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February 28, 2007

Social Networking and the Cloud of Fear

From ALA TechSource comes Michael Stephens' interview of Robert Doyle on the current state of social networking and the efforts by some states to regulate or filter access to social networking sites within schools and public libraries. Doyle says:

The library community needs to be at the table. We need to be offering the Web-safety classes at all libraries and systems. We need to post the "Basic Rules of Online Safety for Teens" at our public-access terminals...

We need to be proactive. We are far behind on this issue considering the coverage in the media, proposed federal legislation, and proposed legislation in selected states. We need to connect the dots as reported in the local, state, and national media. To all the states that haven't seen this legislation yet, be prepared!

We need to act in a thoughtful and coordinated effort.

Full post link

February 26, 2007

Social Dictionary: WordSource

From TechCrunch comes word of this new social dictionary: 

A new online dictionary and thesaurus launches today called WordSource. It’s main benefit over sites like Dictionary.com is the fact that the site is very cleanly designed and contains no advertisements. You can also look up a word by simply adding it to the URL (so word.sc/example will pull up the definition of “example”).

The site also has a number of social features, allowing users to upload photos that are relevant to the word, add tags, rate words, etc. Seems like a bit of overkill to bolt a social network onto an online dictionary, but there you go. If they hadn’t built it, someone else probably would have.

I like their advanced search features:

Exact: planet returns an exact definition of planet
Prefix: planet* returns all words starting with planet
Suffix: *planet returns all words ending in planet
Wilds: pl!!!t returns all words starting with pl followed by any three
      letters and ending in t (exclamation mark represents any letter)
ZIP Code: 90210 returns the Beverly Hills, California listing
City: Beverly Hills, CA returns the Beverly Hills, California listing

Link to WordSource

February 25, 2007

Net Neutrality

Then go here to see what you can do.

February 24, 2007

A Different Kind of Quiet Sign

Northside Hospital's Quiet Signs
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

Northside Hospital's Quiet Signs

February 21, 2007

Me As Bookcovers

Originally uploaded by Dave & Bry.

By Dave Pattern. Thanks!

See the original photo they used here

February 20, 2007

Congratulations Laura!

Multimedia message
Originally uploaded by lsavastinuk.

Congratulations to my friend and co-author Laura Savastinuk on the birth of her son! Healthy little George was born at 10:56PM, weighing in at 7 pounds 15 ounces.


February 17, 2007

Tales of a Fourth Grade Book Banning

From the Sunday NY Times comes this sad story.

The word “scrotum” does not often appear in polite conversation. Or children’s literature, for that matter.

 Yet there it is on the first page of “The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature. 

The inclusion of the word has shocked some school librarians, who have pledged to ban the book from elementary schools, and reopened the debate over what constitutes acceptable content in children’s books.

It's always sad to see librarians wanting to "ban" anything, but it's especially sad when it's a Newbery winner that uses not slang or vulgarity but an accurate word representing a part of the human male anatomy. But hey, really, fourth graders shouldn't and don't know anything about gender differences or body parts or sex or... (EDIT: and if you think I'm serious then I have this bridge for real cheap...).

And then the writer goes on to say:

If it were any other novel, it probably would have gone unnoticed, unordered and unread. But in the world of children’s books, winning a Newbery is the rough equivalent of being selected as an Oprah's Book Club title.

Umm, I'm not so sure that fifty years from now people will be saying that some book was an Oprah book the same way we say books are Newbery or Caldecott winners. Perhaps the writer is overestimating Oprah's depth here?

Old But Worth Revisiting

On Notice!
Originally uploaded by mstephens7.

February 13, 2007

Library 2.0 Book Cover

Library 2.0 book cover
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

Published by Information Today Press. Due for March release.

2007/200 pp/softbound/ISBN 978-1-57387-297-3 $29.50

Carl Sagan: Rejoining the Debate

Carl Sagan

It’s been a long 10 years since we’ve heard Carl Sagan beckoning us to consider the possibilities inherent in the “billions” of stars peppering the sky and in the “billions” of neuronal connections spiderwebbing our brains.

...In his absence, the public discourse on his favorite issues — the fate of the planet, the beauty and mystery of the cosmos — has not fared well. The teaching of evolution in public schools has become a bitter bone of contention; NASA tried to abandon the Hubble Space Telescope and censor talk of climate change; and of course, religious fanatics crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center, leading to a war in the Middle East that has awakened memories in some corners of the Crusades.

Now, however, Dr. Sagan has rejoined the cosmic debate from the grave. The occasion is the publication last month of “The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God” (Penguin). The book is based on a series of lectures exploring the boundary between science and religion that Dr. Sagan gave in Glasgow in 1985, and it was edited by Ann Druyan, his widow and collaborator.

...Near the end of his book, Dr. Sagan parses the difference between belief and science this way: “I think if we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.”

Full article link

February 11, 2007

Article: Schools, libraries finding second life in Second Life

PLCMC's Second Life

February 10, 2007

Eleven To a Booth, Please!

Why Is She Taking Our Picture???
Originally uploaded by One Page Turner.

This scene from Dacula this past week shows just how many young people come in and use the teen area. What was amazing is that they were all just quietly talking and not bothering anyone. Nice scene.

February 08, 2007

Get Passionate About the Work, Not the Company

From Mark via Meg comes this excellent post from Creating Passionate Users:

People ask me, "How can I get our employees to be passionate about the company?" Wrong question. Passion for our employer, manager, current job? Irrelevant. Passion for our profession and the kind of work we do? Crucial. If I own company FOO, I don't need employees with a passion for FOO. I want those with a passion for the work they're doing. The company should behave just like a good user interface -- support people in doing what they're trying to do, and stay the hell out of their way. Applying the employer-as-UI model, the best company is one in which the employees are so engaged in their work that the company fades into the background...

...I consider one who is truly passionate about their work to have "the effect it has on the user" as a fundamental part of that work. A tech book author/teacher who has brilliant wordsmithing and technical breadth but no effect on the reader is not a professional. A software developer who crafts
brilliant code that doesn't include that code's effect on the user is not a professional. Part of what makes us professional/craftspeople is that we value and never forget the POINT of our work, and the point is--for most of us--what it means for the user. It's quite sad that many of our professions have rewarded work without making the user the most important attribute of how we asses that work...

The simple 4-quesetion test to see if someone has a passion for their work:

* When was the last time you read a trade/professional journal or book related to your work? (can substitute "attended an industry conference or took a course")

* Name at least two of the key people in your field.

* If you had to, would you spend your own money to buy tools or other materials that would improve the quality of your work?

* If you did not do this for work, would you still do it (or something related to it) as a hobby?

 Full text

This is encouraging to read because I know many people in MPOW that have this "passion". Getting the leaders of any organization to see and understand this is not easy. Just look at my post from last week and you'll see the frustration.

February 07, 2007

McCain's Securing Adolescents from Exploitation-Online Act

From ZDNet comes news of John McCain's latest attempt to crack down on "illegal" images. It also comes just as McCain begins his bid for the presidency in 2008.

A forthcoming bill in the U.S. Senate lays the groundwork for a national database of illegal images that Internet service providers would use to automatically flag and report suspicious content to police.

The proposal, which Sen. John McCain is planning to introduce on Wednesday, also would require ISPs and perhaps some Web sites to alert the government of any illegal images of real or "cartoon" minors. Failure to do would be punished by criminal penalties including fines of up to $300,000.

The Arizona Republican claims that his proposal, a draft of which was obtained by CNET News.com, will aid in investigations of child pornographers. It will "enhance the current system for Internet service providers to report online child pornography on their systems, making the failure to report child pornography a federal crime," a statement from his office said.

To announce his proposal, McCain has scheduled an afternoon press conference on Capitol Hill with Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat; John Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted; and Lauren Nelson, who holds the title of Miss America 2007.

Civil libertarians worry that the proposed legislation goes too far and could impose unreasonable burdens on anyone subject to the new regulations. And Internet companies worry about the compliance costs and argue that an existing law that requires reporting of illicit images is sufficient.

Full Text

February 05, 2007

by Helene Blowers and Lori Reed

by Helene Blowers and Lori Reed
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

Full text available online

February 04, 2007

The New Restaurant Bloggers

Sharp Bites, an article in today's Times about the rising power of restaurant bloggers and how they're taking readers away from the more traditional restaurant critics and food guides.

There is a new food game in the city that never stops grazing. A proliferation of blogs treating every menu revision, construction permit, clash of egos and suspiciously easy-to-get reservation as high drama is changing the rules of the restaurant world and forcing everyone from owners to chefs to publicists to get used to the added scrutiny.

Diners hungry for the next, the newest, the best, and with no patience to wait for the annual Zagat Guide, are benefiting.

Full story in today's New York Times

Are You Offering Online Photo Editing at the Library?

Online photo editing is one of those areas where the Web 2.0 tools have yet to catch up with locally installed software apps. I use Photoshop and iPhoto to edit my images, and the speed and power of those two apps has yet to be matched by any online tool. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch has a good overview of the current crop of editors in his recent post, Online Photo Editing Review. I agree when he says:

Since all computers come with basic software that rotates, resizes and crops photos, there needs to be a compelling reason to use an online service. Uploading a photo to such a service, editing it and then downloading it back to your hard drive too high of a cost. To compensate for this, most services allow you to transfer the edited photos directly to Flickr, Webshots or other online photo services, saving users the trouble of making round trips uploading and downloading.

I've been playing with his newest favorite, Picnik, for a few days now. Picnik has the standard array of editing options such as crop, exposure adjustments, color and sharpness, red-eye elimination, etc. Picnik makes transferring images to Flickr and other online photo sharing websites quite easy.

If you're going to offer this on your library's computers then you need to make certain you have the newest version of Adobe's Flash Player 9 installed because unlike many of the other online photo editing apps, Picnik does not use Ajax.

February 03, 2007

One of Their Own

A very moving story about the search for James Gray: 

When James Gray failed to return home from a sailing trip on Sunday night, Silicon Valley’s best and brightest went out to help find him...

The United States Coast Guard, which started a search Sunday night, suspended it on Thursday, after sending aircraft and boats to scour 132,000 square miles of ocean, stretching from the Channel Islands in Southern California to the Oregon border. Teams turned up nothing, not so much as a shard of aluminum hull or a swatch of sail from Dr. Gray’s 40-foot sailboat, Tenacious.

In the meantime, as word swept through the high-technology community, dozens of Dr. Gray’s colleagues, friends and former students began banding together on Monday to supplement the Coast Guard’s efforts with the tool they know best: computer technology.

The flurry of activity, which began in earnest on Tuesday, escalated as the days and nights passed. A veritable Who’s Who of computer scientists from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, NASA and universities across the country spent sleepless nights writing ad hoc software, creating a blog and reconfiguring satellite images so that dozens of volunteers could pore over them, searching for a speck of red hull and white deck among a sea of gray pixels.

Full story here at the New York Times

A Librarian's 2.0 Manifesto

Thanks to Curtis Rogers for sending me this link.



Ms. Dewey Search Engine

Ms. Dewey Search Engine
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

Ms. Dewey Search is powered by Microsoft's Live Search

February 01, 2007

"Ask a stakeholder"

Helene Blowers over on LibraryBytes discusses her library's recent stakeholder meeting (part of PLCMC's Imagine 2010 organizational redeisgn) in reference to Will Sherman’s 33 Reasons Why Libraries and Librarians are Still Extremely Important:

Our value to our community goes far beyond just being an alternative to Google. We need to learn to voice our importance in terms of community value and impact; not merely services/products. And I think Harry Jones said it best when he said libraries are important because they help citizens “thrive and prosper.” It's not what we do or offer that makes libraries & librarians important. It's how we improve quality of life and changes lives that matters most.

If given the time, I’d think it would be interesting to ask members of our community to come up with 33 reasons of their own. From the conversations this morning, I know one thing for sure… it definitely would look a whole lot different.

So here’s a start at a new list of reasons that I gathered from what I heard…

  1. A literate society is import for our community to prosper. Libraries provide vital services and resources that assist in the literacy development.
  2. Our school and education systems are challenged and the need to raise our student’s achievement levels is important to the entire community. Libraries are the most important community partner to achieving this goal and with stakes this high this is perhaps our greatest legacy.
  3. Community demographics are changing fast and new citizens need a trusted institution that can assist them with navigating the territory. Libraries serve as a vital community resource in helping both “newcomers” and “lifers” find their way through the forest.
  4. Workforce development is paramount to a thriving community. Libraries provide learning resources, computer skills training classes and access to online resources for job applications, resume creations and career development.
  5. As a knowledge rich society, people need a place to exchange ideas. Libraries are community gathering places that encourage conversation, dialogue and the exchange of free ideas.
  6. … it’s your turn

So how about it? I’ve started off the first five. What can you add to this list? Why not join me in asking a stakeholder in your community why libraries are important … you just might be pleasantly surprised. :)

Link to full post here

If They Go Elsewhere, We Lose

When your first response to a new idea is a blanket no, when your face betrays your timidity to change and negativity towards "outside the box" ideas, when you can no longer listen to a new idea with an open mind... well, it's time to go. I cannot tell you how often I have heard library staff from around the country tell me that they have department heads and supervisors who simply do not want to hear new ideas. This is crushing. It's crushing the morale of our workers and it's crushing the ability of our libraries to change and move forward.

As one young and energetic librarian recently asked me, "What do you do when your youth services supervisor doesn't like teens and does not want to allow you to hold meetings to even discuss teen outreach?" Or, as another librarian recently recounted, what do you do when your library holds a wildly popular event and then chooses not to repeat it because the people that attended may never come back to the library? Or, as several have recently written me and said, what do you do when everything you want to do, every program you want to create, is met with a condescending look and a "we'll look into it" reply that goes nowhere?

Ironically, and sadly, all of these comments come to me from young staff, people with fresh ideas, the energy to carry out their ideas, and the desire to make the library a more popular and fun destination. But it's not simply young staff who feel this oppression. Older staff, beaten down over the years, also feel this pressure but are probably less inclined to speak up and complain.

Can you tell that I am angry? I debated whether to write about this subject because of my position as technology director. I often times have to say no to new ideas, but I try to do it only after an honest and thoughtful review that often includes going to other people and bouncing the idea off of them. I hope I have never outright said no to an idea simply because it did not fit within my own understanding of needs or guidelines. Sometimes ideas that serve our mission will push the boundaries of our current operating environment, but that's okay. We must be willing to change and evolve if we want to continue serving our communities to the best of our ability.

So what do I say to these great people with excellent ideas? I tell them to keep pressing. Keep asking. I tell them to talk the idea up to those around them and don't give up. As someone this morning said to me, you're like a dog with a bone and you've got to fight for what you believe in. If these excited staff go elsewhere, other libraries or other industries, then we lose.