Wednesday, May 28, 2008

If they say that is "going green" then I say "goodbye polar bears"

Whenever I read about a library conference that goes green by banning presentation handouts, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry or to release tanks of methane into the auditoriums.

Honestly, how could grown adults act so self-congratulatory over such a insanely pathetic and inane action when compared to the scale of the environmental problems that are at hand.

Oh yeah, we just happen to be a profession that BUYS ENTIRE BOOKS for our communities. Stop us before we kill again!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Peer reviewed versus peer to peer

There has been some chatter as of late in the library blogosphere in which there has been talk of supplanting library peer-reviewed journals with library blogs. Dorothea has provided my favourite response to the matter but I do want to add one little tiny thought.

I suspect one of the things that is holding the (inevitable) transition to unmediated online writing through self-publishing software is the the fact that words blog and blogger still sound ridiculous (hover over image for alt-tag).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You can and must understand computers NOW

computer lib

One of the reasons why I was so disappointed with the One Laptop Per Child's decision not to support teachers in their supposed mission of educating children is because I know that its not enough to put a computer in front of a child and expect that a savvy computer user will emerge in time.

I know this because when I was young, my gadget-loving dad brought home an Apple IIe and for the life of me, I couldn't make it do anything but use it for word processing and to play games that one my dad's co-workers kindly copied for us. It wasn't that I wasn't interested in computers. By that time I had already taken a couple "computers for young people" classes through the local community college. But my knowledge of BASIC did me no good and the manuals that Apple provided may as well been written in binary. The computer was a black box with big floppy disks.

Fast forward to high school. I was one of 3 or 4 girls in a computer class and we pretty much kept to ourselves. Eventually our classmate Brian would occasionally join us in our corner and amuse us with stories. After we gave him our respective username and passwords ( a strange trust exercise / friendship ritual that kids continue to do today) he somehow created little animated stick drawings that would display when we logged in at our terminals at the beginning of class. Somehow Brian had learned to do all sorts of cool and strange things that were never mentioned in class. When I asked him how he figured all this out, he told me that he and a small group of guys would hang out in the computer lab and over time had picked up tricks from each other and the teacher who was supportive of their interests.

Similarly, I eventually figured out that many computer enthusiasts became what they are through the help of other computer enthusiasts through user groups, or BBS, or Usenet.

In short, it takes a village to raise a geek.

Now, through the miracle that we call the Internet, its even easier to learn how to learn about computing. There are all sorts of manuals, FAQs and tutorials about like the newly resurrected webmonkey which I used some years ago to build my own HTML skills. And more importantly, there are kind people like Dan Chudnov who are willing to help you to learn2code.

The support is there. You just have to figure a project that you want to do and then beat things with rocks until its working.

Monday, May 19, 2008

OLPC : hubris or fraud

Until now, I had chalked up OLPC founder Nicolas Negroponte's disdain for teachers and software support as an extreme strain of faith in the innate computer capabilities of children and the common person.

I'm sad to say that recent evidence suggest that the reality might be much bleaker: that the OLPC program was and is only about the distribution of laptops.

I'm not so much sad over the failure of this particular program as sad over all the volunteer efforts and international goodwill that has been recklessly spent.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

University of Michigan education professor David Cohen says that no education occurs until what he calls “inert” assets (books, teachers, rooms, curricula, rules, budgets, and so on) interact with each other and with students. Education is interaction. People in educational organizations, he says, often behave as if the inert assets were essential and the interactions expendable. They fight political wars over budgets, space, and personnel, and spend little time defending and perfecting the interactions among these assets through cooperation, communication, teamwork, and knowledge about students.

The above passage struck me as having a direct parallel to some of the recent changes I've noticed in academic librarianship. Putting it in broad strokes, we are going through a fundamental shift in libraries from being collection-focused to being user-focused. What I like about the above quotation is that spending time "perfecting the interactions among these assets through cooperation, communication, teamwork, and knowledge about students" sounds very much like what good Information Literacy practice aspires to be.

Its from an essay that calls for a fundamental organizational change in health care titled Escape Fire: Lessons for the Future of Health Care [pdf]. I read this essay because of this recommendation to do from Brett Bonfield on the ACRL blog. And I would second the recommendation. Its worth reading for its own merits relating to health care and for reminding us how important transparency and access to information can be in a person's life.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Freedom for our FOIA

While on leave from libraryland, I'm still keeping touch through the library blogosphere. And in doing so, I noticed that none of the Canadian library blogs that I follow had made mention that the Harper government recently told all federal agencies to stop providing monthly updates to the public of all the requests it is answering under the Access to Information Act.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is one of the few tools that ordinary citizens can use to keep their government accountable. In my hometown, a citizen recently took on our excessively secretive city council with a FOIA and now we know the details of an arena contract between the city of Windsor and the local OHL hockey franchise.

When I was in library school at McGill, I wrote a loving profile of Ken Rubin, another private citizen who uses FOIA much to the chagrin to those in power -- and I am glad to say that I am not the only one to do so. But I think librarians should do much more to support the cause. Here's a start: every library's government document's web presence should provide a link and instructions how to place a Freedom of Information Act.

And if the CAIRS database is not reinstated, then I wish and hope that a library out there will create a Canadian version of WhatDoTheyKnow.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Library Fortress of Silentude? | Ask Metafilter

A Library Fortress of Silentude? | Ask Metafilter:
"There is a war going on in the library. This conflict is between students who seek solitary silent study and those who seek to study or work on projects in groups. An individual student's allegiance to a faction can change from day to day based on their current course load. Because the Grouparians have the advantage of numbers, they tend to win out over the Solitarites. Surely the latter group needs a fortress all their own?"