that's why we have metadata... something which refers to something doesn't need to refer to itself... some people think these sorts of paradoxes are fun to contemplate: I never invite those people to my parties.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Dear library user,
Your local librarians are delighted to welcome you to the library. We are happy to help you find whatever you need (except for you porn surfers--you know who you are). There are, alas, some limitations to what we can do for you. Most of those limitations involve computers. As for the rest, well, we're talking humans here...
First, I have to point out that those of us in middle age were trained in the Dark Ages when computers were the size of dump trucks and Bill Gates was in preschool. When I went to library school, there was one computer course, on programming in Basic, and I didn't take it. Considering that, my fellow over-50 librarians and I are doing pretty well coping with technology that didn't exist 30 years ago and changes daily.
We can figure out where Pacific Palisades, California, is located by using Google maps. We can locate a copy of a small press book available for loan from a library network 1000 miles away through World Cat. In a matter of seconds we can unearth dozens of Van Gogh "Sunflowers", using Google image. Using library subscriptions to online databases, we can find you the full text of an article from some arcane periodical and we can point the way to today's local newspaper's image edition, exactly as it appears in print form, but without the recycling hassle. We can demonstrate downloading unabridged audiobooks to your tiny MP3 player so you can listen to three books on your around-the-world flights and still have room in your carryon for a sandwich, some fruit, granola bars and (depending on those ever-shifting regulations) even some bottled water.
But we librarians, alas, only appear to be miracle workers. We can't get you all the materials you need to write your senior thesis by tomorrow if you don't get to the library until 5 minutes before closing. We don't have time to pull 14 Pile_of_books books for you and leave them at the desk so you can grab them between work and a theater date. (We might still do it sometimes, but admittedly we grumble.) We can't baby sit your kids after school while you are at work. We don't have a public address system to page your missing teenager who swore s/he was going to the library to study. We can't proofread your English homework. We can help you find online stock trading sites, but we can't suggest hot picks for your portfolio. We can help you find the forms but we can't do your taxes for you--and believe me, you don't want us to. No matter what your teacher or professor said, everything is not available on the internet.
But alas, we cannot fix the internet. If your e-mail account is "not available because the server is busy" and suggests you try later, we can't make it un-busy for you. The messages you receive about going into and out of secure sites are not an indication that the FBI, the CIA, the KGB, or the IRS is keeping an eye on you. Some online photographs and images have printing blocked, and we can't override that. If the form you are trying to fill out online is confusing or has conflicting instructions, we can't figure them out any better than you can. If the power goes off briefly and you lose the e-mail you had been writing for half an hour (don’t you hate that?), we can’t get it back. We can't make all the ads go away, although we might be able to eliminate the annoying ones that pop up and obscure your screen. If the CD or "floppy" disc you used to save your resume won't load on our computers, we're sorry--we really are!--but perhaps we don't have the software you used at home, or the CD had coffee spilled on it, or we just plain can't make it work. Computer_keyboard We can't teach you to e-mail or surf the Internet if you have never used a keyboard.
Most of all, we can't "fix" Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Gateway, Google, Internet Explorer or any of the other computer giants that control what happens on computers and the internet.
I know what URL stands for, and html, but I don't text message, RSS, or most of the other up-and-coming gizmos. Maybe soon. Probably about the time they become obsolete.
For now, if it's on the Internet, I can probably find it--fast. Which is apparently surprising for some of our patrons. A few years ago, a forty-something fellow watched me work my internet magic and pull up information he needed.
"Wow!" the guy said, looking at my graying hair. "Where did you learn to do that at your age?"
Though I'm sure this isn't something new for many of you, The Librarian Paradox is new to me:
A librarian is wandering round her library one day and comes across a shelf of catalogues. There are catalogues of novels, poems, essays and so on, and some of these catalogues, she discovers, list themselves, while others do not.
In order to simplify the system, the hard-working (and rigorously logical) librarian makes two more catalogues. One lists all those catalogues that list themselves; the other lists all those that don't. Once she has completed this task, she has a problem: should the catalogue which lists all the other catalogues which do not list themselves, be listed in itself? If it is listed, then by definition it should not be listed. However, if it is not listed, then by definition it should be.
[Love this comment]
On November 27th, 2007 effing (not verified) says:
As in so many other areas of our profession that need change, another critically important one is to change our own ways of thinking about how to do business. We absolutely must pay more attention to how we can impress our user communities, and what must be done to leverage that to increase our visibility, community buzz and word of mouth about the library.
Halton's Catholic board has pulled The Golden Compass fantasy book – soon to be a Hollywood blockbuster starring Nicole Kidman – off school library shelves because of a complaint.
"(The complaint) came out of interviews that Philip Pullman had done, where he stated that he is an atheist and that he supports that," said Scott Millard, the board's manager of library services.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
More and more, public libraries are being managed by private companies.
In late October, Jackson County, Ore., re-opened the doors to 15 of its public libraries after a lack of funds had forced them shut on April 6—the largest library closure in U.S. history. However, as patrons returned to the bookshelves in the southern Oregon county, they learned that their libraries are now under private, for-profit management.
Oregon suffered a $150 million budget shortfall—and Jackson County a $23 million loss—in fiscal year 2007, after the federal government failed to renew a $400 million annual subsidy designed to help rural communities suffering from the decline in timber-logging revenue. Though Congress eventually extended the funding by one year, Jackson County commissioners, strapped for cash, voted to outsource library services to the Maryland-based Library Systems & Services (LSSI), which specializes in library management. Founded in 1981, the company initially operated federal libraries during President Reagan’s era of privatizing government services and contracts. LSSI now privately manages more than 50 public libraries nationwide.
Companies like LSSI focus on counties that are desperate to keep their public agencies afloat but lack sufficient funds to do so. In the case of Jackson County, officials offered LSSI a five-year contract worth $3 million annually, with an additional $1.3 million reserved for building maintenance. The deal cuts in almost half what the county previously spent.
Public libraries in Dallas, Riverside, Calif., and Finney County, Kan. have also hired LSSI staff.
But the trend of farming out public libraries to a private, profit-oriented business has raised concerns. For one, private companies are not subject to the same oversight as are public institutions. More importantly, libraries have long been considered democratic bodies built on the cornerstone of information diversity, transparency and intellectual freedom.
“Libraries tend to reflect the communities they serve,” says Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association (ALA). “[They] respond to community needs and they do so within their budget, but they are not set up to make profit. A company coming in that doesn’t exist within the community that is profit-making, you can see that there is a different attitude and there is concern about that.”
Under public management, transparency tends to be clear. As much as 80 percent of public library funding can come from local tax support, making libraries accountable to a board of trustees with representatives from the community.
While municipalities have for years contracted “non-library services,” such as janitorial duties or photocopying, the outsourcing of “core” library services—cataloging and use of automated systems and material acquisition—has increased.
This prompted the ALA to create an Outsourcing Task Force and conduct a study on privatization in 1999. Two years later, the ALA council adopted a stance opposing outsourcing, stating that libraries are “not a simple commodity” but “are an essential public good” that should be “directly accountable to the public they serve.”
LSSI makes its money from the difference between the budget and what it spends—or does not spend. It typically downsizes staff, centralizes accounting and human resource services, and buys books in bulk, all while passing down administrative costs—sometimes as high as 15 percent—to patrons as general handling fees. (The company does not disclose its earnings.)
“They operate entirely with our tax dollars but they have no transparency,” says Buck Eichler, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 in Jackson County, whose organization represented the public library employees. “They’re completely secretive about their books. We no longer know where our tax dollars are going.”
Although the total cost of running the libraries was cut, so, too, were library hours. Now, most libraries in Jackson County are open at half the normal operating times and are closed on Sundays, totaling only 24 hours a week, down from the 40-plus hours before the April shutdown. The exceptions are the libraries in Ashland and Talent, which will stay open for 40 hours and 36 hours a week, respectively, after local residents recently voted in favor of a levy on monthly utility surcharges in order to pay for the extra hours.
While counties still own the buildings and retain control of library policies, LSSI is in charge of hiring employees, which has caused mixed reactions.
“I don’t have any problems with it at all,” says Kim Wolfe, manager of the Medford branch. “I think it’s a personal decision for each individual. The community is thrilled to have the libraries opening again. They’re thanking us and they’re glad they can come in and use our services.”
SEIU’s Eichler, however, has said some workers have refused to go back to work under a private employer.
“We don’t want to sacrifice living wages at the expense of workers,” says Eichler.
LSSI brought back about 60 of the 88 people who were laid off, according to one library staffer. But now that they are no longer union employees, they’ve been subject to contractual changes in rights, benefits and disclosure information.
Although salaries are comparable to what they were before, employees in the Jackson County Libraries are now no longer part of Oregon’s pension system, which has been replaced with a 401(k) program. Medical benefits have also been cut, and salary levels have been “adjusted depending on market conditions,” says Anne Billeter, a former Jackson County library manager.
“I’m not saying that LSSI has a goal of union-busting, but it is certainly the net effect,” says Eichler.
Some areas have seen a backlash. In Bedford, Texas, after a community-wide petition campaign to oppose library outsourcing gathered 1,700 signatures in four days, city council members voted 4-3 to reject privatization in August. “If our library dies, this community dies,” said Mark Gimenez, a local resident who attended the board meeting.
But not every public library is celebrating victories. In Jackson-Madison County, Tenn., even after a community group lobbied against privatization, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled in April that the county board has a legal right to outsource.
Thomas Hennen Jr., director of the Waukesha County Federated Library System in Wisconsin, says, “It is the urgent duty of public librarians to put the ‘good’ back into the ‘public good’ of the public library movement.”
IOWA CITY, Iowa
It's ten days in jail for a former Iowa City woman accused of stealing more than $1,000 in materials from the city's public library -- by using her children's library cards.
Fatima Perkins of Harvey, Illinois, pleaded guilty to third-degree theft. She was also ordered to pay a $625 fine as well as restitution, court costs and attorney fees.
Perkins used her four children's cards to check out 51 items from the library last year and moved out of town without returning them.
She was arrested in July.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Wednesday Nov 28th, 2007 3:58 PM
All political parties and organizations will now be able to use Fresno County Library facilities for meetings.
In a phone call to the office of Fresno County Librarian Karen Bosch Cobb, Attorney Richard Runcie (member of the Board of the Greater Fresno Area Chapter of the ACLU) and John Crockford (chair of the Fresno County Peace and Freedom Party) explained that denying the Peace and Freedom Party use of library facilities was contrary to Library policy regarding free speech. Messrs. Runcie and Crockford said that Library staff were misinterpreting the prohibition on election activities and wrongly denying Peace and Freedom Party use of library facilities.
In a phone call to Fresno County Peace and Freedom Party chairperson John Crockford, Ms. Bosch Cobb acknowledged the error and said she would direct staff to allow the Peace and Freedom Party to use Fresno County Library facilities for its general meetings.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
A library angle has emerged in the case of a terrorism suspect indicted in July 2006 (along with a confederate) on charges of going through paramilitary training in Georgia and plotting to attack various targets in the region and elsewhere. The lawyer for Syed Ahmed, 21, a former Georgia Tech student, filed a document in federal court in Atlanta Thursday that FBI agents followed Ahmed to the Chestatee Regional Library, Dawsonville, GA, and searched the computer he had worked on without a warrant, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. Attorney David Nahmias responded in a statement to the AP that "The FBI's actions were lawful and appropriate as we will demonstrate when we respond to the motion in court," adding that "public libraries are not safe havens for terrorist-related activity."
(The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom advises librarians
, “If the agent or officer does not have a court order compelling the production of records, the library director should explain the library’s confidentiality policy and the state’s confidentiality law, and inform the agent or officer that users' records are not available except when a proper court order in good form has been presented to the library.”)
Ahmed's lawyer, Jack Martin, said in court papers that an investigator used the computer’s history function to check web pages and e-mail addresses Ahmed had accessed. (Many libraries have equipped their computers to automatically clear each user’s history after a session.) "The actions of the government agent, contrary to the policies and procedures of the library, including policies to ensure the privacy of its authorized library users, violated the defendant's reasonable expectations of privacy," Martin wrote, according to the AP. He seeks the evidence to be suppressed. In the indictment last year, the government said that Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 19, were motivated by the "defense of Muslims or retaliation for acts committed against Muslims." Both are U.S. citizens; Ahmed is Pakistan-born; Sadequee, of Bangladeshi descent, was born in Virginia. Both have pleaded not guilty. The government alleges that the the plot involved meetings, discussions, and training exercises; Martin has said the evidence was "imprudent talk."
Monday, November 19, 2007
Those fortunate enough to traverse the halls of Embedded Technology 2007 could've seen Seiko Epson's latest wonder up close and in person, but for the rest of us, we'll have to settle for the picture and a drool-worthy description over at Engadget.
Meanwhile, as Gary Price pointed out, Amazon is betting that e-books aren't a total e-bust. On Monday, the online retail giant will unveil its Kindle e-book reader at a high-profile event in New York, an industry source told CNET News.com Thursday. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos is expected to be present for the announcement, to be held at the chic W Hotel in Union Square.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Friday, November 2, 2007; Page A06
A little-remarked feature of pending legislation on domestic surveillance has provoked alarm among university and public librarians who say it could allow federal intelligence-gathering on library patrons without sufficient court oversight.
Draft House and Senate bills would allow the government to compel any "communications service provider" to provide access to e-mails and other electronic information within the United States as part of federal surveillance of non-U.S. citizens outside the country.
The Justice Department has previously said that "providers" may include libraries, causing three major university and library groups to worry that the government's ability to monitor people targeted for surveillance without a warrant would chill students' and faculty members' online research activities.
"It is fundamental that when a user enters the library, physically or electronically," said Jim Neal, the head librarian at Columbia University, "their use of the collections, print or electronic, their communications on library servers and computers, is not going to be subjected to surveillance unless the courts have authorized it."
Under the legislation, the government could monitor a non-U.S. citizen overseas participating in an online research project through a U.S. university library, and gain access to the communications of all the project participants with that surveillance target, said Al Gidari, a lawyer with the Perkins Coie firm who represents the Association of Research Libraries and the American Library Association.
The bills, which would replace a temporary law amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, would not require the government to demonstrate "probable cause" that the foreign person targeted is a terrorist or a spy or to let the FISA court, which grants surveillance warrants, know that the tap will be on a library. Under the Senate bill, a general surveillance program may be authorized yearly by the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. The House's version would require the FISA court to authorize surveillance directed at people overseas.
The librarians said their concern about such monitoring is rooted in recent history.
In the summer of 2005, FBI agents handed an administrative subpoena called a national security letter (NSL) to a Connecticut librarian, and demanded subscriber, billing and other information on patrons who used a specific computer at a branch library. NSLs can be approved by certain FBI agents without court approval. The agents ordered the librarian to keep the demand secret. But he refused to produce the records, and his employer filed suit, challenging the gag order. A federal judge in September 2005 declared the gag order unconstitutional.
Librarians cried out over the issue and in March 2006 won language in the reauthorized USA Patriot Act that specified that libraries acting as book-lenders not be subject to NSLs. But FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said, in written remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2006, that "a library is only subject to an NSL if it provides electronic communication services."
Today, many universities -- and by extension their libraries -- can be considered Internet service providers, because they run private Internet networks allowing students and faculty to send e-mail, conduct online research and engage in online chats without touching the public system, experts said.
Many universities also have branches overseas, where users can log onto the school network and gain access to the library's server on U.S. soil. Moreover, university research -- especially in the scientific arena -- is frequently conducted online and in groups, often internationally, by accessing shared databases and advanced private Internet networks, librarians said.
"For me, the issue is if somebody is going to follow the research thread of a faculty or student, that may be something that needs to happen to protect all of us, but it needs to be done under judicial review and with a warrant," said Larry Alford, dean of libraries at Philadelphia's Temple University, which also has campuses in Rome and Tokyo. "The transactions that used to go on inside of a classroom and inside of a library building now can go on electronically and virtually."
For Neal, who has been a librarian for 34 years, the issue is not academic. He recalled his time working at Penn State University in the 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, when the FBI demanded information about the reading habits of international students. The staff refused, but the experience jolted Neal, who said he felt that library users' privacy rights had been "violated."
Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said: "The librarians have fingered an issue that is particularly problematic in the Senate legislation. When a group of Americans communicate with one targeted non-American abroad, everyone's privacy is at risk. We are not saying the government should have to seek a warrant for every overseas foreigner, but court oversight is essential."
The Association of Research Libraries, representing 123 institutions, the American Library Association, with more than 65,000 members, and the Association of American Universities, representing 60 U.S. institutions, each say they seek to amend the draft bills to make clear that the term "communications provider" does not include libraries. Although a report by the House Judiciary Committee states that libraries are not meant to be subject to the provision, it does not have the force of law, according to Prudence S. Adler, associate executive director of the research library group.
House intelligence committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) said the House bill, produced by Democrats, would protect Americans' constitutional rights. He noted that the measure would allow the FISA court to "review the targeting procedures to ensure that Americans aren't targeted."
Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), the intelligence committee vice chairman, who helped craft the bipartisan Senate bill, said librarians need not worry. The government, he said, would seek to monitor only "suspected terrorists." If a surveillance target communicates with a U.S. citizen or a resident who is not a target, the latter's communications would be "minimized" or blacked out, he said, and the bill would require a court to approve the minimization procedures.
"You know what happens if that [library exception] gets into the bill?" Bond said. "You would have your libraries filled with al-Qaeda operatives."
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined to specify which institutions might qualify as "electronic communications service providers," calling the question hypothetical. But he said the administration opposes exceptions for libraries or others, because they "could lead to an unworkable patchwork of legal authorities" and impede effective intelligence gathering.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
By Josh Getlin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 1, 2007
"Die a Little" by Meg Abbott
Actress Jessica Biel options the film rights to Edgar-nominated writer Megan Abbott's "Die a Little," a Los Angeles noir novel set in the 1950s with an intriguing character twist.
Biel (recently in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry") and her producing partner, Michelle Purple, sign an option for a film set up at United Artists that also includes screenwriters Geoffrey and Marcia Blake and producer Richard Gladstein. Abbott was represented by Paul Cirone from the Friedrich Literary Agency and Shari Smiley at Creative Artists Agency. The novel, pulp cover and all, was published by Simon & Schuster.
The back story
Imagine a noir novel set in Los Angeles, 1954, a bleak landscape of drugs, prostitution and murder, where a private investigator is trying to unlock a terrible secret. Nothing you haven't seen, right? Except the two main characters are women, and the story is told in women's voices. "Die a Little" is one potboiler in which dames won't take a back seat. And the movie that's taking shape, based on the book, will be faithful to the original.
When Biel first read Abbott's 2005 thriller about a quiet, outwardly normal librarian and a blond femme fatale with an unsettling past, she was smitten. And the pitch she made to bring a major studio on board was direct: Think "L.A. Confidential" with two women. United Artists signed on, in a deal that was put together over several years by CAA's Smiley, among others.
"I was thrilled that Jessica wanted to do this movie," said Abbott, a New York-based noir novelist and a scholar who has published a book on the subject. "And it was great to think that she wants to play the darker role of the blond instead of the more wholesome character of the librarian. . . . It could be a major departure for her."
So move over, tough guys. Although many women have written L.A. noir, not many female-dominated movies come to mind. "Die a Little" is a genre-bending project, and Biel was passionate about the book. She paid for the option herself -- not always the case when celebrities seek film-worthy material.
The story will be updated to present-day Los Angeles because there had been studio resistance to the original period setting, which could drive costs up considerably. Beyond that, "Die a Little" could look similar to the novel.
"There wasn't a major role in this movie for a male star, which made it difficult to pitch at first," said a source close to the negotiations. "But people saw the strength of the original material. It's going to be a great vehicle for two women."
Popular blog Boing Boing points to one library's interesting method for dealing with library filtering, utilizing large signs designating "filtered" and "unfiltered" internet access. Says the submitter of the photo, "The 'unfiltered' side faces the reference desk so the librarians can monitor usage but they say it has reduced abuse and given adults uncensored access to the internet." Pic and entry here. An interesting comment debate follows, discussing whether the signage constitutes a privacy invasion.
In the fall, a journalist’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of ghosts. Newspapers and magazines that haughtily refrain from printing news of the paranormal for 11 months of the year eagerly jump on the Halloween coach in October to regale their audiences with dubious tales of the preternatural. Bleak mansions and somber castles usually spring to mind when we think of haunted places, but ghostly phenomena—whatever the cause—can manifest in well-lit, modern offices as well as crumbling Carnegies. Of course, it helps if you inadvertently build your library on top of a graveyard.
Haunted libraries fall into two types. First, there is the “building with a reputation,” where a convenient murder, curse, or other tragedy has occurred. Library staff can then blame the odd noise, the occasional book falling off the shelf, or glitches in the air conditioning on the resident “scapeghost.” No one reports anything too spooky, and the children’s librarians have a good time with it at story hour.
Second, there are libraries where credible, responsible people observe enigmatic human shapes, hear disembodied voices, and witness other classic parapsychological events. Glib explanations about how the building must be settling ring about as hollow as those mysterious footsteps late at night on the upper floorboards. The library staff learns to live with the phenomena, usually by accepting the paranormal as a normal working condition and the wraiths as superhuman resources.
Like other public buildings that have seen long years of human activity, some libraries are allegedly haunted by the ghosts of former staff, patrons, or other residents. Most often the manifestations involve odd noises, cold spots, or objects moved; other times a visual apparition is reported. In many cases, phenomena can be attributed to the sights, the sounds, and the aura of a historic building. However, libraries offer such dynamic mental and sensual stimulation that if haunts are truly evidence for postmortem survival, I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather spend my earthly afterlife than in a library. (Beware, Ohio State!)
The following list represents a fairly comprehensive list of current and former library haunts. But if I’ve missed anything, or my list needs correction and even updating, please send along your comments and suggestions. The paranormal demands precision!