if you come by my place of work on september 10th

I sort of like the “Slam the Boards” idea of librarians showing up on “answer sites” on September 10th and indicating that the answers they give are by librarians. It’s a neat idea. It shows librarians interacting with social communities and (hopefully) providing good quick reference. We shine when we’re giving answers, and less when we have to exert control over complicated real life situations. I would like to say, however, that if you come to my place of work, that being Ask MetaFilter, arguably one of the more awesome “answer sites” currently in existence, you’ll need to know a few things.

1. We have many great librarians already, over 50 at last count, though it may be more like 100, and these are only self-identified librarians library workers and library students.
2. You’ll have to pay $5 to join. One of our great techniques of keeping the riffraff out is out $5 lifetime membership fee. Works amazingly well.
3. You should learn the culture some, learn how to give answers, how to not tell people to JFGI (as if you would!), not to sign your posts and not to get in fights or make stupid jokes in AskMe threads.
4. Don’t toss up a bunch of bibliographic citations when a decent URL will do. You’re online, act like you’re online.

I think this idea is a neat one, but could backfire if we spazz out into every existing community and assume that because we’re librarians every bit of advice we offer is like manna from heaven. If I were planning to participate in this — and I’m not because I’ll be working — I’d spend some time between now and 10sep07 learning a bit about the places i was planning to go. Nothing says you really care like getting to know your patrons. Go. Be awesome.

Copyright notices, deceptive and otherwise

Karen Coyle has an excellent blog post about some of the ridiculousness we’ve been getting used to lately in terms of copyright and copyright notices. This includes libraries that say you can’t make a digital copy of a public domain imags that they make available (debatable but still odd-sounding) a copyright notice on a blank book and what the heck is up with the innocuous sounding Computer & Communications Industry Association.

yes, I speak 2.0…

Ryan Deschamps has an interesting and thoughful post about his impressions of people’s tendency to shift “from a rational criticism of the so-called Library 2.0 movement/manifesto follow[ed by] an irrational trashing of anything having to do with Web 2.0 services and user-centered library services” The dilemma, simply stated, is when you see someone who has a critique of something you care about and are knowledgeable about — could be Library 2.0, could be tech support, could be apple pies — how do you inform or correct their misunderstandings without seeming like a prostyletizer or part of the Apple Pie Bandwagon? Or should you? Anyhow, the original posts that spawned Ryan’s post was over at the Annoyed Librarian. I left a comment.

book circulation per US public library user since 1856

We talk a lot about what works in libraries, but our decentralized nature makes real data collection sometimes difficult and often onerous. This article, which I am still plowing through, came to me in the mail via the Sandy Berman Monthly Envelope o’ Stuff. It’s written by Douglas Galbi who is a sort of library fanboy but also a senior economist at the FCC and from what I can tell, a pretty smart guy. So, read Book Circulation per US Public Library User since 1856 and then click around a little to see what else is on Douglas’s library analysis page. Then, if you’re still intrigued, go check out his blog where you can check the latest issue of Carnival of the Bureacrats and especially enjoy the video of him talking to an older gentleman about why he doesn’t have high-speed internet access. I find it hard to believe there are other library fanatics out there who videotape their conversations with octogenarians and then blog about it, but there you go. Enjoy.

84 million dollar porn filter circumvented by teen in 30 minutes

This brief but popular story about an Australian teenager doing an end-run around a government sponsored pornography filter doesn’t have much to do with libraries. However, it has some applicability to our CIPA situation here in the states in a few ways.

  1. Filtering is expensive but no one knows how expensive. Should a porn filter for your library cost $100 or $1000 or $10000? Should you pay less for one that works less well? Is it even acceptable to have one that doesn’t work? Do any porn filters actually work completely well, any at all?
  2. The filter in the story was created, at a cost of $84 million, and would be made available free to every family in Australia. This is in addition to the government wanting to require all ISPs to make a filtering option available with their services. A quick read of this second article indicates that the filters aren’t just for porn, or rather there are varieties of the filter one of which also filters chat rooms. Now chat rooms can be used for porn but they can also be used in many other legitimate ways. I’d argue legitimate uses account for almost all chatroom use among children and young adults. So, beware of mission creep. If you’re trying to stop kids from looking at explicit sex pictures, that’s one thing. If you’re trying to stop them from communicating with others or being communicated with in ways you don’t approve of, be above board about it.
  3. Any librarian who has to work with filtering software knows the ways that kids or others get around it. There’s the Google cache hack, the Google images hack, anonymous proxies, proxies from home and many many more. If you can get to the internet at all, you can figure out, usually, how to get to the rest of the Internet.

Want to try it yourself? Here’s some instructions.