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

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Publib Topics – A Graphic Retrospective – March 2011

Beware Graphic Content Ahead!

 
This graphic image  or word cloud was created using Wordle. It is derived from the subjects and authors of postings in PubLib for March 2011. The size of the graphics is directly related to the number of un-weighted unique occurrences each month of the individual words represented. Most automated graphic processes that generate these types of word clouds use additional weight for H1 – H6 tags through feeds. These graphics are not processed with H1 – H6 tags. The titles and authors were copied to Notepad and stripped of all HTML before being run through the Wordle Java platform. The process is case-sensitive so Library is not the same thing as library.
 
The most prominent word without employing filters would have been Publib. Publib and Fwd were deleted from the plaintext files before processing. In addition, the Wordle program automatically disregards articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.
 
Publib March 2011

Publib Topics March 2011

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The Publib archives from the Webjunction listserve are available here: Archives

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

Please note: HTML is stripped out of archives. Please compose in plain text or richtext.

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The Google Generation and Library Skills

What the Google Generation Doesn’t Know or 

Get off of my Lawn!

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How has Google affected research skills?  Are library patrons getting the facts?  Are the facts they are getting ‘real’?   Do they know how to find information or what questions to ask? How is the technological immediacy of information balanced against quality?  Do rolling stones still gather no moss?  Many opinions were offered on these subjects and more when  Kevin O’Kelly of the Somerville Public Library asked Publib members:

         “is ignorance of the skills of the pre-Internet age limiting their (high school students) ability to function in the Internet age? ”

To which the Publib Chorus responds:

Thy cnt spl.  Vowels are a thing of the past. Seriously, they can’t spell. They can’t find things, sometimes even on Google because even Google can’t make heads or tails of what they are trying to say.   ~ Dusty Gres – Ohoopee Regional Library System  (editor:   SMS language avoids vowels)

Ay?

I was assisting a middle-schooler with her homework when I noticed she had written that the two official languages of Canada were English and Sumerian. I pointed out her mistake, but even if she had turned the homework in and gotten it wrong she would probably still have discovered that Yahoo Answers isn’t the best resource. And I don’t know about others in my generation, but I rarely find myself’ following the shiny blue hyper-links all over the place in some sort of internet-induced ADD rapture (unless it’s Wikipedia, in which case all bets are off – that site is an easy time-suck). ~ Theresa McNutt – Red Oak Library 

The truly disturbing thing is that back in the day, patrons who couldn’t use the book resources got no information and came to us for help.  Now they will actually get something with their poorly constructed search strategies and they’ll be happy about it.  It’s hard to educate someone who thinks they know what they’re doing. ~ emilie smart – East Baton Rouge Parish Library

. . .Often they finally do come to me, and the only thing left to do is to employ the backhoe method to help them.  I ask ‘what piece of information do you need to have when you leave that you don’t have now?’  … They are entirely too trusting.  They will believe anything if a search engine produces it.  They need to have that talk about not all is gold that glisters and not every search engine is righteous in its presentations.  They don’t know the difference between a site that is there to sell something and one that is there to provide information.  …  They are willing to show others–including librarians–how to manipulate the technology in exchange for being shown how to manipulate information.  Together, we have possibilities. ~ Kathleen Stipek –  Alachua County Library District   

As a member of “generation Google” I respectfully disagree.  It’s a vast  generalization to say that an entire generation (or all young people,  etc.) don’t know how to search online, use an index in a book, or any number of other assumptions. Some younger people don’t know how to do these things; that’s for certain. But neither do some adults. It’s unfair to say that, just because I grew up using computers and the  Internet, I don’t know how to use a library in the traditional sense; or  that I don’t know how to correctly and successfully search for
information online. ~ Amanda Dias – Rodman Public Library

I find that just as many middle aged and older adults have basic book finding and research questions as younger ones. ~ Jesse Ephraim – Roanoke Public Library

I have found that fewer young people have an understanding and appreciation of the Dewey Decimal system.  As we migrate to eBooks and other things digital, I also think about children reading about this strange system (Dewey) that was used to arrange an old technology (books) a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. Which leaves me to wonder if Dewey will ever have a place in a completely digital world? … are the same basic skill(s) needed to find, use and evaluate information changing?

How would our ancient predecessors have handled a change in information technology?  It would be interesting to consider how the Roman era librarians of Alexandria would have handled the change from housing half a million papyrus scrolls to a lesser number of paper books.  What changes in society and technology would have effected them?  (And we all know how the changes in society, politics and history of their times influenced the end result of the Great Library of Alexandria.) ~  Dana L. Brumbelow – Alachua County Library District

 many people of ALL ages now just turn to Google and don’t go any further when looking for information. For me it’s really a question of reminding people that unlike the web, a book doesn’t just suddenly disappear, the way a website will if the internet connection is severed. ~ Teresa Eckford

Pretty much anything off the Internet, regardless of source, if it sounds remotely plausible, will satisfy many questioners. Certainly no one wants to wait the few minutes for a librarian to find the correct information in an actual reference book – just take whatever Wikipedia offers.  And it seems that many teachers, having grown up with the same attitudes, don’t have the sense to demand authoritative sources.  Or, perhaps, even to be aware that they exist.

One of my favorite books, “The Franchise Affair” by Josephine Tey rightly skewers the tabloid press of the 40s.  The crazy tabloids my grandmother subscribed to have move comfortably to the web. Batboy lives!  And I’m having a Martian love child next month!  
. . .  Often research skills are taught in school, but patrons want to take the easy way and have you hand them information.  I’ve encountered this often as a K-8 school librarian.  Several teachers complained to the principal that the students didn’t know how to find information or use the library.  This was after years of being taught how to do both.

I asked the teachers to bring classes in to see what the problem was.  The teacher would ask, “Where would you find information on XYZ?”  A room full of shrugged shoulders and vacant stares.I responded, “Really?  Where is the first place you would look for the information?”  Miraculously hands would go up and they suddenly remembered they would use the index to the encyclopedia and then locate the volumes indicated.  They would explain about the different Dewey classifications and using the OPAC. ~ Paula Laurita – Athens-Limestone Public Library 

 
Yellow Journalsim

Yellow Journalism

“Yellow journalism” goes back to the beginning of journalism! So do highly-regarded books that contained errors, slanted viewpoints, careful omission of important facts, etc.No matter what the medium, “logical fallacies” will always be common. Politics in general relies heavily on them, as do many other factors in life. Critical thinking can be taught, but the emotional and social variables that undermine the process can never be fully overcome.

 I would even suggest that the concept of “authoritative sources” in general tends to downplay critical thinking while appealing to emotion and social pressures.  ;)  Knowing how to manipulate the technology is an integral part of librarianship today.  Librarians should know more than the students in that regard, and should work hard to keep their knowledge current.  In most cases, that means studying on your own time for no pay, just as folks in other professions do.

. . . There are some simple ways to improve Google searches dramatically – when I have trouble finding things via Google, it’s usually because the information simply isn’t online, or it’s so obscure that it takes a lot of extra work (which is true of old style print searching, as well).  Though indexes are more precise, they are inherently much more limited. ~ Jesse Ephraim – Roanoke Public Library

The Pew Research Center [somewhere] discovered that, really, under-twenty-somethings aren’t really all that net-savvy. They found it a misconception that next-genners can fix a computer in their sleep. Stroll through any public library’s teen area and watch them actually try to find info by Googling – it’s laughable, sad even. I’m not sure Google gets enough credit in terms of info. organization. Its services just get a bad rep because of its users. ~ Michael Schofield

 
As professionals we should be aware of, and keep up to date on, both library(research) methods _and_ current information technologies. ~ Carl William Long -   Reading Public Library
 
 I think some patrons would love a drive through window! I my case as a public law library – “one divorce packet, no children, to go please.” ~ Virginia Eldridge  Grayson County Law Library

 What really gets to me about these kids-these-days-and-their-darn-computer-boxes discussions is the knee-jerk assumption that a different skill set is an inferior skill set. Lately I’ve enjoyed pointing people to Socrates’ Phaedrus, written around 370 B.C., in which he rails against the new technology of the printed word and its deleterious effect on the mental habits of future generations. David Malki, author of Wondermark, has a really good blog post about it here: http://bit.ly/fnDHxu     

Socrates

I assume that a listserv full of librarians isn’t going to side with Plato in condemning the written word, but he’s not entirely wrong. A dialogue with a knowledgeable person can be much more illuminating that reading a book written by that same person. Plato’s error is his failure to see that the written word has its own strengths to offset the ways in which it is inferior to the spoken word and his refusal to seek out and exploit those strengths rather than lamenting those inferiorities.

Computers have produced a cultural upheaval to rival that wrought by writing and we’re well the point of no return. We’ll better serve ourselves and our patrons by looking to fuse our competencies with those of the Googleites than by grousing about what the kids don’t know. ~ Andrew Fuerste-Henry – Carnegie-Stout Public Library

. . . this ability to synthesize information into thoughts (especially written thoughts) that young people seem increasingly to be missing. I’m not sure if it has to do with how, or where they are getting their information; whether the inability to use an index or to structure a good online search is part of the problem. But I do know it’s a very real problem. I see it all the time, both at work and when I serve as a judge for local debate tournaments.  ~ Tom Cooper – Webster Groves Public Library

I think this is probably the most significant point to be made on this topic, and gets to the heart of the matter. How to help patrons who don’t know they need help? ~  Mark Hudson  East Baton Rouge Parish Library

And teachers and the Internet and their assignments for children…. I can’t figure out if it’s Google-era teachers or old, seasoned veterans who apparently give assignments and say, broadly, “You need information from a book, from a magazine article, and something from the Internet.”  Period.  I used to think it was older teachers who really were backward and knew nothing of the Internet, but thought it was something that everyone was “doing,” so his/her students should “do” the Internet for an assignment, too.  But I’m not so sure.  Then again, having had experience as a parent, I’m not always sure if kids who say, “The teacher said I need something from the Internet,” and then volunteer no further info, despite the best reference interview I can muster, are telling the truth.  Maybe the teacher gave precise directions and exact websites to try.  (That does happen, in about 10% of the cases, or some ridiculously low percentage like that there one.)  Maybe the teacher spoke intelligently and well about How to Find Good, Accurate Information on the Internet.  Or not.  Or has never been in the public library.  Or perhaps has.

Hittites in Love

And then there are all the official documents sent home for parental signatures at the beginning of the year, baddly ritten with pore grammer an speling an runonsentencez, and who produced *those*, I wonder.  Google-ites, or Troglodytes?  (Amorites, Hittites, Jebusites, Hivites–oops, now I’m getting carried away with names from the Bible, and am risking political incorrectness in public.  Or on publib.  Stop me now!) ~ John Richmond – Alpha Park Public Library

A brief summation of the Google Generation thread, with abject apologies to the Rolling Stones. :) ~ Tongue firmly in cheek, ~ Sarah Howison  – New Richmond Branch Library 

(You! Kids!) Get off of My Lawn

They live on the Internet and they can’t read an analog clock
And they eat junky foods till you can hear all their arteries clog.
They trust Google way too much, and they don’t know how to use an index
They cite Wikis in their papers and good lord, I don’t know what’s next!

We say You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
Keep off the grass ’cause you’re not allowed
On my lawn!

Their phones are ringing Bieber in the library all of the time
They answer them out loud, ignoring all the posted “no cell phone” signs.
You say “Hang it up, kiddo, or I’ll have to ask you to depart.”
And they act as though you’ve stabbed them all the way down into the heart.

We say You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
Keep off the grass ’cause you’re not allowed
On my lawn!

They barely use a vowel, they communicate only in text-speak
And for all the sense it makes to us, they might as well be sending Greek.
We snoop around the stacks and assume that all their acts are obscene
No wonder they seem to think librarians are all kind of mean!

We say You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
Keep off the grass ’cause you’re not allowed
On my lawn!   ~ Sarah Howison  – New Richmond Branch Library

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Tea Parties and Terabytes : the Digital Library Revolution

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Tea Parties and  Terabytes  : the Digital Library Revolution

Tea Party

A few months ago on Publib , I entertained the idea of replacing a brick and mortar library with electronic book readers and subscriptions.

Our local free library had spent about $8,000,000 on a library renovation / reconstruction employing grants, local taxes, donations and state funds.  Notably, it had started out being about a 4 million dollar project.   What would 8 million dollars along with yearly operating funds  purchase now?  Could the needs of library users be met with electronic book readers and subscriptions?  Could accessibility be expanded?  

Asking those questions met with sharp disapproval from the librarian in Rhode Island who had overseen the project. She characterized me as a tea bagger – (derogatory slang meaning Tea Party member) for daring to bring up the idea.   At least I think that was what she meant.  The Urban Dictionary has some other definitions that are not very nice.

I'm late !

Why would entertaining a simple idea of how  8 million dollars could have been spent create such a visceral reaction? Public libraries represent the most efficient aspect of local government.  Hardly any library system is a  beneficiary of public largess.  The entire loosely affiliated public library system in the United States is efficient because of internalized ethics, highly trained personnel and sharing.  Sharing resources means everyone benefits.  Sharing is something other public services have never done as well as public libraries. Are public libraries in such precarious shape that civil discourse threatens libraries as the bastions of civil discourse?  Is time running out? Are we too late?

Imagine no brick and mortar library exists.  What sort of digital book access could an initial 8 million dollar investment and a yearly operating  budget of $480,000  afford?  …

$8,000,000  could buy:

 Amazon Kindle . . . . . . . . 57,553 units retail    at $139 each or
 Sony eBook Reader . . . .  62,015 units retail    at $129 each or
 Barnes & Noble Nook . . . 53,691 units retail    at $149 each 

 A $480,000 operating budget could purchase:

Lots of electronic books. The cost of many titles through Amazon’s Kindle program is $9.99 or less. So, yearly new ebook accession could be greater than or equal to 48,000 titles. That seems like a fairly small collection to support sixty thousand ebook readers

The 60,000 ebook readers could also be shared within households. With  2.59 people on average per household - 155,400 people would be sharing only 48,000 titles.  That is less than 1/3 of a book simultaneously available to all readers at once during the first year.

But wait, there’s more, terabytes more:

Amazon also provides Kindle Popular Classics with almost instantaneous free access to over 15,000 books.

Project Gutenberg provides Free eBooks with over 33,000  titles.

The Internet Archive provides free access to massive collections .

The Google Books project also provides free access to terabytes of text and images and is partnering with major libraries around the world.

Digital collections such as the Perseus Project   and Lincolniana at Brown offer a vast wealth of specialized subject matter.

The United States Government along with State and Local Governments are providing more and more public information in digital format.

So, what does that mean?

60,000 households could each have immediately access to hundreds of thousands of free books and articles and increasing access to new books and articles. 

But what about catalogs and reader services?  Doesn’t everyone need catalog help? These collections are HUGE!

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the United States.  The Library of Congress Catalog is massive and serves as the expert resource for copyright.  The Librarians who staff the Library of Congress are some of the most highly compensated in the US. 

Which catalog is intuitively better?

Library of Congress Catalog search:

Here is the output in basic search for the word balliot:   http://bit.ly/fCXAnh

Select item 2 -  CONVAL Report:  http://bit.ly/ijNORk

Using the same search strategy in Google Books:

Here is the output in basic search for the word balliot:    http://bit.ly/faHnAT

Select item 1 – CONVAL Report:  http://bit.ly/gUPu1v

It is even intuitively easier to search within  Library of Congress collections using Google Books full text.  LC requires a copy submitted to them when they formally copyright.  

Full- text of the Copyright Catalog available within Google and not within the LC catalog:  http://bit.ly/gzJf7S  provides reference pointers to LC’s collection.

The HELIN  Library Catalog employs  III encore software and includes: Brown University, Bryant University, Community College of Rhode Island, Dominican House of Studies, Hospital Libraries of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University, University of Rhode Island, and Wheaton College holdings.

Which catalog is more helpful? 

Here is  HELIN‘s output searching for the phrase Windows Forensic Analysis DVD Toolkit, Second Edition:   http://bit.ly/g8mOa0

Here is Amazon‘s output searching for the phrase Windows Forensic Analysis DVD Toolkit, Second Edition: http://amzn.to/gBpxkZ

Encore tells us that we should use other words and check our spelling. It offers no leads to additional material.  Amazon provided the book, the electronic version, reviews, shots of inside pages and related works.  Some library catalogs intergrate similar features in the user interface, but they are not leading the way.  They are merely following the examples of successful for-profit library catalogs that only recently began to market books.

The Digital Library Revolution

 $8,ooo,ooo in construction expenditures and a $480,000 yearly budget represents the real-world costs of operating a public library in a community with about 22,000 residents and a fairly small collection.  Using the revolutionary digital library model presented here, the same funds would support 155,400  people in 60,000 households while providing instant access to terabytes of digitized collections.
 
The digital library revolution is a radical departure from the way that library materials are contained, published and distributed. Instead of allowing public libraries to disappear from the conversation,  civil discourse should continue that includes public libraries as significant partners and facilitators in the evolution of this digital library revolution.  It is not too late.
 

 “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” ~ Lewis Carroll

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