books that make you dumb

Booksthatmakeyoudumb is a small site by Virgil Griffith that tries to look at the relationship between favorite books of students at colleges and the average SAT score at those colleges, “cross referencing the 10 most popular books at every college, as given by Facebook, and the average SAT score.” It’s amusing and it’s fun to look at and Lolita is not where you’d think. [lisnews]

a few remaindered links on a variety of topics

I keep things unread in my newsreader when I want to refer to them later. Unfortuntely the “Mark as Unread” option in the menu of NetNewsWire is right next to “Mark All as Read” so I’d like to share these with you, before disaster strikes.

  • Andrea Mercado’s post Hacking Firefox: customizations for my library tells you all you need to know about why Firefox is such an excellent choice for a library browser. She discusses how to make the browser on their public access machines versatile yet secure. Very nice.
  • Laura Crossett taks about how to keep it real in small town American libraries. “We don’t beat Google by trying to best Google. We beat Google by being the thing–the things, really–that Google can never be.”
  • Fiona Bradley and Karen Schenider and Meredith Farkas all talk about ALAs obtuseness regarding “virtual participation” It’s a bit of a misnomer since people can, in some ways, participate virtually. However, they just can’t vote, attend Council meetings or do a lot of the other things that woud hve an impact. So they can participate virtually, sort of, just not significantly. I wish I didn’t have this icky feeling that this resistance to virtual participation was not just plain old technophobia on ALAs part but the actual desire to get more money into ALAs coffers via the Midwinter meeting. When that money is coming from librarians like Meredith and Laura and Karen and maybe even myself who would love to participate more, just at a somewhat lower cost, it rankles. I have really enjoyed my ALA vacation.
  • I explain the word “default” to my sudents often. To people new with computers, the ideas of the comptuers default settings is a little perplexing. Fred Stutzman highlights part of David Weinberger’s post about Facebook where he discusses how Facebook’s default privacy settings are all wrong. Completely and totally wrong. Don’t miss one of Fred’s earlier posts where he discusses how to turn the Facebook Beacon off to stop it from telling marketers more about you than you may be aware of.

why your OPAC won’t be on Facebook, for now

Steve Lawson has some details about why library apps for Facebook aren’t being approved along with all the other applications that are being created to use Facebook’s API. It’s got nothing to do with the libraryness of them, just that Facebook doesn’t allow applications to do web searches, for whatever reason.

Actually the reason to me is fairly obvious. Facebook would like to keep you on Facebook. They would like to take your loyalty for other sites like Flickr and YouTube and shift it to Facebook so they can serve you Facebook ads while you look at the online content you were looking at anyway. The fact that when you are searching an online library catalog you are not technically searching the web may be a detail that might act in libraries’ favor this time, but it’s still an overall Bad Thing for the profession, in my opinion (though I acknowlege that this is a debatable point). I hope this Facebook thing can be resolved decently. I can see a few ways that it might be — returning search results to the FB interface, FB loosening up over OPACs for two easy ones. I don’t do much on Facebook except look up friends’ phone numbers and change my stauts every so often, but it’s got a killer grip on today’s students and young people (and oldsters like myself) and it would be nice if we could find a way to leverage that to help do our jobs better.

update: be sure to read the comments for Ken Varnum’s story of working successfully with Facebook to get the UMich catalog app on there.

be social – explaining social networks to librarians and parents

I did a short tour of some New Hampshire libraries over the past few days. I did a little talk called MyWhat? Decoding social technologies.. It’s only about five slides but most of it was doing a tour of some of the more popular social networks [Facebook, MySpace, Flickr] and showing how they worked, how kids were using them and what parents and librarians should know.

Remember that a lot of the digital divide that we deal with now isn’t that people don’t have computers per se, it’s that they’re not in networks and groups of people that understand them and can answer complex questions about them. The library is often an integral link in this equation. A lot of my time at these talks is spent answering questions about how these social tools work, how I use them, how librarians might use them, and how kids and teens can use them safely and effectively. A lot of the print materials I’ve come across err on the side of caution which is not a bad idea but often there’s no “Hey you really SHOULD try this” couterpoint. I hope I was able to offer that somewhat.

but once libraries get to facebook, what do they do there?

Jenny points out the UIUC library search which is a widget that can be put on any user’s facebook page so they can search the library catalog right from Facebook.

Facebook recently opened up their site to other applications and there has been a huge explosion in what people are sharing on their profile pages. From my own subjective perspective, it seems like these applications are getting more people to Facebook and keeping them there, doing stuff. In my 2.0 talks I have often talked about how libraries could create “presence” using social tools and I’ve pointed to Facebook groups like Awesome Resources which is a group of 30+ librarians doing what librarians do best: sharing resources and helping each other find things.

When I went to Ann Arbor this week, I connected with Ed “Superpatron” Vielmetti on Facebook and it’s one of the fastest and best ways to get ahold of a small subset of my friends. When I was at the Berkman Center event last week listening to them talk about Digital Natives (versus tired old “digital immigrants” like myself) a professor mentioned that they did a show of hands survey of their incoming class to Harvard this year and asked who had a Facebook page. The answer wasn’t “most of them” but every single one of them. Granted Harvard skews in some ways towards the clueful and plugged in, but what an opportunity, knowing the one place that all of your students go online. I’m not totally sure if we know what to there once we get there, and I share the same privacy concerns as others about how much information we’re aggregating and personally identifying there, but I also feel that the UIUC search box is a little breakthrough application, sort of the way LibX was for Firefox. Exciting times, no?