the scrotum dustup from a few days ago. My talk is online here: Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0, and why it’s no big deal, seriously. It’s a big expansion of my previous 2.0-ish talk that that I did at NELA last year. Big thanks to Carol Barta for giving me a cozy place to stay at her house and to Fred and Sue for picking me up at the airport and Linda for organizing it all. Also thanks to Donna for organizing the early morning coffee klatsch in “the room” and to everyone else for coming. I’m not much of a morning person, but I was glad to make an exception. I hope to be back in Kansas at least once or twice more this year.