Monthly Archives: July 2008

French Comfort

One of the great things about getting to know folks in the library community is that they inevitably introduce you to other folks in the library community.  While at ALA in Anaheim, Jen Peterson introduced me to Zola Maddison.  Zola and her husband, Guy, have a food blog called Food Chains.  The blog solicits recipes and their coordinating stories, which makes for great reading and eating.  (Always a good combo.)

I told Zola about a recipe that had been handed down in my family for generations, which is something I discovered accidentally.  It’s my favorite comfort food: Chicken Fricassee.  Wander over to Food Chains and read all about it.  And while the weather might be a bit warm for this recipe now, wait until a chilly day, when you’re needing a warm and wonderful meal.

Bon appetit!

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The library story I wrote about yesterday has an update, in the form of a letter written to the Wall Street Journal in response to their story about the situation.  The WSJ was not looking favorably on the library’s actions, and rather took the librarian to task.  The director wrote a response:

The staff of Kimball Library did not impede the Vermont State Police’s investigation into the tragic disappearance of Brooke Bennett on June 25. VSP Detective Sergeant Richard Holden arrived at the library at about 4:30 p.m. on June 26. When staff informed him that the library required a valid court order to surrender the public Internet computers, he agreed. He stated that he would get the paperwork in order, get judicial approval, and return with a court order in hand.

Instead, for reasons unknown to us, Holden returned with four additional law-enforcement officials and proceeded for the next hour to try to intimidate Ms Flint into surrendering the computers without a court order. When Holden finally served the search warrant at 11:00 p.m., 6½ hours had passed. There was no celebration or sense of victory among the staff for “forcing” the police to get a search warrant, but rather considerable confusion. Why, when a judge can sign a court order within minutes given probable cause, did it take so long for the police to get one?

Library staff could not say for certain if Brooke had ever used the library’s computers, much less when or how. The state police confiscated five hard drives with the remnants of years’ worth of traffic by hundreds of users, all of whom were logged into the computers under a single user-name. If there are any data pertaining to Brooke or her MySpace account on any of those hard drives, it is the proverbial needle in a haystack. Meanwhile, Holden stated that the police were working to serve a court order on MySpace to gain access to Brooke’s account, and therefore a direct record of the activities pertaining to that account.

Library staff consulted with two lawyers about the correct course of action: Should they immediately surrender the computers, or stand by the library’s policy requiring a court order? Both lawyers confirmed that staff was correct to wait for a court order. Kimball Library’s policy puts judgment in such matters where it belongs, with a judge, who can make a rapid and impartial decision about constitutional matters that protect all of us: due process, probable cause, and privacy.

On July 1, legislation went into effect in Vermont to clarify and codify the circumstances under which any library in the state is permitted to release patron information. Sec. 1. 22 V.S.A. chapter 4 parallels state legislation across the country, and was enacted with the knowledge and support of the Vermont State Police. The actions of the staff of Kimball Library were fully in line with the statute. It is not–or should not be–a case of libraries versus law enforcement. Rather, librarians and law enforcement officials must do their jobs–for everyone’s protection.

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Privacy vs. Safety?

There’s a story going around at the moment about a librarian who refused to hand over library computers to police investigating the disappearance of Brooke Bennett.   She insisted on a warrant, which they eventually obtained.  The horrible punchline is that Brooke was found murdered.

I’m on the librarian’s side on this one, though, I must admit, rather reluctantly.  I understand that she was guarding patron privacy.  If I were Brooke’s mother, however, I would have a rather different take on the situation, I’m sure.

So here’s the problem: as librarians we’re charged with maintaining the privacy of our patrons and their records.  Before the advent of the Internet, I doubt it was often that law enforcement personnel would come into a library and demand the reading records for a patron.  However, with the social networking sites getting teens into trouble and potential terrorists using library public access computers for communication and education on things we’d rather they not know, this is all getting really messy.

This is what we – librarians and patrons – need to figure out: when does privacy go out the window?

Of course, this is what things like warrants are for.  Walk into a library with a warrant, and there’s no problem.  What we keep hearing about, though, are these situations where law enforcement comes into a library, demands private patron information, and then is amazed/upset/infuriated when the librarian asks for a warrant.

Please, Law Enforcement Folks: We want to help.  But we’re supposed to not hand this stuff over without a warrant. We’re supposed to protect patron privacy.  In many states, it’s the law that we do so.  Please have a warrant with you when you come.

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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship


I had my first classroom session last week.  I think it went well, though there are definitely things I will do differently in the future.

The challenge with these presentations is that you have a very limited amount of time in which to present a vast amount of information.  Choosing the most important bits and disseminating that information without sounding like the FedEx commercial guy was probably the hardest part of the whole exercise.

I decided that the most important thing I could show the class was my face: showing them who I am, where I am, and how they can reach me.  And it worked!  I got this email from one of the students afterwards:

Thank you for helping me in the virtual library yesterday. You were very helpful and I’m not as frightened of finding material now. For us “dinosaur” era people the computer world can be a little daunting at times. I’m thankful that the U of M has made their access very user friendly.

Oh, yay!  It’s not often that we get immediate feedback on our actions.  I’m delighted that what I was trying to do worked.

Meanwhile, back at the library, I’m in the process of creating resource guides for each of the subject areas, borrowing heavily on those already created by my talented counterparts on the other campuses.  The library’s web page, as I’ve mentioned before, is sad.  Really, really sad.  Not useful at all.  We’re hiring a web master, but that person and the process won’t be in place for a while.  In the meantime, I’ve got to make the library page an actual resource.  Hence, the pathfinders.  I’m puzzling over the list of links I should add, without gumming up the whole page with extraneous stuff.  Frankly, though, anywhere is up from here.

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Filed under Libraries and Librarianship, Me and mine

Packer Woes


Since I wrote about our beloved Favre retiring, I feel compelled, like this blogger, to write about his sort-of not retiring.  But since Christian took the words right out of my mouth, jump over to Atomic Trousers and read his missive on the whole situation.  As for me?  Ditto.

What a mess.

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Filed under Me and mine, Miscellaneous


Pardon the interruption.  I’ve been under the weather of late, and am just now returning to the land of the living.

Typical of most flights I’ve been on, there was a passenger coughing up a lung on the plane that returned me to Minnesota from the ALA conference in Anaheim.  Most of the time, I can stave off whatever creeping crud they try to pass along, but this time I wasn’t as lucky.

I was out most of last week with the Summer Cold From Hell.  I’ve now entered the Annoying Cough portion of the entertainment, but am on the mend.

Needless to say, blogging wasn’t on the agenda.  Pretty much nothing save laying on the couch was on the agenda.

But I’m back.

I have my first class presentation this evening, talking about resources and scholarly sources and databases.  Makes me feel like a real academic librarian.  And we got the new spiffy library chairs this week, and they’re swell.  Comfortable and welcoming.  The first day they were in, one student wowed and commented that she’ll have to visit the library more often, which is precisely what I was hoping would happen.

So, onward.  Just keep the throat lozenges handy.

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Cite Me!

I’m beginning to become more of a Facebook fan, after many years of wondering why it’s so popular.  It really can be a way to keep connected with friends and colleagues.  And to gather information, as it turns out.

After the delightful symposium at ALA sponsored by OCLC, I have connected with a number of the OCLC folks that I met and got to know.  One of them, Alice, has a new widget on her Facebook page that intrigued me.

It’s called Cite Me.

WorldCat app has just been released on Facebook called CiteMe. Type in a title, author, subject, or isbn and presto! A formatted citation comes up, right in the Facebook environment.

Of course, if you’re looking to do a whole bibliography in a click, staying on the site is the way to go. You can build a list of all your works and generate your Works Cited page, quickly and easily. But for one or two listings or a quick refresher when you’re posting out–this new Facebook app can’t be beat!

Oh. My. God.  How cool is that???  (And where was that when I was in school??)  I can’t wait to figure out how to coordinate this with the services for the library at MPOW.

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