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July 28, 2006

Libraries, Schools and Flickr Under Attack

Get any large group of people together and you're bound to end up with a few doofuses trying to ruin the good experience for everyone else.  Well, that's exactly what's happening over on Flickr right now.  There are some less-than-upstanding individuals who are posting photos that clearly violate Flickr's community guidelines.  Those photos are almost always removed very quickly.  Anyone who uses any of the online photo hosting networks realizes that this is going to happen.  In my personal opinion, Flickr is by far the most family-friendly of the photo social networks, and I will continue using it for my personal and family photos.

But many libraries and schools use Flickr in order to reach out to their community and show the world what great things are happening inside their walls.  I've been a longtime advocate of this usage.  But recently some people have taken to attacking and threatening those libraries and schools, and today's piece by Michael Stephens over at ALA TechSource examines the most recent events regarding this issue.  I urge you to take a look and find out what's happening.

"...don't kid yourselves that you have an intellectual renaissance going on over in the stacks"

Karen Schneider has a wonderful post over on ALA TechSource titled It's Too Darn Hot: A Curmudgeon's Asides.  I hope she doesn't mind me quoting here from one of my favorite parts:

Some library practices that mystify me:

  • Libraries that insist users turn off cell phones. I never turn off my cell phone (well, except on airplanes). It stays on, either muted or not as appropriate. I use it for my timepiece, e-mail, Web, and chat. Asking cell-phone users to take calls outside is reasonable. Asking us to turn off our brain-assist systems is not and makes libraries look clueless.
  • Self-policing library computers. Absolutely, leave it up to the users to manage themselves. I'm sure the same person who squeezed an SUV into a compact parking spot is going to observe a thirty-minute time limit. No need for you to buy time-management software!
  • Libraries that make it impossible for users to save files. Yes, I read a thread on the PUBLIB list where the library explained that users couldn't save files to any device and the computer was erased on reboot... Come on. Find a way to help the user save his or her file, or don't offer the service.
  • Libraries that block instant messaging/gaming/Flickr/YouTube and so forth because computers should be used for serious purposes. Have you ever browsed your new-book shelves? Danielle Steele, Jan Karon... let a thousand flowers bloom, but don't kid yourselves that you have an intellectual renaissance going on over in the stacks. Libraries serve important roles in society, and one role is that as provider of recreational information. Whether it's in a book or on a screen, let people explore their worlds.

Full post 

Web 2.0 and Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software

Your next book purchase!


July 14, 2006

Cellphones, Kids, Parents and Safety

Today's New York Times has an article titled School Cellphone Ban Violates Rights of Parents, Lawsuit Says that discusses a lawsuit brought by parents against the City of New York. The suit argues that New York's ban on cellphones in schools violates the parent's right to keep their children safe. This issue may have broad implications for libraries that ban cellphones outright.

The parents argue, in papers filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, that the ban is so broad and blunt that it violates their constitutional right as parents to keep their children safe and to raise them in the way they see fit.

The ban violates their due process right to personal liberty under both the state and federal constitutions, they said, because it interferes with the relationship between parents and their children, without a compelling education reason for doing so.

As a parent of two young children, I've often wondered about this issue.  My daughter is about to enter second grade and I recently bought her a Migo phone through Verizon. Not only can she call four numbers plus 911, but her phone allows us to know where she is at any time via Verizon's Chaperone service. However, her school bans cellphones, which means I will be unable to verify her location during those hours. While I understand this policy, I am a bit uneasy knowing that there is a technology I am unable to use that would allow me to track her whereabouts should something happen.


July 13, 2006


On Tuesday I had the privilege of speaking to a great group of librarians at the NGAL (North Georgia Associated Libraries) meeting in Rome, Georgia. We discussed Library 2.0 as it applies to library services and technology. If there was one theme to our talk it was the idea of getting out of our physical library and finding out what our community wants – not just the community that comes into our buildings and already uses our services, but the community of non-library users who never even think to use our resources.

I want to thank Susan Sexton-Cooley, Director of the Sara Hightower Regional Library System, for providing such a wonderful and inviting venue. They have a beautiful library up there in Rome. I also want to thank Laura Savastinuk, Sheelagh O’Malley Johnson and Jeanne Hozak of NGAL for inviting me to speak.



Talis Talk

The Talis Talk group had an interesting discussion yesterday on mashups and how libraries can best utilize these new tools. Present were Paul Miller, Paul Mayes, Ed Vielmetti, John Blyberg, Thomas Brevik, Sandra Stewart, Tim Spalding and myself. This and previous podcasts should be available here.  I'm afraid I was out of my league in this discussion as you'll realize when you hear John Blyberg and Ed Vielmetti of Ann Arbor District Library and Tim Spalding, creator of Library Thing, discussing the amazing things they're doing with mashups and online web applications.


Zoho's Office Suite

ExtremeTech has an excellent look at one of my favorite Web 2.0 apps, Zoho. Zoho now offers a full suite of Office-style applications.


July 08, 2006

Tom Peters on The Long Tail

I don't agree with everything Tom Peters says, but this is a very good essay on the Long Tail at ALA TechSource. I commented on his post but I'd like to talk a bit about it here.

My primary concern is the confusion over what titles people think fall into today's long tail.  Many in libraries like to think that large public libraries and public library cooperatives can stock the long tail of titles.  In my opinion this is incorrect.  I'm not convinced that either large public libraries or large shared catalog systems are the answer. If that were the case, Amazon would not have the huge long tail advantage that it currently has over such very large chain bookstores as Borders or Barnes and Noble.

While it's easy to say that a large system of cooperating libraries can stock the long tail of titles, that thinking ignores the reality of local politics -- public libraries and the communities they serve want that top 20% of materials and they don't care to wait 24 hours, not to mention waiting a week. Sharing among branches is a small help, but the realities of cash and space overwhelm any effort to stock that long tail.  And ILL is far to cumbersome and expensive a beast.

I think we confuse old, formerly popular titles with titles in today's long tail, and I think we need to be careful about that.  To use books as an example, today's long tail is comprised of new books that have small publication numbers. The long tail isn't old, formerly popular, titles. No matter the size of the cooperative library system, it cannot hope to stock that long tail of titles. I'm convinced that in order to properly serve customers in that long tail we will need to radically change some of our acquisition models. The idea of pushing purchasing to the library customer may be one approach worth trying. Printing on demand, used book purchasing in place of ILL, and digital books are also good places to begin.

July 06, 2006

PLCMC Technology Summit on Library 2.0

The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County is pleased to extend an invitation to staff from neighboring libraries to join PLCMC staff for a Technology Summit on Library 2.0 featuring two well renowned library speakers, Michael Stephens & Michael Casey.

This should be a lot of fun! Take a look.

July 03, 2006

Social Computing... On Your Mobile Phone

Neat little article on Technology Review website, A New Platform for Social Computing: Cell Phones.

The Internet is now overflowing with user-generated content -- photos, videos, blogs, wikis, garage-band music. As it becomes easier to transmit this content over cellular networks, the phone -- arguably the first social machine -- is helping to make the "social computing" revolution mobile.