technology shuffle

Sometimes I wonder where my brain is. It just dawned on me, when I was thinking about the direness of only having two word processors, that the old internet terminals are upstairs. Nothing wrong with them, per se, just kind of old and they were replaced with the newly nicely Friends of the Library donated computers.

So that got me thinking...

...if one's at least running Win98, which I'm fairly sure they both are, (albeit a little slowly), I can just move the Linux machine (waaaaaah) off the floor, put the old internet terminal 8 downstairs, and make it card access and print capable again.

Our fifteen minute email terminal is a stand up terminal. It's located by our catalogs. Its location does tend to deter most people from standing there all day. Not all of them. But a good percentage. I could transform one of the catalogs in the same location into another fifteen minute email terminal.

It would add an extra half hour terminal to the mix, and keep people from lingering more than their fifteen minutes just checking their email incessantly.

I should talk. I am one of those people that always has to check email.

Putting this in motion should be fairly easy. Just tweak the restriction off one of the catalogs (we have five and they're never all in use), and physically remove the Linux box (it shall return, somehow, some way.)

Then I'll just tweak the old internet terminal 8 at my desk, and stick 'er out on the floor.

The public will be pleased... no more internet down time. Well, till next Tuesday, my scheduled maintenance day.

Rachel Singer Gordon has an article over at the Library Journal site about using the technology we live. (For some reason I've got Jethro Tull's Living in the Past running through my head thinking of our 486 donations.) Generally a good short little piece, but I take exception to the section on IM.

I hate Instant Messaging, from many standpoints. It's insecure. That's the big thing. It's also not really key to the information gathering process, which is really what we want our computers at our library to be used for (I understand that that is not a priority at every institution, and that's fine.)

I hate it for the peripheral reasons too. It's a time suck, most definitely (like the internet is one big time suck). But IM sucks faster. I also hate that it encourages kids to use shorthand. Nothing irks me like... "C u @ 8" or "L8r, k?"

I hate it for personal reasons. I hate it personally. When I am typing at the computer, I don't want you popping up messages saying, "IM me, hav sumthing 2 tell u." If it were something important, like, "I'm getting married" or "Mom is sick. Call her." or "My shirt is on fire" that's cool... but it never is. It's stupid stuff, like, "What are you doing now?" I'm so tempted to say, "Blocking up the phone line, trying to avoid your fricking talking to me."

So IM will not come to our library any time soon. Behind the times maybe, but we're not here to be a social club. When InfoTrak starts IM'ing stories from the Wall Street Journal-- okay, then I'll claim defeat.

Outside! Yes! Loud Cheering!

Wow! What a gorgeous day. I was outside. My husband was outside. My son (6 months old) was outside (either in the stroller or in the PackNPlay). I had a great time using the electric hedge trimmers my husband just bought. The shrubs out front looked horrendous. Now, only half of them look horrendous.

My husband planted a pecan tree, put pine straw in a few spots, used the push mower to clean up a couple of spots, and cleaned the carport closet. Which was gross. Very gross.

Courses to Come

Hmm...Fall 2003:Cataloging and ClassificationBibliography of the Social SciencesIntroduction to the Information ProfessionsInformation Sources and ServicesSpring 2004:Introduction to Research in Library scienceAdvanced Cataloging and ClassificationManagement of Technical and Access ServicesDeveloping Library CollectionsSummer is the interesting conundrum.

oh my god... a thank you!

We had a woman, upon hearing that we put in the time access software, actually thank us for finally taking action. A lot of the older patrons, or more timid patrons, are too shy/polite/intimidated by the "regulars" to come claim their time slots on the computer, and for whatever reason don't bother the librarians to do so. As much as I hate playing internet cop, I hate even worse to think that someone doesn't get their turn. Which is why that software is now in place.

I dreamt about it. I dreamt about some old guy with an eye patch coming in (not that we have any patrons that I know of who match this description) and complaining because "That sort of software records every move you make." We tried to tell him that it didn't, and he left in a huff.

I tried to warn as many people as I could that they would need library cards to use the internet. Some people have actually even gone to sign up for one. I'm going to let circ know once again that if anyone puts up a stink about needing a card, to get me personally. Not that I'm a huge fan of conflict myself (in fact, I usually avoid it all costs) but the circ staff puts up with enough crap with people making big deals over their whopping ten cent fines and such.

My line is going to be it's for the preservation of the system, and to fairly and equitably distribute access to the patrons. I might put it in simpler terms for those who don't speak English fluently (we have a lot of people who speak foreign languages (very cool!), and a few who just kind of nod, and I've never heard speak).

The software does open up a lot of possibilities. For instance, we will be able to see, in no uncertain terms, how many people are using the resources, and for how long. We can somewhat limit to an hour a day, so our results will be more accurate than they were previously. It won't be as cool as if we were using library cards to actually log in, but honestly, I think a nine digit one time use number is going to be easier for patrons to type in than the huge barcode on the back of their card.

As long as the regular internet hogs don't find out where I live...

I foresee a few complaints and a lot of explaining this week. It should decrease with time. I managed to make my instructions on how to sign in at the reservation station fairly short and sweet.

virtual reference issues

One of the most important aspects of reference work is the development of relationships. Libraries, through the individual actions of librarians, need to form a bond with their patrons. This isn't terribly difficult to accomplish because people coming to the reference desk have a problem to solve. When a librarian helps them solve a problem, there is the potential for a connection to be made. This should be evident through examples from our daily lives: Aren't problem solvers useful people? Do you feel loyal to the last institution from which you received good service? Will you return to the institution when a similar need arises?

Virtual Reference, as conceived by many projects, makes it nearly impossible to create this bond. The absence of this possibility isn't a function of the fact that the transaction is virtual, it is a function of how there's no steady or repeated connection. To get more coverage, one of the VR projects we?re working for has welcomed libraries from very disparate areas. Joining forces makes sense for this reason, but I don?t think it takes into account that it causes patrons to have seemingly random reference encounters. Throughout the week, there are many, many individuals with whom patrons may come into contact. In essence, these transactions are reference one night stands.

Another thing to note is that the librarians working for this VR project, including us, have made it standard practice to use pseudonyms for our online presence. This is a barrier perhaps not recognized by the patrons, but a barrier nonetheless.

Another problem with VR is that current programs still aren't meeting patrons in a convenient place. Simply having *some* presence on the web isn't good enough. Patrons surfing the web either do or do not presently use a major instant messaging service (AIM, YIM, MSN, etc...); this is a fact. Those that are already chatting would find it more useful if libraries were present in one of these services. As simple as it may be, it is still an extra few steps to navigate to a VR website and enter in a zip code to log in. Those that don't already chat are perhaps even less likely to consult a VR service. (Thinking to consult a service, navigating to the site, logging in and then chatting can all be big hurdles).

A possible solution to both of these issues would be to simply meet the patrons where some of them are, the major IM services. Librarians would be at the fingertips of their patrons if they would have an IM program running. There would be no navigation for users. We would be integrated into their lives. Patrons would be familiar with whom they were chatting, and they?d chat with the same library, the library that they visit in person, on a regular basis. A relationship would be formed.

Michael Stephens made a serious but somewhat offhand comment advocating the adoption of using a major IM service for VR instead of expensive vendor software. People took note and blogged about just that one comment because it makes common sense. VR software from vendors is bloatware.

Some libraries are indeed using AIM for VR. I'd love to hear how it is going. Does having an IM name out on the web flood librarians with questions from random netizens any more than having a telephone or fax number out there? I'd guess probably not. Even if it did, imagine the possibilities.

I recently registered a new AIM name, one for the library. Soon there will be business cards with this name to be handed out to the young adults in the library. The name will also go on our website. I bet we'll get more response from this than we have from our current VR project.

Sick but rejuvinated by conference

Blah, bleg, blug. Yep. The mighty stomach virus struck me down this past Saturday. I never get sick. Once a year, I will have to go home with something. I felt ghastly Saturday, Sunday, and called in sick Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday through today I crawled to the South Carolina Association of School Librarian's (SCASL) Conference. Hey, I paid money out of my pocket. But, it was worth it to be there and miserable.

Dream job...

Last year I applied for this job (didn't get it) and I would love to apply again this year but I would end up missing my wedding. I wouldn't mind so much but I think my fiancee would be a bit miffed. What better way to spend the summer than on a ship cruising to exotic locales?
So someone out there, get this job and send me lots of postcards, okay???

Fang's Omission

My quote in context.

"Sex with a horse is not the same as naked pygmies. The former you would never find in a public library before 1993."

Anyone willing to discuss the veracity of this statement?

Richard Clarke 2002 vs. Richard Clarke 2004

An article on Reuter's ("Republicans Want to Declassify Clarke's 2002 Testimony") suggests that Clarke has given two rather different accounts of the Bush Administration's attitudes towards terrorism: one, most famously, before the commission investigating failures of government leading up to 9/11, and the other before congressional panels in 2002.

Now, senior Republicans in Congress want to declassify Clarke's congressional testimony to show the discrepency:

"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath,"
[Senate Majority Leader Bill]Frist said on the Senate floor.

He quoted Clarke as telling Congress behind closed doors, "the administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al Qaeda during its first 11 months in office."

Clarke on Wednesday told a commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks that the Bush administration in its first eight months in office regarded terrorism as "not an urgent issue" -- a charge the White House has hotly denied.

Said Frist, "It is one thing for Mr. Clarke to dissemble in front of the media ... but if he lied under oath to the United States Congress it is a far, far more serious matter."

On The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 9/11 commissioner John Lehman (former Sec. Navy) commented: "And I think, frankly, because it turns out we both have the same editor at Simon & Schuster that there's a certain amount of bookselling going on here and fair and judicious does not sell a lot of books."

If Clarke's 2002 testimony is declassified, it will be interesting to compare it point-by-point with what he's said before the 9/11 commission. If he did lie to Congress, his book promotion may end up costing a good deal more than he anticipated.

Girls Gone Wild

The crowning event last night was the crank phone call I got on the info desk. The circ desk picked it up, and promptly put it down again.

"Ms. S--, there appear to be some kids calling for you on one..." my trusty sidekick said sweetly from the circ desk.

I picked up the phone and was met by giggles. Obviously, these kids were amateurs. I was an amateur. My cousin, however, could pull off any crank phone call with a straight face.

"I'm calling to see if my movie is in. It's a porno."

So, the little creeps weren't terribly creative, either.

I decided to play along. I probably shouldn't have. "What's the title?"

There was a mortified pause. Then more giggles and a triumphant, "GIRLS GONE WILD!"

Reality: I told them to have a nice evening and hung up.

Fantasy: I could have handled this several ways. Scenario One goes like this:

Me: Girls Gone Wild? That's not really the porno genre. If you're looking for a true porno, I suggest something like Amateurs #127 or, if you're into classics Debbie Does Dallas. I see though, since you're really into library type settings and are obviously good patrons, and library supporters, that you might like something a little more themed, like Midnight Librarians.

Them: Um. [Click].

Scenario Two:

Me:Sorry, I can't seem to find Girls Gone Wild. Perhaps the title is slightly different than what you're remembering? Is it perhaps a series title? Let me search OCLC for the MARC record... No, nothing. Do you know the author? I could scan the 245 field for you? Oh, here it is... Mantra Film's Girls Gone Wild. For the record, there's several titles under this series name. Is there a particular one you're looking for? No? Do you have internet access at home? You can check the catalog from there for a suitable title... To make your search easier, the Library of Congress subject heading for this is Women -- Feral.

Them:[All I hear on the line is the dripping of drool (and possibly snoring) and then... click.]

Catalogers: Please forgive any mangling I did of your profession in my fantasy scenario. I still maintain I have the utmost respect for catalogers and all you do, since I am so confused by anything other than the 245 field. So what would the LC subject heading for Girls Gone Wild be?

What Gives With the SRRT

I am trying to figure out what makes SRRT so anti-Israel. First there was the one-sided resolution about the destruction of Palestinian libraries. It would seem only fair to recognize the fact that the Palestinians have equally disrupted Israeli culture. Then there is the Alternative Resources on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The four page list has some of the most vitriolic anti-israel locations on the planet.

Sex with a horse is not the same as naked pygmies

Tomeboy wrote in a comment: Sex with a horse is not the same as naked pygmies.

Well, I beg to differ because it clearly is to some people. From my web site (Chronology Part III):

1999, June: National Geographic

PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- A fourth-grade student was reading a magazine when his teacher, Wanda Nelson, grabbed it, called it "pornography," ripped up the offending pages and threw them in a trash can.
The magazine was National Geographic, and the pornography was an article on evolution that included drawings of naked humans.


Well, I am pleased to note that the TA software unveiling to the staff was a success. The assistant director was pleased with the functionality of it, as was the old systems guy. So were the rest, but I think those two got more of what went into actually putting it in.

Most agreed it was less confusing than they thought it would be (I think it's less confusing than the print software), but I think they wished there was a way around going to circulation then going to sign in on the Gatekeeper software. Of course, the Reservation software only comes in if there's a wait. There will be waits, but not big long waits anymore, I don't think.

Why? Because I managed to get the card access idea to fly. Circ staff didn't protest too much, and whereas a few librarians were concerned about the extra step in signing in, I think patrons will eventually figure it out. With any luck I will have an hour or two on Saturday to make signs and get the instructions and documentation done.

I've got the basics down, though, enough to run the system, and I'll be there the first two days to do the trickiest parts -- open and close.

For some reason the "power down" sequence occasionally causes a "restart." My husband had a suggestion that maybe I've got the pull down menu on the client set the wrong way. I figure that's a reasonable assumption. I had left them on restart, I believe.

My disabling of ctrl-alt-delete went beautifully, and there should be no way to exit out of the timer software now.

I made the offer that if anyone has a real problem with the fact we're asking for cards now or the fact they're getting timed, would they please be directed to me. I don't want the circ staff to have to put up with the abuse that I know will be inevitable from a few people.

I did put out one sign introducing the new system, explaining how it would work and why we were doing it. I'm sure no one will read it. One of our custodians has a great saying, "People come to the library not to read."

Yesterday on info I had a girl try to convince me to let her take out reference materials. I know this girl's track record. Even if I could, I so wouldn't.

Book Sales

I just went to Amazon and checked the sales status of Lessig's new book. It was in the 400s this morning but was 58 when I checked at 5pm on the 25th of March. At his website you can download the entire book for free and he still made it to 58 on Amazon. You are moving books if you are in the top hundred at Amazon. Just goes to show that currently electronic copies do not stand up to the printed work. People still want that paper.
Link to book at Amazon.

Anonymous Patron Account: Help or Hindrance?

Let me preface this post with the following caveat: I am in no position to make anything even remotely close to what I am proposing here happen. I don't have the time, or the PERL skills to put a system like this in place… This is really just me riffing, I have no answers, only questions...

Rusty has made an interesting move over at K5. It's almost like he's going to combine Orkut, and K5. He's going to mandate all new users be sponsored in some way by other, current members. I wonder if that kind of thing could be used in the Slashcode? Would it be worth it to shut of the AP account, and make LISNews invite only?

First, let's look at the numbers:
LISNews has 2808 user accounts, of those accounts, 345 were active this month in some fashion, that is to say, at least 345 were logged in this month. So let's say that means we have about 345 active members.
Anonymous Patron left 112 comments, and my guess would be that's about 80 distinct people (and that's a very educated guess).

So, let's round things off, 350 active users, and 2500 others who could invite others to become a member. Is that enough people to keep LISNews interesting? Metafilter has been in "slow growth" mode for years now, and I'm not sure it's been hurt at all. I still make frequent visits. But with signups closed, there's not much of a chance of any big changes in what gets posted, the same people post the same things most of the time. I've seen some changes in LISNews over the years, some turnover, and that makes things more interesting. What do we lose if things are no longer Anonymous? Does locking people out make those on the inside more important? Does locking people out make an LISNews account more desirable?

What I've always hoped to gain with the AP account is the occasional user who doesn't have the time or inclination to bother with getting an account, but who has something to contribute once a month, or maybe just twice a year. It's those folks we'd be locking out by turning the Anonymous account off. Would we just be losing noise, and leaving the signal?

So how would the site grow, how would we manage new accounts, and who would control this? We could do it like Okrut, all current users can invite friends to join. We can sell new accounts. We can limit AP to one post a day. We can allow one new account a day. We can have us authors decide who gets an account. A random lottery? Accounts as a reward for submitting a story? Maybe only add new accounts when the number of comments falls below a certain level? Could active members be rewarded with accounts they can sell?

So far I don't see the need to shut off the anonymous account, or limit new accounts in any way, but it's worth thinking about as we go forward, because we may have the same problems K5 has. I don't think we appeal to such a wide audience, but I do think our audience can grow a little more. I keep thinking we've topped out, but it hasn't happened yet.

So that's the theoretical stuff, what can I really do at this point? I can turn off the Anonymous Patron account. It's just a click away. I've had several people suggest it, but I can't say that I really see any need at this point. Anonymous Patron comments seem to be, on average, less useful that Non-Anonymous Patron comments, though not always bad. This week has been especially bad, and if things keep up, or get worse, I may start to consider turning off the AP account.

I have no idea how I'd begin to program any kind of system to control new signups, but maybe that's something I can think about down the road. I'd still like to keep LISNews as open as possible, for now.

A Snow Reprieve

I see students walking around with light jackets at most. This is good. I also see sunlight outside. For someone who gets to see very little sunlight due to the library science lab being in the center of the library building without any windows to the outside world, such is verily a good thing.Two weeks...two conferences...too much to worry about!

I have had more people ask me

I have had more people ask me in the last week where I got my IT training. I tell them "O'Reilly Books." Not only do they have cute animals on the covers, they're really quite good. I like the Windows XP Annoyances cover the best. Surinam toads just rock. Somehow fitting for Windows XP, too.

Simmons helped. They had some good courses in certain computer concepts. But like anything, you get out of it what you put into it, and even still further study was necessary.

I had a guy offer to "help me get the network back up" yesterday. He must have been really desperate for internet access, or really out of the loop if he thought I was going to let him anywhere near the server. It's amazing how many of our patrons that come in to use the internet for hours used to work in software development. I can think of about six offhand. The day I have someone come in and say they worked on ARPANET... Well, then I'll at least believe they had some classes somewhere. Even if it was only a computer history course.

Of course, the truth of the matter is the network is perfectly fine. Which I was honest and told him. Upgrading and installing software shouldn't equate with "problem". Well, yeah, we're upgrading to fix a problem, but it's not of the technical variety.

Everything has gone quite smoothly. My big thing being that I don't want to just give an hour of training, leave my documentation, and then leave the rest of the staff tomorrow to puzzle out how you do certain things. That, and there are a few little things I'd like to experiment with. I'd actually like to get in early and change the ctrl-alt-delete functions on the computers before I give my training. That way I can really demonstrate how it should work.

I hope that people appreciate the thought that went into this... Not the public, they won't appreciate it all, no delusion there, but the staff. I know circ is going to complain about having to write out and look at the lists of library cards and patron names when they give out their one time use numbers. But hey.

It just makes more sense to do this all at circulation. And accountability with library cards is everything. I can't believe I almost lost sight of that through this whole thing.

I wrote an email thanking my tech support guy. He was quite helpful, and I figured he could put it in his "good boy" file next time he's up for a raise. Hey, I worked in corporate long enough to know. That, and it's certainly nice to get a thank you once in a while.

Who was Sheik Yassin?

This Globe & Mail editorial knows part of the answer:

Sheik Ahmed Yassin was often called a "spiritual leader." In fact, he was the leader of a ruthless war of terrorism against Israeli men, women and children.

That Sheik Yassin was a murderous fanatic is not in doubt. He was the founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Its goal is quite simple: the destruction of the state of Israel.
Not just an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the end of Israel.

His decision to continue the slaughter of Israeli civilians despite last year's attempts to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks helped scuttle the international road map to peace.

Bob Tarantino notes that, despite acknowledging Yassin's true character, the editorial couldn't bring itself to consider his killing a wise move on Israel's part. Wretchard has a different and rather more nuanced take on the matter here, here, here, and here. I found especially interesting the information on the infighting within Hamas after Yassin's death as well as the implications of his death for relations between Arafat's associates and Hamas.

I say that if you want get an idea of who a person was, consider his effect on his posterity:

At a debate, the Hamas candidate asked the Fatah candidate: ``Hamas activists in this university killed 135 Zionists. How many did Fatah activists from Bir Zeit kill?''

The Fatah candidate refused to answer, suggesting his rival ``look at the paper, go to the archives and see for yourself. Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades have not stopped fighting the occupation.''

Fatah set up models of Jewish settlements and then blew them up with fireworks. The display was meant to emphasize the group's focus on attacking settlers and their communities - considered by Palestinians to be one of the most provocative elements of Israel's occupation of territory they claim for a state.

Hamas countered by blowing up models of Israeli buses, a tribute to the dozens of suicide bombings its members have carried out in the past three years, killing hundreds of Israelis.

Speaks volumes, I'd say.

(From a Guardian article no longer online but quoted at Daimnation!)

No Internet for You!

At the subtle and not so subtle suggestions of the assistant director and some other librarians, I have decided to leave the computers down till Monday. Unhappy patrons. Yes. But here's the thing: Friday and Saturday we're half staffed. Friday I won't be in at all, since it's my day off. That leaves me exactly one hour to train the staff on how to use the software tomorrow, and then we're all thrown to the lions.

Better to do it Monday, when I come in. I'll get it up and running, then I'll be there till closing. I'll close, then be there Tuesday morning to show people how to open. And we'll be full staffed, so that we'll all be able to spare the extra five minutes to help a patron having a hard time adjusting.

The assistant director had a good point. I need to have a canned speech ready as to why we implemented this software when patrons complain. I am thinking something like this:

After reviewing our system, it didn't seem like a particularly fair or democratic way of distributing access to people. We require cards because we require cards to check out books, and in all reality, people, when they use the internet, are checking out expensive and sensitive pieces of equipment.

Or something like that.

I think the patrons are going to be bummed when they see what our, er, upgrade was. I heard them say something about hoping it's faster access. Whoops. Well, yeah, in a way.For some people.

There won't be any real sure way to ensure that people only get on in two half hour slots... I am going to have circ record the numbers, so that we can do a visual check, but I fully imagine with human error that things will slip by. But if the same three people show up seven or eight or nine times a day, circ will notice.

Ooooh, cool of cool... I found the part of the software today that controls the language. So I changed the stilty "Put a code here that you will remember" to "Enter your name or unique identifier". It's kind of a tricky thing to change, but didn't seem to fudge anything up. It certainly seems clearer to me.

I need to get in tomorrow to disable ctrl-alt-delete (much thanks to folks at forums). Fortres does it just dandy in Win98, but it doesn't stick for Win2K. And I fear that some crafty patron will discover that by going to Task Manager they can stop the client program from running. If I can't get the entire key combination to disable, then I'll just disable the change password (although you need an administrator password to actually change your password, I believe) and Task Manager. If the silly rabbits log out or shut down, they're only making it obvious they're doing stupid things they shouldn't.

I'm learning to think like a crafty patron. That scares me.

Egg Shortage in Manhattan?

The RNC on MTV? Good luck Mr.Gillespie. Just in case the studio windows can be opened, I suggest a plastic poncho at the ready.

For those unfamiliar with MTV's political endorsement policy, they prefer the subtlety of weaving political bias, liberal of course, within the context of a voter registration campaign. Back in 2000, "Rock the Vote" provided the perfect irony by assuring a Bush win by energizing a few of Nader's green anarchists.


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