RobertL's blog

Watch Checkers

There are a whole class of patrons that are watch-checkers. I see them just before we open, and just before we close. Most of them wear wrist watches which, evidently, are set every morning, at a minimum, to the observatory at Greenwich, plus eight hours. My clocks are not.

It starts somewhere around 11:58 (we open at noon). The forearm rotates and rises to the eyes, causing their brows to furrow into a frown. I am very aware that their watch says 12:00. The only thing I haven't seen them do is tap their foot and cross their arms. Of course, they can't cross their arms because then they wouldn't be able to keep track of our callous disregard for the exact, and true, time.

Somewhere during the day, the Greenwich Observatory loses somewhere around 4 minutes, because the process is repeated at 9:00 when we close. Not the same people of course (not even my most ardent internet users, usually, stay the full nine hours that we're open). Except now it's worse.

At 8:45 I give a loud, verbal, warning that we are closing in fifteen minutes. I can tell who the watch-checkers are: they check their watches and instead of furrowing, their eyebrows arch in surprise. They're not too worried, however, because it's an approximate warning- certainly couldn't be precise, because the library should be closing in 16 minutes and 37 seconds.

At 8:55 I give the five minute warning. Now they're worried. It should be seven minutes and they are nowhere close to having found that perfect DVD. How can they possibly make a selection with that sort of pressure?

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

Tufts University Reinstates Free Speech on Campus

Tufts University has decided to reverse a decision by the University's Committee on Student Life to punish the Primary Source for creating a "hostile learning environment." The Primary Source is a student run conservative bimonthly magazine.

Feds let innocent people waste away in jail

It is precisely for this reason that I don't like the Patriot Act, or any other expansion of the police powers of the Government. Just how are things going to get better if we have less oversight and grant the President (any President) the power to determine who does and does not get constitutional and legal protections?

And it is outrageous that the Feds still don't think they did anything wrong:

I am not Walter nor am I Walt!

For which I am sure that they are, individually and collectively, counting their blessings.


While I don't consider myself a dolt, I certainly must play one on TV.

I think I finally understand, and let me summarize. Here, in a nutshell, is what I think Tomeboy is saying. The ALA, in its review process, is biased in the Intelligent Design debate in favor of the critics of ID. That bias trickles down into our individual libraries and is shown by the fact that, on average, the likely hood of any one particular title critical of ID is 3 times more likely to be acquired than any one particular title promoting Intelligent Design. By this method, for every 663 libraries buying a copy of Why Intelligent Design Fails, 214 libraries are buying a copy of Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe. This is an average per title, actual numbers per title will vary. Wildly.

Tomeboy is arguing that this 3 to 1 imbalance is strong and convincing evidence of bias against ID. The cause for that bias remains to be discussed. And there are several possibilities. Assuming that there is an agreement that bias exists. Of course. However, and not surprisingly, I think that imbalance is exaggerated and overstated. For a very good reason. The number of titles critical of ID compared to the number of titles available that promote ID is skewed. 21 to 39. Or nearly 2 to1.

Lets say that I want to buy a title critical of ID for my library. I have dumped all the ID titles into a box, and I've decided to pick one at random. Since we have averaged out the number of titles per library, they are at a 1:1 correspondence - or there is one of each title in the box. My chances of picking one particular title out of the box is 1/29, or each title has about a 3.4% chance of being chosen. I go through my day, and I decide, "Hey, that's not fair! We need a title promoting ID as well." I have a different box with all 39 pro-ID titles in it. My chances of picking any one particular title is 1/39, or each title has a 2.5% chance of being chosen. You would expect to have more libraries possessing a title critical of ID because there are fewer titles to chose from. The number of libraries owning a particular title promoting ID is smaller because each title is in competition with a great number of similar titles. Maybe it's the marketplace that is causing bias, and not librarians and the ALA.


I'm getting tired to thinking about statistics. I'm willing to bet a lot of people are getting tired of me thinking about statistics too. Time to take a break and talk about something truly important.

So, the new pickup line... "Hey there, Race, Class and Level?" Beats the hell out of asking someone what their sign is.

Oh, Level 51 Tauren warrior. Any others?

Bias by Design - By the Numbers

Most of the numbers made sense to me.   The number of libraries that held a particular title; number of titles reviewed; the total number of titles in the survey.   When I got to the final set of tables, I was flummoxed.  There were little boxes titled "Mean="   And in those boxes, after the mathematical operator (or equal sign) there were numbers: bigger numbers and smaller numbers.   It took me forever to figure out what those numbers really meant.  In fact, it wasn't until this morning that I had an epiphany and all became clear.   For those of you who are math geeks and understood what they signified: stop rolling your eyes and shut up.   I'm willing to bet that Stephen Hawking was quite proud of me when I managed to get 4 pages into A Brief History of Time , 20 pages into A Briefer History of Time , and nearly a quarter of the way through The Universe in a Nutshell .  However feel free to correct any of my assumptions or mathematical errors.  Just be nice -  I can find out where you live and I'll have your mom cut off the power to the basement. At first glance those numbers are potentially damning.   Take a look at the last few columns.   Total Mean for favorable books is 214.  The same for unfavorable books is 633.  Which leads Tomeboy to his conclusion that for every 3 libraries that have a title critical of ID there is 1 that has title that is supportive. [NOPE (Note Of Personal Embarrassment) - when I saw that number I jumped all over it.  AHA!   If you add the mean for the top 21 unfavorable titles (389) to the mean for what I thought was the bottom 18 titles (214) you end up with a total of 593 and a rough proportion of 1 to 1.   The condensed version of Tomeboy's response was: "Nice try, but no go".   Evidently the phrase "Total" in "Total Mean" meant just that.   It was the total mean for all 39 titles.  Who knew?] However, I was left with an even more perplexing paradox.   If you compare the means for the top 21 unfavorable titles (633) with the top 21 favorable titles (389) you end up with a proportion of 1.63 to 1.   Using Tomeboy's analysis, and being generous, that would mean 2 libraries having an unfavorable title to every library that has a favorable title.   That is where I got confused.   When you add in the bottom 18 favorable titles, you end up with a proportion of 3 to 1.   If libraries had stopped at acquiring the top 21 titles, the chances for finding a library that carried a pro-ID book were better?  The more titles you bought that support the idea of ID the less chance you were going to find a library that carried one?  WTF? That's when I finally got smart and started to look at what was being measured.   The numbers provided by Tomeboy measure the average number of libraries that buy a particular book in the three categories (Balanced, Not Favorable, Favorable).  Comparing those numbers means that rather than comparing the number of libraries that have a unfavorable book to the number of libraries that possess a favorable book, Tomeboy is comparing the proportion of the average number of libraries that own a particular title - unfavorable to favorable.  I don't know what that number means, or of what the importance of it is.  [Math geeks: now would be a good time to jump in].   If you want to compare the number of libraries that have unfavorable titles to the number of libraries that have favorable titles, just look at the raw numbers:    Unfavorable: 13,298; favorable: 8236.  No, I didn't double check my addition.  Feel free.  Which leaves us with an average of 1.61 libraries with a title that "pooh-pooh" ID to 1 library with a title that supports ID.   At least our mythical patron's search isn't quite as onerous.  

Bias by Design - Intro

I checked out Tomeboy's post, Bias by Design, on his blog   He argues that, in the debate on Intelligent Design, there is a large disparity in the number of reviews of books critical of Intelligent Design (ID) and the number of reviews of books supporting ID.  Even more disturbing to me, was his conclusion that because of that disparity: "For nearly every 3 libraries holding a title pooh-poohing Intelligent Design, your patrons will find only 1 library with the temerity to rebut those who find nothing intelligent about Intelligent Design."  Could it be true?   Patrons are wandering from library to library searching for a book supportive of Intelligent Design?  Then I started to wonder if my library was guilty.   Which book did we own?   I checked our holdings, and was relieved to find that my library carried two of the titles on Tomeboy's Fave List and two titles from his Not-Fave list.  *Whew*   However, that must mean that the rest of you are doing something wrong. But, I was suspicious.   I like Tomeboy, but he is a Righty and I am a Lefty .   And we all know that Righties are almost always wrong. Note - I'm addressing the issues raised by Tomeboy in what must appear to be a backwards and random manner.  If I've learned anything from modern advances in biology and physics it's that Random is King. God, evidently, does play dice with the Universe.   Who am I to fight forces that are much more vast and powerful than myself? Since this is becoming much larger than I expected, I'm going to introduce it in parts.   Be patient.  

With friends like these....

Everything changed on 9/11!  Except, of course, making a profit.

Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran Or, as Lenin wrote , "...they will work on the preparation of their own suicide."

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