Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Librarians as __________: Shapeshifting at the periphery.

Tremendous post by Char Booth from in The Library with the Lead Pipe.Librarians as __________: Shapeshifting at the periphery.If you haven't added in the library to your RSS feed/Google Reader you should, they are pretty awesome.

Libraries bigger than cupcakes?

According to an NPR article, libraries are quickly becoming the new crazy. Once upon a time, there was the rebirth of knitting, then, a surge of ironic t-shirts and tattoos, next, a love of hyper-decorated cupcakes, and now, finally, libraries? Perhaps I have noticed it because I am studying to be a librarian, but libraries are in the public eye more often lately. From protests of impending budget cuts to quirky videos like Mr. New Spice here: libraries are cool (again).
For the full NPR article, click here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

In case you were wondering:

Click to enlarge.
See the full article here.

Good news for Brooklyn Libraries

Amid much concerned over the proposed $20 million cut in library spending there is some good news. Read the article here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Metadata standards

For the truly nerdy (obsessive?) librarians in my reader base, here is the best article/chart/explanation of metadata standards I have ever seen. I actually got goose bumps. Click here for the full article and high res versions of the image.

Nerdy stereotypes

This is not entirely library related, but I found it fascinating. A group of seventh graders were asked to draw what they thought a typical scientist looked like. Then they were taken on a field trip...see the results here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The eBook problem in libraries

Ebooks borrowed from libraries? It sounds intuitive, right? I can stream video online at Hulu and Netflix, so it should be a given that I could borrow digital content from my library. The concept is solid and perfectly executable. The problem? Vendors. Read a great blog post about Overdrive frustration by David Lee King here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The technology behind preservation

Ever wonder what the librarians at the Library of Congress do to keep Jefferson's books in tip top shape? Well, find the inside scoop here!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What happens when old librarians retire?

Here is an interesting article about the age demographics of librarians. This truly is an aging profession.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Visual Information

I have found another amazing example of visual information (a concept known to the nerdy as data visualization). Doug McCune has created a map that shows crime in San Francisco as elevation. The higher the peak, the greater the rate of that particular crime. You can see for yourself at his blog.

Besides being generally awesome, why is this so important?

Human beings process visual information faster than they process any other method of communication. How often do you look at the icons on your desktop and actually read what program they open? Probably rarely. Your brain attaches meaning to the image and acts accordingly. Companies have long understood this and work hard to establish a distinct logo that represents and becomes synonymous with their product. Think about the Starbucks siren, the Nike whoosh, the Apple apple, or the BMW propellers. Even if you didn’t know that the woman on the Starbucks logo is a siren, you know exactly what she looks like, what she represents, and, probably, what her coffee tastes like.

If this is the way our brain works, why do information professionals not take advantage of this more regularly? As providers of information, we should probably be doing more. However, as traditionalists, we do not know how. When we think of information whether on your computer screen or on physical paper, we think of words first. This bias is why I have a traditional blog format and not a visual one such as tumblr. In a world where those who can get the most information the fastest are the most productive and most powerful, I think our profession should embrace visual information. Unfortunately, we have no idea how and partnerships with the business world will be vital in moving us along.

I leave you with my favorite use of visual information--a pie chart of bars and a bar graph of pies via How I Met Your Mother:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

QR Codes in books...could this be the future of publishing?

A new version of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days has been published, complete with QR codes that take the reader to websites that provide sidenotes or historical information. Could this be the future of publishing? Is context as important as content in fiction works? Nonfiction?

Read the Gizmodo article here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thumb prints to check out library books?

Amazing technological innovation or unnecessary invasion of privacy?

Read the article here.

Interactive World Map!

This website is not exactly library related, but it presents fascinating visual representations of information about the world, including GDP, illiteracy, religion, and barbecue festivals. Have fun!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A world without books?

As a follow up to my recent posts about the growing need of the library profession to embrace new knowledge media, I thought I would post something about the downside of losing books. Aside from their longevity, books provide a tangibility and personality that cannot be mimicked by technology.

A note about personal notes by the New York Times.

A library without books?

I first encountered Cushing Academy while researching the use and effect of e-readers in public and academic libraries. This private school has embraced new technology, by requiring e-readers for their students, and consequently put books, an "outdated technology," on the back burner. Since the inception of this idea, the Cushing Academy Library has cut its book inventory by more than half and plans to diminish the collection even further. This begs the question: Are books such an outdated technology that we don't need them in secondary schools?

See the latest Boston Globe article here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Miss Manners' choice words to cranky librarians

Today, while I was reading the American Libraries Direct, the e-newsletter from the American Library Association I came across a link to this article by Miss Manners in Mercury News.

As much as I would like to think public perception of librarians is changing, I must reluctantly admit that many current librarians are actively enforcing the stereotype of the dour, cranky woman behind the reference or circulation desk. The official ALA interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights includes a section on the importance of patron privacy, stating that “Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association.” Since 1939, the ALA has recognized that protecting patron privacy is an integral mission of libraries. That is, patrons must know that the questions they ask, the books they check out, and the information they pursue will not be a matter of public record or scrutiny. This nosy librarian, in addition to perpetuating an unflattering stereotype, is actually violating a core principle of the American Library Association.

Miss Manners’ response, however, provides a glimmer of hope. She recognizes that the library profession is one that increasingly requires technological skills and the ability to ferret out information regardless of medium. However, in her own glib way the maven of etiquette tells her reader that librarians (or at least this one in particular) don’t fit their market. They are still dowdy, cranky, nosy, and inhibited. If the public perception of the librarian profession has changed enough so that a Miss Manners in San Jose, California has recognized its need for technologically savvy professionals, when will the perceptions of librarians change? Moreover, when will the librarian who perpetuate these stereotypes change?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beyond Web 2.0

As an addition to my previous post, a discussion on where technologies and libraries are headed. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Web 2.0 means internet-based technologies that facilitate user interaction and user publication of information. That is, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and any site where a user can leave comments about an article, video, or other posts.

Plan C: Tech Trends Beyond Social Networking and Web 2.0 by Analog Divide

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why loving books isn't enough

Over the past few weeks, I have encountered a spectrum of opinions on the future of libraries and librarians.

Much to my surprise, many people newly entering the profession are doing so because “they love books.” Some have chosen the path of the librarian because of a love of knowledge. However, precious few entered the field because of the changes imminent in the library world.

Why, you may ask, am I surprised that so many people enter the world because of a love of the written word? After all, working in a library is every 14-year-old bookworms dream--to be surrounded by the quiet, but faithful friends, one’s favorite books. However, in 2010, this is a romantic ideal. The library still holds books but they are no longer the primary source for information. The internet is brimming with useful (and useless) information. A website can be updated instantly, whereas the information in a book can become outdated the minute it is published. Fiction and philosophy aside, books have lost their status as the primary medium of information.

Because of this shift, those who have chosen the library field because of their love of knowledge are better suited to the profession than those who profess a love of books. Books were, generally, safe information. That is, if a manuscript made it through the screening, editing, and printing stage, the information it contained had a high chance of being accurate. Obviously, this was not always the case, but 40 years ago, a librarian could hand a patron a book with relative confidence in the content without having read it prior. Now, since the internet has become a primary medium of information, a librarian must know how to determine accuracy and reliability of a source. Those who love knowledge have the motivation and drive to become information guides--people whose primary job is not to catalog information, but to determine its reliability.

Increasingly, however, this role as an information guide requires technological skills not currently taught in many information and library science institutions. In order to determine reliability, accuracy, and relevance, one must be able to investigate the source of the information as well as analyze the information itself. Sooner than many people realize, this skill will involve understanding basic coding. As the population becomes more dependent on computers for all media consumption, the language of computers will become increasingly important to librarians. While librarians may not need to write code fluently for a while (if ever), very soon they will need to be able to read code. Currently, only the nerdiest of librarians (yes, there are some librarians even nerdier than average) will be able to fill this role.

Digitally born information is the future of libraries and both librarians and the schools training them need to recognize this. The role of librarians as organizers of and guides to information resources will never become obsolete. However, unless the profession embraces technology and all its languages and components, librarians, as we know them, might become a thing of the past.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

George Washington forgot to return his library books...

Technically, the first President of the United States owes Manhattan libraries $300,000. Currently, they are not actively pursuing the late fees.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book themed furniture

I want them in my size....Big Cozy Books

Library of Congress acquires archive of all public tweets

As the closest institution our country has to a national library, the Library of Congress has collected, preserved and protected much of the information the people of our nation has produced. Now that includes tweets. Read more.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Internet access...the role of the library

Nearly a third of the Americans use their public library for internet access. If you consider how disproportionate access is across class lines, you won't be surprised that 44% of Americans below the poverty line access the internet at the public library. This use extends to all age groups with teenagers being the most active user demographic.

In the age of the internet, where nearly 76% of cell phone users over the age of 13 subscribe to smartphones, Google is a verb, and the little girls who live below me nearly fainted when I told them that the internet didn't exist (as we know it) when I was born, this statistic is both alarming and encouraging.

Alarming because the probability that the population using the library on a regular basis has overlap with the population who own smartphones (or a plethora of other internet capable devices) is slim. Yes, I realize that more people own cell phones than personal computers, but one can infer from the demographics that technology and, by extension, information access is still strongly divided along class lines. Many of those who use the computers regularly at their local library do so not because of the environment or aesthetic appeal, but because they have no other recourse. As more and more information is becoming born-digital, is our society excluding people of certain demographics from information access?

Encouraging because libraries have stepped up and are trying to prevent this inclusion. The library still remains an amazing asset to its community. Providing access is allowing the democratization of information. However, as internet access becomes a primary service at many libraries, these institutions are struggling to keep up with demand. Computers are expensive and taxpayer funds are being cut. Facing these obstacles, what can the little library do to prevent access to information from becoming available to only the elite?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Harnessing the Power of Google

By request, 9 research tips vital to finding information in the digital age.

1) Narrow your search terms.

Although Google's algorithms can be very powerful, it still can't read your mind.
  • Want information about a mustang but not the car? use the minus sign (-) ex. mustang -car
  • Searching for a particular phrase? Want Pope's Essay on Man and not every essay ever written on man? Use double quotation marks ("") ex. "Essay on Man"
  • Want to search for websites on "honour" and not "honor"? use the plus sign (+) ex. +honour
2) Expand your search terms.

Sometimes you know there are a lot of ways to describe what you are looking for. If that is the case, here are a couple of ways to expand your search.
  • The wildcard. Want to know how your Senator voted on the latest bill? use an asterisk (*) ex. Schumer voted * (A note: the wildcard only works as a substitute for whole words, not partial ones)
  • Looking for something on e-readers, but you don't want to limit it to one brand? use OR (it must be capitalized to work) ex. e-reader OR Kindle OR Sony OR Nook
  • Want to learn about the newest advancements in pharmaceuticals but don't know all the common synonyms for "research"? use a tilde (~) ex. pharmaceutical ~research
3) Pick a numeric range.

Say you are looking for a new house within a price range or maybe, doing research on Somalia during a specific time period. Any number within that range will appear. Be aware that the search engine will not recognize whether these numbers are prices or years, they will only recognize that the numbers on the page lie between the range you provided. use two periods (..) ex. real estate 100000..200000; ex. Somalia 1955..1962.

4) Choose your file type.

Looking for the power point to a lecture or a pdf of a grant proposal? use filetype: ex. biology lecture filetype:ppt

5) Choose a website.

Know that your information is buried in a big website? Or doing research on universities? use site: ex. hurricane; ex. financial aid site:edu

6) Utilize Google's topic searches.

On the Google homepage, look at the top left corner. Many options are available. News, Shopping, Books, Scholarly works, Blogs. You can choose any one of these and search within these topics.

Alternatively, you can choose the "Advanced Search" option at the right of the Search Box. Filling in the information on this page will utilize the first 5 tips (and more!). Scrolling down the page, you will find links to topical searches.

Even though I have listed this as #6, I actually use this tip more than all the other ones. Narrowing your search to a topic can be very helpful. Because world news has become primarily electronic, I often search under the Google News topic to find the latest information.

7) Understand the limitations of Google's topic searches.

Although these topic searches are incredibly useful, and largely reliable, there are limitations. Particularly with Google Scholar and Google Books. There is an entire part of the internet effectively closed to internet search engines. While you may find peer-reviewed articles by using Google Scholar, you will not find all or even most of the articles on your topic. Most electronic scholarly articles are stored on subscription-based databases. If you are doing in depth research or are particularly concerned with accuracy and bibliographic resources, I would suggest starting with Google Scholar, gathering ideas, and then using the resources at your library. Many libraries subscribe to databases of periodicals and journals that you are not going to find on Google Scholar.

8) Identify quality information.

Just because something is on the internet, does not make it true. Many of the information available is valid, some is unintentionally inaccurate, and some is intentionally, or even maliciously false. When doing any research, make sure the information you are looking at can be substantiated. Look for footnotes (and verify them if you are concerned); use trusted websites and look to them to refer you to new sources; and finally, don't assume that the first answer you find is the best or more accurate one.

9) Know when to move beyond Google.

Google can not find you every answer. Despite the company's ambitious goal to map the entire internet, some of the internet is unmappable. Closed sites, such as subscription databases and company internal web services, will never show up on Google. Many influential scholarly works cannot be accessed. When you hit a dead end, when you doubt accuracy, or when you get a nagging feeling in the back of your skull that there MUST be more out there, head to a library or a museum, IM or text a librarian (yes, those services exist in many areas), or email someone who is a recognized expert in the field. Don't forget that most people comprehend more information through person-to-person communication than through any other method.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Bookstore Dilemma

Recently, I went to a fantastic bookstore in the lower east side of Manhattan. (A word of warning, I am apt to think nearly all bookstores are fantastic). I was particularly impressed by their in store cafe. A cafe dedicated to books. The wallpaper was created from old monograph pages, pile of books hang from the ceiling, and even the menu is comprised of food related quotes from novels. Books wear with use; words fade, pages rip, and content comes outdated. However, "book," as object, does not lose its aesthetic and perhaps psychological appeal. An appeal the McNally Jackson Books seems to have capitalized on.

On this horribly rainy Saturday, McNally Jackson was packed. The cafe was standing room only and the bookstore entrance was clogged with drenched umbrellas of every color and size imaginable. The patrons that weaved in and out of the shelves seemed to know the store well. These were no tourists, and McNally Jackson was not a serendipitous shelter from the hurricane force winds. New Yorkers had specifically chosen to brave the elements to visit this bibliographic haven; further evidence of the powerful appeal of the "book."

Why, then, I asked myself, while I reverently thumbed the spine of Pevear and Volokhonsky's Dostoevsky translation, is a bookstore filled on even the worst of days and a library a couple blocks away hosted only a handful of patrons?

Bookstores, as a rule do not benefit from patrons idly flipping through the pages of their new favorite author. In fact, one would assume a business model that does not require a purchase to enjoy the merchandise would be fundamentally flawed.

In contrast, public libraries actually materially benefit from patrons who peruse magazines, thumb through novels, and browse the internet. Each book pulled and re-shelved adds to circulation statistics. Those statistics are the basis of public funding. (So, as a side note, the next time you are in a library and are tempted to re-shelve your own books, because you know the Dewey Decimal System just as well as the next person, resist that temptation. The books left on the re-shelve carts are often scanned before they are re-shelved to collect statistics on which books are used, even if they are not checked out.)

While I do not pretend to fully understand the economic effects of the bookstore business model, I have to ask myself: what is a for-profit bookstore doing that is so much more attractive to patrons than what the local library is doing? What structural, philosophical, aesthetic or environmental changes should be made? In short, what are we missing? Atmosphere? Attitude? Service? Scones? While I would venture to guess that most public libraries lack something in all of these areas, I am curious to know what changes people think are the most crucial.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

You all know you've wanted to try this:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's ACES Library

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is information free?

Information is free.

At least, it should be, according to the majority sentiment in library land. Ever since the advent of early public libraries of the 1800s, public libraries have had a democratizing effect on society. In 1948, the ALA adopted the "Library Bill of Rights," championing open access to information resources and challenging censorship. Throughout the years, freedom of access has come to mean, in many areas, free access.

In this digital age, I think that our field's approach to access should change. Before, if a person had borrowed a book from the library, he would walk away with the book, for a designated period of time. However, he would have no sense of ownership over the book. He would eventually have had to return it to the library. In the mean time, another person who had wanted the book would have had to wait her turn to read the book. This system of lending had historically provided free access to materials and, as there was no sense of ownership, publishers and authors did not feel as though their intellectual property had been stolen or misused in any way. Currently, access continues to be free, in most cases, but the sense of ownership has changed. With digital copies of books and journals, library patrons can now download their desired information resources. Cost of access has not changed. All these resources are still free to the user, but ownership has altered. Protection of intellectual property has diminished.

I am not suggesting that libraries should start charging for all memberships or that school children should no longer be allowed to check out and read copies of Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat. I am suggesting, however, that access to digital information should change. Authors spent hours, perhaps years creating these resources; and, in the case of scholarly works, authors may have spent hundred of thousands of dollars on education to create the journal article that was just emailed into your inbox for the low, low cost of absolutely nothing.

Currently, there are hundreds of commonly used databases providing access to thousands of journals and other digital resources. Libraries often pay for subscriptions to these databases to allow patrons access to the information. However, these subscriptions are incredibly expensive; so, libraries can rarely afford more than a couple subscriptions.

What is the solution? How do you provide freedom of access to all information (not just the subscription your local library can afford) while simultaneously protecting the intellectual property of the people responsible for creation of the information? As unprofessional as this sounds, think of Netflix. They offer different levels of subscriptions for different levels of access. To individuals, not institutions. In addition, we could envision a situation where a person could want access to one and only one item in a database. For a one-time fee, this could be possible.

Information is not free. In fact, it is very expensive. The time, the work, the effort of the authors should be recognized and rewarded. And freedom of access should not always mean free access. Freedom of access should mean ability to access. In this age, where the lines of ownership are blurred with digital downloads, perhaps we should reconsider our system. While the purchase of information is somewhat antithetical to the ideals of library land, small fees to access scholarly work isn't necessarily robbing people of access. In fact, because patrons of any library could access the information in any database, access will be increased.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A book by any other name

Webster defines the word "book" as 1 a : a set of written sheets of skin or paper or tablets of wood or ivory b : a set of written, printed, or blank sheets bound together into a volume c : a long written or printed literary composition. Library science uses the term "monograph" to distinguish what we commonly refer to as "books" from other printed materials, such as journals and periodicals. In the past three years, the term "book" has expanded to include electronic texts, such as e-books.

All of these definitions and connotations imply that books are works whose texts are in one discernible physical or electronic space. For cataloging purposes, this is a convenient assumption. Imagine the chaos if every page of one book was in a different place in the library? Or worse, if every page were in a different library? What if the book were divided into single words and scattered throughout the world? What about non-textual parts of a book?

While authors have often tested the boundaries of the book medium, the last decade (or two) has brought a new wave of expansion. Author Brandon J. Mendelson wrote a novel using only Twitter posts. The BBC Audiobooks America begin the Twitter novel project, a collaborative novel written by the followers of BBCAA. In Japan, some of the top selling novels were written by text message. And my personal favorite, author Shelley Jackson has written a short story, "Skin." Each word of the story is to be tattooed on a different person around the globe, effectively transforming people into the medium for her book.

Some may argue against defining these works as books, describing "book" as a medium rather than an intellectual endeavor. Nevertheless, that controversy, that debate is what makes this so exciting. However we describe these works, the task of defining them is one of the newer challenges to the field of library science. To put something into a category (as loose as it may be) allows the public to find it, access it, read it. Let the cataloging begin!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Librarians...superheroes in cardigans.

She had a prim demeanor and a bun meticulously pinned to the nape of her neck. She looked over her wire rim glasses with a glare that could freeze a cheetah in its tracks. Her navy blue cardigan and low pumps testified to her sensible dedication to neatness and organization. She was LIBRARIAN; even the letters on her name plate were standing at attention. I edged closer in awe and trepidation, knowing she held the key to the daunting fortress of information that was the library. I took one more cautious step and her eyes squinted, daring me to interrupt her important typing and ask her a question. As the adrenaline pumped through my veins, my instincts screamed flight and I ran for the hills. I could just Google interpretations of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, right?

Everyone recognizes the stereotype of the librarian, but few people understand the role that librarians can play in the 21st  century. As a student working towards her MSLIS degree and a future librarian, I will admit that I am deeply biased by believing that not only are librarians as vital or more so than they have been historically, but also that they may just well be tomorrows superheroes. Unlike some, I do not necessarily concede that the world is facing information overload. Physiologically our brains are not processing more information on a daily basis than they were 50 years ago. However, the type, the format, the transmission, and perhaps even the significance of the information we are absorbing has changed. Few people can tell a front is moving in without, the average American spends more time looking at a computer than sleeping, social networks have become more than a way to reconnect with friends and are now awash with professionals, and a clip of a baby biting his brother's finger is the to-date most popular video on YouTube.

Amidst this user-created chaos, how can we find what we are really looking for? How do we even know what we are really looking for? In a world of blogs, tweets, posts, and comment boards how do we find the primary source? How do we know what has authority? How do we even define authority in such an environment? Google will find you information. I will not deny it and personally use it frequently, but a search engine designed to give you the most commonly used information cannot be expected to give you the most accurate information. This is why no software based on algorithms will ever replace the intuition and understanding of a librarian. The Dewey Decimal System was not developed because of a neurotic need to put books neatly on the shelves, but because of the desire to make information available, findable, and understandable to users.  Information has been our commodity since Ancient Sumeria. We have always been navigators, guides, trailblazers. Organizing chaos is what we do. And you still need us, perhaps more than ever.

I can just here the deep voice over now--"In a world overrun with information, the only ones who could save us from ourselves were the ever-patient, ever-watchful librarians!"