what a super conference!

I’m getting a little R&R in after a busy day bustling around the OLA Superconference. This is my first time at this conference and I’ve really been enjoying myself. I did a variation on a talk I’ve given: Smart, Tiny Tech. As always, the slides and notes are online along with links to the things I was talking about.

I made a sort of personal resolution for 2009 to write new talks for every event I’ll be speaking at. I talk about similar things often, but I want to be a little more cognizant of my audience — showing off a 2.0 “border wait times” mobile app was fun today, for example — and a little less “Oh here’s Jessamyn with her digital divide talking points again…” Today’s talk was fun and the audience was interesting and interactive.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned lately how much I love being in Canada and talking to Canadian librarians. Today I got to have lunch with the lovely and talented Amanda Etches-Johnson and the talented and lovely John Fink. I had to miss a talk by John Miedema because it was at the same time as my talk — along with maybe 15 other presentations — but I did manage to see some of John Fink’s talk about Evergreen. Hoping to run into Walt around someplace, but I’ve been a little behind on planning since out I was out sick a lot of last week.

I’ve also enjoyed just being in the big city now that I’m healthy again. I’ve already stopped in at Toronto Public Library and asked them for help finding this museum which, alas, appears to have been closed for some time, cursed internet! Tomorrow evening there’s a librarian get together (C’est What, 6:30 pm) and then there’s a MetaFilter meetup on Saturday night (Bedford at 7 pm). If you happen to see me wandering around looking slackjawed at all the big buildings, please do say hello.

Bernie Margolis

Bernie Margolis, ousted former head of Boston Public Library is starting a new job as the New York State Librarian.

Keith Michael Fiels, executive director of the 67,000-member American Library Association, said Margolis has earned “a great deal of respect throughout the profession” and called him one of ALA’s most active members in standing up to censorship. Margolis, who grew up in Queens and New Rochelle, credits his activism to his dad, who was a fundraiser for the Anti-Defamation League. He calls reading the New Yorker magazine “part of my religious practice.”

“well at least they’re reading” the role of the judgemental librarian in media portrayal of library use

So hey, we’re in a recession! And one thing that the media seem to agree about is that people are flocking to their libraries more than ever. In fact, just like “man returns library book 75 years late!” the news stories about libraries getting busy when people are out of work aren’t even that blogworthy lately. But people still send them to me and I still read them. Often they have good factoids like “During the Great Depression, not a single library closed” which I found interesting. That line comes from this article in the Journal-Sentinal Online with the fairly typical headline Libraries’ many benefits rediscovered in hard economic times. Good, right?

I was enjoying reading about it until I hit these lines…

Library directors report circulation spikes for last month of about 10% when compared with December 2007. “Escapism,” was Waukesha library director Jane Ameel’s concise speculation on the re-emergence of libraries’ attraction. “I wish we were giving them David Copperfield, but so much of our business is in CDs and entertainment,” she said.

Do you see where I’m going with this? This library director seems disappointed that people are going to the library to feel better and interact with materials that they enjoy. I’m disappointed because when I read that sentence I feel that the library director values Copperfield-reading patrons more than she values music-listening patrons. I’m sure she talked to the reporter for 45 minutes and that’s just what he decided to pull out of the discussion. And yet, I think we should be careful with how we talk about what we do.

I’m not sure I’d go totally over to the other extreme and say that a patron plugging his laptop into an external power outlet at the library after hours was “rediscovering the value of their library,” but it definitely sends a more positive message about how we view our patrons than the earlier quotation.

why you can’t google a library book

The Guardian has a long article about what the mechanisms are that keep local library catalogs form being effectively spidered and Googleable. They dip into the complicated area that is policies around record-sharing and talk about OCLCs changed policy concerning WorldCat data. This policy, if you’ve been keeping close track, was slated to be effective in February and, thanks in no small part to the groundswell of opposition, is currently being delayed until at least third quarter 2009.

some things really do change overnight

I’ve been getting over a nasty flu just on the backside of the MIT Mystery Hunt so I’ve been a little scarce. I also pretty much slept through most of the Inauguration festivities yesterday. However, I didn’t need to listen to speeches or see record crowds to know that some things are changing. I think Obama is as fallible as the next human being, but I’ve been encouraged at a few of the things that have happened this week, some intentional, some coincidental.

The first is Obama’s immediate revocation of Executive Order 13233, an order by the Bush administration that, according to the National Coalition for History, “severely limited access by the public to presidential records” You can read the offical text of the order on the revamped Whitehouse.gov which I recommend a look at.

The second good news this week was the Supreme Court declining to review “a Third Circuit Court decision last July striking down the Child Online Protection Act of 1998.” In other words, COPA was struck down by a US District judge, a decision which was upheld by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and then contested by the Bush Administration to the US Supreme Court who, this week, refused to hear it. You can read the timeline yourself on Wikipedia. The Supreme Court’s failure to act is pretty much the death knell for COPA, a law that never took effect. While not as applicable to libraries as CIPA, the law itself does touch on whether or not restricting or prohibiting materials as “harmful to minors” is itself a problematic restriction on speech. U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed commented “perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”