I finally got to meet Anna Creech as well as a bunch of other great librarians when I was in Oregon. Anna has some notes from my talk as well as the two other speakers who gave presentations on the first day, Anthony Bernier and Rachel Bridgewater both of whom gave really interesting presentations that I was delighted to find myself sandwiched between.
All of us spoke a lot about recent data from the Pew Reports, many of which I was copying and pasting graphs from into my talk at the last minute [see geocities vs. myspace and encarta vs. wikipedia] and I even got to mention the Digital Divide a little. I was sorry that I wasn’t able to include information from Speed Matters, a site set up by the Communication Workers of American urging that the US develop a comprehensive broadband policy to ensure equitable broadband access for everyone. I just learned about the site from FreeGovInfo which discusses some of the different ways we still have a digital divide.
There is an income digital divide: more than 62% of households with incomes over $100,000 subscribe to high speed broadband at home while just 11% of households with incomes below $30,000 subscribe.
There is a rural/urban digital divide: only 17% of adults in rural areas subscribe to broadband compared to 31% in urban and 30% in suburban areas.
And there is a farm/non-farm divide: only 15.8% of farm households have adopted broadband.
Here’s some specifics about the Vermont situation and Verizon’s plan to sell off local access lines in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Here in Vermont that’s about 85-90% of the state’s phone lines. While I loved living in Topsham with our local telephone company Topsham Telephone, there’s a real problem when big businesses who were given favorable legislation to obtain monopolies in industries like telecommunications are then allowed cherrypick and jettison the less profitable areas.
This will affect me personally, as well as people in my town and county who are still waiting to have DSL available in their locations. As we learned from the Pew Reports, people who have faster connections do more online. More government information and resources are being moved online. More online content is becoming inaccessible to people who only have dialup connections. Getting broadband to the libraries is part of the equation, and an important part, but what are our other obligations to get our patrons and our neighbors on to the information superhighway at speeds that are adequate to do what they need to do?
The Access 2006 Library Conference and Hackfest is October 11th and they are accepting submisions. Submit a great hack that would take a day to code and have something to do with libraries… wait until October 12… see the results. What could go wrong? [thank sj]
Library Terms that Users Understand – a big survey of available data to show us that there ARE best practices as far as our users are concerned.
This site is intended to help library web developers decide how to label key resources and services in such a way that most users can understand them well enough to make productive choices. It serves as a clearinghouse of usability test data evaluating terminology on library websites, listing terms that tests show are effective or ineffective labels. It presents alternatives by documenting terms that are actually used by libraries. It also suggests test methods and best practices for reducing cognitive barriers caused by terminology.
Surprise surprise, the word periodical is confusing. So are words like database, pathfinder and Do-it-Yourself in Unicorn. [web4lib]
My last Council meeting as an At Large Councilor is in New Orleans. When I’m at home, I say “Good riddance!” but when I’m in Council meetings, especially if something worthwhile is happening that I feel a part of, I feel proud to serve. The committment to service is one of the things that I really enjoy about my membership in ALA, but I think that’s more about me and my priorities than ALA. ALA gives me a good place to be a helper at a national level. Meredith was over for dinner last weekend and we talked about ALA, among other things. I can’t say that’s what sparked this long and passionate post of hers about ALA [with some follow-up by Dorothea here] , but I know that some of the topics ring very true to me as well. My issues in specific are what I perceive to be the relatively lax standards in library school accreditation and the misrepresentation of the current job market both of which are contributing to a glutted market and a lot of fresh-out-of-school students who are having a hard time finding work at the same time as ALA is hiking their dues by 30% over three years.
And, of course, the web site. I completely accept the “Mistakes were made.” reasoning for why the site is the way it is. What I don’t understand is the absolute lack of anyone seeming to try to make it better, now. Basic things like shorter URLs, accessbility issues like ALT and title tags, and clearer navigation don’t need to wait for a redesign to be slowly added and implemented site-wide. We’re still seeing URLs like this one for one of the main pages on the site, broken links like the ones down the side of this page (B Roll, Downloadable Photos, Contacts, Feedback) and a 404 page that refers to the “new” website and instructs you to email someone who will get back to you within a week. The Member and Customer Service center link in the footer to a sitemap page and the FAQ (which you can get to by going to ala.org/faq, but the “cite this page” link says otherwise) talks about the next conference occurring in January 2006. ALA does a lot of things right, don’t get me wrong, but their sites seem designed and populated with content by people who do not use the web. When PayPal is the dominant way of paying for things online, the ALA Online Donation form looks like this. Library 2.0 is all about continual feedback and improvement, not this sort of “let’s make a list of everything that’s wrong and fix it when we do the redesign.” It’s not normal for a lot of library professionals to be continually evaluating and tweaking, but that’s what maintaining always-on presence requires.
The question remains, how to you serve a completely diverse group of information professionals, some of whom don’t even own a computer and others who maintain elaborate online communities and are involved in creating the next generation of library technology? I have no idea. I can sort of gesture in an “Ug, ug.” way and point to who I think is doing it right, and similarly indicate who I think is doing things wrong. I can join governing bodies and try to put in my $.02 and hope that I see change in my lifetime. I live in a rural area, I’m not against change coming slowly. On the other hand, when you know change comes slowly and you see the lumbering steamship that is ALA coming to a fork in the road and teeter on the brink of, say, another bad website design, or more public statements about the librarian shortage, well I just feel that I have to say something.