Archive for February, 2006

Great librarian attitudes

Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on February 28th, 2006

I read this post this morning, and couldn’t help being a bit startled by this:

If you’re on the wall about Library 2.0 then this is the post to read. Stephen makes some great points that (I hope) will shut the mouths of the people debunking Library 2.0 and make them go “hmmmm”.

I’d already read the Stephen Abram post in question. Abram wants to keep the “Library 2.0″ bandwagon a bandwagon. That doesn’t surprise me; it’s entirely consistent. But, you know, Stephen Abram saying something doesn’t automatically make it true, any more (or any less) than Walt Crawford saying something makes it true.

What does surprise me is the stated desire (not Stephen’s!) for those who don’t agree to “shut [their] mouths.” Surely the person writing this post doesn’t believe that Abram is so utterly convincing that everyone who thinks “Library 2.0″ is overrated as a term will suddenly realize they were wrong, wrong, wrong?

The post certainly made me go “hmm.” As in, hmm, always interesting to see a librarian who wants people who disagree with them to shut up and go away.

I wouldn’t post this here, but I made a similar (brief) comment at that blog. Apparently it was either trapped for moderation or rejected as spam.

Chalk this up as another example of why the whole “Library 2.0″ situation couldn’t possibly be confrontational. Nope. No confrontations around here… (Actually, the post had the opposite of the desired effect. I had, in fact, been staying out of the “Library 2.0″ discussion. But, hmm…)

Attitudes Toward Public Libraries 2006

Posted in ALA, Libraries on February 24th, 2006

ALA commissioned a survey of 1000+ adults regarding public libraries, completed in 2006; they’ve done this before (most recently in 2002). The survey’s available (PDF, 13pp.) at ALA’s website, with the questions as asked and the results. (I emphasize that because it’s one way to judge the plausibility of a survey: Were the questions designed to extract specific results?)

It’s not a discouraging set of results, although in some areas public libraries don’t do quite as well as in OCLC’s “Perceptions” online survey. (Maybe people willing to take very long online surveys are bigger library users than people willing to do brief in-person interviews?) Some highlights:

  • 37% used public libraries six or more times last year, including 25% 11 or more times; another 29% used public libraries one to five times last year. That’s close enough to Perceptions’ 73% “at least once a year” and 31% “at least monthly.” Any way you cut it, at least two-thirds of adults use their public libraries at least annually (also true in 2002)–and around a quarter of them at least monthly. Those are great numbers for a public institution. (The OCLC study showed 80% holding library cards; for ALA, it was only 63%, a surprising difference.)
  • 81% of respondents who visited libraries took out books. People go to libraries for books: That was pretty obvious in the Perceptions study as well. Next highest: Consult a librarian (54%), check availability via computer (50%), use reference resources (45%).
  • People mostly use libraries for education and entertainment. When forced to choose one, figure 32% education, 25% entertainment.
  • 70% are extremely (26%) or very (44%) satisfied with their public libraries; only 5% are only a little or not at all satisfied. 70% high satisfaction for a tax-funded public good: That’s worth treasuring! (OCLC’s study showed 80% favorable.)
  • More than a third of respondents put public library benefits “at the top of the list” of tax-supported services, including schools, parks and roads! (53% put them in the middle.)
  • While these are somewhat leading questions, people find lots of things about public libraries very important or somewhat important. Most impressively: services are free (95%), a place where I can learn for a lifetime (94%), provided information for school and work (87%), enhances my education (88%), a source of cultural programs (82%), and a community center (81%). Library as place, library as collection of free books–people appreciate what public libraries have been doing well for a long time.
  • As stingy as people can be (18% wouldn’t answer this question), 52% think public libraries should have at least $41 per capita funding, with a surprising 19% putting that at $100 or more. 68% support increased public library funding in their own communities.
  • While the statements and benefits are leading enough that I’ll lead you to read them yourself, there’s no question that people appreciate space-related benefits of libraries (84% important for two space-related questions) and the free resources and lifelong learning (96% and 95%).
  • “Some people think libraries will no longer exist in the future, because of all of the information available on the internet. Other people think libraries will still be needed despite all of the information available on the internet. Do you think libraries will no longer exist in the future, or do you think they will still be needed?” 92% said “libraries will still be needed.”

According to survey analysis, the more frequent the user, the more satisfied they are with libraries–and use of library services has grown in almost every category, specifically including “taking out books” (the largest increase since the 2002 survey).

My take? Reaching out to new audiences in new ways is wonderful–but if there’s a resources crunch, Sunday hours, evening hours at least two or three days a week, and a strong book budget just might better serve that two-thirds of Americans who use public libraries, who appreciate them as community spaces, who mostly check out books, who do so more now than they did four years ago, and who are willing to pay more for their public libraries.

The usual caveat applies: Lots of people won’t respond to surveys. There’s no way of knowing whether those non-respondents are smarter or dumber, richer or poorer, more or less likely to be library users than those who will respond. But I do think one response to this survey should be: Are you spending enough money on books–and on staying open at the hours people can most conveniently visit you?

Posted in Stuff on February 24th, 2006

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Correction: Ex Libris article

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 24th, 2006

The current Cites & Insights includes a brief comment on one of Marylaine Block’s Ex Libris articles:

Block, Marylaine, “Information literacy: Food for thought,” Ex Libris 271 (January 13, 2006). marylaine.com/exlibris/237.htmlxlib271.html

Short and to the point, this is a “few leading questions to ask at the start of information literacy sessions that might force students to examine their assumptions.” For example, why is stuff on the web free? Given a set of items, what would you expect to find for free on the web—and what would you not expect to find. The last three questions push students toward the library’s licensed and offline resources. It’s a fine list, well worth reading and using.

The URL for that particular edition is stated incorrectly in C&I. The URL (corrected above) should be
http://marylaine.com/exlibris/xlib271.html.

My apologies, and thanks to the two readers who notified me of the error.

Since this week’s Ex Libris is about corrections, it’s only fitting that I do this post at this time. (For some reason, this week’s edition is “too wide”–it requires horizontal scrolling on screen and won’t print properly in portrait mode. Such is life.)

50 Movie Pack SciFi Classics, Disc 7

Posted in Movies and TV on February 23rd, 2006

It’s that time again!

Two—no, make that three—movies with the same director and writer; two both featuring some sort of missing link. No great winners, but nothing dreadful either.

Killers from Space, 1954, b&w, W. Lee Wilder (dir.), Peter Graves. 1:11.

Nuclear scientist flying over A-bomb test crashes—and shows up later at the base. It’s pretty clear he’s spying, so they inject him with a truth serum, after which he tells a story of alien abduction by a bunch of huge-eyed folks living below ground, storing up power from the weapons to mutate insects and animals into huge killer beasts. Why? So they can set them free to kill everyone on Earth—after which the billion aliens (whose sun is dying) will invade Earth, wipe out the creatures, and take over. But the scientist figures out that cutting off power in the area for a few seconds will cause the underground invasion place to explode because it’s storing so much energy. Not great, not terrible, mediocre print. $0.75.

Phantom from Space, 1953, b&w, W. Lee Wilder (dir.), Ted Cooper. 1:13.

Something has landed in Santa Monica, and it’s causing radio interference, so the boys from the FCC set out tracking it. Turns out to be “something without a head” in something like a diver’s suit—that is, an alien who’s invisible in Earth conditions. It’s unclear that the alien actually has evil intentions, but it doesn’t matter much: He dies anyway. The picture’s very fuzzy much of the time, which doesn’t help the plot (lots of action, not much overall significance). $0.50.

White Pongo, 1945, b&w, Sam Newfield (dir.), Richard Fraser. 1:10.

Africa: An expedition sets out to find a legendary white gorilla that may be the missing link. The guide’s a bad guy; one of the guards is an undercover agent out to get him. Romance, conspiracy, deceit, humor, and of course it all works out—and they do capture the white gorilla. So-so, or maybe a little worse. $0.75.

The Snow Creature, 1954, b&w, W. Lee Wilder (dir.), Paul Langton. 1:11.

This time it’s the Himalayas, where a botanist and his photographer sidekick are on an expedition to discover new plant species. Instead, when the head Sherpa hears his wife was kidnapped by a Yeti, the guide forces them to hunt the Yeti—which they do, of course, find after lots of trudging around the mountains. They ship the surviving Yeti back to the U.S.A.—but Immigration isn’t sure whether it’s an animal or a man, and that delays things long enough for the Yeti to break out of its refrigerated cave, escape into drain tunnels, and kill a couple of people before the cops shoot him (or it?). I suppose that counts as a happy ending, but maybe not for the tall guy with the fur costume. $0.75.

What Dorothea said

Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on February 22nd, 2006

Here, to be specific. In three parts:

  • The blogga song. If I could slow it down, I could grab the three or four blogs I don’t already know about. But I’d have to stop laughing first.
  • Occasional nervousness about casual style and the real world: But I’ve been more intemperate and brusque in lists, email, and at LISNews than I am here or at Cites & Insights, so it’s probably misguided nervousness. As, I think, it may be with Dorothea. Doesn’t seem to have kept her out of the field!
  • But most of all, and the reason for this post, even though I’m not (currently) on the speaking circuit at all, I’ll back this comment of hers:

    [Quoting a library school student] I see people like Michael Stephens, Jenny Levine, and Stephen Abrams making the professional circuit at this conference and that but…what about us? What about your future colleagues? Why aren’t you people talking to LIS students? [End of quote]

    Goes two ways, chela. There’s nothing stopping you from talking to us. Walt Crawford and I were happily sparring long before I graduated library school. Pick your favorite guru and send an email. Won’t kill you. Likely to make you stronger. If you have a mind for pop-management books, call it an “informational interview.”

    When I get email or a comment or whatever, I can assure you that I don’t vet it first based on whether the person sends along proof of an accredited MLS (since I don’t have one, that would be exceedingly silly), whether they have An Appropriate Job Title, or whatever.

    I read what’s being said and try to respond accordingly. I’m guessing that true “gurus” and today’s contemporary hotshots behave similarly.

    I’d be really surprised to see any of the names the student mentioned in that quote do anything other than be responsive and helpful to an LS student (and in Michael S’s case, he’s signed up to do it for a living). [I'm making an assumption here, since none of those mentioned are close friends or acquaintances--but I'd bet I'm right.]

    I’m 100% certain that there are people in the field who have no time for newbies and for librarians-in-training. I’m 99% certain that very few of those people are present in the biblioblogosphere. And I’m nearly certain that there are a lot more established, “name-brand” librarians who would love to exchange ideas with library school students than are there who can’t be bothered.

Brown bag blogging

Posted in Writing and blogging on February 21st, 2006

This one’s a placeholder.

Two of us at RLG are going to do a little “brown bag” session on blogging later this week, and my part of the presentation (which will be highly informal and certainly not have PowerPoint or that sort of thing) would benefit from some links.

So I’ve saved the notes as a document on my website, and will leave it there with this post to link to it for at least a week or two.

Addendum 2/22: Thanks to Greg at Open Stacks, the notes have been refined, specifically with the addition of the LISWiki Weblogs directory and blogwithoutalibrary’s library blog directory page. Thanks, Greg!

We’re all innumerate sometimes

Posted in Writing and blogging on February 20th, 2006

Or, in more eloquent terms, duh.

I read this post at dave’s blog, about a middle school giving students PDAs to help make them technologically literate. It’s an interesting concept and an interesting experiment (and an interesting newspaper, referring to PDAs as “mini-computers,” adding a lovely protoVictorian feel to the whole discussion).

But I misread a key item in the story and David King’s quick comment–hey, I don’t know, it’s President’s Day, I’d just finished submitting a “PC Monitor” column, I’m multitasking, the dog ate my brain…

Anyway, I came up with $3,000 per PDA and felt obliged to make a snarky little comment, about the students apparently being trained to be defense contractors.

Submitted the comment. And almost immediately looked at King’s post again and slapped my forehead, because in the Old Math, $180,000 for 600 PDAs comes out to a perfectly reasonable $300. I was just off by one magnitude…

I submitted a followup comment, but feel obliged to add to that this pointer to King’s post. Go read it.

And I won’t make any similar mistakes for millions and millions of seconds, or until 2 p.m. today, whichever comes first.

Cites & Insights 6:4 available

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 19th, 2006

Cites & Insights 6:4 (March 2006) is now available for downloading.

The 24-page issue is PDF as usual; you can also reach the first five essays as HTML separates from the home page.

This issue includes:

  • Perspective: Folksonomy and Dichotomy
  • The Library Stuff: Comments on 20 articles, including the decennial issues of D-Lib and Ariadne
  • ©1: Term and Extent: Kahle v. Gonzales and the Copyright Office’s Report on Orphan Works
  • PC Progress, October 2005-February 2006: 32 group reviews in 11 categories.
  • Offtopic Perspective: 50-Movie All Stars Collection, Part 1: Notes on 24 TV movies
  • My Back Pages: Eight brief notes

Some people belong on the “A list”

Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on February 18th, 2006

Now, let’s be clear here: The “A list” in the biblioblogosphere is somewhere down in the B or C or D level within the blogosphere as a whole. But there are a handful of library-bloggers who have Bloglines subscription counts in the thousands instead of hundreds and other metrics to match.

One of them, unquestionably, is Jessamyn West at librarian.net. She has a current post discussing that situation, what she thinks about it–and a set of bullet points describing her attitudes toward doing what she does.

I’m with Jessamyn in asserting that the “A list” concept within the biblioblogosphere overstates the homogeneity of who “these people” are and why they do what they do. (I say “they” because this blog is most definitely not part of the A-list–although when you include Cites & Insights, my total reach is in the same neighborhood, albeit on the B-list side.) Here’s what she says:

There are a lot of reasons, and to me the whole “A List” idea seems to imply that the reasons are more tightly linked, that to achieve in one arena is to achieve in all, that we all share the same goal. Most library bloggers, if they make any money at all, make more money writing online than I do. Most library bloggers, if they are employed at all, have better-paying higher-status jobs than I do.

I’m guessing that Jessamyn (yes, I agree that it’s unfortunate to only use a person’s first name, but note that I did use “Jessamyn West” at the start of this post, and I have met her face to face, which is my usual criterion for first-naming) makes no money writing online, so the second sentence is hard to argue with (I don’t make anything from W.a.r, but I do currently make some money “writing online”). Since she’s been upfront about her salary and job, it’s really hard to argue with that last sentence. And it’s pretty clear to me that most widely-read librarian-bloggers have their own motives, and that those motives are not at all homogeneous. Fortunately.

But that’s not the reason for this post. After noting that one reason librarian.net has such wide reach is that she’s been doing it longer than most (seven years!), she offers this set of bullet points:

So, with the caveat that I’m just some over-educated and over-thinking sometimes librarian with a popular website, this is what has worked for me in the past, and I’m sorry if I sound like a snob by saying so.

  • be gracious with everyone
  • be consistent
  • lead by example
  • encourage, nurture, read and link to newer bloggers
  • meet bloggers in person whenever possible
  • keep pissing matches and whining off your blog, take grudges offline
  • read constantly, offline and online
  • know what you are talking about and admit when you don’t
  • make your content presentable and accessible and findable
  • don’t turn down other opportunities to get your message out and make a good impression
  • accept the power and the responsibility that comes with where you are, and use it for good

If any of that does sound boastful or snobbish (including the last bullet), well, you probably haven’t met JessicaJessamyn. I would refine one point: not only admit it when you don’t know something, but admit the possibility of being wrong (which she does). (I’m sorry, but the thought of Jessamyn West being thought of as snobbish just occasions laughter…)

I disagree with Jessamyn about various things at various times; our political perspectives are distinctly different, as are some of our views on libraries and librarianship.

That disagreement has never turned vicious, has never led to shouting matches or childish nonsense or any of the stuff I’ve sometimes seen elsewhere. It is a pleasure to read librarian.net, a pleasure to chat with Jessamyn West in person, and an honor to know her. She’s done a lot to build the biblioblogosphere and set a good example for blogging at its best.

Good post, Jessamyn. Keep it up–but then, I know you will.


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