Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When the law is not the law

Libraries are involved with patron's personal information, we all know that. We know who has what book checked out, and in many system there is a record of who has read what, used which computer, etc. Even when there are no physical records, this information can still exist in the form of logs, computer related information that is carried over for a period of time (cookies, etc.), and when books are checked out of a State libraries the records may exist outside the library where the materials were accessed even if that library does not keep records itself once the materials have been returned. It's just a fact of life.

There are laws in place to protect us, the public, from abuse of those in power when it comes to these records. And, while they are certainly not perfect, from from so since 2001, they are still the law, and this is a land of law and order based on those laws - or so we are told. In certain circumstances, people in positions of authority know that if they use their influence to coerce members of the public to abandon their rights, they will often get compliance despite their request being illegal. It happens all the time.

This story explains how this situation came to pass in a library - a situation revolving around the USA PATRIOT act, or so the people in question were told. FBI agents came into the library, asked to see records without a court order (which is required, even under the so called PATRIOT act), and fortunately in this case, the librarian they were questioning knew something of his rights and refused them. According to this article, this sort of illegal action by the FBI has happened over 1000 times.

The article then reviews the court actions that culminated in the Supreme Court ruling that the entire security letter provision of the PATRIOT act was unconstitutional and therefore invalid. The Bush administration has appealed the decision and at the time of this writing there has been no further ruling on this case. The idea that people will forfeit their rights under pressure is something that we should all be concerned about - it affects us all. If enough people forfeit their rights enough times, it will be very easy to adjust the laws to compensate and we will all lose those rights without a fight. We must all be aware and on guard at all times for abuse.

Further reading:

The original article

The White Houses' USA PATRIOT act website

Wikipedia's page on the act, which may give an alternate point, or points, of view

The ACLU's page on the act

Search Engine Optimization and User Behavior

Synopsis: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the craft of elevating websites or individual website pages to higher rankings on search engines through programming, marketing, or content acumen. This article covers the origins of SEO, strategies and tactics, history and trends, and the evolution of user behavior in online searching.

What Are Your Librarian Favorite Blogs? Put Them On The Blogs To Read In 2009 List!

Walt's Post reminded me it's never too early to start thinking about 10 Blogs To Read in 2009. Well, ok, so maybe there was a time it was too early, but that time has passed. Let's start thinking about our favorite blogs.

What blogs do you read every day? What blogs help you learn? What blogs keep you informed? What blogs make you laugh? Who's the best writer out there?

When building my list, I like to think of it this way: 'I read many others, but these are the LIS blogs that read even when time is short'

Your list doesn't need to be complete or fair. I'm looking for input from as many people as possible so the final list doesn't miss anyone new or overlooked. My goal again this year, 10 blogs that, when followed as a group, paint a complete picture of what's going on in our little world.

Before your nominate, take a look at past winners, they aren't eligible for 2009:

10 Blogs To Read in 2006

10 Blogs To Read In 2007

The LISNews 10 Blogs To Read In 2008

You can leave a comment below, hit the contact form, or send an email to btcarver at the lisnews.COM domain.

A chance to participate!

The Office for Intellectual Freedom is beginning to compile it's list of book challenges for his year, 2008. Please follow the link below if you would like to participate. I strongly encourage anyone who has access to these figures to take part in the list. Actions of this sort help sustain the neutrality of our libraries by ensuring that undue pressure to censor library materials does not compromise our free access to information.

Participate here!

Banned books list from 2007

Banned books list from 2006

Banned books list from 2005

Book Causes Parental Stir in Florida

TAVARES (FL) -- A book in a middle school library already has upset one parent. David Myers, of Tavares, brought the book "Me, Penelope" to school board members Monday and read a sexually explicit passage involving a 16-year-old girl.

Myers' 12 year old daughter, a student at Tavares Middle School, checked the book out after getting permission from the librarian, he said.

"I'm to the point right now where I'm about ready to pull my daughter out and start signing the check to private school," Myers said. "But 95 percent of the parents of the kids that go to these schools can't do that."

Sun and Google Issue Security Alerts

ZDNet has two posts at its Zero Day blog on software vulnerabilities. Sun Microsystems has noted that an overflow issue related to handling WMF and EMF files is impacting StarOffice. Google issued a release that was also picked up at the Zero Day blog about a possible data theft vulnerability in Chrome.

High School Knitters & Librarian Help Infants in the Developing World

Some students at Lower Cape May Regional High School (LCMR) are picking up a new hobby and saving lives. The NJ school’s knitting club kicked off this fall when Art Teacher Susan Wolfe and Librarian Tish Carpinelli invited skilled and novice knitters to the library to learn about and improve their knitting skills while making caps that can help save the lives of babies in the developing world.

Simple health measure are the key to saving many of these children: antibiotics to fight infections, training for skilled birth attendants, immunizations, on education on breastfeeding and basic care such as drying a newborn baby and keeping it warm. (That’s where the hats come in.) The program is Save the Children's Knit One Save One.

The program has attracted knitters from around the world, including high profile knitters like actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Debra Messing and about two dozens LCMR students. Just a few students showed up for the first meeting, but the excitement spread (fueled by Wolfe’s homemade cookies), and more students are participating every week. Story from Cape May County Herald. Sounds like a great activity!

Librarian's Widow Wins Damages

Lakewood NJ: The Board of Education has agreed to pay $32,500 to settle a lawsuit brought by the widow of a former librarian whom she said died partly because of harassment from his co-workers and superiors.

Cheryl A. Watson, in her complaint filed with the state Superior Court in April 2007, claimed Assistant Superintendent Joseph C. Attardi, Assistant Principal Anne D. Luick, teacher and librarian Roz Renner, and other school officials discriminated against her late husband, George Watson Jr., because of his race and disabilities.

Barney Rosset to be honored by the National Book Foundation

"On the Media" on NPR had this story:

In 1951, Grove Press was a tiny, almost-defunct publisher with just three titles in its catalogue. But then Barney Rosset took over and, with a few choice books, helped push America past its Puritanical roots and into the sexual revolution. Rosset, who will be honored by the National Book Foundation on November 19th, spoke with us at his home in Greenwich Village.

Listen to full story here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Something to consider - Google and the library

While reading up for my last post I found this article, which discusses Google's intent to manage %100 of the information in the world. Now, I'm sure that some people who read this post are going to think that this is about how evil Google is, but I do not intend that to be the main point of this post. As with my other post regarding Google, I simply want to bring all aspects of the situation to light to counter the heavy boosterism that seems to override issues regarding Google, especially in relation to libraries. It has been my understanding that the library was a place where people could go to get unbiased access to information on any subject, well, any legal subject, as outlined in a number of documents associated with libraries, such as the ALA Library Bill of Rights and the Intellectual Freedom Manual.

My problem with the mission of Google is twofold, one, their goal is similar to that of libraries, and while libraries routinely encounter shortages of funds, Google has not, which creates a situation where one endeavor may be seen as adequate, Google, enough that no libraries are really needed anymore. And two, Google is a for profit corporation beholden to it's shareholders, where libraries belong to the communities which they serve. How can we expect the same level of rights from a private company, who's driving force is the accumulation of profit and who's customer base is selected by people who have no personal connection with the community they serve, that we get from libraries?

You may ask, why does Google have to work in opposition to libraries? Have they not worked with libraries to expand the amount of information available today? Indeed they have. They have worked with the Harvard Libraries to digitize a great deal of information that was previously unavailable. Yet, this work has not been without controversy. Many authors have sued Google to protect their rights, and Google's presentation of the scanned materials is not access to the complete book, as many seem to think – it shows only a limited amount of information from the book, not the entire book.

Why is this a problem? some might ask. Well, when you read a book, do you just open it to the index, find the section with the word that you are looking for, and then just read the sentences surrounding that word? I would think that few people do this – I know that I don't. So how much information is really being made available, and how much advertising revenue is being gained by a Google? And how much of that revenue does the library get? How is it better to use this resource if only parts of each book are made available to those searching online for information when the entire work is available through the library? Sure, it may get to you faster, but does convenience really equate to quality? I think not, at least for me.

My primary fear is that the perception created by Google's efforts that information is readily available will result in a further perception by the general public, who do not fully understand the value added benefits of libraries and librarians, that libraries are deprecated, and that public support will falter, resulting in still further reductions in library funding. In addition, I fear that, with the added competition to libraries, the selection of materials will no longer be as unbiased, due to the economic pressure that commercial ventures like Google are susceptible to, resulting in a loss of free access to all information in favor of free access to popular information. The library offers more than books and magazines, more than a place to access the Internet. The library is a bastion of freedoms and rights, and we should always keep that in mind as a comparison to anyone offering similar functions so that we maintain a clear picture of what is and what is promised...

Is the Internet The Start of History?

Philosophically inclined to view the arrival of the internet as the 'beginning of history'? Here's a column by Calvin Ross of the Napa Valley Register which views the internet as a critical mileage marker of civilization.

From the article: "I’d like to propose my own theory that the Internet may in fact be a kind of new beginning of history, if one thinks of history as the chronicling of human events and accomplishments.

I marvel that we know anything at all about history and even prehistory — that period before writing was developed — and I have the greatest respect for historians, archeologists, anthropologists and librarians who have built and maintained the public records and archives that comprise our knowledge of human and natural events.

I am, however, suggesting that since the advent of the Internet the record of human events is extraordinarily more dense and complete than ever before, and there’s every reason to believe that from now on the record of human achievement will be chronicled on a massive scale. Until the end of time we will have access to more ways of learning about who we are and where we have been."

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Electronic Wasteland - 60 Minutes Story (shocking)

60 Minutes has a very interesting piece called The Electronic Wasteland
that is about what happens to the computers, cell phones, etc... that are thrown away. Many end up in one very toxic town in China.

Libraries discard numerous computers and we have a responsibility to make sure that they are not part of the suffering shown in this 60 Minute piece.

You can view the 60 Minutes story here.

Sizing Up the Long Tail of Search

by Blake

Assuming the tail doesn’t begin until term 18, the head and body together only account for 3.25% of all search traffic! In fact, the top terms don’t account for much traffic:

• Top 100 terms: 5.7% of the all search traffic
• Top 500 terms: 8.9% of the all search traffic
• Top 1,000 terms: 10.6% of the all search traffic
• Top 10,000 terms: 18.5% of the all search traffic