Monday, May 31, 2010

Miss Manners and the Nosy Librarian

Worth a snicker: Miss Manners replies to a woman with an excessively nosy librarian.

Another time, I checked out a name book. I'm writing a novel and needed some ideas for my characters. The librarian read the titles and shrieked, "Are you pregnant?! It's too soon for you to be having another baby!" (I was holding my infant son at the time.)

Note to self: don't do this.

Harvard Libraries

Blah blah blah Harvard is working on shifting to digital.

Interesting: Harvard has seventy-three libraries including the Widener collection which is so huge it requires a forklift to navigate its fifty-foot shelves. I really want to see that. I wonder how well it's organized.

Rocket Men: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

So this book called Rocket Men was published. Supposedly all about the history of space travel, it is factually incorrect yet receiving positive reviews from the press. Does no one fact-check these days?

I suggest authors and reviewers who get space history wrong be required to take a punch from Buzz Aldrin.

Towel Day

It always irritates me when I forget Towel Day on May 25th. It's the same day every year!

Towel Day is a tribute to the late Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a geek favourite.

An Endangered Language: Braille

In the 1950s, half of blind of Americans read Braille. Now, fewer than ten per cent know the language, most relying on audio materials. Not a big deal?

...There was a really interesting study of two groups of blind children. One group had grown up learning Braille and the other group had grown up using audio technology. And the authors of that study said that there was a significant difference in not just the way that they wrote but the way that they seemed to think. And they referenced theorist Walter Ong, who writes that the act of seeing our own words and then tweaking them and rewriting them, and in that process, rethinking, really creates a new kind of cognitive style.

So they said that the students who didn't learn Braille, it was as if they had shaken up their ideas in a container and then thrown them out on a piece of paper, and that there was really no clear organization, and it lacked the kind of complexity that they saw in the students who had learned Braille.

People who don't know Braille can't really take notes, can't edit your own writing, and you can't edit your own thoughts, and that’s a really significant part of the way that people learn to think.

That's true of visual readers and non-readers too, though, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

China Cracks Down on Writers in Tibet

Some scary stuff about Tibet, written by Kate Saunders for the Huffington Post. People disappearing, that sort of thing.

Despite opinions on how crappily written popular books can be, at least we can write them freely.

Piracy of Anti-Piracy

So Warner is getting sued by a German company for stealing anti-piracy tech. Hilarity!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is Filtering Internet in Libraries Censorship?

Ooh, the slippery slope.

Treating the Internet as if it were a part of the printed collection does indeed have a draconian feel to it, as it disregards the general real-time nature of information in modern society. Though the ruling decides that the filtering does not constitute a form of prior restraint, it acknowledges that filter removal can, at times, take until the next day if not longer. While this may seem reasonable, should one person have less access to information than another, simply because they rely on the public library as a point of information rather than purchasing it on their own?

The Seattle Edible Book Festival

The Seattle Edible Book Festival: basically, food creations inspired by books. Silly but fun.

Forbes Interviews Tony Stark

A fictional Forbes interview with Tony Stark. It's funny!

Speaking of Iron Man 2, it was decent but definitely not as good as the first movie. Also, Black Widow was a disappointment - taking more from her background from the comics would have been much better, though sadly, Scarlett Johanssen isn't really a good choice for that sort of role... so maybe it's best the Widow just ran around in a black catsuit.

Delhi's Not So Public Libraries

Cordelia Jenkins relates her difficulties borrowing a book from public libraries in Delhi.

It’s lucky the sign was there because, if it hadn’t been, I would never have guessed this was the place I was looking for. The library in Andrews Ganj is described as a sub-branch, and visitors should take that description literally. It’s a grey concrete block set back from the road in a dusty yard. An abandoned playground, with a broken roundabout and a swing set without any swings, peeled its paint onto scrubby grass. A couple of teenage boys lolled against their bikes by the gates. Inside three middle-aged men sat at the central table reading newspapers under the draught of a listless fan. No one had a book out. I headed for the English language shelves and perused the collection of Penguin classics and the complete works of William Dalrymple.

Libraries and Communication, Communication, Communication

A short article from AndyW at LISNews on the importance of communication in libraries.

If the three L’s of buying a house are “location, location, location”, then the three C’s of librarianship should be “communication, communication, communication”. I don’t think what I’m going to list is anything revolutionary; I do think it might be a novel way to remember the basic interactions that keep the library moving forward.

Stop Thinking of Internet Privacy in Human Terms

David Hurley from Intellectual Freedom Roundtable (IFRT) writes about how liking Star Trek could hinder your chances at a job in childcare. Sort of. Hypothetically!

Rather than a person knowing discrete facts, the database allows your data to be carefully analyzed as part of the aggregate. And when you analyze such a huge pot of data, you start finding odd correlations.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

'Help Me Help My Friend in DC'

Through the efforts of various posters on MetaFilter, two Russian women were possibly saved from human trafficking.

Newsweek reported on their blog and a site called Mother Jones ran an interview with the original MF poster.

This is an example of the good power of social sites.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Internet Archive Has One Million Books for the Visually Impaired

Internet Archive launched a new service today that will provide more than a million books in a specially designed format that can be read by visually impaired readers. The new service is part of the the non-profit’s Open Library project, which has been scanning and digitizing hundreds of thousands of books for the past several years and now has more than a million in its index. Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, who funds some of the Archive’s costs through his charitable foundation, said the new service more than doubles the number of books previously available to visually impaired readers.

(They didn't do it today. This is a news story from May 6th, 2010. I've just been very lax.)


So Silentale (and there's an ominous name) is a web service that backs up and archives all your electronic communications. All of them - Twitter, Facebook, GMail.

Well, that's just creepy. Consider the privacy issues with Twitter, Facebook, and GMail separately: there are many. Facebook is now notorious for farming personal information, slowly revealing more and more of its users over the years and never, ever deleting it even if the user deletes their account. As for GMail, people don't realize that everything they send around via Google documents becomes property of Google. It is not secure at all.

Here is a database that clumps everything together, all in one spot. At least make identity thieves and corporations work a little to get information.

'Why I Steal Movies, Even Ones I'm In'

Peter Serafinowicz - an actor, write and director - writes about why he steals movies via torrents.

Like a billion other people, I download things illegally. I'm also an actor, writer and director whose income depends on revenue from DVDs, movies and books. This leads to many conflicts in my head, in my heart, and in bars.

Smelling Books... For Science!

Seriously, book sniffing and its use in the preservation of books.

The test is based on detecting the levels of volatile organic compounds.

These are released by paper as it ages and produce the familiar "old book smell".

The international research team, led by Matija Strlic from University College London's Centre for Sustainable Heritage, describes that smell as "a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness".

It all involves gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, which is not that intimidating looking a word but don't ask me exactly what it means. Since I've harped on people smelling books in two posts, it seemed only fair to link this.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Kids Do)

Here's a scary concept: a book with dangerous activities to do with your children. Sort of.

Some of the stuff doesn't seem that dangerous. My knee-jerk reaction is to think this is a very bad idea. While the Canadian Amazon site's got one review from a disgruntled buyer, the American one has more positive feedback.

Some of the activities include climbing on the roof, breaking glass, sticking your hand out the window of a moving vehicle (the Canadian mother seemed to take offense to that one, "so basic it's insulting"), being blindfolded for an hour, and superglueing your fingers together. Which are all maybe not smart things, but things you can generally survive. And wouldn't you rather your kids climbed on the roof with you there to watch them?

I've kind of wondered what superglueing my fingers together would feel like.

I suppose if you don't approve of some of the suggestions you can veto them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Toilet Paper Twitter

A man in need of toilet paper Twittered about it and his plea was answered.


Stephen Wolfram - Making All Knowledge Computational

Stephen Wolfram talks about his ideas to make all knowledge computational. I'll be honest, a lot of it goes right over my head, but it's worth watching. Stephen Wolfram designed Wolfram Alpha, a curious little search engine that provides very up to date computational facts.

Moon Language

From Braille isn't the only way for the blind to read. Before braille, there was Moon, which is embossed printing that gives the basic outlines of letters. It mostly makes sense in my head except for P and Q. Just a fun little bit of information.

Parameta Data

Start with meta, get your head around metadata, and then consider parameta data. I think I get it.

Bookulating Suggest-O-Meterometer

The Bookulating Suggest-O-Mometer is a mostly cute book recommendation application. It is ever so slightly annoying for extended use. Do watch the intro!

I inputted my information and came out with a book suggestion I thought sounded very interesting; choosing options that didn't reflect me turned out book suggestions I didn't particularly care for. Worth a look.

$45 000 Author Visit

Author Neil Gaiman is in the center of a library-related stink. Apparently it costs $45 000 to have Neil come to your library. He explains why in his blog post, though the answers don't satisfy everyone.

I'm not really sure where I stand on this one. Neil Gaiman is a very popular author, and one whose work I have enjoyed. He draws massive crowds, which ultimately mean people in the library, which is good. If the library can even hold that many!

On the other hand, couldn't that forty-five thousand go elsewhere? Maybe to hire transportation and shipping of older books to needy places? Maybe not quite as big an event as having Neil Gaiman come in, but then if you advertise something like a Not-Neil fundraiser where people are asked to donate to help other libraries instead of paying to get Neil Gaiman...? I'm not sure.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blocking Cell Phones in the Library

The Oak Creek public library in Milwaukee is thinking about blocking cell phone use due to complaints about people talking on their cell phones. Cell phone use is not allowed in within the building, but people talk anyway.

As much as I hate disembodied one-way conversations happening around me, I don't think this is practical from a safety standpoint. The City Librarian, Ross Talis, does not agree.

Asked whether a blocker could inconvenience patrons who might need to be contacted in an emergency, Talis said: "We have phones here that are always available to the public."

No, still not a great idea. Libraries have had public phones for a very long time, but there is a reason cell phones became popular. Okay, more than a few reasons, but one reason is safety. Someone might not know their friend/family member/rowing coach is at the library at any particular time, making it difficult to call the library proper.

It kind of reminds me of being in elementary or high school. The class would be rowdy, and then everyone - even quiet bookworms like myself - would get punished. I use my cell phone properly dammit!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

The CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) has a shiny new webpage.

ALA Choose Privacy Week

It's Choose Privacy Week! The American Library Association recommends teaching people, especially kids, how to control how much information they post about themselves online.

Monday, May 3, 2010

No Computers, No Patrons?

Libraries have experienced a surge of activity since they commonly acquired computers. With the advent of the iPad and other portable devices, some people wonder if anyone will come to the library anymore. The idea is that some libraries are thinking of getting rid of the desktops and loaning out iPads and netbooks to students wanting to use computers in the library. I'm not seeing this as a big concern yet. Lots of places can barely afford the rickety old desktops, much less netbooks and the like. And desktops don't fit handily inside bookbags. That's why they call them desktops and not stealmes.

The Scary World of Rare Book Libraries

Despite the great move to make libraries more fun and accessible, there are still some thoroughly intimidating places - the rare book collections.

Digital Photo Frames in Libraries

The Strange Librarian offers an alternative to those big expensive screen displays in libraries: digital photo frames. You can afford a lot more of them and place them all throughout the service areas of the library. Of course, seems like it'd be kind of easy to lose them to sticky fingers, but still - good idea!