Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Create RSS Feeds for Feedless Web Pages

posted by birdie

Michael R. Balmer writes "RSS is blossoming into the de facto protocol used by many websites as the means of distributing their news and information. However, not all websites support this feature yet.

I recently came across a nifty tool called Feedity, which is an RSS generator for web pages without a web syndication format. Feedity lets you can create RSS for any ANY webpage. Feedity will take virtually any web page, and convert it into a fully formed RSS document.

Highly recommended for any tech-savvy librarian.
Feedity is a simple, fast and very useful web service to create rss web feeds. Although there are many similar tools available (some downloadable and some web-based), but I'm hooked to Feedity because of its quick automated results (no manual work, no programming, no downloads) and sleek usability.

Feedity aims to make it easy and possible for anyone to extract and reuse content from any website. By doing so, we hope to allow others to realize their creativity, and implement new exciting services & applications."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Free information for the taking

There's a wealth of free resources out there--online databases, audiobooks, museum passes, and help so that you can find even more resources. You just need to know where to look:

Intute is a search site offered by a consortium of universities that covers science and technology, arts and humanities, social sciences, and health and life sciences. You don't have to be a library member to use it.

Associations Unlimited lists international associations, as well as U.S. nation, regional, state, and local associations and IRS data on nonprofit organizations.

ReferenceUSA has phone numbers and detailed information on more than 15 million U.S. and Canadian businesses, 210 million U.S. and 12 million Canadian residential listings.

The Historical New York Times Project offers everything the paper has published since 1851 to within the last three years. Search results include a plain text file, a PDF of the article or a PDF of the newspaper page containing the article. The PDF newspaper pages are full of live links, so you can jump to another article that catches your eye on the page as you do with a real newspaper. This type of database is available for several leading and local newspapers through the average public library.

Gale Virtual Reference Library from Thompson Gale offers full-text articles from more than 1,000 different encyclopedic sources in e-book format including those from third-party publishers. Libraries pick and choose which sets they want to include so content varies. Titles offered include the Business Plans Handbook, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security and Roaring Twenties Reference Library.

Factiva from Dow Jones offers access to full text articles from more than 10,000 worldwide sources, including newswire stories from Reuters and the Associated Press and transcripts of news broadcasts.

Heritage Quest Online holds U.S. Census data from 1790 to 1930, the African American Freedman's Bank records, 20,000 histories from families, and an index of about 2 million articles on genealogy and local American culture.

InfoTrack offers charts and images, in addition to full text articles from peer-reviewed academic journals, newspapers and general periodicals.

JStor is an archive of scholarly journals from academic libraries ranging as far back as the 1600s to within the last two to five years, depending on the copyright holder's preference. The archive, run by a not-for-profit organization of academic institutions, scans and stores the articles as high-resolution images so people can view them in their original layout and format.

Ebsco Host contains a comprehensive group of databases offering full text articles from newspapers, periodicals and journals on a wide variety of subjects.

Business Source Premier is a business research database of periodicals on all subject areas relating to businesses including economic reports, country and industry reports, company profiles and full text articles going back as far as 1965.

Many libraries have begun to lend digital versions of their books. The San Francisco Public Library lends out more than 5,000 titles as e-books. The files can be downloaded to your computer or a portable device and are good for seven days.

Ebrary, a California publishing company founded by Chris Warnock, the son of Adobe Systems co-founder and chairman John Warnock, also offers abut 20,000 freely searchable e-books. The database is licensed to several libraries, but if your library does not subscribe you can still use part of the service from the company's main Web site. It's free to read the material online and 25 cents per page to copy or print.

Before you plunk down $30 at Audible.com for company on those long car drives or daily commutes, consider what your library might have to offer. Libraries, such as the Chicago Public Library, now offer free downloads of digital audibooks after downloading free software and updating your media player from the library's site. The files are DRM-protected, but you can transfer them to portable media players, smart phones or cell phones and in many cases even burn them to a CD. Once the loan period for the file is over, the file is expired and will no longer play. You then just delete the file.

There is, however, one major reason audiobook rental has not caught on. Most of the service providers of audiobooks use DRM-protected WMA (Windows Media Audio) files, a file format the Apple's iPods do not currently support.

"We have had a subscription to NetLibrary for about four years. People are using it for downloadable audible books," said Leslie Burger, who served as president of the American Library Association from July 2006 to June 2007 and is the director of the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, N.J. "Of course, the problem with that is that you can't download to an iPod. It frustrates people. You would get more if it were working with the most ubiquitous device. Of course, some people do use it. They bought the kind of MP3 players they need to get them to work."

Free passes to museums
Some libraries, such as the Boston Public Library offer free passes to museums or discounts to local area attractions. Keep in mind, however, that you do need to reserve these ahead of time and pick them up at the library branch in person.

Your own personal librarian
Still too overwhelmed by choice on your library's Web site? You could simply ask for help. Most libraries offer personal librarian service with a two- or three-day e-mail response time. They will either answer your question, or offer suggestions on how to find what you need.

Massachusetts, for example, is part of a librarian service that offers real-time assistance with a librarian 24 hours a day, seven days a week via instant messaging. A list of live links the librarian showed during the chat session will be sent to you via e-mail, as well as a transcript of the chat if you want it. New Jersey offers a similar service called QandANJ.

The U.K. and Australia also offer the same type of service for its citizens at the national level.

Kids likely can keep borrowing R-rated rentals from library

Lake youngsters could continue to score R-rated entertainment under a recommendation by the county's library advisory board.

County commissioners today are expected to take up the library board's 9-0 decision last week against enacting a policy that would bar anyone younger than 17 from checking out restricted movies.

As it stands, young people can check out films ranging from the drug-, rape- and blood-laced classic Pulp Fiction to the recent Hostel -- which the Los Angeles Times said seemed to "have been tailored to its designated R 'for brutal scenes of torture and violence, strong sexual content, language and drug use.' "

The issue erupted in April after a nurse from Astor spotted two kids who appeared to be no more than 11 years old borrowing an R-rated Jackass: Number Two DVD at the Astor Public Library.

Commission Chairman Welton Cadwell, who serves as liaison for the library advisory board, attended Thursday's meeting.

"You kind of start going down a slippery slope" by creating restrictions, Cadwell said. "Some of our greatest literary pieces would probably be considered R-rated."

He said he plans to present the recommendation during his report to commissioners, and he would be surprised if they vote to limit what kids can check out.

"We could do it and have somebody challenge us," he said. "But why do that when there's already case law out there?"

At least two court decisions address issues involved in the panel's recommendation.

In 1970, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that a Kenosha, Wis., ordinance could not prevent minors from watching movies based on ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America. Although movie theaters can deny children admission to those movies, government-funded libraries can't legally stop children from checking them out.

"A public library is a limited public forum, and children have a First Amendment right to access information from a library," said Assistant County Attorney Kimberly Williams, who gave a legal opinion for the advisory board. "You don't have a constitutional right to go to a private movie theater."

Last year, in another federal case, a judge held that Minnesota cannot use industry ratings to fine children for renting or buying certain video games.

While that case did not deal with movies, it plays into the library board's decision because it bars a public body from making laws based on a voluntary ratings system such as the Motion Picture Association's.

"It's an unconstitutional delegation of authority for the county to use those MPAA ratings as a guideline for obscenity," Williams said.

One test for obscenity, supported by the Supreme Court, involves determining whether a work with questionable material has overall literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

The Lake County Library System has a selection policy that judges some work "primarily in terms of artistic merit, scholarship or documentation of the times." The policy also states that "selection decisions will not be limited by the possibility that materials may be accessible to children."

"Anytime a parent takes a child out, they are responsible for their children until they reach their age of majority," Library Services Director Wendy Breeden said. "We respect that right, and we encourage parents to exercise it."

The library system also allows parents to request restrictions on what their children can check out. Under the system, when a child with restricted access tries to check out something, a librarian gets an alert that outlines blocked materials.

The county attorney's office is determining whether librarians can impose such restrictions in the absence of a parent.

Elsewhere, Orange, Volusia and Osceola also have no restrictions on checkout items. In Polk, each library sets its own rules. Seminole does not carry DVDs or videos.

Karen Howard, chairwoman of the library advisory board, said that while the First Amendment and case law present compelling reasons to support the current policy, the primary issue before her was parental responsibility.

"If parents are not going to be happy with the materials at the library, they should take the bull by the horns," she said. "Go with your child."

Adrian G. Uribarri can be reached at auribarri@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5926.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter Mania Hits Tuolumne County Library

Saturday, July 21, 2007 - 07:00 AM

Sonora, Ca -- When the Tuolumne County Main Library opens at 10am this morning, the reading aloud of Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows will begin.

Members of the public are invited to share the passing around of one copy of the book, by reading aloud a sentence, a page, or a chapter, until the tale is told. The “read-a-thon” will run from 10am-4pm today, 1-3pm Sunday, and during regular business hours until the book is completed. Progress will be recorded on a countdown posted near the reading, which will list the time that each new chapter begins.

“This series has stimulated so much attention to reading for fun, reading by youth, and fantasy reading, that we just wanted to help promote the excitement,” says Director of Library Services Connie Corcoran. “The read-a-thon is our first endeavor to bring people of all ages together to share the joy of a single book at the same time.”

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Students of Their Times

To the Editor:

A librarian is quoted in your article, “A Hipper Crowd of Shushers,” as saying, “When I was in library school in the early ’80s, the students weren’t as interesting.”

Maybe that’s because it was the ’80s, not because they were library school students.

Beginning in the ’60s (way before Craigslist), my generation of librarians compiled databases of local resources, expanded music collections, wore miniskirts, fought censorship, danced to the Grateful Dead, published alternative magazines, smoked pot and had library contingents in peace marches.

We were as “with” our times as these kids are with theirs, and more power to them.

Nancy Schimmel

Berkeley, Calif.

The Essential Librarian

To the Editor:

As a young (though by no means hip) librarian, I feel as if I should be applauding your article highlighting the “new breed” of librarians.

However, I can’t help but notice that the media hardly ever point out the deeper, more important issues in librarianship: encouraging literacy, helping people bridge the digital divide and finding elusive bits of information that aren’t accessible to the average Googler.

Christine Borne

Jamaica, N.Y.

California Educators Help a Village Library in Burkina Faso

posted by birdie Last month, after a gale blew off the tin roof of the village library in Bereba, Burkina Faso, the librarian picked up her cell phone. Her plea for help almost immediately reached Michael Kevane, a Santa Clara University economics professor who founded the library. He approved the funds, and within three days the roof was replaced - a critical move because the rainy season had started. Linked by cell phones and e-mail, Kevane and his wife, SCU environmental studies professor Leslie Gray, fund and oversee libraries in seven West African villages. They're an example of how technology has revolutionized aid to the globe's most remote and impoverished areas. Story from the San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NYT Notices That Dewey's Gone

Jeff Topping for The New York Times

The Perry Branch Library in Gilbert, Ariz., is one of the country’s first to drop the Dewey Decimal System in favor of one familiar at big bookstores, where titles are shelved in subject-specific “neighborhoods.”

Published: July 14, 2007

GILBERT, Ariz. — Trying to build popularity, many public libraries across the country have been looking more like big chain bookstores, offering comfortable easy chairs, coffee bars and displays of the latest best sellers.

Skip to next paragraph
Jeff Topping for The New York Times

But the new library in this growing Phoenix suburb has gone a step further. It is one of the first in the nation to have abandoned the Dewey Decimal System of classifying books, in favor of an approach similar to that at Barnes & Noble, say, where books are shelved in “neighborhoods” based on subject matter.

It was Harry Courtright, director of the 15-branch Maricopa County Library District, who came up with the idea of a Dewey-less library. The plan took root two years ago after annual surveys of the district’s constituency found that most people came to browse, without a specific title in mind.

“The younger generation today is wired differently than people in my generation,” said Mr. Courtright, 69. “What that tells me is we as librarians have to look at how we present materials that we have for them the way they want it.”

So at the 24,000-square-foot Perry Branch, there is not a hint of a card catalog. (Mr. Courtright says most people do not know what the numbers mean anyway.) Visitors may instead search for books using an automated computer system, which classifies them by subject and author. Up to 50 items can be taken out, in a manner similar to self-checkout at a supermarket. And reference materials are just a click away in the computer databases.

Further, though the branch is part of a new high school, the atmosphere is not of a kind generally associated with much research. At its center are not books, or computers, or even a reference desk, but rather a cluster of pastel-colored couches and chairs. And while even chain bookstores still put out classics like “Jane Eyre,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Moby Dick” for summer display, at Perry such books have taken a back seat to Paris Hilton’s “Confessions of an Heiress,” a children’s book by the New York Yankee catcher Jorge Posada and Chris Gardner’s “Pursuit of Happyness.”

Many users of Perry, a 30,000-item branch surrounded by new subdivisions and by farmland ready for development in an area the Census Bureau calls the nation’s fastest-growing, seem very attracted to the new style.

But the attraction is hardly universal. On Web sites where librarians frequently post, the abandonment of Dewey has not been welcome. One blogger titled her entry “Heresy!” Another called the Perry Branch’s approach “idiotic.”

The Dewey Decimal System, invented in 1876 by Melvil Dewey, sought to categorize books by organizing all knowledge into 10 broad classes, with each class further broken down into 10 divisions and each division into 10 sections. For finding a specific title there is nothing like it, its supporters say, particularly since it is used all over the world. Though many college libraries use the Library of Congress system, for more than a century Dewey has been a mainstay in American public libraries, about 95 percent of which continue to rely on it.

The system does have its flaws, though, being limited in what it can do with subjects like cooking and travel, for instance, both of which happen to be popular at bookstores.

Further, noted Barbara Kwasnik, a professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, Dewey had a strong classification bias when it was created. There was an emphasis on topics like Christianity and American history, for example, and not enough on Eastern religions and on history outside of the American experience.

But Joan S. Mitchell, editor in chief of the Dewey Decimal Classification, the cooperative that administers the system, pointed out that Dewey had been revised 22 times to address such biases, most recently in 2004.

Ms. Mitchell also said she could not recall an earlier instance of an American public library’s totally abandoning Dewey or the Library of Congress system since she became editor of Dewey in 1993. Of Mr. Courtright, she said gently: “Perhaps he knows his library’s clientele and he’s meeting their needs. Libraries are always experimenting to meet the needs of its patrons.”

Her assessment, though, understates his goals. Throughout the recent annual convention of the American Library Association, in Washington, Mr. Courtright and 16 of his employees paraded around wearing and distributing eye-catching badges that bore the word “Dewey” encircled in red with a slash across the middle.

Though Mr. Courtright’s assault on Dewey was not an official topic at the convention this year — the association requires at least a year’s notice for such a designation — his intent is to have it discussed formally next year.

Does he think his approach could signal the death of Dewey in libraries across the nation?

“I think it could be,” Mr. Courtright said. “And it probably should be.”

On Google's Monetization of Libraries

By Rory Litwin

Google's announcement Monday (1) of plans to digitize millions of books in
the collections of the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, NYPL and
Oxford and to make them accessible through that ultra-simple search box is
causing a new outbreak of Google-fever, for which the cure is to remember
some of the principles of librarianship.

Already, Lynn Neary on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" (Dec. 15th) has framed
any potential criticism of this development as "sentimental" attachment to
brick-and-mortar libraries, but it is not sentimentality that sees the
dark side of this development. (2) It is a rational concern for the
preservation of a number of the attributes of libraries that give them
their inestimable value in a society that aspires to democracy and to the
full development of human potential. Google's back-room deal with these
universities (which was not worked out in cooperation with the library
community though it has implications for libraries as an institution)
carries with it a host of problems about which librarians should think
carefully before cheering for this corporate giant in its grand plan to
assimilate the world's cultural heritage.


Google co-founder Larry Page is cited in an article that appeared in
Tuesday's Information World Review as being a "firm believer in academic
libraries being able to 'monetise' the information they hold." (3) Paul
Courant, provost at the University of Michigan, is quoted in the Chronicle
of Higher Education as saying the project is worth "hundreds of millions"
of dollars to his University alone. (4) Google obviously considers that
kind of money to be a good investment, which means they expect many
hundreds of millions in revenue from these collections, through
advertising in the near term and probably other means in the longer term.
Already the Google Print (TM) service, of which this deal is to be a part,
provides links to booksellers as well as to libraries. Though they have
not announced plans to offer the full text of copyrighted materials on a
pay-per-view basis, with fees turned over to copyright owners, it is a
technical possibility with the natural force of an economic vacuum in the
corporate context. Logically it would seem to be only a matter of time
before this mode of access becomes a reality, providing a channel for
bypassing both public-interest information policies and the librarian's
professional service. The fact that Google is putting libraries "on page
A1 above the fold" (in the front page NY Times article), as Barbara Fister
put it in an email to COLLIB-L, is not a victory for libraries if the real
meaning of this development is simply the transfer of all of this
information out of our humanistic institution and into the marketplace.
The weighty, loveable, historic notion of "The Library" will doubtless be
prominent in Google's marketing of its great reservoir of text, but we
would be fooled to think it means that the values indicated by that word
(equity of access, collective ownership, privacy, organization,
bibliography, and librarianship as a profession) were somehow in play in
Google's collection. (Note how Google is already attempting to pander to
"sentimental" librarians: "Even before we started Google, we dreamed of
making the incredible breadth of information that librarians so lovingly
organize searchable online," Larry Page is quoted as saying in Google's
Dec. 14 press release. By implication, our "lovingness" only needs their
technology to be made useful, and our "loving organization" of those works
is ultimately unneeded.)

To spell out the obvious, what this development means is the
commercialization of the greatest research libraries in the world with a
handshake, suddenly and epochally (and not because of technological
inevitability - there are other ways that the digitization of these
collections could be handled). The commercialization of libraries has
implications both for the institution's democratic character and for the
quality of people's research. As Mark Rosenzweig wrote in an email
message to multiple lists on Wednesday,

"There is something mind-boggling about the ability of a single,
for-profit company being able to shape the future of a whole sphere
of life. Even more so when it enlists the cooperation of the public
stewards of that sphere in what amounts to a relinquishment of key
elements of responsibility to a unabashedly profit-driven

I want to examine a more closely the implications of the Googlization of
research libraries, with just the beginnings of the needed attention to
the loss of privacy, the introduction of commercial bias, questions about
democratization and equity of access, the issues of disintermediation, the
decontextualization of knowledge, and the closing of the information


The privacy of library users in their reading choices has long been held
sacred in the library world. (5) In this world, the privacy of individual
citizens is understood as a precondition for their autonomous development
and their freedom of thought. This is in contrast to the corporate world,
where information about individuals as consumers - demographic
information, interests, identities, choices - is a commodity that is
bought and sold for the purpose of gaining an advantage in the great game
of selling you more stuff (6). Individuals - treated as citizens by
libraries and as consumers by the corporate world - have their privacy at
stake in Google's conquest of the information commons. (7) As Peter
McDonald pointed out in an email to the Progressive Librarians Guild and
Social Responsibilities Round Table listservs on Tuesday, Google collects
a shocking amount of personal information as it tracks users' searches
over time (see Google-watch.org for details (8)). This personal
information can be correlated with individual identities with the
cooperation of ISP's or with commercial sites that share data. At
present, this identifying information isn't shared with Google, but the
potential and the motive are both there, and the public mood is complacent
compliant. Additionally, if Google itself decides to enter the business
of selling access to these works, it will have direct access to users'
identifying information which it would undoubtedly connect to collected
information on search patterns. While libraries and library vendors do a
certain amount of usage-tracking for statistical purposes themselves, the
strong privacy ethic in libraries militates against the misuse of this
information. For example, most public libraries have adopted a policy of
destroying personal information once it is no longer absolutely needed,
making it unavailable to intelligence agencies whose ability to demand it
has been bolstered by the USA PATRIOT Act. (9) If people are using Google
to search or access these millions of works, they may naturally expect
their privacy as readers and citizens to be respected just as it would be
in any library, when in actuality they are being treated as consumers and
data sources for the purpose of marketing and with the possibility of
political repression. When the ultimate of aim of the disposition of
these works shifts from that of enlightenment to that of making money,
privacy is one major value that is lost. The value of our privacy is not
a matter of mere "sentimentality" but is ultimately a protection of our

The bias introduced by commercialism

Some say, "What's wrong with advertisements? The business of America is
business, and companies have a right to promote their products. How else
would we find out about them?" We certainly agree, as a society, that
there is a large (apparently ever growing) place for advertisements in our
lives. But the field of research, scholarship and education has mostly
been off-limits to commercialism, for a simple reason. The aim of
research, scholarship and education is truth, and people sense correctly
that commercial interests have the potential to distort the discovery and
the spread of truth. To a large extent they already do, by funding
"friendly" researchers, suppressing research they don't like (10), by
directly spreading disinformation via the public relations industry (11),
by influencing journalism with advertising dollars (12), and by
influencing people directly with dishonest advertising. But however
compromised it may be, in the world of scholarship and education there is
a genuine culture of intellectual honesty that stems from the communal
project of seeking and spreading truth for the common good. You do not
see advertisements for particular historic works of literature in research
libraries, or for particular publishing companies. When a work appears in
a bibliography, it is there because of the independent judgment of a
scholar or a librarian as to the significance and the relevance of that
work; it is not there because somebody is trying to sell it and make money
from it. Libraries are full of "pointers" to information, in the form of
online catalogs, indexes, large and small bibliographies in books and
articles, web-based pathfinders and the personal interactions of
librarians and researchers. These "pointers" have the value that they do
in part because of the independent judgment behind them and the ability of
the professional to match the reader to the right book for them. When a
commercial element is added, the "right book" becomes "the book I want to
sell." The commercial interest is representing only itself while the
unbiased professional is under no pressure to favor any particular vendor
or publisher, and is therefore free to attend to the user's personal quest
for truth and their efforts to contribute to society's shared store of
knowledge. Truth-seekers outside of the context of educational
institutions have an equal interest in unbiased information undistorted by
commercial interests, but in the wider world they tend to be more
vulnerable to that distortion.

Google Print (TM), even in its introductory phase, plays a major role in
introducing advertising into the field of education, scholarship and
research, all the more so the more it attempts to enter the higher
education "market." At the present time Google claims not to allow
commercial interests to distort its search results (though many people,
noting the prominence of commercial clutter in their search results, are
skeptical of this). But Google's status as a private near-monopoly (in
certain respects) means that its reliably "clean" search results cannot be
guaranteed by any public policies and could be transformed into pure
e-commerce at any time. (If we find this alarming, I should point out, it
is not because of "sentimentality" but simply because of our strong
values. We should demand that these values be respected.)


Google is claiming that their digitization project promises to democratize
access to these collections of millions of works. I have to admit that
research libraries do not really represent paragons of democracy and are
not readily accessible to most people, and not only because of geographic
barriers. I also have to admit that to the extent that a person will be
able to freely download an out-of-copyright work that Google has scanned,
access to that particular work has been democratized, and I forgive even
librarians' excitement about this development. However, there is a deeper
sense in which Google's claim to represent the democratization of
information that is presently "locked up" in libraries is a reversal of
the truth, and that reversal is dependent upon what is ultimately an odd
sense of the meaning of democracy.

When these collections are digitized and made available through that simple
search box on the web, something very strange begins to happen. They
begin to take on the character of "stuff" in the same way that everything
else we download and view in web browsers has the character of
"stuff" (similarly to the way that money is "stuff"). There is a bleeding
of contexts; with no physical separation and everything on a flat plane,
there is little contextual separation between our browsing of personals
ads, our online banking, our travel reservations, our eBay, our comics,
our news and our Spinoza. All of these activities and contexts become
"democratized" in a certain sense, but not the sense we mean when we talk
about trying to build a democratic society. Web pages of 7000 words are
called "books" and look identical, or even more impressive, than true
online repositories of literature. The information carried by graphic
design has increasing importance, and may not bear any relation to truth.
The character of everything on the web becomes conditioned by the
character of the web itself, and the character of the web is strongly
determined by its overall consumer orientation and its relation to the
experience of shopping - seeing, choosing, and consuming. As the contents
of research libraries becomes "web content," the mode of the use of these
materials will be transformed according to the mode of use of the web
medium, which sees us skimming, jumping from point to point, impatient.
critical by reflex rather than by reflection, superficial and
narcissistic. In other words, the web medium tends to "dumb down" the use
of what is in it (a phenomenon that may be connected to the relationship
to the medium of television). Consumer society has indeed interpreted
democracy as something we increase as we dumb down mass media
communication and even the educational process in general. So while freer
access to out-of-copyright works is undeniably a democratic thing, we
should also pay attention to the underpinnings of that mode of access and
ask ourselves certain questions: What kind of use of these works is the
web medium itself is likely to encourage, that is, what does the
commercial web do to the nature of research and scholarship? And what
does that do to the character of our democracy? And how will these works
become connected, via a few short hyperlinks, to the distorting influence
of e-commerce?

Here is a less abstract question about how truly democratizing this project
will be: How long will it take before the copyright-protected works in
these collections are available on a pay-per-download basis, turning the
equity-of-access principle of libraries, which is what gives libraries
their essential democratic character, into the principle of access for
those who can afford it? Contrary to free-marketeers, who see the market
as the truest expression of democracy, there is a contradiction inherent
between the needs of democracy and the prerogatives of the market. The
notion of democracy assumes a rational polity, assumes that the
preconditions for an intelligent, thoughtful society exist, while the
market tends to nurture what is most stupid in people, preferring to fool
them rather than to help build independent minds. Transferring these
millions of works from research libraries, even ones at ivory-tower
institutions, into a commercial enterprise such as Google, which will make
money off of them in any way it can, is superficially democratizing but
deeply contrary to democracy's need for information in the public sphere,
as useful as it might be to the more fortunate among us who have the
ability to make use of it.

Disintermediation and decontextualization

Disintermediation, the substitution of "software solutions" for
professional services, has affected most areas of economic activity since
the start of the computer revolution, in librarianship no less than in any
other field. Information seekers often choose the convenience of the
internet over consultation with an information professional, or even the
consultation of a bibliography or an index. The stable exception, up to
this point, has been in the area of serious research of the kind that
requires the use of highly specialized writings, often including those
very old works. To access those materials, and to find them in their
proper context, a researcher needs to use a library and some of the many
research aids that are produced by librarians and scholars. Google's plan
will put those works in a giant bucket (so democratizingly) and enable you
to pull them out with keywords, kind of like catching fish with a net. So
much of this material requires expert knowledge even to comprehend, let
alone situate in its proper context, that disintermediated access can in
some cases be worse than no access at all.

At this point I should distinguish between disintermediation in general and
its specific manifestation in the Google search box. It is possible to
build quite a lot of knowledge into a search interace to an information
resource. Access to a thesaurus of the controlled vocabulary used by an
index can be connected to the search. Reverse-citation information can be
built into the display of search results, with linking provided. Multiple
search fields can take advantage of extensive cataloging. Even when all
of this work is done, the results for the searcher are dependent on her
own knowledge level and skill at searching, and many users go away
frustrated or go away happy with material that they don't realize is of
poor quality or not as relevant as it could be. This is the major problem
librarians face with the tools offered over the web by their own

With the Google interface the problems created by disintermediation reach a
new level, because years and years of careful organization of the
materials in question will be dissolved in favor of Google's relevance
ranking system, which treats every web page and every book in Google Print
(TM) outside of its original context, funneling them all through a single
keyword search. (That librarians may have done that organizational work
"lovingly," as Larry Page put it, is irrelevant and a trivializing thing
to say, if it could even be known. More to the point is that this
organizational work was done with the aim of providing access in a
meaningful way.)

There is no accommodation, in the Google world, for the myriad scholarly as
well as popular jargon and dialects even within single subject areas,
which is especially significant when works spanning hundreds of years are
in the mix, a situation that leads to a loss of recall as searches based
on idiosyncratic keywords miss relevant works that use other terms, and a
loss of relevance as works are picked up that use the same keywords in
totally different ways. This is part of the reason that subject
cataloging and indexing is useful and worth the time of professional
catalogers and indexers.

In the Google world, there is no real intelligence determining what
documents (or books) are going to be the most helpful to an information
seeker, according to their intellectual problem and their knowledge
background. Making that determination is not a simple thing; it requires
knowledge of intellectual disciplines, an ability to understand people
well, and a creative mind. Keyword searches can be useful in certain
contexts, but a single keyword search for what is offered as a "whole
universe" is no substitute for a reference librarian, no matter how
sophisticated the search engine. (To say that librarians are "the most
effective search engines yet invented," as John's Hopkins University
President William Brody wrote recently (13) is quite demeaning to
librarians, for whom search engines are only one brainless tool in a large
tool set.) This is one of the reasons libraries employ professional
reference librarians to help people with their information needs.

The organization of information in a library, through its catalogs,
indexes, and numerous bibliographical sources, is not something to be
regarded as having mainly a sentimental value. It is incredibly
practical. The "bucket effect" of dumping millions of texts into a
database searchable only by keywords, no matter how sophisticated the
search engine, represents a major loss of value if access to those works
via Google is compared to access through a library.

I am not forgetting that these research libraries will retain ownership of
the original works, and will also own digital copies of the works that
they will be able to share in any way that they like, which I concede will
be a major benefit of the deal. Realistically, however, as Marc Meola
pointed out on COLLIB-L on Wednesday, information seekers will probably
just "Google it," trusting an algorithm and thinking they are searching
the universe, even more than they do already.


A member of the livejournal community "libraries" posted a link to the New
York Times article Tuesday, commenting, "We're not being taken over, we're
just becoming the greatest information conglomerate of all time." (14)
This illustrates the confusion of so many internet librarians who identify
with "the Web." "The Web" is not us; it is a medium with its own effects.
And Google is not us. Google is not staffed by librarians, and does not
operate according to policies that flow out of long traditions of library
practice guaranteeing privacy, equity of access, collective ownership of
information, information in context, and personal service. This project,
as Larry Page has already put it, is about monetizing the holdings of
research libraries. It is about commercializing library collections that
it has taken centuries to build. It may be the "greatest information
conglomerate of all time," but it is not us. We are nowhere in it; we do
not control it or even influence it. We may be invited to imagine that it
is "us," that it is "a library" or even that it is "Library," and we may
be flattered by the attention, but we should take care to remember what
librarianship means in contradistinction to commercialized information, to
remember the difference between individuals-as-citizens and
individuals-as-consumers and to remember that as librarians we are public
stewards of the information commons and have an obligation to preserve and
protect it. And, to say it one last time, we must not let anyone write
off these concerns as "sentimental." They are not; what they are is
simply values-driven.

Now, I suspect that there is no stopping this (though the project is likely
to be a great deal more difficult than Google anticipates), and I know that
there is no hope of nationalizing Google as a public monopoly, and no hope
of raising comparable public funds for a similarly massive public
digitization project, at least not the way things are going right now.
I also know that in ten years time I will most likely be making good use
of some of the material in Google Print (TM); I don't think I will boycott
it. But I hope that by articulating these problems (most of which relate
more to general trends than to Google specifically) I can help to advance a
critical perspective that will allow us to at least see clearly and to be
of use when crucial questions arise where the public interest is at stake.



Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2007 08:35:57 -0500
From: Paul Bramscher
Subject: Re: [A-librarians] Google digitization
To: Anarchist and Radical Librarians

Message-ID: <469cc5bd.8070702@comcast.net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed

I work at the University of Minnesota Libraries, which was one of the
CIC institutions to sign on to the Googlization. I wrote a blog entry
about it here:

The main points I want to emphasis in the blog entry:

1) The decision was made in a complete vacuum at my institution -- even
the people involved in the decision weren't named. So, given the lack
of professional/intellectual/technical/technological/scholarly input in
the handover to Google, we're left to conclude that this was strictly
top-down autocratic deal-making. And since the process was autocratic,
we might expect the results to produce more of the same. The lack of
transparency is pretty creepy -- it was totally black-box.

2) The Google digitization is little more than another example of the
great sell-off of the public domain to the private sector, and the sell
off of public service/occupations as well. You'll note that many of the
currently scanned Google books have fingers, even whole fists, etc. in
some of the images. It appears to be a highly manual process, they even
tried to white-out some of the thumbs. I've calculated that they must
have ~100-200 employees working around the clock.

3) The contract has a double indemnification clause in it, and the
libraries don't even know the details of how the scanning works.

4) Also, Google gets to keep books on the near-horizon of public domain
in escrow indefinitely.

So, for all we know, the scanning of CIC materials is done in an Asian

So it's pretty interesting when you think about it. We've got over a
century of public libraries, and perhaps 2 centuries of academic
libraries in public or at least scholarly curatorial domain. Instead of
hiring a team of student workers, clerical workers, etc. they've
outsourced the job to god-knows-where, and transferred the
role/history/soul of libraries to the private sector.

I'm sure glad my degree was in CSci and not library science -- at the
rate top library managers are selling out the institution as even a
concept, I doubt there will be much left in 10 years.

Paul Bramscher
Web Applications Developer
Digital Library Development Lab
University of Minnesota Libraries

A Long Look @ Service Oriented Library Systems

In my three (1 2 3) SOLS posts I have provided a basic introduction to SOA and how it can be applied to the development of the next generation of library systems.

Historically, library information systems solutions have been built (almost) exclusively by vendors. While some libraries do build their own systems or use open source solutions, the large majority still rely upon vendors. Most of our challenges in implementing SOA are the direct result of this decision.

Commercial software developers rarely develop new products until they find a critical mass of users since they need to recoup development costs and make a profit at the same time in order to survive. The relatively limited size of the library system market makes it a difficult one for new vendors to enter. This means libraries have few choices when choosing software solutions and few libraries will switch once a significant investment in licensing, maintaining, and training support. When a library becomes so dependent on a vendor for products and services and cannot move to another vendor without substantial costs, whether real or perceived.

The first challenge to adopting SOA is that library systems vendors have created an effective paradigm that many libraries cannot afford to break away from. The vendors of key library systems understand the lock in phenomenon and libraries let them get away with it.

Many library vendors, if not most, build their solutions upon proprietary architectures. Some vendors are beginning to build their systems around some of the principles of SOA. Still, the core of what makes SOA work - the API - remains one of their their most tightly guarded core intellectual properties and revenue streams. The vendors place a death grip on those very APIs which would allow libraries to create SOLS using services provided by disparate systems.

The lack of compatibility between different library systems intentionally or unintentionally forces a customer to continue to use products and services from a particular vendor. Developers may design their products so that replacement parts or add-on enhancements must be purchased from the same manufacturer, rather than from a third party. Developers may also build in incompatibility between versions of their systems to force customers to upgrade.

The second challenge to adopting SOA is that the lack of compatibility and the API licensing fees charged to developers to create compatible products - required in SOA - creates a barrier for new vendors trying to enter the market for a particular library system. If the costs of entry or compatibility are great enough an effective monopoly can be maintained.

Libraries have built entire resource sharing networks around single vendor solutions. This results in a de facto standards. De facto library system standards are those which have been accepted for practical purposes by a significant proportion of the marketplace. What comes to mind is a significant library Internet document delivery network based on a product who's name is now a verb.

The third challenge to adopting SOA is that for work flow or legacy reasons we continue to support single vendor supplier solutions. In doing so, we create an environment where library products do not have to keep up with current technology needs, service support that does not meet expectations, and systems that will not allow for the adoption of SOA.

When one steps back and looks at it, we have nobody to blame for outdated library information systems or our inability to more readily adopt SOA except for ourselves. We keep licensing these products at a time when the number alternative approaches available to libraries has never been greater.

In the last posting in these services (no. 5) I will provide some closing remarks and observations.


Part One: Introduction

Part Two: What We Have Today

Part Three: Where Are We Heading?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Birth of a Colbert Nation

"Actually, I'd buy it first. And then I'd read it. No libraries, okay? Libraries are for cowards. No free rides. The book is for heroes, and the heroes are the people who buy the book. Don't lend the book."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Hipper Crowd of Shushers

ON a Sunday night last month at Daddy’s, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, more than a dozen people in their 20s and 30s gathered at a professional soiree, drinking frozen margaritas and nibbling store-bought cookies. With their thrift-store inspired clothes and abundant tattoos, they looked as if they could be filmmakers, Web designers, coffee shop purveyors or artists.

When talk turned to a dance party the group had recently given at a nearby restaurant, their profession became clearer.

“Did you try the special drinks?” Sarah Gentile, 29, asked Jennifer Yao, 31, referring to the colorfully named cocktails.

“I got the Joy of Sex,” Ms. Yao replied. “I thought for sure it was French Women Don’t Get Fat.”

Ms. Yao could be forgiven for being confused: the drink was numbered and the guests had to guess the name. “613.96 C,” said Ms. Yao, cryptically, then apologized: “Sorry if I talk in Dewey.”

That would be the Dewey Decimal System. The groups’ members were librarians. Or, in some cases, guybrarians.

“He hates being called that,” said Sarah Murphy, one of the evening’s organizers and a founder of the Desk Set, a social group for librarians and library students.

Ms. Murphy was speaking of Jeff Buckley, a reference librarian at a law firm, who had a tattoo of the logo from the Federal Depository Library Program peeking out of his black T-shirt sleeve.

Librarians? Aren’t they supposed to be bespectacled women with a love of classic books and a perpetual annoyance with talkative patrons — the ultimate humorless shushers?

Not any more. With so much of the job involving technology and with a focus now on finding and sharing information beyond just what is available in books, a new type of librarian is emerging — the kind that, according to the Web site Librarian Avengers, is “looking to put the ‘hep cat’ in cataloguing.”

When the cult film “Party Girl” appeared in 1995, with Parker Posey as a night life impresario who finds happiness in the stacks, the idea that a librarian could be cool was a joke.

Now, there is a public librarian who writes dispatches for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a favored magazine of the young literati. “Unshelved,” a comic about librarians — yes, there is a comic about librarians — features a hipster librarian character. And, in real life, there are an increasing number of librarians who are notable not just for their pink-streaked hair but also for their passion for pop culture, activism and technology.

“We’re not the typical librarians anymore,” said Rick Block, an adjunct professor at the Long Island University Palmer School and at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science, both graduate schools for librarians, in New York City.

“When I was in library school in the early ’80s, the students weren’t as interesting,” Mr. Block said.

Since then, however, library organizations have been trying to recruit a more diverse group of students and to mentor younger members of the profession.

“I think we’re getting more progressive and hipper,” said Carrie Ansell, a 28-year-old law librarian in Washington.

In the last few years, articles have decried the graying of the profession, noting a large percentage of librarians that would soon be retiring and a seemingly insurmountable demand for replacements. But worries about a mass exodus appear to have been unfounded.

Michele Besant, the librarian at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the Association of Library and Information Science statistics show a steady increase in library information science enrollments over the last 10 years. Further, at hers and other schools there is a trend for students to be entering masters programs at a younger age.

The myth prevails that librarians are becoming obsolete. “There’s Google, no one needs us,” Ms. Gentile said, mockingly, over a drink at Daddy’s.

Still, these are high-tech times. Why are people getting into this profession when libraries seem as retro as the granny glasses so many of the members of the Desk Set wear?

“Because it’s cool,” said Ms. Gentile, who works at the Brooklyn Museum.

Ms. Murphy, 29, thinks so, too. An actress who had long considered library school, Ms. Murphy finally decided to sign up after meeting several librarians — in bars.

“People I, going in, would never have expected were from the library field,” she said. “Smart, well-read, interesting, funny people, who seemed to be happy with their jobs.”

Maria Falgoust, 31, is also a founder of Desk Set, which took its name from the 1957 Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy romantic comedy. A student who works part time at the library at Saint Ann’s School, she was inspired to become a librarian by a friend, a public librarian who works with teenagers and goes to rock shows regularly.

Since matriculating to Palmer, Ms. Falgoust has met plenty of other like-minded librarians at places such as Brooklyn Label, a restaurant, and at Punk Rope, an exercise class. “They’re everywhere you go,” she said.

Especially in Greenpoint, where Ms. Murphy and Ms. Falgoust live about 10 blocks from each other and where there are, Ms. Falgoust said, about 13 other librarians in the neighborhood.

How did such a nerdy profession become cool — aside from the fact that a certain amount of nerdiness is now cool? Many young librarians and library professors said that the work is no longer just about books but also about organizing and connecting people with information, including music and movies.

And though many librarians say that they, like nurses or priests, are called to the profession, they also say the job is stable, intellectually stimulating and can have reasonable hours — perfect for creative types who want to pursue their passions outside of work and don’t want to finance their pursuits by waiting tables. (The median salary for librarians was about $51,000 in 2006, according to the American Library Association-Allied Professional Organization.)

“I wanted to do something different, something maybe more meaningful,” said Carrie Klein, 36, who used to be a publicist for a record label and for bands such as Radiohead and the Foo Fighters, but is now starting a new job in the library at Entertainment Weekly.

Michelle Campbell, 26, a librarian in Washington, said that librarianship is a haven for left-wing social engagement, which is particularly appealing to the young librarians she knows. “Especially those of us who graduated around the same time as the Patriot Act,” Ms. Campbell said. “We see what happens when information is restricted.”

Ms. Campbell added that she became a librarian because it “combined a geeky intellectualism” with information technology skills and social activism.

Jessamyn West, 38, an editor of “Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out” a book that promotes social responsibility in librarianship, and the librarian behind the Web site librarian.net (its tagline is “putting the rarin’ back in librarian since 1999”) agreed that many new librarians are attracted to what they call the “Library 2.0” phenomenon. “It’s become a techie profession,” she said.

In a typical day, Ms. West might send instant and e-mail messages to patrons, many of who do their research online rather than in the library. She might also check Twitter, MySpace and other social networking sites, post to her various blogs and keep current through MetaFilter and RSS feeds. Some librarians also create Wikis or podcasts.

At the American Librarian Association’s annual conference last month in Washington, there were display tables of graphic novels, manga and comic books. In addition to a panel called “No Shushing Required,” there were sessions on social networking and zines and one called “Future Friends: Marketing Reference and User Services to Generation X.”

On a Saturday, after a day of panels, a group of librarians relaxed and danced at Selam Restaurant. Sarah Mercure nursed a blueberry vodka and cranberry juice and talked about deciding on her career after hearing a librarian who curated a zine collection speak. Pete Welsch, a D.J., spun records and talked about how his interest in social activism, film and music led him to library school.

But some librarians have found the job can be at odds with their outside cultural interests.

“I went to see a band a few weeks ago with old co-workers and turned to one and said ‘Is it just me or is this really, really loud?’ ” said Ms. Klein, the former publicist. Her friend, she said, “laughed and said, ‘You have librarian ears now.’ ”

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rosseau Library accepts books and beer bottle returns


Area residents can now take empty beer, wine and liquor bottles to the Rosseau Library.

The project gives Rosseau-area residents a place this summer to take their empties – not currently available in the village – and helps the library raise money by returning the bottles for deposit.

Although taking a liquor bottle to the neighbourhood library seems contradictory, library board and Friends of the Library member Fred Neal said it's another service the library can perform for the community.

Also, the initiative acts as a fundraiser and a conduit to showcase the library and its services to area residents, said library officials.

"Some people might find out there's a whole world to explore and (just) hadn't stopped in before," said library board member Jack Hepworth.

Library access

He said that those dropping off the beer, wine and liquor bottles could make suggestions of resources they'd like to have access to at the library.

Library staff member Kelly Collard came up with the idea recently and the library board approved it last week.

"You know why I thought it would be great, because we're kitty-corner to the liquor store," said Ms Collard.

The first bottle collection day was slated for June 30, during the village garage sale, with subsequent collections on Fridays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. during the Uptown Market, while the library sells used books on the front yard of the Memorial Hall.

Also, Ms Collard said, representatives may go out and pick up bottles from residents, even from island homes.

With a case of 24 beer fetching a $2.40 return, Ms Collard said she expects to raise at least $24 each Friday this summer.

"That's a couple hundred dollars and I think that's a really low estimate," she said.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Libraries go digital to serve patrons at home

WASHINGTON — Card-holders at thousands of libraries nationwide are borrowing books, movies, audio books and music for free 24-7 without leaving home. And they never pay late fees.

The secret is that their libraries subscribe to new digital-media collections from which patrons download materials to their home computers. All they need to access the material is free software that their library provides.

What's available varies from hundreds to thousands of titles, depending on how many a library has purchased from its digital media-collection company. The two leaders, which are wooing librarians nationwide for their business, are OverDrive, based in Cleveland, and MyLibraryDV, based in Prince Frederick, Md.

The systems enable libraries to expand their offerings - and their timeliness - without having to store the titles physically or hire more staff. In addition, librarians hope that digital home borrowing will attract young computer-savvy patrons who rarely come through their doors.

"Our customer-service model is changing," said Glenna Rhodes, electronic resource librarian at the Boise (Idaho) Public Library. "We can no longer be a brick building. To support the new technological generation, we have to go where they are."

As Ruth Lednicer, the director of marketing at the Chicago Public Library, put it, "We have 79 physical locations but refer to our Web site as our 80th branch."

OverDrive offers more than 100,000 titles, including Oprah's Book Club selections and books from The New York Times' lists of bestsellers. MyLibraryDV, which is just getting under way, promises 1,500 feature movies - foreign and domestic - plus TV series such as "Antiques Roadshow" and "Rick Steves' Europe."

In most cases, an unlimited number of borrowers can check out titles simultaneously.

Picking titles is as easy as online shopping; patrons click "add to cart" to borrow an item.

A program that piggybacks on downloaded offerings erases them from the borrower's home computer after seven to 14 days, depending on the library's policy.

The cost to libraries depends on the number of digital titles it acquires and the number of potential borrowers.

The State Library of Kansas, an OverDrive subscriber, made 3,463 titles - including 2,442 audio books - available to any resident of the state in 2006, the first year of its program. Giving the state's 1.5 million residents access to the system costs $25,000 a year. Kansas also paid a onetime cost of $10 to $100 per title. That cost the state $160,000 more.

It's been a hit, said Eric Gustafson, the state library's technical consultant.

"We have gotten a lot of positive buzz," he said. "Users really enjoy having access to audio books they can download from anywhere in the state at any time."

Borrower numbers reflect the success. "Most libraries are happy if a book circulates five times," said Patti Butcher, the director of statewide resource-sharing for the Kansas system. "Our digital titles have been checked out an average of 11 times over the past year."

In the month of June, she reported, 1,285 people used the service, including 481 first-timers. Downloads totaled 4,225 titles.

Many of the new borrowers live far from libraries, Butcher suspects. "We believe these services increase library use in rural areas because people can easily borrow from home."

There've also been complaints, however.

Because the files are huge, downloading almost requires broadband access. Only a fifth of U.S. households have it, according to a survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In addition, current systems are designed for PCs, not Macs. This means that iPods can't play borrowed music or titles. Also, digital borrowing does nothing for the tens of millions of U.S. households without home computers.

For all these reasons, libraries that add digital services continue to maintain physical collections for electronically disadvantaged borrowers.

Asked about his product's incompatibility with Macs, Brian Downing, MyLibraryDV's publisher, said it was a small problem. "We are pleased to be compatible with 93 percent of the market share," he said, referring to the PC's dominance of the home-computer industry.

He added: "Libraries are about being a focal point of the community. If this service helps people realize the value of the library, then we will be pleased with that."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Librarians answer critical health questions

posted by tangognat

Anonymous Patron writes "Skeptical Medical Reference: Helping Patrons Find Critical Resources for Consumer Health Issues. With the popularization of the Internet, there has been a vast proliferation of consumer health material available to the public. Unfortunately, this has only accelerated a pre-existing trend- the fact that much of the material made available is unproven, unreliable, or outright fraud. This requires librarians to make a choice: are they passive and uncritical dispensers of information or are they critical educators who help patrons choose the best information available? In this article we examine the issues facing librarians in this matter and present skeptical materials that may help librarians to answer critical health questions. From Library Philosophy and Practice"