Sunday, April 17, 2011

example book made with bookr

I was just reading about various mashup tools and couldn't wait to try this one out.  I think it could have great applications in school libraries for media specialists and teachers to share content, but also for students to share their research or original stories.  Once the book is completed, it can be emailed to anyone or embedded in a blog like I did above.

Be forewarned though--once you've finished, the photos cannot be changed as far as I can tell.  I made a mistake in this book and I don't think I can change it.  Also be aware that it's difficult to impossible to work with the site in Firefox.  I had to use Safari.  In any case, it is a very simple way to use free content from Flickr (yours or someone else's) to create something new.  I'm excited about the possibilities.

Check out the archives for lots more ideas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

big box/little libraries

The readings for the urban redevelopment group and the big box bookstore group flowed together surprisingly well for me.  I started with the big box articles.  When I heard that some libraries were organizing their spaces like huge chain bookstores, I didn't really understand where the controversy would lie.  I got that this might involve abandoning the Dewey decimal system in favor of thematic organization.  Maybe I just haven't been a librarian-in-training long enough, but I guess the thought of life without Melvil doesn't get me too riled up.  In fact, this example and one in the Putnam and Feldstein article helped me realize that I am mostly concerned with organizing books to benefit the patrons (though I have not yet taken any cataloging classes and may be eating my words next semester!). 

One of the articles focused on an aspect of this trend of bookstore mimicry that caught my attention: budget.  I really hadn't considered the implications of running a library like a bookstore beyond organization, but the Coffman article suggested that monetary issues might make staffing a library like a bookstore very difficult.  I found myself frustrated while reading this.  When Coffman was comparing relative costs of staffing and running libraries and bookstores, I kept thinking, "Bookstores and libraries are trying to do essentially different things!"  One is trying to sell books, while the other is trying to get books (and other information) to libraries for free.  The bookstore is out for itself; the library is there for the good of the community.  

I thought everything in the Putnam and Feldstein article supported how I was feeling about the Coffman piece.  Libraries are doing something very unique that cannot be done with minimally-trained $7.50 an hour employees.  While it may be that librarians attempt to create "neutral" collections, they are certainly advocating for social progression and positive change.  The Chicago branch libraries in the article are attempting to bridge the digital divide, welcome new immigrants and offer ESL, support students and parents with the "Teacher in the Library" program, and provide opportunities for different races/classes to interact.  One librarian profiled "chose to combine the youth and adult nonfiction sections, since he was sensitive to the fact that adults with a wide range of reading abilities patronized the library".  I thought this article outlined the tools and programs with which libraries can keep themselves relevant,  "a place where people see a reflection of their own culture even as they get access to a wider one".  I probably got a bit too starry-eyed reading the Putnam and Feldstein article: they did not address budgeting issues as Coffman so practically and dutifully did.  But the article depicted "the least threatening public institution" moving in a direction that I'd like to see other libraries go.  When my brother-in-law tried to convince my librarian-to-be husband and I of the obsolescence of libraries, we both stammered something about community centers, job-searching materials, and public computers.  I was so excited to read about libraries in Chicago that are doing exactly what I was trying to describe.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I think it finally dawned on me this week that books (and by that I mean the codex) could actually fade from popularity.  On public radio the other day, someone quoted a projection that over half of books sold could be e-books within ten years.  That blows my mind.  Clearly I've had my head in the sand.

I have not yet gone the way of the e-reader.  Some of that is the cost, but mostly it's lack of interest.  I enjoy holding a physical books (and I want libraries to have something to do with all those shelves).  I do not want to deal with pitfalls such as the dreaded un-numbered pages and lack of search function that plague current models of e-readers.  Mostly I'm content borrowing *free* books from the library.  In my household, if we do buy a book, it's typically because it's a piece of art that we'd like to have and hold.  The Griffey chapter brought up a very valid issue: e-reader producers are currently more concerned with protecting their products from piracy than from making devices and books library-friendly.  Lending books becomes difficult when the books are limited to one device alone.

On the other hand, I have pretty readily taken to reading e-reserves, assignments, and syllabi on my computer, never bothering to print.  And now that e-books are being advertised as playable on computers, iPads, iPhones, and so on, the technology is beginning to interest me a bit more.  I am not particularly convinced that I need an e-reader that can only display black and white.  If I'm going to read books on an electronic device, I'd like it to have the capacity to do something like this:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown

I'll begin at the end.  Upon reading Robbins' epilogue about the process of writing The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown, I saw that Robbins regarded her subject matter very dearly (not unlike author Rebecca Skloot and subject Henrietta Lacks).  Unlike Skloot, Robbins admitted plainly that she was biased toward the anti-racist and anti-feminist perspectives.  I found that this strengthened the reliability of the account. 

That attempt for a balanced hand was evident in the inclusion of both Ruth Brown's positive and negative personality traits and kept me from thinking of Brown as a saint.  For example, when I read that Brown was at times viewed as harsh, strict, and overly frank, I knew that Brown's crusade for racial inequality did not spring from perfection but from a flawed individual trying to do her best.  That said, her lack of concern at the prospect of losing job and reputation was amazingly brave.  As I've researched for my group's project on intellectual freedom, it's been easy to scoff at teachers and librarians who've given into book challenges.  However, I realize that standing up to powerful community members is no easy task.  I wonder what I would do in Brown's position.  I wish I could say I knew I'd do the same as she.

Brown's commitment to free access to materials and to intellectual freedom early on were impressive.  Before the ALA had established a firm stance on intellectual freedom, it seemed to be up to individual librarians to stand up to censorship.  I was actually surprised that so many on the original library board supported Brown's choice to retain controversial materials in the library.  Though that minority may have pointed to the beginnings of intellectual freedom in the library and nationwide, it was disheartening to read of the mistreatment of Brown's supporters.  Many have suffered to bring us the library policies we find so common today.

So, this story was inspiring, but it was also informative.  The book filled in quite a few gaps in my understanding of 20th-century history that I didn't even know existed.  Previously in my mind, World War II, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, and McCarthyism were disparate events.  I was interested to observe the interplay of anticommunism, racism, sexism, and classism that surrounded the events of Brown's firing.  One example was the impact that World War II's fight against racism had in encouraging anti-racist sentiment in American citizens.  On the other side of the argument, anticommunists assumed that African American and liberal organizations had communist leanings.  I had not realized that some of these broad associations stemmed from the communists' efforts in combating racism. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

academic libraries

All this talk about academic libraries has me jonesing to hang out in my alma mater, Cornell College's library.   

Early on in the video, "The Future of Academic Libraries", I picked up on a theme: academic librarians seem to be spreading themselves quite thin, perhaps to justify their existence.  Jay Schafer suggested that libraries might serve as a sort of publisher/printer.  He also brought up digital preservation and access issues related to that.  How about modeling university libraries after the Apple Store?  What should be done about e-books and e-journals?  I am not entirely opposed to any of those ideas (except the publishing one--I didn't get that at all), but I worry that librarians in all settings are becoming jacks-of-all-trades and masters-of-none.

There is no doubt that librarians in this economy need to make sure their jobs are necessary.  My first instinct on how to do this is for librarians to instruct (especially since I'm in Information Literacy Pedagogy right now!).  My impulse was supported when Susan Perry urged academic librarians to focus on digital asset management and teaching.  A bit about digital asset management: I had never heard this term before, but it seems to be just another facet of cataloging.  There are an enormous amount of unresolved issues swirling around this topic, many of which were brought up during Nancy Mulhern's lecture.  Libraries may need to share digital assets, but it's important that those be accessible in some kind of consistent format.  Then there are the questions looming around the Google book project. 

Anyway, teaching is easier to talk about since it's certainly more relevant to me.  And it's certainly important to campus libraries.  Susan Perry said that university students still don't know how to research.  She called for library instruction to be "systematic, but not those boring library lectures", claiming that the term information literacy "turns people off".  Does her suggestion, "digital media literacy", really sound that much more enticing to young people?  This reminds me of the switch from the term school librarian to school library media specialist.  I feel the same way about both: the title really doesn't matter.  As far as information literacy instruction goes, it should include how to find, evaluate, and use information, digitally or physically and should be grounded in the classroom curriculum.  To get the faculty on the side of the teacher-librarian, information literacy instruction has to enhance the curriculum, not take time and attention from it.  It makes a lot of sense for librarians and faculty to "see [the library] as the logical extension of the classroom", though I think it might take more convincing for some faculty members to get on board.  The video suggests that libraries would not only be a resource for print and digital materials, but a place that would foster critical, analytical thinking, most likely through its teaching librarians.

all photos from

To comment on the Apple Store model of organization, I like the idea of libraries as "group study and social centers".  Also the aesthetic of the Apple Store is incredibly pleasing, so I would not mind if libraries drew from that.  On the other hand, Apple Stores are not attempting to organize hundreds or thousands of books and documents, sometimes on different topics.  The Apple gives most every item equal footing/presentation, which would not be useful for libraries.  Besides, libraries already have a "genius bar" at the reference desk and geniuses wandering, ready to answer your questions-librarians!

In the video, "Challenges to Campus Use of the Kindle", I could see the Goldsteins' point--if they're not actually promoting the use of the Kindles and there are no visually impaired students on campus, who does it hurt to test them out?  I even wondered if it's fair to prohibit all students from using a technology tool because of a few who did not have accessibility.  After hearing the second half of the video, I still agree that Princeton wasn't really doing anything wrong, but they weren't doing anything proactive either. 

Marty Ringle's talk about accessibility and technology seemed less about whether Princeton was right or wrong and more about the impact that large institutions like universities can have on the development on technology.  As one measly consumer, I usually assume that my role is confined to accepting whatever developers shove out onto the market.  If it is an insufficient or inconvenient product, I just don't buy it.  I hadn't considered what kind of sway a university might have with Kindle or other technology developers.  I think Ringle's point was that if we accept an e-reader or other tool that is less than fully accessible, movement towards accessibility will be slow or nonexistent.  Further, he said "accessibility tends to benefit the entire community" and I am now convinced that is true.  I was impressed with his examples of accessibiliy features that have made easier the lives of people with many other disabilities, ranging from paralysis to dyslexia.  While it is noble and economically necessary to cut back on the paper used to print digital reserves, universities should not settle for a mediocre digital tool.  They should swing their weight towards technology developers and insist that all students have access to the technology.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

oh, deer

Ha, ha.  I know I'm corny.  Eschenfelder and Miller's take on the positive government-citizen relationships made possible by the internet is interesting in light of Yudof's warnings about the government and technology.  Both articles did say that the internet provides a very quick and effective way to reach the masses.  Whether the purpose is for propaganda or public safety & education is in the eye of the beholder.

Again remembering Yudof's warning concerning governmental omissions of information, I can see how easy it would be for CWD sites to strategically leave out information to tailor the message to someone's agenda.  The variety in levels of disclosure among the four CWD sites was astonishing.  I appreciated the authors' attempt to provide some structure and framework for including enough information for stakeholders to make decisions.  It makes a lot of sense that agencies should follow "guidelines for 'influential' information that require agencies to provide sufficient information such that interested parties could conduct an independent reanalysis and come up with similar conclusions" (p. 82). 

Of course my brain heads to school libraries.  In the same way that government websites must present the complete picture, school libraries should endeavor to provide a well-rounded collection, complete with controversies and debates.  The omission of certain books and topics may speak as clearly as the inclusion of them and should be considered carefully.  Just as government agencies should follow clear guidelines, so should school libraries follow a plan for collection development and management.

Changing directions, I found something missing in both the other articles was citizen-to-government communication.  If the governing body believes it is true that "the role of government information is to educate citizens so they can provide input to agency decision makers", then there must be a convenient avenue for communication from citizens to those agencies (p. 82).  The citizen-publisher form of government information dispersal seems to fill that gap.  The article goes so far as to suggest an online forum for discussion or even published articles from concerned citizens.  While this model may thwart traditional forms of authority to some extent, it also allows for a public sense of ownership (and possibly more complete/diverse information than would be available from the governmental office alone).  In light of the ubiquity of "wikis" and social cataloging, it seems like user-created content and discussion would be a natural next step in government information.  As providers of information to patrons, do libraries (particularly school libraries) provide ample opportunities for the public to speak to the library about their needs?

Monday, November 15, 2010

In light of Yudof's mention of government omission, it is positive that the "Government Documents Interim Summary" acknowledges the importance of keeping government docs available to the public. 

When I began reading the steps for "downgrading" physical collections, I thought, should we really ditch physical historical collections?  As I kept reading, I was relieved to find that the summary does not recommend losing physical documents altogether, but rather digitizing these records so that fewer copies need to be kept in print.  It makes sense that the remaining print copies could be better preserved once they are not competing with duplicates for space and attention.

Still, when reading about how fewer and fewer documents will be published in print, I feel sad.  I enjoy gently picking up an antique book, photograph, or letter, feeling the delicate paper and smelling the musty scent.  Granted, I'm kind of a pack rat and I love old stuff, but I don't want my children or grandchildren to be without that experience.  This all makes me wonder if I'm playing the role of the "old guard", hanging on to the past and digging in my heels against the future.  After we read "Party Girl" I borrowed "Desk Set" (from the library, where else?!?) with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  Great movie.  I was frustrated with Hepburn's character and her lack of foresight--shouldn't a librarian be on the forefront of burgeoning technology?  However, I sometimes wonder if that is me when I feel so attached to my physical media: books, old scraps of paper, vinyl records, and tapes.   Now, I have certainly embraced modern technology, but I'm not quite ready to give up physical documents.  I know I've gone on this physical versus digital tangent before, but clearly it's on my mind and in the readings.  Anyway, I'm glad that the summary considers how to preserve existing documents by multiple means.

The print-digital dichotomy certainly seems to loom large in librarianship right now.  As libraries and library work continue to evolve, I like the summary's idea of librarians "repurposing existing expertise to solve new problems".   That is exactly what the corporate librarians (aka walking encyclopedias) were able to do in "Desk Set", a film made around 60 years ago, but surprisingly relevant to libraries today.  Like in the movie, it seems no one is entirely sure where libraries will end up in the next decade, but if we keep our wits about us, the flexible among us will be able to adapt and remain relevant.