Saturday, December 29, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The blustery weather helps fuel this sadness. I woke up at 6:00 and listened to the sound of rain thrashing at the windows and the howling wind. When the sun came up, its light was diluted and made murky by a settlement of gray. This house, my parents house, is filled with my past. In the basement there are letters from friends dating back to grade school. I open random drawers and find pictures of my grandparents, of birthday parties in the backyard, of Christmas mornings from 30 years ago. I don't know what to do with all this. I wanted to make a documentary of it, try and make sense of all the emotions such artifacts stir up--but I feel overwhelmed and that, in turn, makes me feel listless. Or maybe it's all the cookies I've been eating and the sugar crash that always follows in their wake.
I'm at the library. It's quiet and they have internet access. It's another place where old ghosts linger but it doesn't impose its will so strongly.
Beyond the inchoate undertow of saudade, is Abby. Shes storms right through it, a little high octane engine of curiosity and demanding joy. My Dad's Wurlitzer, too. It wheezes and churns to life while its kick drum and trombones shake the entire house. Abby loves it and so do I.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Library 2.0, no longer a nascent movement, is still in its evangelist phase. It's spreading the good word, surrounded by a relatively tight-knit, energized collective of academics, students and librarians. It's very good at introducing the uninitiated to emerging technologies but still finding its footing concerning the impacts, both good and bad, such technologies may have in a library setting. It's time for more Library 2.0 introspection. It's time, for example, for more case studies of what's worked and why. It's time for case studies of what hasn't worked and why. I wonder, for example, how the Library 2.0 movement might fruitfully draw from the field of Community Informatics, another relatively new discipline equally interested in community based information and communication technologies.
That said, I enjoyed the course but was sometimes frustrated by the introductory quality of it. That sounds somewhat condescending though I definitely don't mean it to. I was, however, already aware or avidly using almost all of technology we discussed. I wonder, once this course is more established, if it wouldn't be beneficial to offer a follow up that moves beyond the introductory and explores some areas that I feel need Library 2.0 needs to tackle. This includes:
1. Management. My LIS770 textbook, Management Basics for Information Professionals was over 500 pages long. Dull-as-dust, but plenty of Druckeresque meat to chew on. Idealistic graduates hoping to spread some of the good word concerning Library 2.0 are often leaving school and stepping into entrenched, change-resistant bureaucracies. So, introducing students to these new, potentially relevant new technologies is one thing but exploring ways for overcoming such resistance is another, equally important piece of the Library 2.0 equation. Additionally, what management models work best with Library 2.0? Perhaps we should be exploring or creating case studies for introducing emerging technologies in libraries and looking at how emerging technologies disrupt existing/popular management systems and how this might be successfully mitigated.
2. Evaluation. Earlier this year, the Americans For Libraries Council released a much needed report titled, Worth Their Weight: An Assessment of the Evolving Field of Library Valuation. It's well worth reading. Perhaps it's because the Library 2.0 field is so young, but I've seen distressing little talk amongst its proponents concerning how the technologies its advocating for are being evaluated. As the report makes clear, those of us advocating for libraries and the public financing and good-will needed to sustain them, must be able to, in quantitative terms, prove their worth. Increasingly, libraries are being asked to prove their social return on investment. This is a tricky, but evaluation methodologies are out there. While qualitative narratives/stories are important, funders trust and want numbers. We need to be studying these evaluation models.
3. Library Literacy. Libraries are still hopelessly bibliocentric. Ideas about what a library is (rather then what it could or should be) are firmly entrenched. They're about books. They're about reading. And, yes, reading is fundamental, but... I'd like to see a Library 2.0 follow up class that spent some time exploring a more expansive idea of what 21st literacy constitutes. Clearly some libraries are having success, making way for gaming, media labs and the like. There's a lot of great research going on in these areas and it would help fortify recent graduates moving into the public domain if they knew they had a lot of highly persuasive company working alongside them.
There's more, but Cathy is making cookies and a piece of cake beckons. I know this blog will continue to chug along. I hope others will allow their own to linger and will share, when inspired, their own thoughts.
The bookmarks on my computer were already sagging under their burden. Rows of bookmarks. Every so often I'd go through them and weed, separate the wheat from the chaff. Joshua Schachter, it seems, was having a similar problem, losing his way amongst the links. That findability thing. Del.icio.us doesn't need weeding--just feed it tasty links, tag 'em and move on. No more printing, no more file folders, no more overstuffed bookmarks.
I'm still refining my own folksomony, creating an organization system that will be as effectively retrievable as I want it to be. I get a little crazy with all those keywords. On the other hand, the process of tagging an article acts as a nice way to quickly run back through what I've just read, quickly summarizing what I found relevant. I become more attuned to a pieces themes, motifs and how it may be personally relevant. It allows for a dialog between myself and whatever it is I'm labeling. That others may be tagging with similar keywords, leading to articles or sites I overlooked, is like gravy-- a nice extravagance.
My Del.ico.us bookmarks are here. Everything bookmarked for LIS768 can be found here.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Such subjective, highly emotional attachments to place fascinate me. Our group had originally flirted with the idea of making a video documentary exploring this in relation to libraries. I've long wanted somebody to more fully unpack that gem from the OCLC's "Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources" report noting the intense nostalgia people feel for libraries, a nostalgia often associated with childhood. I wonder sometimes if the good-will most folks harbor for libraries draws from this deep well of nostalgia.
Making such a documentary, however, proved logistically difficult given our groups personal geography. Nicole and I lived on the North Side of Chicago, so we decided to team up and explore Harold Washington Library, the mothership of Chicago libraries and a building I've long had an adversarial relationship with. Nicole and I used PBwiki to brainstorm what we wanted to do.
The resulting video was perhaps a bit more freewheeling then I would have liked--but we had a lot of fun doing it and lot's of good discussion, some of which we were able to distill into the documentary.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Doh! Do you know how great it would have been to have been able to read these a few weeks ago?
The first six titles are available online and probably worth a look for anybody whose interested in youth and their relationship with technology.
Abby is taking her nap, so I'm reading the first title, "Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth," which might as well have been the title of my own paper. In the first chapter, W. Lance Bennett has the chutzpah to bring up all sorts of things I conveniently left out of my own paper or failed to even consider. I hate him. But he points out that there are two "sharply differing views of what constitutes civic engagement and citizenship for young people both on and off line."
The engaged youth paradigm, as he calls it, holds that the so-called lack of civic participation amongst today's youth is due to a failure on the part of our government to recognize the "generation changes in social identity that have resulted in the growing importance of peer networks and online communities." Traditional forms of civic engagement are viewed by today's youth with skepticism, lacking authenticity. New forms of civic engagement, while nascent, are occurring online, a "new spectrum of civic actions," as Bennett calls them.
The disengaged youth paradigm, on the other hand, acknowledges the possibilities of this new spectrum of civic engagement emerging online, but focuses "on generational decline in connections to government (e.g., voting patterns) and general civic engagement (e.g., following public affairs in the news) as threats to the health of democracy itself."
These two paradigms don't seem so terribly far apart to me, though if forced to chose my sympathies would lie more with the engaged youth paradigm. Millions of youth are creating, remixing and disseminating content online. Some of it could be said to taking advantage of this new spectrum on civic engagement emerging online, but a huge majority of it, as the disengaged youth crowd believe, is focused on self-expression and consumer advocacy with some fortuitous civic spindrift. But we can't simply chastise youth for not debating the merits and drawbacks, 250 years on, of our founding fathers belief in a representative democracy as opposed to a direct one. What we need to do, and this is what I suggested in my paper, is work to channel these online creative endeavors toward, as Peter Levine suggests, building the "foundations of civil society in the twenty-first society." After all, maybe what youth are doing with this explosion of online content creation is opening up new, reinvigorated ways to be a citizen. Maybe the fact that they're disengaged from the more traditional forms of civic engagement is because, as Bennett points out, they're flawed. "Telling young people to participate in bad institutions," Bennett writes, "is mere propaganda."
The goal, then, is to bring these two paradigms together and leverage the creativity and enthusiasm that's occurring online to help create new, exciting and tangible ways for youth to effect community change, to become engaged citizens. Libraries, long viewed, perhaps romantically, as bulwarks of democracy, have an opportunity to step in and facilitate this. This is especially true when you consider that civic education in our nation's schools is either extinct or exceedingly dull. Bennett writes:
A massive International Education Association (IEA) survey of 90,000 fourteen-year-olds in twenty-eight nations suggested that civic education, where it is offered, remains largely a textbook experience, largely severed from the vibrant experiences of politics that might help young people engage with public life.
So, how do libraries work with the youth in their communities to create a more vibrant civic experience, more aligned with their creative online endeavors? The opportunities for building new civic and political communities in such an environment is ripe for the plucking. Again, libraries need to be in the thick of this!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
1. Capitalizing on the momentum and new thinking paradigms ("radical change") being encouraged by the Library 2.0 movement, libraries have a unique opportunity to use the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies as a tool to produce locally based content.
2. By empowering and facilitating the creation of such community-based content, libraries can and must play a more active pedagogic role in working with Generation Y (or whatever you choose to call them) to teach them how to effectively use information communication technologies to effect positive change. My hope is that such a process would, among other things, nurture media literacy, foster unique collaborative opportunities, encourage lifelong learning and, perhaps most importantly, enhance civic engagement and strengthen democracy by effecting tangible public change.
He's got teenage fans from Germany ("Hey, old man!"), inspired fellow old timers with unfortunate last names to tell their own stories, had tributes made, spoofs, been the topic of academic papers had to deal with a nasty Youtube hoax announcing his death and, at 96 videos and counting, still cooking away.
I've been keenly interested in watching how his videos have progressed--how his technological agility improved. His first few videos are a bit fumbling-- he's apologetic about their quality. He's not a technological neophyte, but he's still learning the ropes. By the 4th video, however, he's got headphones with an attached microphone, and a nice introduction. The sound is vastly improved.
By the 5th video his grasp of multimedia storytelling is rapidly progressing. And, he's turned, unexpectedly, into a YouTube hit. He tells us that he woke up that particular morning and found "I had 4,700 notifications from YouTube in my e-mail...I am absolutely overwhelmed and don't quite know what to say...I just need to say thank you to all of you people." Youtube, he says, has given him "a whole new world to experience." And so he explores.
A nice reminder that all the user-generated content going on isn't simply coming from the so-called digital-native contingency, a term laden with some run away assumptions. As Henry Jenkins recently posted:
As long as we divide the world into digital natives and immigrants, we won't be able to talk meaningfully about the kinds of sharing that occurs between adults and children and we won't be able to imagine other ways that adults can interact with youth outside of these cultural divides.
What stereotypes, what detrimental ageist suppositions do we sustain by focusing so much of our attention and energy on Millennials and their relationship with technology? Watching Oakley's earliest videos, it's clear that he was seeking to have a conversation with his "fellow YouTubers," made up of, as he's very much aware, a much younger audience. Part of what he's seeking is a cross-generational dialogue, and in this he succeeds wonderfully, with folks replying in the comment section or even, more relevant to the medium, by video. In fact, as the above mentioned academic article by Dave Harley and Geraldine Fitzpatrick makes clear:
What begins as an individual effort by Peter soon develops into a collaborative endeavor through comments he receives from his viewers. They give him feedback in a number of ways which help him to develop his video presence within YouTube.
And these comments, it should be noted, are overwhelmingly positive and emotive--full of good will and encouragement. Yardly takes this encouragement and runs with it, focusing on an on-going narrative about his life incorporating old photographs, music and sound effects.
It's inspiring stuff and further evidence of the importance of telling stories. There's no reason, other than timidity and a failure of imagination, that libraries shouldn't be helping to facilitate these stories, making them part of their collection.
One last quote from the Harley/Fitzpatrick paper:
It's not the functionality of YouTube that inspires Peter to tell his life story but the social context that it appears within. The intergenerational nature of this context is highly influential, directing and informing the co-creation of the narrative. The commonality of human experience across ages and cultures that shows itself in the accompanying dialogue reminds us of a wider sense of kinship which transcends mere self interest. The appreciation of Peter's stories by his viewers also suggests that they see the relevance of the life stages of others in relation to their life stages. The creation of narrative, developed through Peter's videos, speaks of an affinity between different generations and a process of reciprocal learning.
Libraries should be in the thick of this.
From Monday's Q&A with Harlen L. Watson, our man in Bali for the Thirteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (phew!):
Question: Tomorrow will be the tenth anniversary of Kyoto Protocol and the United States is the country in the developed countries who didn’t ratify Kyoto. So how do you evaluate Kyoto Protocol this moment? And is there possibility for the current administration to change the attitude towards Kyoto Protocol?
Dr. Watson: The last answer is “no”, there isn’t. It is not correct that we are the only developed country. There’s also Turkey. I know the focus has been on the United States and Australia, but if you read the Convention, Turkey is an Annex I country that has also not ratified Kyoto. Our feeling about Kyoto has not changed. It is not something that would work for the United States.Now that Australia's new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has ratified the Kyoto Protocol (see picture), the United States is, despite Dr. Watson's audaciously lame Turkish inclusion, the only country in the developed world not to do so. And as Dr. Watson made abundantly clear, his boss is perfectly happy to pass the buck to the next administration to do with Kyoto what it pleases.
Not that anybody expected as much. From last week's Economist:
It is not surprising that Bali is unlikely to achieve anything tangible, for it is aimed at the hardest part of climate-change mitigation—getting an international agreement which all the big emitters ratify. That won't happen until America adopts serious domestic emissions-control measures.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Here, too, is our wiki page and flickr page for any interested. The wiki is not entirely coherent, but there's a lot of "brainstormery"going on. The flickr page is a nice example of how willing the library community is to share what they're doing with their spaces, how they're creating new and exciting places.
I should note, too, that buildings like Harold Washington, where form triumphs over function, aren't necessarily trapped by their infrastructure. There are some relatively simple, cost-efficient ways to improve the functional aspects and I wish we had more time to discuss that.
To be continued...
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The other merry-go-round is indoors at some mall near Naperville. I've never been there. Abby has, though, and the first time she rode it she noted that the clown sitting near to it was "dirty," which, according to adult witnesses, it was.
A couple weeks ago we had this conversation:
"Where are we going to to go for Thanksgiving, Abby?"
"That's right. And will Abby ride the merry-go-round when she's in Naperville?"
"Yes! And Abby will see the dirty clown!"
The clown was clean this time round. She had her picture sitting next to it. I think from now I'm going to call all McDonalds restaurants "The Dirty Clown."
Friday, November 23, 2007
1. "D-1" Gescom
2. "Coming Up" Paul McCartney (The video has held up nicely, no? Unabashedly wonderful new-wave cheese-funk!)
3. "Slap the Back" Cobblestone Jazz
4. "Is There A Ghost" Band of Horses
5. "Saudade" Moacir Santos (Continuing evidence that Brazilian musicians have been making some of the sweetest, most lilting music of the last 50 years.)
6. "Don't Pay Them No Mind" Nina Simone (Soulful, swinging pop, though this cut, the album's first, has a mournful quality to it that Nina works beautifully.)
7. All of the amazing "Anthems in Eden: An Anthology of British and Irish Folk 1955-1978" box set. Over 4 hours of consistently surprising, engaging and downright amazing music from our brothers and sisters across the pond.
8. "Just As You Are" Robert Wyatt (Please, no Wyatting.)
9. "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (from Live at 'The Club')" The Cannonball Adderley Quintet (Almost as good as the music is the soulful, engaged crowd response...where audience celebration becomes polyrhythm.)
10. "Rainy Night In Georgia" David Ruffin (The sonic equivalent of wet leaves on blacktop. "I've got a feeling it's raining all over the world.")
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
While the Library 2.0 collective frequently reminds us that it's concerned about more than just technology, the bulk of its evangelizing has been focused on just that. One often hears this sentiment echoing through the literature the movement has spawned, this conviction, tentative though it may be, that there's more to it than just technology.
I don't discount this sentiment. Library 2.0 really is about more than the technology. I often wish, however, that more attention was paid to some of these other, non-technological factors. Reading the literature, it becomes clear that while other areas within libraries, especially public libraries, are ripe for 2.0 treatment, extended meditations are rarely encountered.
That being said, this is not such a meditation. It's me rambling. About place mostly.
If Library 2.0, at its root, is about transformation, then we need to be careful to not let the allure of technology, powerful as it is, stop us from fully exploring and taking advantage of some of the other tools at our disposal. This is especially vital when one recognizes just how much the thrust of Library 2.0's technological vision disrupts or recasts the roles of these other tools. In order to work effectively, the technology components needs to work seamlessly with a number of other, sometimes resistant, factors.
Earlier this summer, John Blyberg wrestled, far more eloquently, with some of these issues, admitting that the prerequisite to Library 2.0 was the internet. He wrote:
So now I’m asserting that there would be no Library 2.0 without the internet. More specifically, that the internet was a prerequisite for what we now agree to call Library 2.0. Like an awkward adolescent, however, L2 will inevitably experiment with independence from its high-tech bloodline.
I like that. Technology is the primary agent for change--it's the engine under Library 2.0's hood. It's leading the way, generating the most excitement and causing the most tangible change in libraries. The LBI Shanachie Tour from earlier this autumn provides a telling snapshot of how technology is both reinvigorating and redefining a handful of libraries here in the U.S. (I'm especially fond of the hushed campground introduction on episode five. And I want a t-shirt!) But what other potentials is it churning in its wake that demand our attention?
The rapid, whiplash technological changes over the last decade have rocked more than just the library world. Media conglomerates, for example, are desperately treading water as they attempt to regain their footing and lost revenues. Whether it's the film/music industry fretting over its precipitous losses while wagging angry fingers (and lawsuits) at file sharers, or newspapers like the New York Times (and soon, the Wall Street Journal?) abandoning access fees in favor of making their online content freely available, there's a very real and sometimes clumsy, even ruinous series of changes underway, prompted, prodded and pushed (sometimes kicking and screaming) by this technological paradigm shift.
And these technological shifts are causing organizations, for-profit and non-profit alike, to reevaluate more mundane elements like their missions, policies, organizational structures, management styles, marketing strategies, programming and how they use their physical space. What, they're asking themselves, needs to be changed, tweaked or discarded? What needs to be expanded, reigned-in or sent packing?
It's the physical space/place element that I've been thinking about lately. How can the interest in "library as a place" play a more active role in the Library 2.0 movement? Are we already seeing it? Libraries like Seattle Public Library. Not long after it opened a New Yorker article breathlessly described as "the most important new library to be built in a generation", one conveying "a sense of the possibility, even the urgency, of public space in the center of a city." Heady stuff, and a powerful demonstration of the potential for libraries to be something other than sturdy institutional buildings storing slowly yellowing books.
Or maybe we're seeing it in libraries like Maricopa when they challenge rigid notions of classification, and so pulling themselves up from the trenches of Dewey in favor of more user-friendly findability. Or perhaps new attention to the potential of library as place is happening in those libraries actively evaluating and redesigning their interiors to make way for more collaborative uses. Places where teenagers (or, my goodness, adults!) can let out an occasional excited holler without fear of an accompanying shush. Places where patrons can not just consume information but create it.
So what's stopping other libraries? In his wonderful book, How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand writes that institutional buildings, like many of the old libraries still being used, "were designed specifically to prevent change for the institution inside and to convey timeless reliability to everyone outside. When forced to change anyway, as they always are, they do so with expensive reluctance and all possible delay. Institutional buildings are mortified by change." Which is to say that their form doesn't cope well with the evolution of its function. Or, as Brand goes on to suggest, "First we shape our buildings, then they shape us, then we shape them again--ad infinitum."
So then, how do libraries, especially some of the more bombastic, seemingly impenetrable specimens out there, gracefully respond to changes in user needs being driven by technological advances? Especially when patrons expect and crave both the serendipitous joy of discovery that comes with idiosyncrasy (wandering/browsing=findability) and the oasis-like calm that comes with continuity? What are the costs involved? What trials must be overcome? While some changes to such places can be relatively simple (better signage, a new furniture layout, interactive displays) others (new wiring and plumbing--allowing for more natural light) can be costly and protracted procedures.
Stewart Brand writes (and he could be describing the urban sprawl of Chicago's Harold Washington Library):
Institutions aspire to be eternal, and they let that ambition lead them to the wrong physical strategy. Instead of opting for long-term flexibility, they go for monumentality, seeking to embody their power in physical grandeur. Post offices, colleges, and state capitols bellie and hinder their high-flux information function with stone walls, useless columns, and wasteful domes. The building tries to stand for the function instead of serving it.
What are some of the more simple, cost-effective ways a seemingly static library can change/evolve to better serve its users?
And not just better serve them, but excite and transform their very expectations of the library experience.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I stumbled across The Hub which is a site that uses You Tube as a platform for human rights media and action. For a library I love the idea of gathering sites like this and showing patrons how You Tube can be used for the greater good. I think it’s important to show, especially our younger patrons, that they should use YouTube for fun and creativity, but that there’s also more ways to use the technology.
Definitely. In fact, there's no reason these patrons, young and old alike, can't be creative and have fun while taking advantage of YouTube to inform their community about any number of greater goods. And libraries shouldn't just passively aggregate such sites, I'd argue, but openly encourage and facilitate their production. Such productions, created by and for the community, would then become a part of the libraries permanent collection.
Hasn't the library always championed civic engagement? Haven't they always yearned to draw their communities in with rich programming and encourage collaboration?
We know from the Pew Internet and American Life Project project that "57% of online teens create content for the internet." That comes out to roughly 12 million of them. As the report's authors write:
Today's online teens live in a world filled with self-authored, customized, and on-demand content, much of which is easily replicated, manipulated, and redistributable. The internet and digital publishing technologies have given them the tools to create, remix, and share content on a scale that had previously only been accessible to the professional gatekeepers of broadcast, print and recorded media outlets.
And, according to a recent white paper headed by Henry Jenkins, this 2005 Pew report actually
..undercounts the number of American young people who are embracing the new participatory culture. The Pew study did not consider newer forms of expression such as podcasting, game modding or machinima. Nor did it count other forms of creative expression and appropriation, such as music sampling in the hip hop community.
Which is to say, a whole lot of young folks are generating and messing around with online content, YouTube being simply one of the more popular platforms for doing so. Certainly some of the more well-funded, progressive thinking libraries are stepping into the thick of such content creation. The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenberg county, for example, is truly expanding the very notion of what constitutes "literacy." They represent a new breed of library--one that recognizes a 21st century brand of literacy needs to encompass more than just text. Or, as the folks at The Media Spot write, the "21st Century idea of 'Literacy' should include new media to serve the democratic ideal of an educated and informed citizenry."
Those 12 million plus teens are no longer content to passively consume information and culture. They want to play a more active role in creating, manipulating and disseminating it. How can libraries assist them? The opportunities are there. Because I fear if libraries don't become part of this evolutuion, if they continue to shrug and turn their backs rather then actively engaging in the rapid (and exciting--holy cow, it's exciting!) transformation of how their patrons and communities are consuming/interacting/manipulating information, well, then we truly will become dusty warehouses of books. Then we truly will become irrelevant.
Summarizing the notoriously chastising 2006 keynote address author Andrei Codrescu gave to the American Library Association, Karen Schneider wrote:
Condrescu sees libraries in the role of community digital repositories and producers of culture, and he called librarians to embrace the role of libraries as cultural centers.
That's right. Public libraries have an amazing opportunity to reinvigorate and engage with their communities in new, constructive ways. And while fret over the lack of constructive criticism and analytical/evaluative depth coming out of the Library 2.0 community (what methodologies are available or even being used to quantitatively measure, for example, the impact of the staff time and resources necessary in maintaining a library's social-networking presence?--I'll write more about this later) there's no doubt that the Library 2.0 movement, over the last couple years, has fostered a loud, vibrant conversation while simultaneously challenging a number of well-worn assumptions regarding the "role" of the library.
It's through the door that Library 2.0 is prying open, with all its evangelistic fervor, that we have an opportunity to bring libraries more fully into the 21st century. And while I'm both heartened and dismayed that so many current and future librarians are currently learning, at the cusp of the new year, about blogs for the first time--it does demonstrate that the profession has stopped wringing its collective hands and is beginning to listen. There's a hunger for change, a recognition that we must adopt or die.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Abby had a posse accompanying her this Halloween. At first she approached the spooky, candy bearing homes tentatively, not entirely sure what this "trick or treat" thing was all about. Soon, however, she had it mastered, charging up walkways and steps with aplomb.
It wasn't long before she caught on to the fact that the shiny packaged nougat goodness being deposited into her basket may, indeed, be edible. "Can you eat it?" she asked. "Yes, you can," we replied. She wasted no time in doing so. So of course we let her.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
One of the quirkier essays/papers included in Library as Place explores "the meaning of library space in the life of the mind." The essay, Stimulating Space, Serendipitous Space: Library as Place in the Life of the Scholar, written by Karen Antell and Debra Engel, reminded me of this unconscious emotional connection we have to place. They write that scholars deeply value "the physical library, often for intangible but nonetheless crucial reasons such as 'conduciveness to scholarship.'" Concerning this nebulous "conduciveness" the authors write:
This theme is where our results got interesting. "Conduciveness to scholarship" was different from other themes because it revealed how scholars used library space independently of library resources.
So, it's not because the library offers a myriad of information resources, the books, the databases, the eager reference desk librarian--it's something else that brings scholars to the library to do their work. Something that, according to the scholars the authors interviewed, helped them to channel their minds and allowed for them to have a "dialogue" with their resources. Something conducive.
And not just for the old timers. The young scholars, too. You might think they'd conduct their research wherever they could get a decent WiFi connection. That sitting at home in their pajamas, accessing online databases and texting their peers would be more conducive. Not so.
"Contrary to all expectations," the authors write, "we found that younger scholars, by both age and scholarly age, were far more likely than older scholars to comment on the physical library's conduciveness to scholarship."
The library put them in an "academic attitude," helped to "increase their attention," it was, in fact, highly conducive, a live wire sparking the intellect. What power! The library has the ability, it would seem, to physiologically orient the mind of innumerable scholars over time so as to work optimally when in its embrace.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Because his roommate, LLoyd, is in the habit of getting it on in the dorm room they share, Steven resignedly shuffles off to the student lounge with blanket and pillow in hopes of getting some sleep. Here he finds roughly a dozen other banished roommates taking refuge amongst the well worn couches and television. "We're here because our roommates are having sex," one of the banished offers by way of welcome when Steven arrives.
The banished roommates, Apatow freaks and geeks all, bond by offering each other sympathetic ears and listening as each rationalizes why, in fact, it's them and not their roommates sitting in the lobby at 3 am. After all, why shouldn't they be back in their respective rooms enjoying a little thunder under the covers?
Later, as the night drags on, the camera lingers on the lounge television as D'Angelo's sultry torso rippling video for How Does it Feel, as sexy a slow jam come on as you'll ever find, plays. As the camera pans back to offer what you expect to be the glassy eyed gazes of the sleep deprived roommates, we witness instead the freaks and geeks coupling up and making some mouth music of their own. It's entirely unexpected but perfectly executed, as smooth and sultry as D'Angelo even without the perfectly customized abs.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Roy Blount, Jr.'s contribution, American Yawp: Doddley dew de dowm woodle-y dee d'doodle ya day eedel-y doo do, takes a look at the yodel. The biggest surprise of the piece was this:
The version of "Blue Yodel No. 9" that you should hear, of course, is Jimmie's 1930 recording of it, on which Satchmo plays coronet. The first yodel almost almost seems to throw Armstrong--he tosses in a couple of faint, embroiderish tootles. He's quickly back in stride, laying down his own fine stuff and letting the yodel be. But the last note he plays, which is the last note on the record--I may be imagining this, but isn't there a winking little yodelish break in that note?
I don't think there's any existing footage of that session, but you can watch Armstrong perform it on this clip from the Johnny Cash show:
For a genre not exactly known for its racial breadth, it's easy to forget how much early country and honky tonk were attuned to what was happening in the worlds of blues and jazz.
I love Johnny Cash, but he sure can't yodel.
In one of the film's early scenes, the future Ian and Deborah Curtis frolic on the side of a hill that's so strikingly dappled with hyper refined blacks, whites and grays that it takes on a fairytale-like quality.
There's a blunt, schematic feel to much of the film. Sometimes a scene feels like it's nothing but a clunky windup to the musical cue. Corbijn wants to demonstrate how Curtis's life, especially the slow, painful whithering of his marriage to Deborah, fed the muse of his tortured lyrics and wayward distractions. After dropping the bomb on Deborah that he no longer loves her and is, in fact, in love with another woman, Joy Division's most famous song and anthem, Love Will Tear Us Apart awaits a bit too conveniently (slavishly?) at the gates to grace the scene with some narrative enrichment.
What works are the concert scenes, where we get to see the band playing "live" to an audience. Especially good is the scene that lovingly recreates the band's first televised appearance on Wilson's locally based television show in September of 1978. They rip through fierce version of Transmission and Corbijn nicely distills some the hypnotic intensity of their work. A good part of the power of these scenes, I think, beyond their holodeck/time machine-like replication, came from the fact that this was easily the loudest freaking film I've ever seen at the Music Box. Their sound system isn't nearly what it could or should be, but it did a nice job of getting the point across.
So who's lining up the Martin Hannett biopic?
Friday, October 26, 2007
Many social conservatives consider Giuliani to be a very weak candidate. They cite his pro-abortion positions and connections, which include support for federal funding of abortions, making abortion available at any stage of pregnancy, support for partial-birth abortion and receiving several donations from Planned Parenthood. Giuliani’s approval of homosexuality is another reason that he is seen as an unfit candidate for the Republican nomination by many.
And let's not forget the cross-dressing! There's so much to dislike. Later, however, the same article had this to say,
According to Jay Heine, Brownback's political director in Iowa, an endorsement could happen because Brownback and many of his supporters believe Giuliani has the best chance of defeating Senator Hillary Clinton, the expected Democratic nominee.
How about that? At this rate the social conservative wing may be willing to throw their support behind a gay Republican candidate when Chelsea makes her own bid for the Oval Office. If Hillary really is the Democratic nominee will the Right, especially the social/Evangelist wing, be able to swallow so much of its platform wholesale and mobilize their Hillary hatred around Rudy?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The trees may still be about a week out from offering their best displays of color, but some, like the one above, are in peak bloom.
I realize that my notions of suburbs are both idealized and nostalgic, willfully discarding the rapacious consumption they've encouraged and the entitlement they so often exhibit. Of course, the suburbs are an easy target for the disdain of those of us who gladly left them for a more urban experience. And it's a complex, fascinating dichotomy-- urban vs. suburban--and one not easily unpacked.
I've long been meaning to read Kenneth Jackson's history of the American suburb, Crabgrass Frontier, which tantalizingly offers chapters on suburban idealization (Home, Sweet Home: The House and the Yard) and suburban development between the two wars, which, based off my own experiences, yielded many of the suburbs like River Forest that I find so appealing. Perfectly fine, at least, for a leisurely afternoon stroll between classes.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
An article in last weeks Economist had this to say:
That seems about right. Seeing what films my friends have checked out or what books they're currently reading offer small but intimate glimpses into their lives. I like that. Should they desire to turn me into a virtual zombie, that's fine. The "mini-feed" is even better, an aggregate of everything my friends have posted. Just today, for example, my friend Dennis updated his Profile picture, Joe and Heath saved some links on del.icio.us and I took a look at what book Jeanne is reading.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
There are, of course, numerous routes through which libraries can and have attempted to encourage this kind of participatory service ethic. Casey and Savastinuk, along with many of their Library 2.0 peers, have written broadly about the potential of library blogs (both internal and external), catalogs, wikis and any number of the rapidly expanding body of software applications as exciting new platforms through which libraries and their users can "talk and communicate as never before" (p. 75). With dependable regularity, the example most Library 2.0ers use as their demonstration model to exemplify this is the comment enabled blog. "As librarians," Casey and Savastinuk write, "we know that a give-and-take conversation is critical to being understood...With blogs, when a question comes through, it no longer lives in seclusion..."(p. 84).
That is, provided a patron actually does post a question through the library blog.
I've read about this a lot over the last year and I've made a habit of checking the comments of the various library blogs I've visited. Rarely, if ever, do I see patrons making use of these comments, leading me to wonder just how effective this kind of conversation is. I think library blogs can serve an important purpose but I wonder if it isn't perhaps time for us to reevaluate if conversation is one of them. What libraries are truly having sustained comment enabled conversations with patrons?
Surely Casey and Savastinuk would provide us with effective examples. Libraries like "Waterboro Public Library in East Waterboro, Maine," they write, "are creating blogs that allow customers to comment on library happenings in their community" (p. 62). But a visit to Waterbro's library blog reveals that it isn't currently comment enabled. Perhaps it once was but the blogs archives aren't available to check. What happened? Why did they stop? Is this the best example Casey and Savastinuk can muster? Offering another example, Casey and Savastinuk go on write that other libraries, "such as Darian Library, are creating blogs on which their directors post news and field questions and comments from the public" (p. 62). But while the director, since the blogs launch in July of 2006, has sporadically posted (she starts of strong but hasn't posted any new content since July of this year) and received roughly a dozen comments, none of these rise to our authors' claim of providing valuable feedback to "be discussed in meetings, and used to improve existing services."
What, I fear, Casey and Savastinuk are positing/inflating is the ideal while neglecting the reality of what's really happening on library blogs. It would be brilliant to see library directors, staff and patrons engaged in a rich, sustained current of blog enabled conversations but I've yet to see it. Are there blogging libraries truly having such conversations?
Earlier this summer John Blyberg, one of Library 2.0's most lucid and critical writers/thinkers, wrote of the "fairly severe disconnect between what the 2.0 pundits say (among whom I count myself), and what is really happening." The 2.0 pundits have been writing for over 2 years now of blog enabled conversations between library staff and their users. I don't doubt that the one way conversation is happening--there are plenty of libraries regularly updating their blogs, offering convenient RSS feeds, and passing along valuable information regarding a stunning array of services and programming. But perhaps it's time, as the 2.0 pundits so often remind us, to reevaluate this claim. The comment enabled library blog, as it now stands, doesn't seem to be encouraging a two-way conversation.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
According to Alan Davidson's mighty Penguin Companion to Food (written with the "intention that browsing through it should be a pleasure," and it is!), it was the English who did the most to advance the griddled brilliance of the pancake as we in the West have come to know it. "An English culinary manuscript of about 1430," Davidson writes, "refers to pancakes in a way which implies that the term was already familiar, but it does not occur often in the early printed cookery books. It seems to have been only in the 17th century that pancakes came to the fore in Britain." If only for this, I am a dedicated Anglophile. Thank you for the pancakes!
When I was a child, a few years older than Abby is now, my Dad would take me along on Saturday mornings to bum around the sawdust and Formica scrap strewn rooms of the family business. For lunch we'd walk a few blocks down to a restaurant run by a Greek couple who served breakfast all day. When we'd enter the owner would receive me from behind the counter with a warmhearted salutation of "It's the Pancake Boy!" And of course that's what I'd order, marveling that such a place existed where pancakes were no longer confined to the tyranny of the morning hours.
A Vietnamese restaurant is there now. Their cinnamon beef ball soup is said to be quite good.
Not just pancakes with strawberries, but bacon too! The salty, redolence of bacon on an early autumn morning is life affirming. Writing Alexander Donald from Paris, Thomas Jefferson, heavy with the burden of his times said, "I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give." Of course, he's lying. Try as he might, Jefferson couldn't resist "the most splendid post" of the presidency and he was both petty and fiercely tenacious in his quest to claim it. And he loved pancakes as much as bacon. Still, relaxing in a modest cottage with good friends, some books and bacon while the world rolls on by sounds mighty nice. I'd add a few bottles of wine though. And a badminton net.
Abby has begun humming again while she eats. She did this for many months but it abruptly stopped not long after her first birthday back in December. The hum returned a few weeks ago though. It's the hum of foodstuff approval. A hum to accompany the delicious, both savory and sweet. It's not subtle, this hum, but emphatic and assertive. She hummed through each and every bite of pancake and bacon this morning. I'm glad it's returned.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
meeboguest376001: Hi there! I'm a LIS student at Dominican University and hoping to ask a few questions regarding IM'ing at your library. Is now a good time?
ask skokie: We just began the IM link this past week so I don't know how much info we have to offer you yet. Do you want to talk with one of the librarians who set it up, if yes I can give you their names and let you know when they are scheduled to be in the library.
meeboguest376001: No, I don't think I'll need to talk to one of them. If you don't have info, that's fine. Do you know how it was integrated into your system?
ask skokie: We are using the Meebo aggregator so we can serve people with the various IM providers such as AIM Yahoo Google etc
meeboguest376001: Yeah, meebo is a nice IM aggregator. Have you noticed a lot more reference questions coming in?
ask skokie: We have just placed the Widget this week. Have not really publicized it yet. Soft rollout. We will be doing flyers, bookmarks articles in newsletter later in the year.
meeboguest376001: OK, I didn't know it was so recently--though it's great that you guys are rolling it out. Any idea as to how you'll go about evaluating it?
ask skokie: Keeping Stats on sessions--will keep archives of transcripts stripped of any personal identifiers. We consider it another way to make contact---like the telephone. Will treat requests as we treat any other request for information. If we cannot answer completely via chat will ask for email or phone for more detailed followup
meeboguest376001: Was there any staff training involved in rolling it out?
ask skokie: Not much---had a short intro session and did a cheat sheet. We have been doing AskAway Virtual Reference---so concept not new. Software is easy--not much to learn just type rather than talk
meeboguest376001: Ok, last question (you've been very helpful!): Any plans to place meebo on every results page of your lib's search interface--to be at the point of need for your users?
ask skokie: We are considering this---Heard Michael Stephens suggest it & he's right. We will be expanding placement, though our site has literally thousands of pages--so not sure will be on all but definitely will eventually be on many more
meeboguest376001: Oh, that's funny! I'm taking Michael's Lib. 2.0 class this semester!
ask skokie: He's great---knows his stuff- interesting speaker too!
meeboguest376001: Thanks again for your help!
ask skokie: Good luck in your classes. feel free to contact us again any time we're open
-All in all a very good experience, and I'm ashamed to say one of the longest, no make that the first! IM conversations I've ever had. I know that the PewInternet and American Life Study revealed that, contrary to what many thought, adults are actually using IM. Still, there is a huge generatin gap according to a similar AOL study of IM use.
Anyone with teenagers knows already that there is a huge generation gap in IM usage. In AOL's survey, IM usage ran 90 percent among those age 13 to 21; 71 percent for ages 22 to 34; 55 percent for ages 35 to 54; and 48 percent for 55 and older.
More than half of those over 35 are using IM? Where have I been? Probably all those years I resisted using a cellphone, no?
Saturday, October 06, 2007
...on the banks of Seneca Lake, in excellent apple-growing country, a government outfit called the Plant Genetic Resource Unit maintains the world's largest collection of apple trees. Some 2,500 different varieties have been gathered from all over the world and set out here in pairs, as if on an a beached botanical ark. The card catalog of this fifty-acre tree archive runs the pomological gamut from Adam's Pearmain, an antique English apple, to the German Zucalmagio. In between a browser will find almost every variety discovered in America since Roxbury Russet distinguished itself in a cider orchard outside Boston in 1645.
A museum of apples. Imagine the apple pies you could make! The apple fritters!
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
And so we behold Maricopa's Dewey eviction. Out with the outmoded and in with the new? The fascinating flurry of comments found at the end of Karen Schneiders Techsource post regarding Maricopa are well worth reading--exhibiting passions about this issue that I find hard to muster. At best, I'm agnostic. At worst, indifferent. I understand and respect the history and merits of Dewey but I'm not entirely convinced of its irrevocability. If Maricopa's patrons were discouraged by Dewey and hankering for a new, friendlier classification system that encouraged and facilitated browsing--then by all means--if BISAC supports that need, fantastic. It certainly seems to, though I was especially encouraged by Maricopa's readiness to revert back to Dewey if their experiment failed.
Certainly there are some questions that need to be explored. Would this work for larger libraries? What about those patrons or reference staff who don't want to browse and want to find a specific book? Could Dewey be kept if the natural language signage was improved or expanded?
Ideally, in the end, my hope is that with all the telecom convergence activity currently underway, I'll soon be able to use my phone to access a library's catalog in addition to taking advantage of the catalogs GPS application which will conveniently lead me directly to the book I'm looking for.
Monday, October 01, 2007
In the Library
There's a book called
A Dictionary of Angels.
No one had opened it in fifty years,
I know, because when I did,
The covers creaked, the pages
Crumbled. There I discovered
The angles were once plentiful
As species of flies.
The sky at dusk
Used to be filled with them.
You had to wave both arms
Just to keep them away.
Now the sun is shining
Through the tall windows.
The library is a quiet place.
Angels and gods huddled
In dark unopened books.
The great secret lies
On some shelf Miss Jones
Passes every day on her rounds.
She's very tall, so she keeps
Her head tipped as if listening.
The books are whispering.
I hear nothing, but she does.
Who says librarians don't have special powers? I wonder if one of the singular strands that runs through all librarians, both present and future, is the quiet joy we've experienced drifting up and down those aisles of whispering books.