Am I Being Paranoid?

Two things have happened recently that have me looking over my shoulder.

#1 Yesterday morning I received a phone call from a parent who asked "what are the library's rules for using computers." This gets my antennae going so I two-step around it -- there are several pages regarding computer use in the district policy handbook, AUP, etc. -- while narrowing her question down.

no user serviceable parts

How many librarians does it take to take apart a Compaq?

Besides making the Torx (star shaped) screws, so that getting in to the case is a difficult enough task (I have my geek swiss army knife that has a screwdriver with Torx bits, though), Compaq puts together their computers much like they are puzzle boxes. It took me and the former systems guy quite a bit of time to deconstruct the box... all to switch out a floppy drive!

How to pay off the debt and save Social Security

Exploit senatorial intelligence.

Why not?

This could even make me rich. I'll start a MorningStar-type report ranking the portfolios of various senators, then I'll create index funds whose holdings are keyed off of the best portfolios. Perhaps once a year we would recalibrate according to changes in the rankings.

Academia: liberal?

Warning: the following is only loosely related to libraries. It is pertinent to those who work in an academic setting and who think about the political culture of that setting. This kind of thing will go into my blog when I get one.

Jim Henley has some thoughts on why there might be a liberal bias in academia.

Ethics of illness

Like many people around here, I currently have a cold. And I am one of those annoying people who comes into work even if I'm nearly dead. This is primarily because I have no sick leave--if I don't come in, I can kiss that money goodbye. Then again, I know that I'm not going to be a good efficient worker if I'm sick, plus I am spreading germs to my coworkers and the students (who probably got me sick in the first case!).

blowing gaskets

Arg! Too much to think about.

I know what timer software I want to go with, just for compatibility issues. The question is the Horizon integration... do I want to go with it. I'm thinking it's probably a good idea. The thing is, I definitely want to play around with the demo, and it's going to be a little hairy between here and there. Here's the thing: the one time use numbers I'd use between now and Horizon integration time would require sign up (still). And I hate to have circ deal with it, but it looks like they might have to.

No, not our Prius!

The first ding is always the hardest. When it's some woman smacking into the back of your car with the front of her car a week after you got your new baby, it's harder. When you discover that her license plate is embedded in your bumper, it's very hard. When you consider that these things (Prii) are in such short supply that if you need a new bumper you could be waiting till next year... Well, today just sucks.

Juggling librarianship with being a gov't employee:comments?

Today's journal entry is brought to you by a "letter to the editor" from a woman upset by librarians fighting a modification to a state's library privacy law. She stated that as "government employees", librarians did not have the right to fight governmental legislation.

Without a doubt, virtually all librarians are employees of some governmental subdivision. Most of us also have extremely strong feelings about freedom to information and patron privacy. We see ourselves, with some reason, as guardians of the right to know and the freedom to read. How do we balance these two sets of responsibilities?

I'd like to share my own personal view, which I don't claim to be the best. Then I'd like to hear from anybody who feels safe enough to chime in.

My own practice is to never speak out about the level of government that I am working for unless some deep moral value is at stake (relocating whole groups of people to camps, etc). When I worked in the federal government, I never wrote my Congressional delegation, though I felt free to speak out on state and local issues. Now that I work for a state government, I do not comment publicly on any bill before the state legislature. I now write often to my Congressional delegation on matters of concern to me, and I supported our city's anti-PATRIOT ACT resolution through written testimony and letters to the editor.

My wife doesn't understand my attitude and you might not either. She says that although I am a government employee, I am still a citizen of the state I reside in and so have as much right to speak out on legislation as anyone else.

How do you feel? Do you speak out on legislation before your political subdivision? Just library-related bills and resolutions? Anything but library related bills and resolutions?

Keep in mind, I am talking about speaking out AS AN INDIVIDUAL, not as a representative of your institution. Most political subdivisions have anti-lobbying statutes against employees advocating or fighting legislation in their official capacity, and I think that's perfectly fair. It's what we do "off the clock" that I'm exploring here.

If you haven't thought about this before, maybe it's time you did. This meme of librarians as gov't workers who should be seen and not heard seems to be spreading. We should try to define ourselves before others define us.

Until next time,

Let them learn the hard way?

I am trying to not write too much about work right now because we are undergoing budget cuts and I am facing the potential of having to look for another job. Something happened on Friday that I just had to share. It really aggravated me and summed up the attitude in one of the buildings that I split.
I split my time between an elementary and HS. The HS is full of people that should probably retire. They are not open to new ideas, want to stay in their isolated corners, and teach off of typed up sheets that they used in the 1970’s. It is frustrating to try to get anything done. The new state content standards are out and some teachers have flat out said that they are not going to teach them. (Will someone remind them that it is the law?) The good news is that the elementary is the exact opposite. Anyway - - - - I was walking between the middle school and the HS to get some books and noticed that there was a car with its lights left on. I walked over and checked the doors. All locked. About this same time, out walked a teacher. �Hey, Mrs. B____. Is this your car? The lights are on. If not, I’m going to report it to the office so someone isn’t stuck here after school.�
“No.� She replied. “Just let them learn the hard way.� I am pleased to report that I DID report the car and its lights to the office and right before lunch an announcement was made.
I was really upset about this teacher’s comments. Who of us has not left their lights on or locked their keys in the car? Are any of us so perfect that we never succumb to those brain freeze moments? I locked my keys in my car not too long ago when I was in a hurry. Ooops. My point? Students learn so much more from teachers than math and science. They see our actions and attitudes. They see us working and keeping up with the times, or slacking and falling behind. They know the teachers that are innovative and care about student learning – they know who is there for another two years before they can retire. Working with children is more than teaching content! The “Let them learn the hard way� attitude has no place in school. Sure, I am all for the discovery method of learning, but that is not what I am talking about. I hope that our students would care enough for their fellow human beings to report a car with its lights on with out knowing who it belonged to. There is a good chance it might be mine! Do unto others…..
It still holds true and we need to exemplify that behavior.I have left my soap box.


Some nice gentleman on Tech Report wrote a brief script for me showing how to keep Safari from shutting down in OS X. I know little of scripting. I should probably learn, because on more than one occasion in the past few weeks it would have come in right handy.

Another person was very nice on the Opera group and suggested how I can get the damned "Opera was not properly shut down" dialog to go away.

What is it with the public and shutting down browsers anyway? I had three people come to me last week and ask me how you shut Opera off... Their history was gone, their webpages were gone, the browser was ready for the next person with no indication anyone had ever been there... and they wouldn't leave till the browser was shut down. They wanted a desktop. Silly rabbits.

The timed access software is looking more appealing. The OCS stuff can do a lot, and I know it works with our hardware. I think I'd opt for the cheapest iteration, which is a ten seat license, no ODBC interfacing with Horizon (I don't see why at this point. Why spend the money till we're sure how well this is going to work?) and no sign up software. That should bring us to well under $1500, I think. We can upgrade later. My question is really what staff computer I should hook up to the server. Logically I'd want to do reference, since that's where the computers are, but the reference desk isn't always staffed. Then I'd logically want to do circulation, but I fear that would bog down the circ computers with too much software that they don't really need. So I guess that leaves information.

This I'm not thrilled about for a few reasons. The most significant of which is the computer is slow enough. I think I might take the extra stick of memory I get from Crucial and stick in the info machine instead of the registration machine (which rarely gets used, except for logging in new patrons). Then, perhaps, the software will all run a little more smoothly.

The pros: Information will know who's over there. We'll have their card information. We can give them their one time use numbers, and see their faces, and know how long they've been over there. This way, if there are any arguments, well... we know.

OCS is also making the software Mac compatible in the next few months. Yeee haaaa! This means Linux gets delegated to ten minute email (no one, I've found, except a true computer geek, likes to spend much more than ten minutes on the Linux box). Sigh. What am I saying about myself?

The Prius is a week old. We love it. Getting 400 miles to an 11.9 gallon tank of gas. Lovely.

The dreaded P*A*

I have to admit I haven't been all that well-informed about the Patriot Act. Since I haven't been working as a librarian for the last 3+ years, I haven't paid as much attention to issues that might bear upon libraries as perhaps I ought to have. The Patriot Act is one of those issues I sort of glossed over.

You should know that I am one of those "be skeptical of government" conservatives, the kind who have some definite libertarian leanings, which means that by default I am inclined to dislike things like the Patriot Act. After all, I think that subversives like Gary Kunsman and Joel Miller have a real point when they claim that the state exceeds its authority and impairs liberty in the "war on drugs". Doubtless I make some fellow conservatives angry when I say that marijuana should be legalized (n.b.: my pot-smoking days are well behind me). I favor the availabilty of strong encryption to normal U.S. citizens (what was the previous administration's ban on cryptography all about, anyway?). So up till now I've I've been grumbling about the state further eroding liberties when the Patriot Act is mentioned.

This evening I finally read the anathematized Section 215 of the Patriot Act to see for myself how bad it is. I confess I'm rather disappointed. Section 215 replaces 3 sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 with two new sections. As far as I can make out, this is what it says:

  • The FBI Director, or another designated high-ranking FBI official may apply for an order to have materials related to an investigation to protect against international terrorism or against espionage;
  • if the investigation is of a U.S. citizen, it may not be triggered simply by actions protected under the First Amendment;
  • the application must be made either to "a judge of the court established by section 103(a) [of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act]" or to a U.S. magistrate designated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme to hear and rule on these applications;
  • the application must specify that the investigation for which the materials are needed either complies with subsection (a)(2) [of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978] or is intended to protect against international terrorism or espionage;
  • if the judge issues an order to produce the materials sought, the order should not disclose the purposes of the investigation for which it is issued;
  • no-one may disclose that the FBI sought or obtained materials under this [amended] section [of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978]
  • a person producing materials under this provision shall not be liable for production to others, nor have they waived any privileges in other contexts by producing the materials sought;
  • twice a year the Attorney General must "fully inform" the select intelligence committees of the House & Senate about all requests for materials under section 402;
  • twice a year the Attorney General must provide a report to the House & Senate Judiciary Committees detailing how many applications for materials under this provision were made, and how many were granted, denied, or modified.

As I read this, it looks to me as if requests under Section 215 must be made by very high-ranking FBI officials (i.e. high-profile, highly-scrutinized, publicly accountable people). The request must be made to a very narrowly defined set of high-ranking judges. The Justice Department must give an accounting of its requests to intelligence and judiciary committees (on both of which sit *gasp* Democrats) of the House and Senate. What's more, Section 224 seems to say that Section 215 (as a non-excluded section of Title II of the act) sunsets on December 31, 2005.

Somebody help me here. Did I misunderstand what I read? Did I read the wrong section? Did not the FBI have power before to subpoena library records? What's all this about accountability to Congress? Please note that these questions aren't merely rhetorical. I'm not trying to set up a straw man. I'm not saying I like this section. However, I feel like I had a right to expect something much more nefarious than this based on the build-up from the civil liberties & library communities. I feel cheated. Surely I'm missing something.

I always have comments enabled in my journal. Somebody enlighten me, please. I want to dislike this act.

Budget request - graphs are a beautiful thing

Well, I must brag about the report I created. There is a cover sheet with a title and Table of Contents. Then, the one page typed Word document. In the document, I quote state standards for replacing the collection, prices for books, what I currently receive, and what I need (about $3,000 more than what I get now). Next follows a printed PowerPoint slide with three pie charts showing visually what I talked about in the Word document. Finally. three pages from Titlewise (Follett) showing the age of my collection (currently 43% at 20 years or older).

"Validation" of nonsense

So, I'm surfing LISNews, just making sure I'm up on all the comments, and I find one in the Cataloging Pornography thread. Someone had posted a query as to whether putting a work into the collection creates some kind of validation. I had written the following reply, but I couldn't post it because I had previously moderated that thread.

A day of triumphs and silliness

Well, not much was done in the computer department yesterday, being that the young adult librarian was ill so our half staffed day was chopped to even less than half staffed.

Most people were good. I did a little shushing, woke a lady up (twice) and had a very nice gentleman say we had a beautiful library and he'd be coming back. The good news: he said it right in front of my boss.

Vacation time!

Finally! Freedom from being around all those lovely nymphomaniac and alcoholic undergraduate students that I see day after day and have to hear the exploits of...

Mel Gibson deserves better / A few good Bush Admin policies

1) According to Human Events and the Dallas Morning News (subscription required), several Hollywood studio heads have decided to "blacklist" Mel Gibson. Refusing to work with him for producing "Passion."

I hope this isn't true, even though I don't think people should be *forced* to work with anyone they don't want to. Many Hollywood executives continually invoke freedom of expression to defend their works. I'd hate to see them deny that same freedom to Mel. They don't have to bankroll his Bibical blockbuster, but they shouldn't avoid casting him in Lethal Weapon #whatever if he's the best guy for the job.

Aside from the loss of integrity resulting from "blacklist attempts", any efforts to keep Mel Gibson from working can only result in the portrayal of him as a martyr for the Faith.

2) Since I stand with Gandhi in believing that opponents should be commended when they pursue commendable policies, here are a few kudos for the Bush Administration:
a) Quick dispatch of troops to Haiti. At one point, I had believed that the President would fiddle while a country not even 600 miles away burnt to the ground. Instead, several thousand Marines have been dispatched and are currently patrolling Port-au-Prince. This seemingly has brought quiet to Haiti with the apparent disbanding of rebel groups. I hope this early promise continues.

b) Acceptance of 15,000 Hmong refugees. This morning NPR reported that the United States had agreed to "15,000 Hmong refugees who have been living illegally on the grounds of Wat Tham Krabok, a famous Buddhist temple in Thailand. The decision was prompted by a sense of obligation to the Hmong -- originally from Laos -- who fought alongside Americans during the Vietnam War."

From what I've read, the Hmong were somewhat the Kurds of the Vietnam War. People who fought bravely at our side, then largely abandoned when their usefulness came to an end. I'm glad to see that President Bush is addressing this injustice.

Thanks for putting up with the double journal entry.

Tough Day On The Web

The reactions to my call for RIGHT librarians has been quite puzzling for me. First, let me digress…

The LISNews search engine is even worse that I thought. I did a search for RIGHT and another for right, and was returned zero results. The original title of the story was Are you on the RIGHT side?, so I would think a search for one of the 6 words in the title would return that as a result. Ths is more than a little frustrating. I don't know how I'll fix it, but I'll try to figure something out. I'm in the middle of setting up the new server, so I'm a bit preoccupied for a few days, or maybe a week. On that same note, expect LISNews to be a mess for a few days next week as I move the code to the new server. I expect LISNews is going to take more time to move than all the other 30 domains combined.

So anyways, like I was saying, I got a lot of email responses to my query, more than I expected, and they were also much nastier that I expected. The comments left on the story were actually better than I had hoped, with some people for, and some against. Someone actually understood my incoherent and rambling writing as well. It was the email responses I got that puzzled me, about 12 in total. Normally when I propose a new idea, or write for responses I get 1 or 2 if I'm lucky, so 12 is just a landslide for me. At least half were from people I didn't know. They were some pro, some con, and some just wanting to know more. A few others were from folks who I would consider acquaintances (or Ecquaintances) and where not anything to write home about, but 2 really stuck out.

They were both from people who I've fully supported in different ways in the past. They're both people I'd consider well know, smart, and very active in the profession. They're both people who are unapologetically left sided as well. And they both pretty much ripped my head off for even proposing such an idea. One was not really against me exactly, but more of a rant against the right in general, but the other was aimed squarely at me. This person was insulting to me and LISNews. I've gotten some nastiness from this person in the past, so I probably shouldn't have been surprised to see it again.

So, these emails, coupled with the general tone in the comments this week, the shear volume of comments & stories, and a few other things have left me feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and rather negative towards LISNews. The current version of LISNews is just barely over 4 years old, and it's running pretty well without me now, so I think it's safe to take some time off, rethink what I'm doing with the site, and just focus on the server. It's going to be a significant amount of work to get all the LISHost members sites moved to the new server, so even if I wanted to I'd be short on time to devote to LISNews.

Doing some thinking (smell the neurons burning?)

Perhaps I'd do better (gulp) to stick Win98 back on the old unfiltered box, find a way to really lock it down, and set it up to run our Time Access software. That would be one less burden for the circulation staff to deal with.

I'm getting ahead of myself. People seem to have a hard time with our high tech sign up sheet (a grid with computer numbers on the top, and times on the side, where you put your name in the appropriate time slot for the appropriate computer... difficult, huh?), so the more I think, the less I hold out any hope they'll ever figure out the Gatekeeper software. That means the burden falls on circ and info. To make it easier, I'd probably hook the circ registration computer to the print server, and install the staff control software there. That would make three, maybe four if I can get Win98 to work with it, computers that allow for time access. I suppose we could do our Macs the way we do our old unfiltered and word processors... Take a placard you sign up for at the circ desk and put it on the computer. I think that's the only way to make it fair.

It's like being in first grade again... It's all about being fair.

Then ten minute email could be the no-fun (I mean, Linux) box. No one likes to play with that one much. It has no Flash, so no games, no nice displays of eye candy. Great for email.

My worry is signing people up and people fighting about who's next in line. I'll have to see exactly how the one time use numbers work. We could do it by card, I suppose, but I think we'd run into the same problem. It might be better if someone at circ can physically see who's going to what computer.

One person complained about the Mac and the Linux box dumping her out yesterday. I just visited the site she was talking about in my beta version of Opera with no troubles. I did discover the Mac frozen on a porn site (pics never loaded, froze just before that point), though, so I wonder about the veracity of the site she was looking for. Unless someone snuck in after her (also very possible).

Okay, enough thinking for now. Have to get ready for work and put it all into practice.

when is the best time to come to use the internet?

That's my favorite question I get at reference. Even over "Do you have any books?" and "Where's the photocopier?" The fact of the matter is, there is no good time. There's always someone waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

The idea of time management software is back on the table. The other librarians didn't like the idea of shutting down the computers from 2-4 so that kids would be encouraged to do other things for that time period. Like read. Ride a bike, go pogoing (outside, preferably). Do homework... like, real homework, not the line I got the other day, "I'm doing a report on shoes. I need to go to Google images, and then to" Sure.

The fact of the matter is, the kids might want to use the computer for legitimate research during that time period, but there's so many people using it for other stuff (innocently or otherwise) that those kids never get a chance to. That's hardly fair either. So if I do get this software, perhaps I should set up an hour in the morning, and a half hour in the afternoon. The problem being, everyone wants to print.

Right now we have three computers that print. I am trying to rig a Mac so that it can, but it's just not happening, not till I get OS X on there and configured. The Linux box has the capability, but not with our print station. I sense musical computers in my future. Perhaps with the Linux box going email only, and two OS X boxes running with the print station? You know... that could work.

Money's tight. Mondo tight. That makes it hard. There are two P4 chips in this room of my house. That's one more than is in my library. There is a pocket pc in my kitchen that is more powerful than the 486s in the basement of the library. It's tough. We have no funding for hardware. People are telling me how it sucks they don't have this terminal or that word processor working.

My assistant director nicely took me aside and said "You only have two hands." I am glad he understands. It's true, and I know it, but it doesn't always stop the pressure. I really would like everything working for people. There are priorities, I guess. There are also alternatives. There is a cyber cafe twenty yards down the street, after all. A librarian who shall remain nameless mentioned to me that s/he wouldn't be adverse to charging a small fee for internet access. I don't particularly like the idea, and I don't think s/he really did either. But we've got to keep running somehow.

Didn't mean for this to turn into a whine fest, but it sort of did. My apologies.

Tried to install SuSE on the old unfiltered, and alas, it didn't have enough memory to run YaST. So I've ordered, out of my own pocket (so I can play with it too, on my own time), Peanut Linux. It should run fine on limited memory. It'll be something to play with. In the meantime, I'll throw OS X out as a card only terminal. I feel the need to get something out there.

e-mail ref vs. Almanacs: Call for Comments

What are your feelings and professional conduct regarding e-mail reference questions that could be answered in TWO SECONDS from an almanac or an encyclopedia?

Here at my library, several times a week we get e-mails with a variant of the question "When did Alaska become a state? (Ans - Jan 3, 1959 AK was admitted to the Union.)" These e-mails often come from out of state and appear to be for school projects, tho not always.


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