Monthly Archives: July 2007

Mission Creep

One Florida library system apparently has a problem:

The Hillsborough County Library System tries hard to be all things to all people. Perhaps too hard.

According to the editorial, the libraries are doing all sorts of things.  They’re community centers.  They have computers.  They have game nights, for crying out loud.  And all this takes away from their main purpose: books.

Today, the top priorities are more computer labs and more public meeting space. Book collections are deliberately being kept small.

So make no mistake about it. The construction of new branch libraries is mostly about adding value to neighborhoods, not about getting more books to more people.

Now, while I think this editorial overstates things a bit, there is something to ponder in all this.  We are trying to be all things to all people.  And….warning, shock alert….we’re not doing a very good job of telling our story, and explaining why we’re doing all the things we’re doing.

Perhaps we need to take a step back and evaluate what we’re doing and why.  And we should start exploring collaborative relationships, as the editorial suggests.  The writer continues:

 For library purists, it’s sad to learn that neighborhood libraries aren’t cherished for the printed word, but for the computers, meeting space and game events.

Given this new reality, Hillsborough’s library system needs a new strategy. If we want to make libraries de facto community centers, how they are financed should be reconsidered.

It’s time to look at the library system with fresh eyes, and for leaders to tell squeaky-wheel advocates that they can’t have it all.

Ah.  There’s the punchline.  If there is one group thinking this way, there are others.  And our libraries are going to start having to answer tough questions about what they’re doing and why.  If what you’re doing makes sense, and is congruent with the mission of the library in serving its community, then make sure you polish your story.

If, however, you’re offering services only because you read an article somewhere and didn’t fully consider whether it’s appropriate for your library and your community, you may want to reconsider.

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Too many books

Man, I am in deep trouble – at least I am if I move to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

John Puchniak quite literally lives in a sea of books.He reads constantly except when he’s haunting bookstores, libraries and, when he’s able to get there, the Philadelphia bookstore that he co-owns. He filled his house with about 3,000 texts until it was repossessed by the bank, which agreed to move them all to an apartment Puchniak rented on North Main Street specifically because there was plenty of storage space.

For about a month and a half, though, Puchniak has had to shuttle his papery world to the Red Carpet Inn on Kidder Street because his apartment was condemned after city code enforcement officers said the books were a fire hazard. (emphasis added)

Hoo, boy.

Now, there’s a photo of John’s apartment and granted, it could be organized a little better. But the reality is that there are a lot of folks (ahem) that have large collections of books. Fire hazard? I suppose so. Books are flammable, after all.

But eviction?

H/T LISNews 

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Open Library

The Open Library project launched yesterday.

What if there was a library which held every book? Not every book on sale, or every important book, or even every book in English, but simply every book—a key part of our planet’s cultural legacy.

First, the library must be on the Internet. No physical space could be as big or as universally accessible as a public web site. The site would be like Wikipedia—a public resource that anyone in any country could access and that others could rework into different formats.

Second, it must be grandly comprehensive. It would take catalog entries from every library and publisher and random Internet user who is willing to donate them. It would link to places where each book could be bought, borrowed, or downloaded. It would collect reviews and references and discussions and every other piece of data about the book it could get its hands on.

But most importantly, such a library must be fully open. Not simply “free to the people,” as the grand banner across the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh proclaims, but a product of the people: letting them create and curate its catalog, contribute to its content, participate in its governance, and have full, free access to its data. In an era where library data and Internet databases are being run by money-seeking companies behind closed doors, it’s more important than ever to be open.

So let us do just that: let us build the Open Library.


I’ve wandered around the place a bit, and it’s pretty impressive.  Aaron Schwartz explains further:

Earlier this year, a small group of people gathered at Internet Archive’s San Francisco office to discuss whether this was possible. Could we build something so grand? We concluded that we could. We located a copy of the Library of Congress card catalog, phoned publishers and asked them for their data, created a brand new database infrastructure for handling millions of dynamic records, wrote a new type of wiki that lets users enter structured data, set up a search engine to look through it all, and made the resulting site look good.

We hooked it up to the Internet Archive’s book scanning project, so that you can read the full text of all the out-of-copyright books they’ve made available. And we hope to add a print-on-demand feature, so that you can get nice paper copies of these scanned books, as well as a scan-on-demand feature, so you can fund the scanning of that out-of-copyright book you’ve always loved.

But we can only do so much on our own. Hopefully we’ve done enough to make it clear that this project is for real—not simply another pie-in-the-sky idea—but we need your help to make it a reality. So we’re opening up the demo we’ve built so far, opening up the source code, opening up the mailing lists, and hoping you’ll join us in building Open Library. It sure is going to be a fun ride.

—Aaron Swartz and the Open Library team, 16 July 2007

This will be very interesting to watch.  And if this takes off, it will change things.

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There’s an amusing game going on at MPOW. The folks in the IT area have started pranking each other.

First a couple of the guys pranked Aurora, my Internet Librarian buddy.

Today was payback.

No doubt, there will be a retaliatory move. Should make Fridays all the more fun.

Revenge: Step 2 Originally uploaded by superturbo.

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Whoo, boy.

Why do I think this is not going to end well?

A Kane County library district has resorted to legal action to dislodge Dundee Township officials from office space in a building that the agencies have shared for more than 30 years.

But the township has no intention of moving, Supervisor Susan Harney said Thursday.

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Women, business, and libraries

Nancy Dowd has a thought-provoking post on her terrific blog, The “M” Word – Marketing Libraries. She springs her post from a New York Times article on how women are building their businesses.

We know from our own experiences that most women go about building a business from the heart and soul then integrate the growth in their life between all the other things they already have going. Businesses plans and budgets usually come along somewhere down the road… sometimes toward the very end of the road. But what struck me about this article was the idea that libraries could serve as a great place to network BUT and this is a really important part- we would need to stage the meetings to be conducive to the kind of networking that makes women comfortable. And that means making it hip, chic so speak.


The best performance I ever went to was to hear Ellis Paul in a library but I have to tell you, I had to close my eyes to block out the atmosphere because it was such a stark room.

Ah, yes. The old How Ugly Is Your Library? conundrum. Luckily, Nancy has some practical ideas for spiffing things up a bit, and for drawing this audience to your library. Have a look. And then have a program!

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Damn good answer.

Dorothea at Caveat Lector has a wonderful post on the recent New York Times article on librarians.

For those of you who haven’t heard about this article, it talks about librarians and how “hip” we now are.  How some of them are tattooed!  And wear cool clothes!  And are even GUYS!

ON a Sunday night last month at Daddy’s, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, more than a dozen people in their 20s and 30s gathered at a professional soiree, drinking frozen margaritas and nibbling store-bought cookies. With their thrift-store inspired clothes and abundant tattoos, they looked as if they could be filmmakers, Web designers, coffee shop purveyors or artists.


Librarians? Aren’t they supposed to be bespectacled women with a love of classic books and a perpetual annoyance with talkative patrons — the ultimate humorless shushers?

Not any more. With so much of the job involving technology and with a focus now on finding and sharing information beyond just what is available in books, a new type of librarian is emerging — the kind that, according to the Web site Librarian Avengers, is “looking to put the ‘hep cat’ in cataloguing.”

Dorothea takes exception to the article’s basic premise:

This image stuff? Is fiddling while Rome burns, people. It doesn’t matter what particular image the media decides to paste on us on a given day. What matters is that all they notice is image. They haven’t got a frickin’ clue what we do or why it matters.

Exactly.  And frankly, I find the article to be rather patronizing.

I’ve often wondered where all of this hand-wringing over image comes from.  I came to librarianship later in life, after having tried on a few different hats.  I’ve never been in a group of opticians or stockbrokers or higher education folks and had this conversation.  (“But what is our image as brokers?”)  Why on earth are we as a group so concerned with this nonsense?  Who CARES whether the image of The Librarian is some older woman with a bun, glasses, and sensible shoes?

As Dorothea points out, we should be concerned with what we DO:

I refuse to be defensive about my appearance or my hobbies. They impact my ability to do my job not in the slightest. I wish the profession would similarly refuse to be defensive—which means not hopping up and down yelling “See? See? I am too cool, see?”

How do we fix this? We damned well say no, loud and clear, the next time some brainless style reporter shows up to play image games. We say no. We say “you write about what I do at work, or you don’t call me a librarian in your article.” We say no. We say “I’m sorry, how is this story you’re planning relevant to libraries and librarianship?” and if they don’t have a damn good answer, we say no.

“I’m going to revamp the buns-and-shushing image of librarianship!” is not a damn good answer. It’s a damn bad answer. In fact, it’s unacceptable. So what do we say to it? We say no.

Absolutely right on.  No reporter goes into a brokerage firm and asks about what they do in their free time, or how their appearance validates or contradicts the “stockbroker stereotype.”

As I’m fond of saying, you will not get a group of accountants sitting about, wringing their hands over their image.

We need to get over this, people.  Right.  Now.  It’s juvenile and distracting.  Wear what you want.  (Though I would say that dressing professionally is appropriate for any professional, but that’s another blog post.)  Do what you want to in your spare time.  Tattoo and pierce whatever.

But for crying out loud, quit perpetuating this nonsense by continuing to whinge about it.

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No love

DH is watching pro bowling on television.

Apparently, the only ad sponsor is Denny’s, whose new campaign features the Air Supply song, “I’m all out of love.”

It’s been playing multiple times during every commercial break for an hour.

The song is bad enough……and if I hear it one more time…..

The placement of advertisements needs to be done in such a way as to grab the right audience, get their attention, and then entice them to take advantage of whatever it is you’re advertising.  At this point, Denny’s is off my restaurant list.  Not that it was ever really on it, mind you, but the annoying commercial repetition has sealed the deal.  Whoever placed those ads in that rotation should be out of a job.

Here’s the segue to library stuff, in my mind.  When librarians are choosing to advertise, do they know where to advertise?  And how often?  Too often, librarians are tasked with the job of promoting the library without being given much direction in how to do so.  Certainly, this sort of thing isn’t taught in library school.  So how do you know if you’re just irritating the audience instead of enticing them?


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The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

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This past weekend DH and I traveled to Milwaukee for two momentous celebrations: our granddaughter’s first birthday and the 25th anniversary of Fr. Mike’s ordination.

Alannah had a great time ripping open the tons of gifts she was given, and toddling about the place.

She had taken her first steps 13 days before, and had evidently mastered the walk.  By the end of the day she was toddling about like a drunken sailor since she was so tired, but she was determined not to give in to sleep when there was so much to see, so much to explore.  Ginger served as a resting place for a while, though.

The next day, we celebrated Mike’s ordination anniversary.  Mike, who is DH’s older brother, had the celebration organized and planned, and had a whole day of festivities, starting with Mass.  He had four priests con-celebrate with him, including a man he went to seminary with and had known since they were 14.   Since Fr. Larry has been in Latin America for 25 years, I had heard much about him but had never met him.  It was a pleasure to be able to do so….and it was a pleasure to be able to celebrate with Mike.

So much to celebrate.

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