November 29, 2007

or whatever

Obviously the analogy I suggested yesterday for encouraging undergrads to use library resources instead of Google has problems. (It was, “Why eat at McDonalds when you can eat at a five star restaurant for free?”) Objections had to do with the fact that many students like McDonalds and want their info fast and in a form that goes right through them, and wouldn’t have time to eat at a five star restaurant anyway. This is all true, but I think students would get the point of the analogy nevertheless. And regarding the impatience of students, the hurry that they are in… I’m not sure that we need to accept this, entirely, as a given, as a fact about the world, but can also treat it as a an aspect of our students’ need to be educated into what it means to be lifelong learners. Sometimes there is no substitute for patience, and there are things that can’t be had without it.

But… Here’s a question for discussion…. What do you say to students who want to search like this?

In These Times on library privatization

There’s a good little article in the new issue of In These Times on privatization of core library services and functions: “Public Libraries for Profit,” by Akito Yoshikane. Though it’s brief it hits the essential points about privatization and libraries: private, for-profit businesses lack accountability to communities and lack the commitment to intellectual freedom and support for democracy that people associate with public libraries. Yoshikane is exactly right to point out that even if you’re opposed to knee jerk reactions against privatization, privatization of a library’s janitorial services or photocopying is a different matter from privatization of cataloging or management. Public entities, especially small, community based ones like public libraries, are shaped by their accountability to their communities, through boards of trustees which hold public meetings. For-profit companies, in addition to lacking that kind of accountability, have a different reason for being in the first place. Kudos to In These Times for taking up this issue. It is nice to see our issues raised in the public sphere and not limited to our own professional groups.

Thanks to Jonathan Betz-Zall for sharing this link with the ALA Council list.

November 28, 2007

An analogy for undergrads

Here’s a quick analogy for undergrads who want to just use Google for their research papers:

“Why eat at McDonalds when you can eat for free at the five star restaurant of your choice?”

November 27, 2007

Siva Vaidhyanathan’s Googlization blog

I am remiss not to have mentioned Siva Vaidhyanathan‘s new blog about Google and the implications of their projects: The Googlization of Everything. It’s really top notch commentary on Google, with further depth, detail and comprehensiveness than is usually found in a blog. Note that Siva says it is a book in progress.

November 22, 2007


Notwithstanding today’s earlier post and many other posts here about what is wrong in the world of information, I’d like to observe American Thanksgiving by noting that we have much to be thankful for. I think it’s right to say that our criticism of things that are happening in the information sphere tends to be based on a set of very high professional and ethical standards, and I think this is itself something to be thankful for. Think of how cynical we are NOT! Think of how much librarianship remains guided by a set of ideals. It can’t be said of many other areas of activity in society. If it weren’t for these living ideals, which I think shape what libraries are and what librarians do to a great extent, we would not be so self-critical within the information sphere. I think we can be thankful that librarianship as a profession exists, that libraries exist, and that we guide both according to a set of values and ideals that the contemporary world challenges us to maintain. I think we can be thankful for each other, for our predecessors, and also for the library users who keep us going.

Ok, I just had to say that. Back to some yummy noshing….

NEA study: all types of reading in decline

Remember the National Endowment for the Arts study on reading in 2004, the one that noted a sharp decline in literary reading? One of the implicit causes was that computer use has distracted people from reading, so a natural response in the blogosphere was that the study was flawed for only looking at literary reading (novels) rather than non-fiction, and all of the kinds of reading people do on their computers and throughout the day.

Well, the NEA has just released a follow up study that finds that the decline in reading applies to all types of reading, not just literary reading, and that it is worse than they had thought.

“The new NEA study is the first to bring together reliable, nationally representative data, including everything the federal government knows about reading,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “This study shows the startling declines, in how much and how well Americans read, that are adversely affecting this country’s culture, economy, and civic life as well as our children’s educational achievement.”

I am curious about something… Maybe some of my Canadian readers can answer… Is Canada seeing the same problem? When I think about Canada versus the U.S., I tend to think that Canada is where the future lies. Natural resources, education, population size, global warming, a more civilized culture, smarter policies, better international relations, better government spending priorities… It all seems to add up to a brighter future north of the border. So I’m wondering if the decline in reading is happening in Canada as well as in the United States? I can imagine that it is or that it is not. On the one hand, it seems related to global trends – the speeding up of everything in life. On the other hand, I can imagine it related to the unique problems we have in the U.S…..

November 18, 2007

Toni Samek wins first annual Library Journal Teaching Award

This is good news. Toni Samek, the subject of the last post here, has been picked for the first annual Library Journal Teaching Award. Read the article byLJ’s John N. Berry III….

November 14, 2007

Interview with Toni Samek

The BCLA IFC blog has an interview with Toni Samek, who is a very progressive LIS professor at the University Alberta. Toni writes and teaches on topics in critical librarianship, and had a book published earlier this year from Chandos Press: Librarianship and Human Rights: A Twenty-First Century Guide. The interview at the BCLA IFC blog covers Toni’s take on critical librarianship (and its link to intellectual freedom), social action by librarians in international settings to advance human rights, her perspective on intellectual freedom issues generally and in Canada, and a bit about library education.

November 13, 2007

LJP Facebook Page

Library Juice Press now has its own Facebook Page….

Facebook Pages are different from Facebook Groups in that they are profiles that companies, organizations, or other entities set up in their own right. For example, anybody could set up a group for members of the ACLU, but only the ACLU (or a chapter) could set up its own Facebook Page. They are a new feature that comprise a major part of Facebook’s new marketing platform. I don’t know about you, but I consider Facebook a really important media company and media environment.

November 12, 2007

Pig Latin Bible

My first experiment as a publisher was a Pig Latin translation of the Book of Psalms and the Book of Proverbs. I have not been very public about this project, but as the months have passed I’ve gradually grown more comfortable with the idea of letting people know about it. I will say that it’s an amusing book and would make a good gift to a friend or relative with a blasphemous sense of humor.

To me the book itself has a certain significance as a demonstration of the godlessness of technology and the power of technology to overwhelm what is sacred. The translation was done by a javascript program, and I turned it into a book using more software. Quite a contrast from the Bible of John Wycliffe.

Anway, what else can I say? Good Christmas gift. There’s even a poem on the copyright page.

November 5, 2007

A couple of interesting links

I found these on Arts & Letters Daily. A comment about that site after the links.

First, an article from the New Yorker by Anthony Grafton: Future Reading: Digitization and Its Discontents. This is a thoughtful meditation on Google’s Library Project and the general effect of digitization on reading, from a well-informed historical perspective. I’m always looking for things like this. Among Grafton’s conclusions is that digitized books won’t replace their print editions anytime soon, but he has more interesting things to say about how reading is changing. Alfred Kazin is a central figure in this piece.

Second, from Orion Magazine, by Rebecca Solnit: Finding Time: The fast, the bad, the ugly, the alternatives. The first paragraph is a good description:

THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF MY APOCALYPSE are called Efficiency, Convenience, Profitability, and Security, and in their names, crimes against poetry, pleasure, sociability, and the very largeness of the world are daily, hourly, constantly carried out. These marauding horsemen are deployed by technophiles, advertisers, and profiteers to assault the nameless pleasures and meanings that knit together our lives and expand our horizons.

So, as I mentioned, I found these links in Arts & Letters Daily. I often find good things there, but I just have to say out loud that I find the irreverent glibness of the descriptions there to be a real pain. Arts & Letters Daily makes academics look shallow and immature. Delight in oversimplification and unapologetic but good-humored unfairness by clicking this delicious sounding link! Maybe Arts & Letters Daily provides some relief from responsible thinking for academics, who labor under pressures that are not always legitimate in real world terms, but I find it really annoying just the same. And I wish they would get off the French already.