The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity

The ALA Council has approved a new award, The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity, to be awarded annually to a librarian who “has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact.”

It will be interesting to see how this will be awarded during the upcoming years, given the wonderful tongue-in-cheek attitude of the award’s namesake. Mr. Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) sums it up nicely:

“This seems like a better way to channel money to librarians than my previous strategy, which was incurring exorbitant late fees.”

Posted in Ethics, Libraries, News | Leave a comment

healthcare.gov likes Opera

Even though I am not currently working in the library field (and am not following library-related news as closely), I have been following the implementation and rollout of the Affordable Care Act somewhat closely. I think libraries have an important role to play  in this, given that they are the most accessible form of internet access for many who will benefit most from the law.

Because I feel this way, and because I am a tech person, I have been especially interested in the all-important Healthcare.gov website. What I have read and experienced with the site leaves me frustrated:  the site is unnecessarily complex and cumbersome. If this were the extent of the problem, then it wouldn’t be so bad for those in libraries who are helping people sign up for the ACA – after all, that describes many of our own websites, as well as many of the resources we access to provide information for our patrons.

The main problem is that the site has some fundamental flaws in how it works. The connection between the website and the databases it utilizes can take a long time to do their job, and often times don’t work at all.

I have played with the site off and on since October 1st, and until today had yet to successfully create an account. While trying again this morning, I realized that the site’s behavior was awfully familiar.

In 2011, Hewlett-Packard released the TouchPad, a tablet running WebOS. They set it at a fairly high price, and sales were lackluster. The company did an about-face, and cancelled the product, then put the backlog of tablets on sale for rock-bottom prices. The impact on their website was tremendous:  you were as likely to get an error as you were a blank page, and actually placing an order was a near impossibility.

I was determined to purchase a unit, and began to scour various forums for information on how people had been able to complete an order. Somewhere I ran across a tip:  the Opera browser seemed to be able to continue from step to step without running into errors or dead ends. I tried it, and it worked well (albeit slowly) the first time, and I was able to purchase one of the tablets.

I looked into why the site worked better on Opera, and to the best of my memory it was due to a difference in how it handles information being carried from page to page during a web session. I did a bit of searching today, but was unable to locate the information again (but will update this if and when I do locate it).

Whether this is the same sort of issue at play with healthcare.gov, or whether this is a coincidence, the Opera browser seems to work better on the website. If you are assisting people with their ACA account sign up, it might make a significant difference if you made sure that this browser was available for their use.

One extra note:  for those who might need to work around software restrictions in your library, there is a Portable Apps version of the browser as well, which will run off of a flash drive on a Windows computer.

Posted in Government, Libraries, Medical, News, Online Services, Software, Web Design | Comments Off

BandMusic PDF Library

If the BandMusic PDF Library, offering free access to public domain band music, seems familiar, you might be thinking of the IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library, which does the same for classical scores.

Each of these should be on every library’s list of music resources.

Thanks to Michael Duffy for the link!

 

Posted in History, Libraries, Online Databases, Online Services, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Long Copyrights Kill Books

This.

The Hole in our Collective Memory : How Copyright made Mid-Century Books Vanish

These are frightening numbers, and they should force us to consider the negative effects of longer copyright terms. The publication of knowledge and creativity blossomed during the 20th century, due in large part to the demands of an increasingly literate population.  And which era of publication is suppressed due to Copyright?

One chart, and a fact derived from that chart drive the point home:

adjustedtitles650

The fact derived from this chart?  “A book published during the presidency of Chester A. Arthur has a greater chance of being in print today than one published during the time of Reagan.

Copyright benefits neither author, publisher, nor society when books are out of print.  This needs to change.

Posted in Books, Copyright, Ethics, Government, OCLC, Publishing | Comments Off

Libraries and the Affordable Care Act

Some interesting news will be announced at the American Library Association (ALA) conference in Chicago:  the ALA will be coordinating an effort to have libraries nationwide assist people who will be signing up for insurance beginning October 1st under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or often referred to as “Obamacare”).

Since libraries provide online access to their patrons, efforts to assist those using the web to access insurance marketplace information via the ACA portals will be a natural fit, even without promotion or training.  The ALA is encouraging libraries to use their resources, including space, computers, staff, etc. to help people navigate the choices in the new elements of the ACA.  This will be especially important in those states which have chosen not to devote their resources towards implementation… libraries may be the best way for people to learn about their options.

Posted in Conferences, Government, Libraries, News, Online Services, Training | Comments Off

Weeding… or Mowing?

The Urbana Free Library in Urbana, Illinois, just conducted a major weeding project.

Those of us who work in libraries understand that proper weeding is critical.  A collection that isn’t weeded well becomes clogged up with irrelevant and unnecessary volumes, leaving users reduced options and far too many books to wade through to find those options.  It can be a heart-wrenching experience to weed, but a well-weeded collection is efficient, has breadth and depth, and is easier on our users.

However, the weeding at the Urbana Free Library was anything but good:

“Do you ever read any of the books you [weed]?”

Posted in Books, Classification, Ethics, Libraries | 1 Comment

Mapping Libraries (and Museums)

Justin Grimes, of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, has created a couple of interactive maps that detail the saturation of libraries and museums across the United States:

Peruse the Map of Public Libraries for a few minutes, and zoom in to your local area to note the prevalence of libraries.  It uses data from 2010, so it may be missing libraries that have opened since then (like my 2-year-old local branch).

Justin also created a Map of Museums.  Do the same type of search, and see what exists in your area.

The Atlantic magazine notes that the number of libraries in the US (17,000) is greater than either McDonald’s (14,000) or Starbucks (11,000).  Not a bad statistic.

Thanks to Rudy Leon for sharing this information!

Posted in Google, Government, Groups, Libraries, Maps | Comments Off

A New Era of Scientific Publishing

This.

Why is Science Behind a Paywall?

We are in the middle of the most dramatic and significant change in publishing since the proliferation of the printing press.  One area that has been resistant to change has been peer-reviewed scientific publishing.  Part of this resistance has been tradition (“if it ain’t broke…”), but some of it has been motivated by maintaining profits.

The exploration of new media technologies, and new ways to encourage the scientific process (and improve the error rate of research) is needed, and will benefit all involved.  Well, perhaps not the publishers that put profit ahead of everything else, but they have ample opportunity to examine their models and make the changes that will allow them to stay relevant.

Thanks to Jamie Ashworth for pointing out this article!

 

Posted in Blogs, History, Libraries, Open Access, Periodicals, Publishing, Science | Comments Off

Dyslexia Typeface

I stumbled upon this typeface nearly eight months ago, and thought that I had written about it, but after recommending it for the 3rd or 4th time, I realized that I had failed to actually create the post.

OpenDyslexic is a typeface that is specifically designed to be more usable for readers with, you guessed it, dyslexia.  The characters are weighted (the lines are made thicker) on the lower portion of the letter, reducing the tendency by the dyslectic reader to mentally rotate the letter.

OpenDyslexic is not the first font designed this way, but it is the first open source, free typeface developed developed for dyslexia.  It didn’t start out this way, and the story of how the murky legal landscape surrounding fonts and typefaces makes for an interesting read.

Here is a sample of the typeface:

OpenDyslexic

Posted in Copyright, Education, Licensing, Open Source | Comments Off

A World Without Database Vendors?

BeerBrarian has a post which explores the result of a hypothetical 100% open access world:

As a thought experiment, let’s say we “win.” Professional and academic associations go open access, as much of physics has. The Directory of Open Access Journals is able to capture the far majority of these newly free works, and in turn these are snapped up by library catalogs thanks to link resolvers and discovery services. The same happens with the Directory of Open Access Books with regards to chapters in edited volumes.

But there’s a catch: DOAJ’s search function is not, to put it politely, robust. And there’s a larger problem behind search functionality thanks to incomplete metadata. Link resolvers and discovery services that pull from that search, culling that metadata, will lead to frustrated end users who cannot access and discover what they’re looking for.

Where BeerBrarian takes the argument is fairly close to where I would take it as well:  vendors and other access providers would compete for our business through ease of use, comprehensive access, and other service-oriented activities.

I am not a fan of the business model of “if we have exclusive control to a resource, they have to pay us what we can get away with”.    This creates disincentives for improvements (why spend money and resources to improve service if you don’t really need to?) and leads to monopolistic thinking, which is a long-term detriment in an information economy.

So what would an open access world be like?  We would have more resources like Google Scholar, and the costs for accessing information would be far less than they are today – more because of increased competition for services and fewer monopolies on information itself.

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III and SkyRiver Join and Drop OCLC Lawsuit

Two related bits of news in the world of libraries:

Innovative Interfaces (III) and SkyRiver, companies that had close ties, and who had joined together to sue OCLC in 2010, have merged.

Their first combined action?  They dropped their lawsuit against OCLC.

OCLC also issued a press release.

Although I understand fully that lawsuits are rarely about the big issues, I had hoped that this one would spark a discussion about OCLC’s role in the world of libraries.

Marshall Breeding’s excellent repository of information about the case:  SkyRiver vs. OCLC.

This is the way the lawsuit ends, not with a bang… but a merger….

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Are Library Books on Borrowed Time?

Are Library Books on Borrowed Time? is a short article in Financial Times that covers what many in libraries have recognized for some time:  we are in the midst of a transition between paper books and some combination of e-books and paper, and the evolution of libraries as an environment.

The focus of the article is on the decisions being made by the New York Public Library.

Posted in Books, Libraries, News, Online Services | Comments Off

Inventor of the Bar Code Dies

The media coverage, rightly so, emphasizes the tremendous impact that N. Joseph Woodland’s creation had on retail sales and inventory.  Library folk should take a moment and reflect on how much this one technological achievement as affected our work.

Rest In Peace barcode

Posted in Books, Death, History, Libraries, News | Comments Off

Register to Vote on Libology

The Democratic National Committee recently released code that allows websites to offer streamlined voter registration pages through a Ruby on Rails interface.  The Obama campaign quickly modified that code to make it even easier to embed in nearly any website. FYI: I did have to put in a closing tag at the end of the iframe code: otherwise most of the page wouldn’t load.

These voter registration apps are meant for everyone, regardless of their political leanings or state of residence.  If your state has online registration available, you will be directed to the appropriate form.  If not, a pre-filled PDF will be generated for you to sign and submit.

There is no reason for any library not to add this to their site… the more people who vote, the greater the chance that their desires will be reflected in all levels of government.

One result of this is that you can now register to vote via the Libology Blog.

Note: Libology.com does not retain any of the information gathered by this application

(The registration app is no longer active, and has been removed from Libology.com)

Posted in Government, Libraries, Online Services, Politics, Software, Web Design | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Support Your Local Library

Statestats, a recently founded non-profit focusing on education and technology, has created an infographic in support of libraries (thanks to Dan for contacting me with this!):

 

FIND A LIBRARY NEAR YOU

Libraries in Washington Libraries in Oregon Libraries in California Libraries in Idaho Libraries in Nevada Libraries in Montana Libraries in Wyoming Libraries in Utah Libraries in Arizona Libraries in Colorado Libraries in New Mexico Libraries in North Dakota Libraries in South Dakota Libraries in Nebraska Libraries in Kansas Libraries in Oklahoma Libraries in Texas Libraries in Alaska Libraries in Hawaii Libraries in Louisiana Libraries in Arkansas Libraries in Missouri Libraries in Iowa Libraries in Minnesota Libraries in Wisconsin Libraries in Illinois Libraries in Michigan Libraries in Indiana Libraries in Ohio Libraries in Kentucky Libraries in Tennessee Libraries in Mississippi Libraries in Alabama Libraries in Georgia Libraries in Florida Libraries in South Carolina Libraries in North Carolina Libraries in West Virginia Libraries in Virginia Libraries in Pennsylvania Libraries in New York Libraries in Maine Libraries in New Hampshire Libraries in Vermont Libraries in Vermont Libraries in Massachusetts Libraries in Rhode Island Libraries in Connecticut Libraries in Connecticut Libraries in New Jersey Libraries in Delaware Libraries in Maryland Libraries in New Jersey

FIND YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY
INFORMATION INTEGRATED
WITH GOOGLE MAPS

DATA SOURCE: IMLS

Sources:

Thank you to StateStats.org for providing this infographic and other free web guides and tools.

(code for the above graphic replaced with updated version on 2 January 2012)

Posted in Education, Groups, Libraries, Statistics | Tagged , , | Comments Off

OCLC supports Open Data license

OCLC has endorsed the use of the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-BY) for library catalog records.

This is a great step forward, as it allows a clear path for use and re-use of library records without fear of a lengthy and costly legal defense over ownership of records.

This solution is a compromise, in the opinion of this blogger, in that the data itself cannot be owned or licensed, nor could OCLC be able to claim to be the original creator of the data a great majority of the records.  It does, however, provides a path forward that allows everyone to benefit, and that should be why organizations such as OCLC exist in the first place.

found via Becky Yoose’s Twitter feed

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Wikipedia Redefined

Wikipedia Redefined is a proposal by a creative agency called NEW! which presents changes that would make Wikipedia more usable, both as a user and as an editor.

Having used MediaWiki (the software that runs Wikipedia) extensively, I can vouch that there are usability issues that, if addressed, would greatly increase the ease of use, and the quality of editing, of the average user.  Much of what is proposed by NEW! makes sense, and the end result would be an increase in participation and use of Wikipedia, as well as a reduction in server load (as edits would need to be tested and re-done less often through a WYSIWYG editor).

Kudos to NEW! for taking the time and energy to propose these changes, and hopefully the developers at MediaWiki take these suggestions to heart.

found via Kai Li

Posted in Online Services, Open Source, Software, Web Design, Wiki | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

More Master’s Degree News

Guess which field made Forbes #1 Worst Master’s Degree in terms of mid-career pay and job availability…

Posted in Education, Libraries, News | Comments Off

The Matter of the Master’s

I’ve had some differences of opinion with Will Manley over the years, most specifically his seeming distain for Movers & Shakers, but his current column regarding the reduced impact of the Masters of Library Science degree hits fairly close to the mark.

In general, the Masters degreed librarian position is being reduced by attrition. As retirements, layoffs, and career changes occur, as often as not the position itself is changed. Cost pressures alone have aided in eliminating many of these jobs.

Unfortunately, there are few other choices. The Bachelor’s degree is such a rarity in the library world, and for no good reason. Support Staff certification is an expensive route seemingly without a direct benefit (does it aid in obtaining a position in a library, vs. simply having a good range of library experience under one’s belt?).

I think that the ALA and other influentual library organizations and people need to recognize that their profession’s professionalism is at stake, and relying on the MLS alone to preserve it is a losing battle. Encouraging the proliferation of Bachelor’s and Associate’s programs with a variety of focus will be a great long-term solution. Creating an inexpensive certification process for those without degrees, in order to establish depth and breadth of knowledge and experience, would be a fantastic step to “professionalize” most of us in the profession.

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“None of this works off-the-shelf…”

You may remember Michael Wesch.  He has done quite a bit of note since that project (here and here).

He is, however, re-evaluating the role of technology in the classroom after receiving reliable reports that his methods don’t always work for other teachers:

A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working

…Then a frustrated colleague approached him after one of his talks: “I implemented your idea, and it just didn’t work,” Mr. Wesch was told. “The students thought it was chaos.”

It was not an isolated incident. As other professors he met described their plans to follow his example, he suspected their classes would also flop. “They would just be inspired to use blogs and Twitter and technology, but the No. 1 thing that was missing from it was a sense of purpose.”

A constant theme for this blog, and my approach to technology, is to experiment (or better yet, play) with different ways of doing things.  Some things will work, some things won’t, and it won’t always be the technology that works or doesn’t.  Sometimes it is the people using or implementing the technology that don’t quite “fit” into the picture.

There is nothing wrong with this; the challenge is finding the best technological fit for the people and the situation.  Rarely does a “perfect” solution come about, but experimentation can help to bring forth a “good” solution, and that is often the best result.

Posted in Blogs, Education, Software | Tagged , , | Comments Off