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Today's build up and knock down--still waiting

So today, I was feeling a little down about the academic job I'm waiting to hear about. I got to work and whined to my colleague about not having heard from the university and said they'd probably invited other people for on-campus interviews. Two minutes later, the phone at the reference desk rings, and it's someone saying "Hi this is xxxxxxx from xxxxxxxx"--someone from the library and department I applied for. In the split second it took me to respond, I thought, "Wow, they're calling me back. But wait! Why are they calling me at work at night? And was this woman on the search committee? Maybe they hired me without telling me and I was late for my shift...." and on and on.

She just wanted to know if we were registering voters. Psych! Sigh....

Chris Ware and Keep on Keepin' on

I'm sure that everyone else has known who Chris Ware is--I'm usually a couple of years behind the times--except with 80s music, I was right there in the thick of it.
I buckled under The New Yorker's professional rate ($25!) and subscribed for 2004. This last week's was a double issue (February 16 & 23). There I was, on the MBTA Red Line heading to Alewife Station when I come to Chris' graphic story "The Whole Time." I don't care what you have to do--beg, borrow, photocopy, this 2-page story.
There I am, bundled up in my winter coat, bag slung at my feet, crying over a stupid comic.
I then went to a local comics store in Coolidge Corner begging them for anything that some person named "Chris" wrote--I made the mistake of not writing down the name...The owner asked me to describe the comic--asked me, a person that only reads Boondocks and Doonesbury. I said that they are very sad with clean lines, and he said, "Chris Ware."
Keep on Keepin' on:
I've decided that life is too short to not have dessert--calories be damned.

kiosks

Oh, how I hope I have a good long stretch before I am on reference tomorrow, for two reasons.

I am battling a cold that is quite nasty. I've been sick (low grade) for about a week, and it bloomed beautifully on Saturday. Normally I would not want to go to work to make all my co-workers sick, but we were so short staffed, and I am still probationary and can't take sick time. I've had yesterday and today to recuperate, and I guess I do feel a little better, but limited time in public with my runny runny nose would be a good thing.

I found that Mozilla can run in kiosk mode. This is truly a thing of beauty, if I can manage to set it up correctly in Linux. If this works, I'll zorch the hard drive on the public internet unfiltered terminal and have two running Linux. If this works, I'll set up Mozilla in kiosk mode on all the iMacs that run OS X.

As you may well know, Opera is my browser poison of choice and I'd gladly use their kiosk mode (since they have excellent instructions that assume no knowledge of Linux and are quite good for someone with spotty knowledge like mine) if I didn't have to pay for it. I wouldn't mind paying for Opera, except that the budget's been near depleted. Free is good.

Thing is, to download and set up a kiosk will take several hours, since I don't know exactly what I'm doing. So I'm hoping I get my traditional 2-5 reference slot tomorrow.

I ordered new mice from City Hall. We need them desperately now, as one of our public access mice died on the floor the other day. I tried cleaning it to no avail. I happened to have a spare at my desk which I threw out on the floor. The spare was a donation from the staff. This is now the second cheap-o mouse we went through in less than three weeks.

XRM Radio/TV....I'm hooked

I spent the V-Day weekend alone...which was great. My wife and daughter were on a brief vacation. I spent the weekend writing and getting hooked on XRMradio (http://www.xrmradio.com) and XRM TV on WinAmp 5.0. Alone with the video feed, they have an IRC server than posts the messages over the videos. Very fun. It's been maybe 6-7 years since I spent any time on IRC. If you like music, check out XRMradio's two audio feeds and the video feed.

studying human social behavior @ your library

Some people have no sense of personal space. At first I thought maybe it was a cultural thing, but it seems to transcend all cultures, races, classes, you name it. Sometimes people inflict their "lack of personal space sense" on me, but mostly I see them doing it to each other. It actually bothers me more when they do it to each other, for some reason. I want to yell, "Spread out!"

I am the librarian. I am not babe.

Some little puke... I mean, nice young man... pulled the fire alarm yesterday... halfway. So the fire alarm went off, but the fire department wasn't called. Me, on the information desk, not knowing what to do, got up and yelled, "Everyone, fire alarm, you have to get out." Then my supervisor came over and said, "No, actually, they don't." So I had to make the announcement, "Everyone, false alarm, sit back down." Hey, I guess the firemen get very upset if the building's not evacuated by the time they arrive (and they're next door, so that doesn't leave me much time). And I sure as heck didn't want to be responsible for someone being burned to a crisp.

People get very upset over seeming little things. Okay, getting an overdue notice for a book you returned three weeks ago is disconcerting, and I could see that lady getting upset (we did find her book and she went home happy). Getting upset and calling us unprofessional because we can't change your twenty is a bit much. We're a library, not a bank. The bank's three doors down (literally).

Come to think of it, would any stores change your twenty if you weren't purchasing something there?

Grandma will come to the library and photocopy pages out of Contemporary Black Biographies (nice series) for you, but boy, are you in trouble when she gets home. This is, honest to pete, the last time grandma comes to the library without you!

Some little boys will only get library cards if they can take out Captain Underpants.

Two ethernet cards later, I got Linux networked on to our LAN. This means little with our LAN set up, except that we do now have internet access with Linux. Now I have to configure everything so that it's pretty seamless for the public to use. Number one, no one gets to tool around in the terminal. I mean, some yutz is going to press F2 or F12 or whatever it is in SuSE that opens the terminal eventually and then we'll have to deal with staff and patron having a conniption. But I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I think I could in theory block off the console on the desktop, but I don't know if it would block off the function keys as well. Any ideas? Also, if any one knows any scripts that will reset the desktop in KDE for Linux on reboot, that would just make my day.

Readin' N Writin'

On occasion I'll read a book.

That sentence was originally written as follows:
On occasion I'll read a book that I feel I could've written. Now I'll admit that's a stretch. It's a stretch to say I have the time, talent, and patience to ever write any book, but sometimes I'll finish a book and say to myself "Self, we could do that"

I changed that first sentence because I felt it wasn't quite honest. My finished book to started book ratio has fallen off this past year. I've been working on "The Future of Ideas" for almost a year now. That one's not on my "I could've done it" list, that's one my "not even if given 100 years" list. There's just too much good stuff in the one, I can't stop writing notes and ideas, and reading the foot notes. Lately I've been working on "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About." That's on my list because I think, or maybe more accurately, I hope, that given enough time, and maybe a bit more talent, I could write something at least that good, or maybe at least almost that good.

I figure writing doesn't need to be an all or nothing proposition. I can write a short story, or even part of one and be happy with it. As a matter of fact I have more than a few sitting around just waiting to be finished. I think a blog is a perfect place for such writing, and entry can be just part of what I've written. Just as show uses it to chronicle her daily life, I too can use it to chronicle my made up life. So, to that end, I hope to do more writing in this space. I hope.

Lies and Statistics

One of the less pleasant parts of my job it to produce the monthly statistics for my library. We have datasheets for each class we give, which track number of attendees and contact hours, and we also have reference question counts (based on the NISO definition of a reference question), which depend greatly on the particular staff at the desk, and how well we remember to click our questions on the counter. My job is to take all this raw data and enter it into a spreadsheet (after which, I guess, it must be "cooked data"), and produce some reports for the director.


Last week I was in the local public library, and there was a sheet of paper taped to the circulation desk. Across the top it said "Quarterly Service Survey", and below that there were three columns with headings I can't remember, and an assortment of hash-marks. I asked the person behind the desk who was checking out my books how long they had to count things for.

Rolling her eyes, she informed me "A whole week! And it happens every three months!


She was horrified to learn that we're always counting questions up at the university.

Reference Desk Software

The banner ad that pops up in Opera (okay, yes, I haven't paid for Opera) when I visit this page is one for "Reference Desk Software". Our reference desk software: a Chinese word processor, Norton, Word, various and sundry Delltouch programmable key applications (what they do is beyond me), IE, Horizon (and the obligatory Sybase and Java applications that run with it). So what's cluttering the desktop? About twelve million documents. I am guilty of this too. I have a picture of Chris Farley (ahem) that I had to save there and print for a young lady (this young lady paid a whole fifty cents for pictures of Chris Farley and Martha Stewart -- not together). I was mildly curious as to what she was going to do with them.

More and more, I am liking the idea of putting the Linux box out as the unfiltered terminal. More and more, I am liking the idea of filtering the terminal, spinning it around, and making it a special, if-you-have-your-card-only access terminal. People like that terminal because they get privacy (I have to admit, it does bug me when people wander around the internet area looking at other people's screens) and because they can get naughty pictures. There's really not much our filter blocks. Further study is of course needed. But I suppose setting a home directory up read only and setting Opera or Mozilla up execute/read only would solve my problems.

I still might flip the terminal around so that patrons can't look at anything too unsavory. Just to make it easier to monitor that nothing too terribly inappropriate is going on.

People also like that terminal because it is card only, so there are less likely to be arguments over who signed up for it. Card=good.

Oh my god, when did I get old?

It's school vacation week. And it's Valentine's Day. I am wondering how busy it's going to be today and the coming week. I am on the info desk (yes, I am info beyoch) from the late morning to mid-afternoon. It's actually not so bad, when you break it down. I thought I would mind being on the desk, but so long as it's steady but not too busy, it's really not bad. Not many patrons asking questions, and things drag. Too many patrons asking questions, and things get out of hand.

Coupled with this, though, is my cold from hell. I have had it for a week now. My head's a bit foggy and my nose is running. Had I the sick time, and if we weren't half staff, it would be a sick day, I think, just out of respect to my coworkers' health.

friends & foes

Since this is the weekend of all things romantic, I thought I'd muse on this "relationship" thing on Slashdot/LIS News. I've had a lot of fun annointing complete strangers as friends (virtual strangers? virtual friends?), but I haven't wanted to call anybody a foe as yet. Recalls the days of the two sides of the playground in second grade. Also, the neutral guy looks a little more threatening than just "neutral." Have you designated anyone as a foe, and what transpired after that? Your opinions are welcome...and have a happy V-day.

One conference note

This is very much delayed, but that's primarily because it was buried in my notes and I didn't notice it until just last night.


One of the keynote speakers was talking about young people and reading. And getting them to read books rather than screens. He said, quite tellingly that

for most boys, reading is a feminine, activity.

Or, as Dewey put it, "Boys who are into sports tend not to become librarians."

QuickSubmit

Loooooooong time LISNews readers might remember the QuickSubmit from a few years ago. I'm working on a new one, and could use some help testing.

javascript:void(rollpop=window.open('http://www.lisnews.com/submit.pl?story='+escape(location.href)+'&subj='+escape(document.title),'QuickSubmit','scrollbars=yes,width=500,height=600,left=75,top=175,status=yes,resizable=yes'));rollpop.focus();

That's the code for a bookmarklet, creat a new link in your links bar, using that code. When you find a story worth submitting, click on it, and it'll open a new window with the LISNews suggest a story page in it, with the title and URL already put in the boxes.

Let me know if it works for you, and how I might make it more useful.

Open Source in the Library

Most of our librarians are officially using OpenOffice.org instead of MS Office. There are a few people whose machines I have yet to install it on. The assistant director is pleased with its functionality. It's a good program. I use it at home myself.

If I can get a LAN card working in the machine I installed Linux on (heh heh, I pulled some memory out of the fried chip machine under my desk and now Linux just flies) the assistant director wants me to put it out on the floor as a PAC and see what people think.

The machine with the fried chip under my desk is now a mere shell of its former self. Literally. I destroyed it. I took out the hard drive, the CD ROM drive (which required breaking the face plate off the case... nice one, IBM), the memory, the LAN card, the video card (never know when the onboard on another machine is going to poop out) and the A drive out. Interesting note: our IBM machines use Fujitsu hard drives. Perhaps that's just as well. I've heard evil things about IBM hard drives.

I would have taken the power supply too, but it's only 150 watts. I'm not quite sure how it powered the whole shebang, honestly.

So I suppose I didn't destroy the machine. It's functionality is just moving on to a different plane. Believe me, we'll use all that stuff.

Helpmetype lady came into the library yesterday, asking me to proofread. I told her I wouldn't. She at least is starting to learn how to type, though she seems to get quite frightened when the screen saver kicks in. She says, "Where did my letter go?" Helpmetype is nice enough, and is willing to wait for me to help other people first (I hate to say it, but helping people word process is not a priority, unless it's a question like, "The computer caught fire, what do I do?"). There's just too much other stuff going on.

I'm much more tolerant of hand holding when it's not busy. And when people haven't signed something saying that they know how to use the equipment when they really don't.

The Mac I'm putting OS X on has a big sign on it that says, "Temporarily out of order." I hate that sign, for one thing. For several reasons. One, I hate that it's out of order when I'm really doing an upgrade. Not the sign's fault per se, I just hate that the machine is out of commission. Two, I hate that sign because people still think that means they can turn the machine on and use it.

The beauty of OS X is the beauty of Linux and Unix. No user name, no password, you don't go anywhere. It's interesting to see people try to guess at the user name and password.

I helped some really lovely young ladies get books on helper dogs. I loved these kids. They were well behaved, they listened when I explained to them about the catalog -- they were just nice kids. I'd like to hug their parents.

Language Police: Same Book, Different Take, but worth a read

Tomeboy's posting of a review and excerpts from Diane's Ravitch's The Language Police: How pressure groups restrict what students learn intrigued me enough to check out the book from my local university library and read it.

Diane Ravitch is no Ann Coulter. Overall, this book is a fairly balanced, well documented text of how pressure groups have puree'd our children's textbooks into unreadable mush. A good sampling of her thought can be found on page 111, where she says:

"At the beginning of the twenty-first century, a new status quo emerged in which the textbook industry and the major adoption states became comfortable with one another. They shared the same bias guidelines, which quieted the critics, left and right. Feminists were happy, because the publishers had accepted a nonsexist language code. Ethnic and cultural minorities, people with disabilities, and the older population had no grounds for complaint, because they had won representation. Right-wingers were generally satisfied, because the topics that angered them were excluded.

"The only problem was that all this activism had made the textbooks dull. Studies showed that they also had a simpler vocabularly, that they had been dumbed down at the same time they were being "purified." With everything that might offend anyone removed, the textbooks lacked the capacity to inspire, sadden, or intrigue their readers. Such are the wages of censorship."

Ravitch emphasizes that one of the worst aspects of this "bias censorship" is that it is secretive. Nearly all publishers and state educational agencies will admit to HAVING bias and sensitivity guidelines, but most are not publicizing them.

To combat this secretive censorship, Ms. Ravitch proposes a three pronged solution, described on pages 163-170. Her solution consists of competition, sunshine and educated teachers.

Competition -- drop statewide textbook adoptions and make publishers sell direct to school districts. This will focus them on pleasing more teachers and local administrators and also force the opponents of textbooks to fight one district at a time.

Sunshine -- Force local, state, and federal education agencies and private publishers to publish their bias and sensitivity guidelines in many places, including the Internet.

Educated Teachers -- Ms. Ravitch claims (I haven't verified) that most teachers don't have a major or much coursework in the fields they are teaching, so they sometimes have as much trouble as students separating fact from fiction.

There is a lot of good material in the book, including interesting comparisons of English and History curriculia of the 50 states along with the surprisingly few state reading lists. Try this book out.

MY DIFFERENT TAKE: Where Tomeboy appears to see the evil hand of liberals and the Nanny state in these battles, I see cowardly corporations and the effects of an unfree market and centralized control of education. Essentially, the large textbook publishers are terrified of anything that might sink sales or lead to controversy or litigation. They have to especially worried of anything that makes waves in California or Texas, since those two state account for the bulk of the textbook market. Concern for profits over learning efficacy naturally lead to the elimination of whatever anyone squawks about.

If publishers had greater access to individual districts and if they were required to publish their bias and sensitivity guidelines, people and districts would gravitate to publishers with sensible guidelines and more interesting textbooks. A fully-informed, free market solution.

Finally, I need to point out that while I don't believe ALA has acted on this issue recently, they did take a stand in 1982 with a policy called "Diversity in Collection Development." According to Ms. Ravitch, this statement decried censorship and said that "removing or not selecting materials because they are considered by some as racist or sexist" was and example of censorship." This statement, while still against the censorship that Ms. Ravitch deplores, is admittedly a weakening of a 1973 statement "Sexism, Racism, and Other-Isms in Library Materials," which stated "intellectual freedom, in its purest sense, promotes no causes, furthers no movements, and favors no viewpoints ... Toleration is meaningless without toleration for the detestable." Still, as far as I know, the 1982 policy stands. Perhaps it needs to be revisited in light of the nationalization of our schools under NCLB, but ALA does have a policy of which it can be proud.

Whew! Until next time!

Chris Sherman is reading my mind

I've never met Chris Sherman, but he has invaded my head. Just when I've been searching for ways to keep things found, Chris saves my bacon by publishing this article Create Your Own Online Web Page Archive. Now, I need to remember to go to Furl and SurfSaver.
Now, where'd I put my pen?

Politics & Libraries

Is there any sort of coherent library policy in the US? It sure does not seem like it. At least NCLIS is going to be up to full strength on commissioners eventually.Canada on the other hand, though, gets interesting. My supervising faculty member had me looking at Bill C-36 in the 2nd session of the 37th Parliament of Canada which would amalgamate the National Library of Canada and Archives Canada into one entity. A very odd idea.And yet the bill is BACK...C-8 is its new number...under carry-over provisions, it is in the same place that C-36 died at prorogation that occured between the 2nd session and the 3rd session we are in now.Hmm. NLC likes the idea of gobbling up the archives it seems. I wonder how this will go eventually.

Linux in the library

As sort of an extra cirricular activity, I put Linux on a box that Windows wouldn't install on (for whatever reason). It was the minimum that could run SuSE 9 with X Windows.

Despite zorching Windows off the hard drive, it still couldn't quite handle the whole SuSE package... Well, not true, it could handle it, it just is painful to behold. Slow as molasses and disk space is nearly nil. Perhaps I'll try something other than KDE to get around in on it. KDE runs slow on my P4 512 MB system.

The idea of using the library box for parts is becoming more appealing. It's got a zip drive and CDROM, and memory is always good. If anything will take it.

I helped some really rambunctious young people find some information on Harriet Ann Jacobs for Black History Month. I actually "shushed" them -- another one for the baby book, my first "shush". I was mortified.

I noticed that after I was off reference, they left out some books on Harriet Tubman, as well. They were just hitting all the Harriets I guess.

I am pleased to note that Melrose Public Library that interviewed but didn't hire me (that's okay, really, because I like where I am... It's just fun to hold a grudge) has had their accreditation retained. Their budget wasn't enough to keep accreditation, so they applied for a waiver that the MBLC granted. I'm glad. It's a nice library, really. If you're feeling charitable, buy them a book on their Amazon Wishlist.

Things are tough all over.

I am learning to like ordering books. I still feel guilty spending money. It's the cheapo in me. I found a series from Gale -- biographies of scientists -- which would be wonderful based on the assignments our kids get, but it's $2000. Seeing as we just spent about that on another series, I'd feel remiss in asking for it right away.

So it's the Concise Dictionary of Biography section for me...

Nipplegate

So "nipplegate" continues. The chairman of the FCC, Michael Powell, is outraged. He tells the broadcast media to "clean up their rooms." Well, you know what really is an outrage? This whole hullabaloo (nice word, huh) over JJ's bodice. Who do they think they're kidding? The Superbowl is all about SEX. Big bulky jocks in tight football uniforms (yeah, look at those tight ends!!) and perky, bubbly cheerleaders shaking their pom-poms and whatever else they've got. Commercials selling whatever they're selling with sex (oh yeah, and drugs). Sometimes I wonder about our culture. Let's just hope that none of my tax dollars go into an inquiry about the wardrobe malfunction.

The LISEchoChamber

I just recently heard the phrase "echo chamber" for the first time, and it made sense. Most people tend to interact with others that share the same views on many subjects. The term seems to be synonymous with politics, and seems to have attached itself to Howard Dean. Dean supporters only talked to other Dean supporters, and missed out on what everyone else was doing and saying. I'd say that's true of all supporters. Bush, Clinton, Edwards, Dean, Nixon, Regan, Carver (do I have any supporters?) they all just stick together and complain about the other guy. LISNews is, for the most part (unfortunately), an echo chamber as well. You'll find few supporters of the Patriot Act, or many of the other big librarian causes here, or almost anywhere on the web. That's not something I try to encourage. There have been a few very interesting and open discussions between people on both sides of the issue, which gives me hope that things maybe opening up. Intelligent discussions or arguments are few and far between on the web. It takes guts to be the one dissenting voice in any discussion. I had high hopes when I first heard about Shush, but so far it's been a big disappointment. Someone needs to take up that cause that has something interesting, informative, and well thought out to say.

So, I've given myself a personal challenge this election year. To get just one person to vote against Bush who would've otherwise voted for him. Luckily I've got a few people I think won't end up hating me as I work on them. I'm careful to be respectful, gentle, and always factual, and generally Socratic. I love letting someone talk themselves into a corner, I'm a quiet personally generally, so it's often very easy to do. I find it works best when I quote the man himself, that way there can be no doubt as to what was said, and only interpretation can be argued. So far I don't know how it's going, but it's been far easier to find really strong arguments on my side than I had thought. So far my favorite discussion went something like this:

Me: something about Cheny's energy taks force
Them: Clinton did the same thing
Me: So we're in agreement on Cheny.
Them: dead silence

It was like they'd never given any thought to what's going on with this except to relate it to their hatred and fear of the Clintons. They had no idea what Cheny was actually doing, not that I really do, but at least I had some quotes. This is probably typical of arguments on both sides of the issues these days. Bring up anything to a conservative and they squawk Clinton, bring up anything to a liberal and they squawk Bush.

Now, all of this does not mean I consider my self liberal, not even close. Most people seem to think if you're opposed to one thing, they you must be for another. Against Bush? You must be a liberal. For Bush? You must be a neocon. I tend to think both sides will have good points and bad points, and one side will usually have more good than bad. I've never been a one issue voter. At this point, as I see it, Bush is more bad than good.

No links in this one, too busy today.

I finally said it

I finally said to one of the kids that congregates around the computer area... "It's a library, it's a building full of books. Read."

He laughed. I think he realized the truth in what I was saying. He's not a bad kid, he's not necessarily a troublemaker. He just clogs up the reference area by standing over his friend's shoulder, looking at god knows what on the internet. Honestly, if he were sitting and pretending to look at a book while occasionally glancing at his buddy's screen, I wouldn't mind too much. But when you have like eight kids standing around a screen it makes it hard to pass.

I also pulled down a donation computer to see what it could do. It's actually a pretty good computer. I'd like to either a) get the LAN card working and give it to the children's room staff or b) set it up as a word processor terminal, because even a halfway usable donation beats what we've got. It still ain't great. I'd really like to set up a word processor in the young adult room, so that the kids can do their homework some place a little more age appropriate and comfortable for them, but there's that problem of room. And of finding another printer.

I don't know how long this computer will actually last... It is older, and the fans are pretty feeble on it, so I'm thinking it's probably going to just burn out eventually. But even a few months is buying us more time.

Yesterday I got a request for "a book." No more information. Could you narrow that down a little? We have a few of those.

I've never seen a teenager get so excited that we had a copy of The Fountainhead.

Most of today will be spent in Local History and reference. I miss my desk sometimes. I probably wouldn't if there weren't so much to do at it.

One of these days, if I ever find time (maybe today's the day) I'm going to check out The Professor and the Madman... by Simon Winchester. It was recommended by Simmons' beloved Allen Smith (hi Allen!) and I meant to read it, but life has this tendency to get in the way.

Online - Lost/Found

I need to keep track of things. I found this great site with articles related to "Keeping Things Found." Well, I can't find it. (Ok, it's here, but I still had to look for it.)
Like many people, I have tons of bookmarks. I tend to print out the first page of something interesting online and put it on my desk. Granted, it sits there until my yearly desk-cleaning where the site is no longer there, the information is no longer current, and I, for the life of me, can't remember why I found it so interesting in the first place.
Because I am interested in using a blog behind the firewall at my company, I've been reading about blogs and wikis. See Daypop, SnipSnap, and Vanilla.
I'm interested in knowing other corporate libraries or special libraries that are using weblogs to push. I've read some of the articles that SLA has on their site (password required?)
Therefore, I hope that I can remember that I went to all of these places and started this process before I get to distracted with new bright and shiny objects.

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