Best of Publib – January 2013 in Review

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Best of PubLib – January 2013 in Review

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Best of Publib January 2013

Best of Publib Word Cloud
January 2013

This edition of Best of Publib covers the month of January 2013.  Hot topics for the month of January included:

  • Cataloging Local Textbooks ~
    • Debra Bashaw of the McMullen Memorial Library in Huntington, TX asked:
    • How do you catalog cookbooks from local organizations?
  • Lending E-reader devices ~
    • Lucien Kress of the Multnomah County Library asked regarding the DOJ settlements over e-reader accessibility queried:
    • Are you loaning only accessible e-readers, which readers do you loan and other pertinent questions.
  • List Problems ~
    • Amy Mullin of the Austin Public Library wanted to know:
    • Are there technical problems with the list?
  • Playaways ~
    • John Richmond of the Alpha Park Public Libray District in Bartonville, IL pondered and ruminated:
    • “I’m wondering if anyone Out There has changed policies re: what they/you provide with Playaways. And if you took something away, did people holler? (Which, of course, they shouldn’t do, because they’re in a *library*.)”
  • Surveys for the Public ~
    • Elizabeth Thorson of the Laramie County Library System in Cheyenne, WY asked:
    • “Has anyone surveyed the public when facing budget cuts?”
  • Requests by Parents for in loco parentis services ~
    • Beth Hudson of the Walla Walla Public Library in Walla Walla, Washington wondered :
    • Does anyone have a written statement which they provide when a parents asks that you not check out certain items to their child?”.
  • Worst Marketing Idea(s) Ever ~
    • Dierdre Conkling of the Lincoln County Library District reported on ALA OIF’s plan for a sweater vest day to support intellectual freedom:
    • “I think this sounds like fun but I don’t own a sweater vest. Just shows once again that I am not cool. ;-)”

On January 10th The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom announced their ‘Wear a sweater vest on Sunday, Jan. 27, in support of intellectual freedom!‘ campaign.  If librarians attending Mid-Winter ALA would wear a sweater vest on that day, it would demonstrate their commitment and support of intellectual freedom.

In jaw-dropping, dumbfounded awe I asked:

I am trying to imagine how Judith Krug would have reacted to perhaps the worst marketing idea I have ever seen and the dynamics of a meeting where this idea was proposed and validated. Did no one dare to speak truth to power?

What does a ‘sweater vest’ represent? How the heck does a sweater vest  correlate to *any* form of ‘intellectual freedom’? Perhaps what is most appalling is the obvious lack of intellectual effort it takes to say you *support* intellectual freedom by wearing a sweater vest.

Maybe this will take off along the same lines as ‘Geek the Library’, which seriously detracts from the library mission. Bad ideas, once they are validated, tend to gain their own momentum.

The Emperor's New Clothes

Emperor’s New Clothes

This touched off two discussions on the list – one about the efficacy of sweater vests as statements of intellectual freedom and the other about the importance or impotence of the Geek the Library campaign administered by OCLC.  And, there were the anticipated reactions from some readers who were simply aghast that I would question poorly made decisions by established bureaucracies. :)

Emily Weak who had been promoting a librarian employment site/ blog on Publib asked:

Somewhat off your topic, but I am curious as to how “Geek the Library” detracts  from the library’s mission? Isn’t it about the diversity of resources one can find at the library (i.e. whatever you have a crazy passion for, you can find  materials about it at the library)? Is it that you feel geek has negative connotations?

The Side Show Honoré Daumier

The Side Show
Honoré Daumier

The Geek the Library campaign has evolved into its own bureaucracy supported by grants by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by OCLC.  I have found no empirical evidence that Geek the Library is more effective than any other course of advertising or promotion. In fact, there may be many, much more effective methods.  Anna Cangialosi with the Chelsea District Library did provide a link to an anecdotal case study on Publib.  However, there appears to be no clear data regarding effectiveness. The press release branded by OCLC seems to be yet another self-serving validation for people who self-identify as being a ‘geek’.

Professional librarians have spent years trying to separate themselves from the stereotype of anti-social professional clerks.  The movement to create a new stereotype by branding librarians as Geeks may result in many more years of trying to live down that stereotype.  Why not continue what we were working towards => a stereotype representing professionalism along with informational and intellectual excellence?

Saving Our Public Libraries

Saving Our Public Lbraries

Rather than blindly accepting that a terrible marketing campaign is in your interest and the interest of your library – why not read a book about how you can promote your library? Why not do a critical assessment of what works and what doesn’t? Why not re-engage in library science as a fundamental set of skills?

Janet Jai has written an excellent book that investigates success stories, expert advice and innovative ideas that support library marketing. If you haven’t ordered it yet,  you should order it for your library today: Saving Our Public Libraries  Why We Should. How We Can.

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Run, Hide, Fight

Surviving Workplace Violence

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On December 13th Library Director Susan Pieper with the Paulding County Library in Ohio offered this timely post on Publib:

I shared this short video with my staff during a staff meeting this fall.
Homeland Security released it and in light of the recent tragic shootings,
I think every library staff and every citizen should watch it.:
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The video was produced with a Department of Homeland Security Grant by the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security. It includes three key concepts ~

RUN – When an active shooter is in your vicinity:

  • If there is an escape path, attempt to evacuate
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others escape if possible.
  • Prevent others from entering the area.
  • Call 911 when you are safe.

HIDE – When Escape is not possible:

  • Lock and / or blockade the door.
  • Silence your cell phone.
  • Hide behind large objects.
  • Remain very quiet.

FIGHT – As a last resort, and only if your life is in danger:

  • Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.
  • Act with physical aggression.
  • Improvise weapons.
  • Commit to your actions.

In addition to those key concepts of Run, Hide, and Fight – the video also discusses how to interact with law enforcement.

911 – When Law Enforcement Arrives:

  • Remain calm and follow instructions.
  • Keep you hands visible at all times.
  • Avoid pointing or yelling.
  • Know that help for the injured is on the way.

The information provided in the video has been endorsed by numerous law enforcement agencies.

Libraries are certainly not exempt from workplace violence. Many have disaster plans in place and policies and procedures that are meant to reduce the likelihood of violence. However, they are open to the public and certainly permeable to people with ill-intent.  Many are also open to an increasing population of concealed carry permit holders – including patrons and staff.

American Nut and Arms

American Nut and Arms

The discussion of concealed carry by staff and patrons played out as a major meme and theme on Publib at the end of 2011.  Many library staff members came out as staunch proponents of concealed carry.  Others could not see the point.  However, gunfire, gun-accidents, and gun related incidents all have one thing in common – the presence of guns.  With each act of random violence that plays out in the media, the reaction from a fearful public includes the purchase of more guns.  So, there is an ongoing expectation of gun violence and an ongoing increase of people armed with guns.

In addition to guns, the United States has another crisis of sorts – something that law enforcement and public libraries experience every day.  Psychiatric hospitals closed throughout the US in response to the 1975 Supreme Court decision in O’Connor v Donaldson that non-dangerous individuals cannot be confined and Addington v Texas requiring convincing evidence for involuntary commitment.  It was hoped that many of the abuses experienced by people involuntarily committed – as dramatized in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest  would be remedied. The number of beds for psychiatric patients in 1955 was one for every 300 Americans.  By 2005, that number was reduced to one in every 3000 with over 90% of those committed to forensic cases.  So, the reality is psychiatric beds are no longer available in the US and other institutions without specialized training - including public libraries - must cope with the repercussions.

Drugs such as Thorazine (chlorpromazine) have helped many people cope with mental health issues.  But, many people go untreated and the prison and jail populations have become the de facto mental health facilities – providing incapacitation often without any truly effective rehabilitative treatment options.  Many may come out worse than they were when they went in – maxing out their sentences in Supermax facilities in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

The State of Rhode Island has the highest rate of severely mentally ill people in the US – at around 7.4% – almost twice the average of other States*.  In addition, it has some of the highest rates of illegal drug use and highest rates of untreated drug and alcohol addictions. So, most public library directors in Rhode Island will interact with people with severe mental illness problems and drug and alcohol abuse problems.  Rhode Island also has some of the strongest gun control measures in the US – although that does not stop gun violence from occurring.  When you look at the big picture and consider the likelihood that you will interact with people who have guns, who have mental illness and may have ill intent – it is always best to be prepared.

I highly recommend that libraries partner with their police departments and look at the training offered by the Memphis CIT  program. Their de-escalation training works.  Community partnerships can save lives and help redirect people from jail and prison to appropriate mental health resources.

You might even upgrade some office supplies.

Thanks to Susan Pieper for sharing!

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The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins -  A Book Review

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The Woman in White - Cover from 1890

The Woman in White – Cover from 1890

Walter Hartwright, a young drawing master, takes a late evening walk along a London bound road.  Suddenly a young woman dressed in white approaches behind him. Despite the late hour, she asks if she can still get transport into London. This is done. Before she goes, the young woman asks Hartwright not to tell anyone about seeing her.  Later on, Hartwright learns who she is and how she came to be on the road at such a late hour…It is this story of the woman in white which made Wilkie Collins famous.

The Woman in White appeared as a serial in “All the Year Round” magazine in November 1859 and was published in 40 installments. It was published in three volumes in 1860; a single volume edition followed the next year. The story was widely read by British society and related promotional products were sold. (Quite like what we see for popular book or TV series today!)

Wilkie_Collins_(Waddy,_1872

Wilkie Collins – caricature by Frederick Waddy, 1872

The story is told by a few different narrators. We hear from Marion Halcombe in her diary, the Fairlie family attorney Vincent Gilmore, Count Fosco, household servants among others. With each character’s narrative, the reader sees how events unfold. Murder, greed, deception, romance, and marriage–these are just a few elements in the story. The investigation of Anne Catherick’s (the name of the young woman attired in white whom Hartwright met on the road) past is an early example of the mystery solving element Collins would later further develop in his 1868 novel The Moonstone. Once I started reading the novel, I didn’t want to put it down! The narrations flow well from one character to the next.

Each character tells their respective part without restrictions so there are times you may doubt the veracity of the individual’s account.  I read the novel in two days on the bus ride during my vacation in France.

I was introduced to the novel watching an adaptation of it on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater” on Sunday evening years ago.  It featured Tara Fitzgerald as Marion Fairlie and Simon Callow as Count Fosco. I watched with interest–the story line was great. One of the scenes I remember best is Sir Percival Glyde demanding his young wife Laura to sign a document and refuses to answer what are its contents. When Sir Percival presses her, Count Fosco interrupts by saying he refuses to be a witness. Later Marion discovers Count Fosco isn’t someone to be trusted after all.

The_Woman_In_White_-_Illustration

I bought a Penguin Classics edition of the novel at Gibert Jeune, a French bookstore chain, in Paris during my group travel tour last month.  (There was a floor for foreign language books)  The edition I own includes notes and introduction by Matthew Sweet, appendixes, chronology of Collins’s life, and reprints of prefaces Collins wrote to the 1860 and 1861 editions. Penguin’s version was published in 1999 followed by a 2003 update.

Because of the success with The Woman in White, it has been performed on stage and screen. Collins wrote the stage version that was first performed on October 9, 1871 at the Olympic Theater. Today it can be seen as a musical.

Several TV adaptations have been made. The most recent was in 1997 by the BBC and was broadcasted on “Masterpiece Theater” for US audiences in March 1998.  Then host Russell Baker provided the commentary.  (Scroll down to see a short biography of him)

The novel is still available in print and online.

I wish PUBLIB readers a wonderful holiday season and plenty of reading!

Link of Interest

Wilkie Collins Information Pages: website about Collins and his works

Frederick Waddy

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France: Travelogue, History, & Music (Part 2)

France: Travelogue, History, &  Music (Part Deux)

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Before my second trip back to France, I did some reading before I went. For my listening pleasure, I have a small collection of French music at home.

Below are a few books and music CDs I’ve enjoyed about France.

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Books

  • History of France by Lucien Bély, English edition trans. by Angela Caldwell. Concise history of France until recent times by a French history professor at the Sorbonne. I bought the English translation in France 8 years ago.
  • The Road from the Past by Ina Caro.  Written in 1996, Caro writes about a travelogue about French history.  Her journey (with her husband, noted biography Robert Caro) begins in southern France and progresses through the ages.  She also offers some of her local experiences in the places she visits.
  • Paris to the Past by Ina Caro.  Companion to her previous book, Caro continues her time travels through day trips with Paris as a starting point.
  • The Greater Journey by David McCullough.  Best seller about Americans who went to Paris in the 19th century and how it influenced their career and later lives. It provides a fascinating history of Paris as well.
  • Discovery of France by Graham Robb.  In the 19th century, France was an unknown country to its own citizens. What guidebooks available for foreigners didn’t provide helpful information. French wasn’t widely spoken outside of Paris; locals spoke local dialects and regional languages.  Robb explores how the country came to be mapped out; he took a cycling trip as part of researching this book.

Music

  • Rough Guide to the Music of France–Musical tour of France with tracks in regional languages. The country has a rich heritage.  To hear the sounds of Paris, Rough Guide offers 3 CDs on the city–scroll down a little to “Related Albums” on the right side of the page.
  • A Night in France–Part of the “A Night in” series, this CD features contemporary music.
  • Putumayo Presents: Québec–If you go to St-Malo, you’ll see the Québec flags flying there on the ramparts.  What’s the connection?  Explorer Jacques Cartier is the town’s native son.  Although the CD is no longer available on the Putumayo site, you may be able to find it in stores.

~ Elisa Babel ~ DC Public Library

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Disaster Planning

Post-Sandy Disaster Planning

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Water Buffalo Storage

How will you and your staff and patrons cope during and after a major weather event? Price gouging and panic buying all contribute to the detrimental effects of a disaster and anxiety over a potential disaster.

In Rhode Island, as soon as there is a storm approaching or the threat of a storm approaching  - hurricane – tropical – or snow – the local population typically goes out and buys all of the bread and milk out off the store shelves. They also buy up loads of bottled water and batteries.

When the power goes out, what are they going to do with all of that milk?  Batteries eventually discharge. Bottled water is not environmentally friendly, can cost 500 times as much as tap water and may even be very low quality.  If water service is interrupted and a water buffalo is all that is available – refilling bottles for daily needs is ineffective.

Sandy

Rhode Island - with the exception of the south-west coastal area - was very lucky during Sandy compared to New Jersey and NYC. We were spared much of the rain and our storm surge was less. After going through many potential and real weather emergencies in Rhode Island and coastal North Carolina, I was determined not to be price gouged or ill-prepared for weather.  Rather than scurry around trying to find items in high demand, I decided to put together a few items that can bring relative comfort when your infrastructure is compromised.  It takes me about 10 minutes to get ready for an infrastructure disaster.  Here is my short list:

Water Bag

Water Carrier

Coleman Expandable Water Carrier http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Expandable-Water-Carrier-5-Gallon/dp/B000088O9Y- because your own tap water is much cheaper than bottled water and you can flatten out this jug and store it anywhere – you can also refill it from available water supplies efficiently – such as with a Water Buffalo deployed by the National Guard.

Portable Butane Stove

Butane Stove

Portable Butane Gas Stove  http://www.amazon.com/Portable-Butane-Stove-With-GASONE/dp/B001V72U36 – this will boil water – cook a skillet of food fast and is highly portable – a cartridge of butane lasts for a long time

Powdered Milk http://www.walmart.com/ip/10415475?adid=22222222227009265766 – doesn’t go bad for a long time – just mix what you need – this can be even cheaper than regular milk.

D Light Solar Lighting

Solar Led Lamps - http://www.amazon.com/d-light-S10-Solar-LED-Lantern/dp/B004B924OG/ – cheap, bright effective lighting

Hand Crank Radio

Hand Crank Radio

Hand Crank Radio - http://www.amazon.com/Ambient-Weather-Emergency-Flashlight-Certified/dp/B0071BTJPI/ – stay connected – recharge your cell-phones – even though you might not have service from damaged cell towers

Coffee Pot

Coffee Pot - http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-14-Cup-Enamelware-Coffee-Percolator/dp/B0009PUQI2 – boil water, make coffee, keep alert, stay happy!

This kit is just a little over $100.  You can also purchase all sorts of long-lasting food supplies. But, all of these items can also be used for camping – so your emergency kit has more that one purpose and will save you time and energy in the event of a disaster or the disaster that never comes.
I think I purchased the butane stove for around $20.  I have read that you can use them indoors like a regular burner on top of your regular stove.  The D-lights are very nice too – just leave them sitting in window sills in case the power ever goes out and they are always charged. They were developed for tropical conditions and are quite durable.  There are also lots of options with the hand-crank radios now and lower prices by quantity.  A five gallon collapsible container for water contains about as much as case of bottled water that can easily cost much more. If you calculate the cost of having to drive around and get the water, then it is even more and the quality of the water may be even less.  Powdered milk has a very long shelf-life and the cost at WalMart may be less than regular milk from the store.
With the portable stove, the Coffee Pot and a hot-water bottle, you can provide a nice source of warmth when temperatures fall.  Just heat up the water, pour it in the hot-water bottle and you can keep the chill off.  Most people I have met are fairly well prepared to go without infrastructure for about three days.  The items above can keep you somewhat comfortable longer than that.  The D-Lights I have used on low settings keep lit for about 8 hours.  Just set them back in the light during the daytime, and you have decent lighting overnight.  The hand crank radio / charger will keep you connected after your stock of batteries are depleted.  The butane stove cartridges will last a very long time.

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Les cartes postale francaise: French Postcards

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Last month I joined a small tour group for Discover France, part of the Explorer series through TopDeck, a British travel company specializing in travel tours for ages 18-39.  Of the 12 of us on the tour, eleven hailed from Australia; I was the only American. Because we visited so many places, I’ll write about my favorite spots during the trip.

The first 2 1/2 days were in Paris.  It was wonderful to be back where I’d been a summer study aboard undergrad student 8 years ago. (More on that later) Our hotel was near the La Fourche Métro stop. On the first full day, I started off the day by attending 10:30 am Sunday Mass at St-Michel, a short walk from our hotel.  After Mass, I returned to the hotel, grabbed my camera, and set out. In the Métro station, I bought a 2 day unlimited pass, good for riding all the public transport in Paris. It was a great investment! I visited a few places I’d missed as well as a few new ones.  At the ticket office at Invalides, I bought a 2 day Paris museum pass good for visiting a number of participating museums.

On the road

Bayeux Tapestry

Bayeux: I had seen the famed tapestry depicting the 1066 Conquest but hadn’t seen the town on my previous visit 8 years earlier.  The old town is small and can be quiet during off season. Because the Germans occupied the town during WWII, it was spared destruction when Allied Forces arrived in June 1944.  The cathedral is magnificent to visit. You can see double portraits of William the Conquerer and Queen Matilda on the main doors.

King François I

Château de Chambord: This magnificent château was built for King François I, now a national museum. I really loved touring this place–the rooms featured portraits of the members of the French royal family, art, furniture, and other decorative objects.  There is a small church adjacent to the château; it’s worth visiting too.

Hennessey in Cognac: Here we took a tour of the production warehouses and had tastings of cognac.  I didn’t know how much time and vintages are used to produce cognac.  The older vintages (some dating back to the 18th century) are locked in a separate storage room.  You can buy cognac in the factory store.

Bordeaux & St-Emilion: It was fun discovering the history in both of these towns as well as sampling the famed wine.  We visited a winery in St-Emilion and spent time exploring the town.  The monolithic church can be visited by guided tour only which can be reserved at the visitor’s center.  Also in town, there’s one building dating back to Roman times!  There are steep cobbled streets so I had to be careful walking on it. Back in Bordeaux, I visited the cathedral and the Aquintaine History Museum which is housed in an old university building.  The permanent exhibit is free and provides a fascinating history of the region.

Carcassonne: Home to a well-preserved medieval fortfied castle and battlements. We stayed at the historic Hotel Terminus overnight in the ‘new’ part of the city.

Avignon: Former home of the papacy during the 14th century. The papal palace and its environs are fascinating to explore.

Annecy: This was the last stop on our tour.  Either from the historic château overseeing the city or by the lake, the views of the French Alps are fantastic. We ended the our last night together here as a group with dinner followed by drinking at a local pub.

Back in Paris after the tour ended, I stayed at the Hotel Minerve on Rue des Ecoles, not far from the famed Université de Paris IV–Sorbonne or simply known as La Sorbonne, in the Latin Quarter.  I passed the evening in the Latin Quarter, walking around and had dinner at a café. A wonderful ending to the trip!

Eiffel Tower

Earlier I mentioned this was my 2nd time in Paris. In July 2004, I was a summer study aboard student through the American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS); French language classes for foreign students were offered at the Sorbonne. When I completed the summer program, I had enough credits to declare a French language minor.  My time at the Sorbonne was worthwhile.  Although I’m still not fluent in French, I’ve had the opportunities to practice my speaking with Francophone patrons who’ve come to the library. (Note: Entry to the Sorbonne and its other academic buildings is restricted to those with valid university id or by prior arrangements; this is enforced by their security officers)

During my free time, I explored Paris, and visited a number of popular sites. I also went on a day excursion to Chartres and a weekend excursion to St-Malo, a port city in Brittany, and its surrounding environs. Going to Paris remains one of the best things I’ve done as an undergrad.

Part 2: France in travel books and music

 

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Favorite Handy Reference Book: People, Places, and Things

Favorite Handy Reference Book: People, Places, and Things

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When patrons come to me at the reference desk, there’s one book I readily pull out to consult. It’s not a replacement for checking the catalog but it’s a helpful starting point for patrons looking for a particular topic.  This handy reference book is titled People, Places, and Things, a reference book once published by OCLC.

People, Places, & Things is a reference tool listing popular LCSH headings in alphabetical order with corresponding Dewey call numbers.  (I found a description of the book on page 4 in a 2003 newsletter by OCLC)  Depending on the topic you’re looking up, there may be more than one Dewey number assigned to it.

The book doesn’t list every topic patrons ask at the desk but it’s still useful.  Sometimes I have to think of another term for a subject if I can’t find it listed. If it’s still not there after looking it up, I’ll consult the catalog. At times the book been a back up for looking up call numbers when our catalog was offline.

We *do* need our education!

I discovered People, Places, & Things when I first started 5 years ago.  It was one of several reference resources we kept on the History-Biography reference desk. (The copyright date is 2001 on the copy we have) Since then this book has been invaluable to me.

When I worked in our Popular Library Division on the first floor, I continued to use this reference resource because patrons frequently came to our reading room first. Patrons would tell me what subject area they needed; I’d look it up in the book and write down the Dewey number. With that in hand, they could locate what they needed in the other reading rooms.  When I returned to non-fiction reference, People, Places, & Things came along too.  It’s worked well for me and a great tool.

School will be starting August 27th in DC–I’ll be ready!

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Virtualization of the Patron Experience

Virtualization of the Patron Experience

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This very interesting article in USAToday about the future of retail and virtualization of the customer experience demonstrates how big data can affect and effect virtualized experiences for their patrons:

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-08-05/future-retail-tech/56880626/1

Libraries compete with online information resources in much the same way the traditional retailers compete with online sellers.

Question ~ How will libraries adapt over the next ten years?

Robert Balliot for http://bestofpublib.wordpress.com

Discussion ~ My work in managing/developing online catalogs – with 20,000+ medical equipment / supply products and 7,000+ multi-website display products exceeded what library catalogs do and from an SEO standpoint would beat out Amazon for Google placement.  Traditional retail could not compete because of delivery and cost.  BestBuy is a great place to put your hands on tech, but the prices are much higher.  As e-commerce websites become more and more user-friendly – where you have good photos of products and good descriptions, the whole process ends up making all products into commodities with the lowest cost determining purchase.

With libraries, the focus has generally been on maintaining the status quo and keeping current bureaucracies in place until they can retire. This is not any different for any other bureaucracy – it is a natural inclination - not library specific to simply maintain.  With the focus on cost of maintaining services though, without innovation the perception of value diminishes.  One of the best things I have seen recently in libraries is the introduction of Makerbots as a library resource.  It is those sorts of high-priced shared resources that extend the value and bring people inside the library systems.

But, the issue does become lowest cost.  As we see transportation cost rise, the casual trip to the library could cost $10 in gas. What would $10 purchase virtually?  The associated costs of operating libraries – broken down between the people who continue to use them and the disproportionate number of people who don’t would add additional cost to each real visit.  As information becomes a commodity the lowest cost will determine where we purchase.  That does not mean that the value of libraries as a sense of place and source of inspiration does not add a real value to information consumption.

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Hacking Gmail, Amazon, and Apple

Hacking Gmail, Amazon, and Apple – Problems with Humans and Cloud Security

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Re-posted from SEC4Lib:

On Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 8:41 AM, Blake Carver <btcarver@lisnews.com> wrote:

Here’s a follow up on that story from yesterday. It’s a good, short, read and has some really good lessons. I know I need to make some changes now.

“How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking” http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking/all/

“I should have been regularly backing up my MacBook. I shouldn’t have daisy-chained two such vital accounts I shouldn’t have used the same e-mail prefix across multiple accounts I should have had a recovery address that’s only used for recovery without being tied to core services. I shouldn’t have used Find My Mac.” –

To me, this is the result of short-term profit maximization at the corporate level mixed with the path of least resistance at the user level.  Companies can operate cheaper, more efficiently up to the point of the hack in the cloud and maximize profits.  Users don’t have to do too much to enjoy the convenience of the cloud up to the point of the hack.  Yet, with each successful hack, the knowledge of how to hack becomes known globally – greatly increasing risk to all users and all companies using the cloud.

When I did a quick security review of Ocean State LIbraries, Sacramento Public Library, and The Library Connection last year, even fundamental security measures were not being taken:  http://bestofpublib.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/pubic-library-security-insecurity/

Library Fight Club

Fortunately, OSL did step up their security a bit with pins, but it created inconvenience to the administrators and the users.  One of the librarians who witnessed the events leading to the change told me that the battle for security over short-term convenience was ugly but she did not want to speak about it publicly. I can understand that - given the justifiable paranoia over having the circulation records used for identity theft and no one wanting to take responsibility.   But, all it takes is just a bit of laziness at the top levels and bad policy to put everyone at risk. And, unfortunately, the first rule of Library Fight Club is not to talk about Library Fight Club so everyone does not know of the risk. Knowledge of risk is limited to insiders who may not know how to manage risk and insure accountability.

I think the real point of the Mat Honan article  is that the writer was not dumb – he is most likely in the top 2% of people who understand technology.  So, every ‘error’ he made – which would not be considered errors by the other 98% of us - is a risk.

The people working in libraries most likely represent the upper 30 or 40% of people who understand technology simply by being surrounded by books and publicly paid for technology.  But, as gatekeepers to those resources they create the impression of expertise.  Some are experts, but really most are not.  Standing next to a pile of books does not mean you read them.  Being able to turn on a computer does not mean you know how it works.  Being responsible for information security does not mean that the information is secure.

What we can take from the Mat Honan article is the humility of the author in showing that he failed himself and should have known better.  There are many, many people in administrative positions including libraries that are responsible for information security who would never admit that they know not what they do.  There are many, many people in corporations that will never admit or may not even know that their systems have been or are compromised.  All we can hope for is strong laws that mandate reporting and at least a few people such as the author of the Wired article to own up to what they do not know as an example for the other 98% of us.

It used to be that you would need to be able to configure Satan and really have a strong grasp of command line interfaces and operating systems to be a hacker.  You really would need advanced knowledge and some fairly sophisticated resources to hack. Not any more.

Backtrack : http://www.backtrack-linux.org/  can be installed very easily and used by novice hackers with ill intent utilizing easy to follow step-by-step instructions on Youtube.  Just using one of my high gain antennas with a little laptop, I can war drive or sit in my house and see many, many exploitable WIFI services locally with little or no protection. I could crack a WEP in about 2 minutes, but so many people now rarely even bother to protect their WIFI. They are just happy that it works out of the box.  As an ethical hacker, I will never exploit those vulnerabilities.  But, the time when exploitation was limited to those with wilful intent, advanced knowledge of computer systems along with strong social engineering skills has passed. We are now in an era where a hack can be easily accomplished with a bit of simple social engineering (SPOKEO anyone?), the intent and common access to a computer. In fact, with very little knowledge about computer systems it would be very easy to inadvertently exploit a system using Backtrack without intent.

I think one of the upsides of less need for advanced knowledge is that we are now seeing powerful cases being built against companies from the digital forensic side where they are doing some pretty sleazy things at the highest level:  http://www.sfgate.com/business/bloomberg/article/Standard-Chartered-Falls-Most-in-24-Years-on-N-Y-3769142.php  In the paper age, the information about these sorts of activities was much easier to control and compartmentalize.  Automated computer forensic tools can greatly simplify investigation without requiring advanced degrees in computer science to operate.

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Robert L. Balliot

http://linkedin.com/in/robertballiot

http://bestofpublib.wordpress.com

http://www.facebook.com/robert.balliot

http://oceanstatelibrarian.com/contact.htm

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The Publib Archives

The Publib archives from the Webjunction listserve are available here: Archives  (Wait – they really aren’t anymore).

Archives compiled after Dec. 7, 2011 are available here: Archives

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The Broken Publib Listserve or Control through Incorporation

I have come here not to bury Publib, but to praise it.

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Ghost of Publib

Ghost of Publib

Last year, OCLC announced that they would graciously host the popular Publib listserve.  With 10 thousand + subscribers representing libraries throughout the world, it certainly represented a win/win situation.  OCLC – which sells its products to libraries would host and subscribers – who buy products from OCLC could continue to subscribe.  OCLC would benefit from the feel-good PR and the ability to data-mine and Publib subscribers could continue to enjoy the communication resource they have contributed to since the early 1990s.

While being hosted by UC Berkeley and Webjunction, Google and Yahoo! and all of the other major search engines readily indexed the discussions by Publib contributors. Even now, a quick engine search of almost any topic regarding public libraries renders a link to a Publib posting from previous years.  

But, all of those links are now broken and the provenance of indexing has been destroyed.  Although you may still view cached files, the only way to get live files is to go behind the wall set up by OCLC.  Access to the root directory is by subscription only, so the search engines would no longer index the content:  http://listserv.oclc.org/   So, everyone who searches any topic ever posted on Publib must now go through OCLC and search the files that they exclusively control. 

What a great benefit this must represent to corporate interests of OCLC! Thousands and thousands of postings on every topic regarding public libraries, created by uncompensated authors, and they now control all of the content and its indexing for almost no associated cost and can monitor and data-mine all usage by the library community.     OCLC established and litigated ownership and control of Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) in OCLC v The Library Hotel  and was recently accused of antitrust by SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces.  Does OCLC now effectively have intellectual property rights to all of the work by Publib contributors?

Hosting a listserv is really not a big deal.  It is fairly low level technology and relatively easy to manage.  With a bit of server space, Open Source programs such as Mailman can be set up that can manage a huge number of subscribers:

http://wiki.list.org/display/COM/Organizations+that+use+Mailman

Hosting by a non-corporate entity such as a library school or a large library system would have made much more sense.  The original iteration with UC Berkeley hosting nested the conversation in a bastion of free speech.  Is removing and blocking indexing censorship? Is vetting all new subscribers appropriate?  Does the ability to restrict access represent ownership? Does hosting a listserve  and controlling access to everything previously written grant intellectual property rights and equate to ownership? Is Publib just another example of intellectual outsourcing?

Time will tell. But, at this time Publib is a ghost of what it once represented. 

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The Publib Archives

The Publib archives from the Webjunction listserve are available here: Archives  (Waitthey really aren’t anymore).

Archives compiled after Dec. 7, 2011 are available here: Archives

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