Sunday, January 31, 2010

Censoring a Version of Anne Frank's Diary

The Washington Post has published an article about schools in a county in Virginia not teaching a version of Anne Frank's diary. Which sounds pretty awful. But! They're still teaching an older version, the one her father arranged which left out entries Culpeper County schools found 'sexually explicit'. So they're still using the older one, just not the one with the bits about her sexuality or unflattering things about her mother and other people. The recent version will remain available in the library but the old version will be used in class.

Are the kids old enough to understand that? Would it help if they could identify more with Anne - someone who writes things that aren't nice, someone who was just starting to figure out her sexuality - or is the original version still good despite the censorship? Is it even censorship? Does the new version contain everything she ever wrote in the diary, or are there still parts missing?

This is hardly the first time censorship has come up with the Diary of Anne Frank:

The ALA has documented only six challenges to "The Diary of Anne Frank" since it began monitoring formal written complaints to remove or restrict books in 1990... One record dating to 1983 from an Alabama textbook committee said the book was "a real downer" and called for its rejection from schools.

See, now that reason's just stupid.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

123 Hack Me

A New York Times article reveals many people are still using simple, easily-guessed passwords.

Back at the dawn of the Web, the most popular account password was “12345.” Today, it’s one digit longer but hardly safer: “123456.”

This list comes from a list of 32 million passwords a hacker posted from a company that makes software used by social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. It was only briefly posted, but it was downloaded and examined by hackers and security specialists alike. What a great resource!

According to the article, here are the top 32 passwords:
  • 123456
  • 12345
  • 123456789
  • password
  • iloveyou
  • princess
  • rockyou
  • 1234567
  • 12345678
  • abc123
  • nicole
  • daniel
  • babygirl
  • monkey
  • jessica
  • lovely
  • michael
  • ashley
  • 654321
  • qwerty
  • iloveu
  • michelle
  • 111111
  • 0
  • tigger
  • password1
  • sunshine
  • chocolate
  • anthony
  • angel
  • soccer
I knew this guy in high school with a PDA. I was intrigued by it; he let me play with it. I remember asking him what the password was and he would say, "It's a secret." After a sadly long time, I clued in that the password was 'itsasecret'.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Confessions of a Book Pirate

An article from The Millions about everything you wanted to know about book piracy. Maybe not everything, but still quite a bit. The Millions, an online literary magazine, interviewed a book pirate who goes by the name 'The Real Caterpillar'.

Just because someone downloads a file, it does not mean they would have bought the product I think this is the key fact that many people in the music industry ignore – a download does not translate to a lost sale. I own hundreds of paper copies of books I have e-copies of, many of which were bought after downloading the e-copy. In other cases I have downloaded books I would never have purchased, simply because they were recommended or sounded interesting.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

For the Love of Culture, Google, Copyright and our Future

I can't really package this any better than the site I got it from, BoingBoing. This is one of those links that's also a placeholder for me so I can go back and read later; this one is long: For the Love of Culture, Google, Copyright and our Future. I'm so cheap I'm even grabbing the same quote BoingBoing did:

Whatever your view of it, notice first just how different this future promises to be. In real libraries, in real space, access is not metered at the level of the page (or the image on the page). Access is metered at the level of books (or magazines, or CDs, or DVDs). You get to browse through the whole of the library, for free. You get to check out the books you want to read, for free. The real-space library is a den protected from the metering of the market. It is of course created within a market; but like kids in a playroom, we let the life inside the library ignore the market outside.

This freedom gave us something real. It gave us the freedom to research, regardless of our wealth; the freedom to read, widely and technically, beyond our means. It was a way to assure that all of our culture was available and reachable--not just that part that happens to be profitable to stock. It is a guarantee that we have the opportunity to learn about our past, even if we lack the will to do so. The architecture of access that we have in real space created an important and valuable balance between the part of culture that is effectively and meaningfully regulated by copyright and the part of culture that is not. The world of our real-space past was a world in which copyright intruded only rarely, and when it did, its relationship to the objectives of copyright was relatively clear.

We forget all this today.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ancient Books

Archaeologists have dug up some rare bamboo writings in a tomb in China.

There is a possibility the strips contain an introduction written by the owner of the tomb, "Like a letter of recommendation the deceased would carry with them to the underworld to give Yanluo, the god of death", Shen said.

No word on whether they have unearthed any unspeakable ancient evils.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ban the Dictionary!

Some southern California schools have removed Merriam Webster's 10th Edition dictionary from their classrooms due to a 'sexually graphic' definition for oral sex: "oral stimulation of the genitals".

A district spokeswoman, Betti Cadmus, said: "It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature."

The best part of this is that a priest chimed in against the ban:

"It is not such a bad thing for a kid to have the wherewithal to go and look up a word he may have even heard on the playground," father Jason Rogers told local press. "You have to draw the line somewhere. What are they going to do next, pull encyclopaedias because they list parts of the human anatomy like the penis and vagina?"

There are also diagrams in encyclopaedias. That is some dirty, dirty stuff.

UPDATE: It's back! But you can choose whether your child uses it or another version.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Haiti People Finder

Alright, it may not have anything to do with libraries, but this is the Haiti people finder project. It does feature working with databases, which is a librarian thing, and also helping people - also a librarian thing. If you have time and can follow instructions, you can help.

Librarian fail: I neglected to notice where I got this link from.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Princess Problem

Patricia Coppard has written an article about the 'Princess Problem'. She writes about how her daughter is influenced by the books and movies she reads and sees about princesses:

There's a princess in my house. I know she's a princess, because she wears a purple fun-fur-and-silver-glitter tiara, changes her clothes five times a day, and issues regular commands in an imperious voice.

I'm not sure if that's the fault of the media the kid's exposed to or more a sign of parenting; I wish I knew if she ever told her daughter not to speak to people in that tone, for example.

I am slowly but surely trying to instill my feminist values into her -- to absolutely no effect.

One day, she's poring over the Toys R Us flyer when she spots two Barbie-type dolls, one with long blond hair and wearing a bikini, the other dressed like a ballerina with brown hair in a bun. "I like this one and this one," she says, pointing to the dolls. "Do you like them, Mommy?" "I like the ballerina, but not the other one," I say. "Why not?" "Because she's a bimbo." "Well, I like the ballerina AND the bimbo, Mommy."

Okay, say what? Why is a girl in a bikini automatically a bimbo? Do ballerinas never go to the beach? While I understand the need to instill positive values in kids today, I don't think it should come at the cost of looking down at any sort of girl. Bikinis are not inherently bad. It's not like the daughter wasn't interested in the ballerina; she just liked the bikini doll, too.

This is not coming from a bimbo girl. When I was growing up, I had Barbies, sure. I also had She-Ra, Princess of Power, who ran around with a sword beating bad guys up, and I played with Battle Beasts, anthropomorphic animals in armor with weapons. I had Lego, too. I think girls can do anything they put their minds to - being scientists, mathematicians, and ballerinas. They can still go to the beach.

The article gets better when Patricia lists off books that she feels are 'Anti-Princess' such as 'Princess Pigsty' by Cornelia Funke, 'Princesses Aren't Quitters' by Kate Lum, 'The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas' by Tony Wilson, 'Sleeping Bobby' by Will and Mary Pope Osborne, and 'Princess Smartypants' by Babette Cole. Of course she mentions Robert Munsch's 'The Paper Bag Princess', too.

I probably would have loved those books as a kid. I did love Paper Bag Princess and continue to think it's a great book. I just don't think little girls should be taught to be disdainful of others. I like the ballerina doll better because I admire ballerinas; there's no need to include name-calling.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

E-Reader Rundown and Notes for the Future

Here is WIRED's gallery of e-readers.

"E-readers, as we know them now, are at a crossroads. Next week, Apple is expected to announce a new tabletlike device that could also be used to read digital books. It’s expected to have a color screen, not the monochrome E Ink display found on most e-readers. Apple is reportedly talking to publishers to bring e-books and magazines to the device.

Meanwhile, other computer manufacturers are showing tabletlike devices, which are also based on color LED or OLED screens.

A device with a color screen could really change the landscape. Add the ability to watch video, play games or download apps — which most e-readers can’t do — and e-readers could start to look pretty primitive by comparison."

I did not know E-Ink pages lagged when refreshing the display. A flash of a black screen between page turns would probably irritate me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Critical Commons Videos

From BoingBoing:

"Critical Commons... is a fair use advocacy and media sharing site, funded by the MacArthur Foundation. This is currently the most radical media-sharing site on the open internet. Designed for media educators and students, Critical Commons makes high-quality, copyrighted media publicly available by placing it in a critical context and informing users about their rights under fair use."

This is a fun site to poke around.

Cold Hard Cash Comfort

Unionized library workers at branches of the New York City Library get compensated for working in temperatures lower than 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). It's a contract provision called "Extreme Temperature Procedures".


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CNIB Requests Federal Funding

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind can no longer fund their operating cost through donations alone. They are asking for help from the federal government.

The CNIB has funded the cost of an accessible library service for people who are visually impaired through donations for 90 years, but the organization can't sustain its $10-million annual operating cost anymore without federal government support, CNIB executive director for Alberta and Northwest Territories Cathy McFee said Tuesday.

The problem is not only that the organization can't fund the library-- it shouldn't have to, McFee said. All other Canadians can go to their local, publicly funded library for books, while Canadians with vision loss access library services through a charity, she said.

"It is unacceptable that a country like Canada has a two-tiered system when it comes to accessing books and information. It is an issue of human rights," McFee said.

"Disability should not dictate whether the government supports a person's right to read."

I'm amazed to find out the CNIB isn't funded by the federal government. I agree completely that it should be.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Offline Book Lending Costs Publishers Nearly $1 Trillion

From Go to Hellman, a blog I think I will be adding to my daily reading list: Offline Book "Lending" Costs U.S. Publishers Nearly $1 Trillion. Man, I wish I'd made this post.

Hot on the heels of the story in Publisher's Weekly that "publishers could be losing out on as much $3 billion to online book piracy" comes a sudden realization of a much larger threat to the viability of the book industry. Apparently, over 2 billion books were "loaned" last year by a cabal of organizations found in nearly every American city and town. Using the same advanced projective mathematics used in the study cited by Publishers Weekly, Go To Hellman has computed that publishers could be losing sales opportunities totaling over $100 Billion per year, losses which extend back to at least the year 2000. These lost sales dwarf the online piracy reported yesterday, and indeed, even the global book publishing business itself.

Psst... He means libraries.

Seriously, why didn't I make this post? It's hilarious.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Library Routes

The Library Routes Project collects stories about how people working in libraries ended up where they are. What made them decide to be librarians, how they got to where they are now. Interesting stories. One day I hope to add my own.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Counterpoint on Library Fines

Having mentioned previous articles about library fines being waived, here is another on the subject - a Boston library filing criminal complaints.

Granted, it's not just regular late fines that are the problem here. Alyssa Toste and Jeremie Crane haven't returned over $500 worth of materials, both recently and a year or two back. These are not small fines.

"The value of the materials is fairly high. We need to replace them," said Martha Holden, director of the Peabody Institute Library.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

85 Reasons To Be Thankful for Librarians

An article on lists 85 Reasons To Be Thankful for Librarians.

Some of my favourites, mostly silly but some otherwise:

6. Girls with glasses can still rock the “sexy librarian” look.

26. If librarians were no longer around, kids wouldn’t understand the opening scene from Ghostbusters.

33. Who else is going to learn the Dewey Decimal System? You?
34. Seriously though, no one wants to learn the Dewey Decimal System.

49. Unlike the internet, libraries are careful that the information they contain is checked for usefulness before being included.
50. Also unlike the internet, libraries are much less influenced by corporate interests.
51. They are also less likely to be manipulated by individuals, like search engine optimizers.

And something from the comment section: 'A wise person once said that libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get your through times of no libraries.'

Friday, January 15, 2010

Media Literate Six Year Olds

From WIRED: Media-Literate Sex-Year-Olds. Mrs. Cassidy is teaching her grade one class how to be media literate. They're already pretty good at navigating web sites they know. They keep a class blog. They've already been taught to be helpful and not mean in comments.

This reminds me of an article I skimmed some time ago about Google wanting to help children search better. Is it better to try to adapt to a child's needs or to have a child adapt to Google's system? (The other question being, 'how young do we want kids to be on the internet?', 'safe searches' and all. I know I could have gotten into a lot of trouble as a little kid with a safe search on Google, especially since I would be trying my damnedest to see bad things.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 Olympics Impose Logo Rules on Public Libraries?

Here's some odd news: a memo circulated around the public library system in Vancouver that all non-sponsor logos were to be covered up during the Olympics.

The reasoning:

"As we all know, the sponsors have paid a lot of money to sponsor these Games. The library is a department of the City of Vancouver and I didn't want any of our staff to be in potentially embarrassing situations," Ms. Kavanagh said.

But really:

VANOC spokesman Greg Alexis said the only time that VANOC would be concerned would be a case in which non-sponsor brands were used at an official Vancouver 2010 Winter Games event where the city's Olympic logo was used.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gates Foundation Helps Libraries Worldwide

Say what you will about Bill Gates, he does some good charity work. The Foundation will be training librarians from different countries.

Training includes a three-week program in the United States, then a one-week visit to another country with exemplary libraries.

Then [the] librarians travel to the assigned country, often working through interpreters.

The libraries are sometimes well-equipped, but staff members are not always fully trained in making the best use of the facilities, Ford and Schnuer said. The trainers work to help library officials learn how to implement new techniques, including use of the Internet.

I appreciate the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's effort to improve libraries worldwide instead of just in the United States. There are countries far worse off than North America even in our times of 'economic crisis'.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bought or Licensed?

More on Amazon and the Kindle, this time from Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing: even Amazon can't keep it's EULA story straight.

EULA stands for 'End User License Agreement'. It's the bunch of text above the 'accept' button that you never read when you use a program for the first time. Or maybe you do read it!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cats and Books

Nancy Mattoon writes about cats and books, specifically cats that live in libraries or book stores. I like cats and I like books. So does my brother, except he has allergies and I can't imagine him being too comfortable in a book store or library with a resident cat. I like the idea, but I also like trying to make everyone as comfortable as they can be in a public area.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Burning in Wales

Due to a shortage of fuel and lower temperatures, people in Wales are buying cheap books at second hand stores and burning them for fuel. Am I a bad proto-librarian if I'm more concerned about the toxic fumes from the books and their covers than the actual burning of the books themselves? I consider second hand stores (not used book stores) the last stop for books. Is it really going to hurt if some people burn a bunch of Maeve Binchy books? Okay, maybe some. Burning books does nothing to help literacy. The article provides some alternative fuels. What about old encyclopedias, though? Are they really going to get another use other than rotting in some landfill later on? Is burning for fuel to survive a better use for them?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Scribble in Your E-Book

Maybe I spend a lot of time on e-readers, particularly for someone who says she doesn't even particularly like them. They marry two of my favourite things in the world, though: books and technology, and so I cheerfully read up on their progress.

Samsung e-readers (and the author of the article seems to mix up 'e-book' and 'e-reader') are thus far alone in the capability to write on e-texts, scribbling notes in margins and such. Useful? Maybe kind of, when you consider textbooks. I just stuff bits of paper in between pages with notes myself, so a physical format is still better for me, but... hey, you can write on this reader! And maybe draw little pictures!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Skiff Reader

Hands down, no contest, I think the Skiff Reader is the niftiest looking e-reader out there. It's a little bendy and uses stainless steel foil instead of glass; it's also got the largest reading area at 11.5 inches. The technical aspects look pretty neat as well. Very sci-fi looking, though I wouldn't want to ride the bus with it out. Notice there's no price listed; never a good sign.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Beware of Science Fiction

Way of Life Literature has posted an article warning Fundamentalists against science fiction. Not only does the article point out agnostic and atheist authors, it even mentions that Arthur C. Clarke was 'probably a homosexual'. Okay.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bibliotheek Haarlem Tagging

Harlem Oost, a branch library in the Netherlands, set up a program that would allow library patrons to 'tag' their books. Like the labels on this blog, only more as descriptors like 'good family reading' and 'funny'. Certainly an intriguing idea, but apparently it didn't work.

While I think it's admirable, I'm not very surprised it didn't work. I kind of wish it did, but I also think physically organizing books by tags isn't such a hot idea. It works well online in blogs, but not so much in real life, which has to contend with shelf space and accessibility.

The reason there are library classification systems like Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal is so people can find books. This seems like a basic concept. By grouping them by subject, it makes it easier for people to find what they need and browse subjects that interest them.

This library project is proposing a new classification system that changes. While books can still be grouped according to previous classification systems within the new system, the major groups - 'funny', 'family reading' - change the very basic locations of the books.

The benefit of having a classification system like Dewey Decimal Classification or Library of Congress is that the categories are mostly static. While the debate as to which subcategory a work falls under remains, it is at least decided upon, noted, and then kept, thus narrowing the physical placement of the book.

The use of RFIDs makes the tagging process easier. It's certainly helpful information about a community's interests and needs, yes. While tags showing up in online catalogs makes sense, changing the physical shelving does not.

A comment from Jack Kirby on the second article linked sums up my misgivings about the project:

As somebody who recently had to search through a whole host of 'special choice' displays to find the book I needed to read for my book group (the staff knew it was in there, just not where), I can attest that there is a downside to departing from normal library behaviour!

Great idea, it just doesn't work so well in a physical world.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top Ten Pirated Books in 2009

From TeleRead, The Ten Most Pirated Books of 2009.

1. Kamasutra
2. Adobe Photoshop Secrets
3. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex
4. The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
5. Solar House – A Guide for the Solar Designer
6. Before Pornography – Erotic Writing In Early Modern England
7. Twilight – Complete Series
8. How To Get Anyone To Say YES – The Science Of Influence
9. Nude Photography – The Art And The Craft
10. Fix It – How To Do All Those Little Repair Jobs Around The Home

Ebooks are like a brown paper bag! Please note almost half the books seem to be/are about sex. Two are do-it-yourself books, which makes sense ("I'm not going to buy this book if I can just do it myself with a download!") and then there's Twilight, a series of guilty pleasure for more grown-ups than I want to think about.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Library Fine Alternatives Continue

It seems libraries are still having amnesty periods for fines in the hopes of bringing patrons (and books) back. I'm glad this sort of thing is still going on; I think libraries have realized that they can get their books back, but probably not their money and their books. And it helps the community to hold these cans for fines programs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to Destroy the Book by Cory Doctorow

I've Cory Doctorow's How to Destroy the Book pop up in a number of places now and I keep meaning to read it.

The part I find of particular interest is called 'The People of the Book'.

We are the people of the book. We love our books. We fill our houses with books. We treasure books we inherit from our parents, and we cherish the idea of passing those books on to our children. Indeed, how many of us started reading with a beloved book that belonged to one of our parents? We force worthy books on our friends, and we insist that they read them. We even feel a weird kinship for the people we see on buses or airplanes reading our books, the books that we claim. If anyone tries to take away our books—some oppressive government, some censor gone off the rails—we would defend them with everything that we have. We know our tribespeople when we visit their homes because every wall is lined with books. There are teetering piles of books beside the bed and on the floor; there are masses of swollen paperbacks in the bathroom. Our books are us. They are our outboard memory banks and they contain the moral, intellectual, and imaginative influences that make us the people we are today.

Copyright recognizes this. It says that when you buy a book, you own the book. It’s yours to give away, yours to keep, yours to license or to borrow, to inherit or to be included in your safe for your children. For centuries, copyright has acknowledged that sacred connection between readers and their books. We think of copyright as something that regulates things within a bunch of buckets—DVDs, video games, records—but books are more than all of these things. Books are older than copyright. Books are older than publishing. Books are older than printing!

The anti-copyright activists have no respect for our copyright and our books. They say that when you buy an ebook or an audiobook that’s delivered digitally, you are demoted from an owner to a licensor. From a reader to a mere user. These thieves deliver our digital books and our audiobooks wrapped in license agreements and technologies that might as well be designed to destroy the emotional connection that readers have with their books.

Copyright has become complicated. Where are the lines between owning a book and renting it in print or digital format? Is 'copyright' the enemy here, or is 'Digital Rights Management'? Isn't copyright supposed to protect people? At what point does it stop protecting creators and limiting audiences?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Save the Queen's English!

Wired has posted an article about Lake Superior State University's 2010 Banished Words List, which can be found here.

The big offenders: tweet, sexting, chillaxin', app, and friend as a verb.

I have to say I'm kind of a fan of non-words. It's slang, and people fifty years from now will look upon it as quaint, I think. In the meantime, if someone knows the word 'app' is short for 'application', I'd rather use 'app'. And if I'm explaining something to, say, my mother, I will tell her 'app' is short for 'application, which is a program'. Not to mention 'app' has been used as a word long before Apple made iPhones by computer geek types; it's shorter than saying 'application'. That's what words do: they name something, a thing or concept or idea, and they are recognizable. In the case of slang like 'chillaxin'', I'd think the meaning of the word could be readily deduced. Made-up words have little place in academic papers and the like, but the rest of the time language may as well be fun. There's no need to be formal all the time.

Friday, January 1, 2010

National Geographic

Get 120 Years of National Geographic On Your Own External Hard Drive.

First: YAY!
Second: Is this thing searchable?
Third: YAY!

I'm tempted to get this, though $200 USD is kind of steep. On the other hand, every issue of National Geographic since 1888, people. I get geek shivers just thinking about it.