Politics

All Aboard!

14 October 2009

The Ashtabula Star Beacon carried a report from the Associated Press today noting the number of jobs saved or created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in Ohio. That number was only thirteen thousand. More than that has been lost since the Recovery Act's passage into law as the state's unemployment rate climbed from 9.5% in the month of passage to a preliminary number of 10.8% for August. September's data will be released later this month.

A ton of money has been spent. It is uncertain what there is to show for it. In lieu of just criticizing something, alternatives should be presented.

Rather than spending federal dollars on preserving jobs directly, infrastructure development might have helped better. The concept of the "bedroom community" is growing where people commute long distances from their home to their workplace. Ashtabula and Lake counties in northeast Ohio are prime examples of that in providing bedroom communities to the Cleveland metro area. Previously when our western engineer lived in Ashtabula County he routinely did round-trips to work on Cleveland's west side in excess of one hundred miles per day. He was not alone in doing this.

Along the way between Ohio's geographically largest county and its closest urban metro there is already one AMTRAK route that runs in the wee hours of the night. I myself have ridden those rails to and from conferences in Detroit as well as returning home for Thanksgiving from undergraduate studies. There is no station any more in Ashtabula County and the next closest stations are in Cleveland and then over the state line in Pennsylvania on Peach Street in Erie. A mass transit infrastructure is there and with some small modifications could be linked into the Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority's network which itself already links to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Something better that funds could have been directed to that would have helped promote fuel conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, and more would have been to instead build up commuter service on the rail. Auto insurance costs alone from the hazards of winter driving in northeast Ohio would go down if those commuting from bedroom communities to Cleveland instead were on a train. The amount of fuel expended in commuting is greater in the winter as more parts of the vehicle have to operate compared to the summer months. The rock salt mix used on icy roads also causes enough corrosion on vehicles that the average life of an automobile before requiring replacement runs about three to five years. Between the hazards of driving in snow and the chance of deer strike, the potential for calamity would go down if a mass transit option for commuting were in play. Such would also create positions through creating rail stations and perhaps park & ride facilities to serve commuters. Conditions elsewhere along the rails could potentially also allow for such to be tried in other communities.

Why does this matter in the library setting? By and large, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 does nothing to directly help libraries. Libraries exist through the ability of patrons to be able to pay taxes for the upkeep of the libraries. In bedroom communities, the labor expended for wages does not happen locally but those wages are brought back to the community. Making it possible to have an economic base for a community to exist remains a prerequisite for a library to even be possible.

While scattered reports indicated that most of the jobs saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 were in K-12 education, there is more to life than the classroom. A tax base made up of mostly teachers is not a stable economic setting for trying to keep a library open. Since teacher pay comes out of taxes too, the question then becomes who was shaken down to get that money. Simple infrastructure upgrades, whether in improving mass transit or otherwise reducing a community's cost of living, might have the greater potential to lift economic baselines that make keeping library doors open possible.



Creative Commons License
All Aboard! by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

It Takes A Librarian

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet has celebrated her 58th birthday by dancing a traditional Chilean cueca — with a library worker who plucked up the courage to ask.

Bachelet was inaugurating a library in the Santiago district of Cerrillos on Tuesday when she was surprised by a group of musicians who played a "cueca brava" — a popular version of Chile's folkloric dance — for her birthday. While the musicians sang, a library worker asked Chile's president to dance — and she accepted. LA Times.

At Nixon Library, Mao Statue Rankles Some

A statue of deceased Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at the Nixon Presidential Library &Museum is the subject of a protest planned for Thursday, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

The statue has been in the Hall of World Leaders since the Nixon Presidential Library opened. Kai Chen – a Chinese-American organizing the protest – is the first person to launch a complaint about it, said Sandy Quinn, assistant director of the Nixon Library &Birthplace Foundation.

"To even mention Mao with democratic leaders such as Churchill and Golda Meir in the same breath is truly an insult to human intelligence and offensive to all the freedom-loving people in the world," said Chen, who emigrated from China in 1981 and lives in Los Angeles.

"Having several figures in the world leaders' (section) doesn't mean we endorse their policies," assistant library director Sandy Quinn said. OC Register.

Another article from the LA Times points out that the library,
once privately run, is making a transition to government operation..."and that has turned statues of Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai into political footballs".

Digital age and devices

In continuation of my blog entry last Friday, I have thought about the implication of digital device use in educational and other forums. As more and more information is made available in a digital format, I believe that equations about no cell phone, laptops, etc. during class (or other forums) is going to have to evolve even more than it has.

Filing documents on time

I rarely, if ever, get to write about government documents. This is one of those times.

Talking Greenbacks

Birdie posted on Friday after the end of banker's hours on the eastern coast of the United States that Free Library of Philadelphia is preparing to close. The library itself notes that these preparations are due to the lack of state budget being passed. Reuters reports that a tentative budget deal has been reached but the budget is over two months late this fiscal year. It appears that Philly Free is not engaging in a marketing ploy but may quite honestly be about to run out of cash to pay staff and keep the utilities on as they've had to seemingly rely on a year-to-year carry over funds balance to run their institution.

While this should be an isolated incident, it is not. A local library near the LISTen eastern operating site, Harbor-Topky Memorial Library, is getting set to go to the polls in November to fight for its existence. The library is now only open four days per week, lost four employees, and has no guarantee that funding from Ohio state-level authorities will ever increase. Unfortunately the story by Stefanie Wessell on this is not available online but my copy of The Gazette -- Ashtabula/Geneva Edition is at hand to work from.

The library is seeking a 5-year, 2 mill operating levy in November. Such local funds may be quite necessary as the state's budget was balanced based on the assumption of revenue coming from yet to be installed video slot machines at Ohio's seven race tracks. The New York Times notes that gaming revenue is declining while WKSU notes none of those race tracks has even applied for a slots license yet. The biennial budget deal may wind up having to be revisited if this third of the budget's assumed revenue disappears. An editorial by The (Dover-New Philadelphia) Times-Reporter relayed by the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette explains how large the stakes are in Ohio if this goes awry.

These are merely two cases. There are likely others out there. Are your local libraries being impacted by today's omnipresent economic psychosis? Do you need to practice talking to a radio host prior to going live on local radio stations to advocate for your library? Contact the podcast team and let us know as we may be able to help. Clicking the Google Voice button below is likely the easiest way to reach us at the moment:

Blackberry distractions?

I'm a Blackberry fan. I don't do much texting on it, but just the other day I brought it to a faculty meeting so that I wouldn't have to print out a pile of documents or struggle to read the notes and attachments on the projector. It is so ingrained in the faculty that cell phone use during class is a disraction; I wondered if any in the group thought that I was up to no good?

Utah State University's OpenCourseWare Project shuts down

The Utah State University OpenCourseWare project has shut down because it ran out of money, making it perhaps the biggest venture to close in the burgeoning movement to freely publish course materials online. The project’s director was laid off on June 30th and while the Web site remains up for now, it no longer has any dedicated staff and is no longer adding new courses.
http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Utah-State-Us-OpenCourseWare/7913/

Interdisciplinary Sharing: A Special Post

Sometimes pieces are solicited for LISNews. The recent LISNews Summer Series is an example of that. Below is a piece from openSUSE community manager Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier that is a bit of interdisciplinary sharing of experiences as some public libraries are getting ready to go to the polls for tax levies in a couple months.


When working on a marketing campaign, you may suffer the temptation to "go negative" and go on the attack against something rather than using a positive message for your point of view. We see this frequently in political campaigns, and it's occasionally effective -- but should be avoided when you have alternatives.

Case in point: recently, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) set off on an anti-Windows campaign called "Windows 7 Sins". The campaign is higly negative, and completely disregards its target audience.

It's relentlessly negative. It offers few, if any, alternatives. It doesn't consider the perspective of the "average" users who don't view software as an ethical consideration. It's like a PETA campaign, but based around software. While I may agree with some of PETA's goals, the tone and general negativity push me away -- and so does this.

The FSF has many, many positives that can be used to "sell" the concept of free software. Instead, the organization is taking the lazy approach and hoping to play off of users' frustration with Windows to lure them to free software. All well and good, except that this doesn't persuade the audience that free software is something to be desired, only that Windows is something to be avoided.

Not only is the message wrong, but it's also delivered in a ham-fisted and generally off-putting way. The site looks like something thrown together by a fringe political group. The political fringe approach is hardly going to appeal to the mainstream audience that the FSF is trying to reach. Love or hate Microsoft, it has (more often than not) been successful in persuading its audience to keep consuming its software by selling the benefits of its products.

An effective counter to this would be to look at the negatives that the FSF has identified, and craft a positive message that addresses the same issues -- but with an entirely different tone. If the organization has identified issues that users care about, it will be far more succesful if the FSF helps tell the audience how to solve their problems.

To be fair, negative messaging does work sometimes -- but on the whole, it should be avoided as much as possible. Convince your audience of your positives, and you'll have a far stronger reaction than persuading your audience that the alternatives are to be avoided.

Creative Commons License
This work by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Kennedy's Posthumous Memoir Goes on Sale Sept. 14

"Ture Compass", the autobiography by Sen. Kennedy, who died on Aug. 25 at age 77, adds little to what is known about the Chappaquiddick accident and its aftermath but recounts how they weighed on him and his family. The book does not shy from the accident, or from some other less savory aspects of the senator’s life, including a notorious 1991 drinking episode in Palm Beach, Fla., or the years of heavy drinking and women-chasing that followed his 1982 divorce from his first wife, Joan.

But it also offers rich detail on his relationships with his father, siblings and children that round out a portrait of a man who lived the most public of lives and yet remained something of a mystery. Among other things, it says that in 1984 he decided against seeking the presidency after hearing the emotional objections of his children, who, it says, feared for his life.

A copy of the 532-page memoir, scheduled for sale Sept. 14, was obtained by The New York Times. It was published by Twelve, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing.

Pages

Subscribe to Politics