June 2000

Tiff Over Asbestos in Libraries

A couple of libraries down in Long Island are having some trouble with asbestos. Library trustees ordered the buildings closed indefinitely until the outdated fire retardant-now considered a carcinogen-is completely removed. But since the work might not be completed until November, town officials ordered on Tuesday the libraries be reopened. So apparently the librarians are now working in an asbestos filled library!

\”Why is it suitable for our library employees to enter these contaminated areas on a regular basis, and yet it is unsafe for the public to enter them only occasionally?\” Thomas Conoscenti, chairman of the library board of trustees, said in a written statement

The Story is at Newsday.com

A couple of libraries down in Long Island are having some trouble with asbestos. Library trustees ordered the buildings closed indefinitely until the outdated fire retardant-now considered a carcinogen-is completely removed. But since the work might not be completed until November, town officials ordered on Tuesday the libraries be reopened. So apparently the librarians are now working in an asbestos filled library!

\”Why is it suitable for our library employees to enter these contaminated areas on a regular basis, and yet it is unsafe for the public to enter them only occasionally?\” Thomas Conoscenti, chairman of the library board of trustees, said in a written statement

The Story is at Newsday.com\”Would the members of the town board want their sons and daughters exposed to this hazardous asbestos?\” Conoscenti added that neither the library board nor the union representing library employees would allow workers to be exposed to asbestos. Town officials argue the buildings are safe, and have accused the library board of politicizing the issue.


\”The area does not pose a danger to anyone, and those libraries could open up today,\” Barnett said. \”There is no health risk…but we should use the closed stack system.\” Town officials originally scheduled asbestos removal from the main library building for next year, and from the Commack branch in 2002. Asbestos removal from town-owned buildings started in 1988 and will continue for the next several years as many other structuresstill contain asbestos.

[email protected]

Someone wrote in with this, and it just struck me as really funny.

I was up around midnight two days ago when they finally broke the story
about the new Harry Potter book title (I think the first instance I saw was
on Yahoo news). I immediately attempted to obtain the
[email protected]?????.com address, but someone beat me to it. However, as
you can see in my sig, I *was* able to scoop [email protected]????.com. My
daughter (8-years-old) was astounded and delighted. Me, too!


Still, if Rowling e-mailed me and asked to have it, I\’d give it to her, and
gladly!

And what of the now valuable URL\’s?

Someone wrote in with this, and it just struck me as really funny.

I was up around midnight two days ago when they finally broke the story
about the new Harry Potter book title (I think the first instance I saw was
on Yahoo news). I immediately attempted to obtain the
[email protected]?????.com address, but someone beat me to it. However, as
you can see in my sig, I *was* able to scoop [email protected]????.com. My
daughter (8-years-old) was astounded and delighted. Me, too!


Still, if Rowling e-mailed me and asked to have it, I\’d give it to her, and
gladly!

And what of the now valuable URL\’s?I took out the real addresses, but is anyone else rushing around scooping up all the [email protected] every free email place? If you are really dedicated, Chek.com has a loooooong List of domains you can sign up with.
gobletoffire.com, .net, and .org, along with goblet-of-fire.com, net and org have all be registered since April 17th. Coincidence??

Public library offers e-books

Charlotte.com has an encouraging Story on the public libraries plans to begin offering \”Rocket\” eBook readers starting this weekend. They will be offering 60 titles to begin with.

\”We really hope that people who love reading great books and popular fiction will pick it up just as they would pick up a paperback or hardbound copy,\” said Rita Rouse, public relations director for the Public Library of Mecklenburg County.

Charlotte.com has an encouraging Story on the public libraries plans to begin offering \”Rocket\” eBook readers starting this weekend. They will be offering 60 titles to begin with.

\”We really hope that people who love reading great books and popular fiction will pick it up just as they would pick up a paperback or hardbound copy,\” said Rita Rouse, public relations director for the Public Library of Mecklenburg County.\”We really don\’t think it will limit people,\” Rouse said. \”People have inquired about it just as they have inquired about books-on-tape and CDs. People really enjoy the new technology. So, it\’s part of the electronic niche we\’re trying to fill.\”

The library staff chose the initial 60 books the e-book readers will hold. Many are classics such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle\’s \”Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.\”

Residents threaten suit over Internet filters

Fosters.com (not the beer) has a interesting Story on a group of citizens ready to take the local library to court over filtering. This time they are against the filters. I\’m not sure I\’ve seen citizens fighting to get filters taken off.

\”The system they have now is very arbitrary and it essentially takes the right away from the parents,\” Arthur Ketchen, president of the Nashua-based First Amendment Legal Defense Fund Citizens Against Censorship, said in a telephone interview Thursday. \”And if the library can’t exist for all citizens, it should be private or not exist at all.\”

Fosters.com (not the beer) has a interesting Story on a group of citizens ready to take the local library to court over filtering. This time they are against the filters. I\’m not sure I\’ve seen citizens fighting to get filters taken off.

\”The system they have now is very arbitrary and it essentially takes the right away from the parents,\” Arthur Ketchen, president of the Nashua-based First Amendment Legal Defense Fund Citizens Against Censorship, said in a telephone interview Thursday. \”And if the library can’t exist for all citizens, it should be private or not exist at all.\”\”The mandatory use of filtering software is simply unsuited for a system of public access to information,\” the letter said. \”No screening software can make judgments about what information is or is not protected under the First Amendment.\”


Barrett did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.


The library has used filtering software on all its public computers since it began offering Internet access about a year ago, according to Robert Frost, the library’s assistant director.

Accredited web design?

David writes \”At the CLA last week I was asked, very earnestly, by a librarian, if I was aware of a web-design course that was offered by distance from an ALA accredited school. When I suggested that her local community college would offer very good courses in that field, she demurred and indicated that a \”professional\” course was important to her.


So, does anybody know of a distance-available web course from an ALA accredited school? \”

Funny Library Story

David sent in this funny and eye opening
story.


True story. Today I happened to be in a library. You know–the big room with lots of books and no people, as Uncle Al would say.
I was reading a magazine and came across an unfamiliar word. \”Grubstake.\”

\”I decided to look it up. Without thinking I automatically wrote it down on a piece of scrap paper, intending to go home later and look it up on the Internet.\”

David sent in this funny and eye opening
story.


True story. Today I happened to be in a library. You know–the big room with lots of books and no people, as Uncle Al would say.
I was reading a magazine and came across an unfamiliar word. \”Grubstake.\”

\”I decided to look it up. Without thinking I automatically wrote it down on a piece of scrap paper, intending to go home later and look it up on the Internet.\”

Did I mention I was in a library?

It suddenly dawned on me. I thought, \”Wait a minute, you idiot! You\’re in a LIBRARY for God\’s sake! Do you realize what that means?\”

\”That means they have terminals with FREE INTERNET ACCESS! I can use a terminal right here!\”

\”Only then, of course, did it occur to me to use an actual paper dictionary.\”

The Search Engine of the future…Human?!

The New York Times has this article on what search companies are doing in order to make their products more user friendly. They are using humans in order to fill a void that the engines have difficulty with. Hmmm, we now know where some of the Librarians have gone.

\”To cope, many search engines have concluded that simply indexing more pages is not the answer. Instead, they have decided to rely on the one resource that was once considered a cop-out: human judgment. Search engines have become more like cyborgs, part human, part machine.\”

The New York Times has this article on what search companies are doing in order to make their products more user friendly. They are using humans in order to fill a void that the engines have difficulty with. Hmmm, we now know where some of the Librarians have gone.

\”To cope, many search engines have concluded that simply indexing more pages is not the answer. Instead, they have decided to rely on the one resource that was once considered a cop-out: human judgment. Search engines have become more like cyborgs, part human, part machine.\”



\”For information scientists who have spent decades refining computer-based search techniques, that is bad news. Introducing the human touch into search engines also means introducing human biases. What the scientists want is a form of artificial intelligence.\”

\”But just as robots are not yet cleaning houses, search engines still have far to go before they start reading people\’s minds. Current computer code is not sophisticated enough to do the job alone, most search-engine founders say.\”

\”Nearly everyone is doing a little of both these days,\” said Bill Bliss, general manager of MSN Search.\”

\”The most popular Web-based search services employ people to do at least some of that mind reading. Rankings from Nielsen/ NetRatings, an Internet research firm, show that Yahoo, a directory created by its employees, is the most popular search service, with nearly 40 million visitors in May.\”

\”The latest figures from the Internet measurement company Media Metrix also put Yahoo first, with about 63 million visitors.\”

\”Both Google and Northern Light rely on computers and software to scan and index the Web, but human judgment is part of the mix. At Google, Web pages that are linked from authoritative Web sites are deemed most relevant. At Northern Light, librarians constantly fine-tune their directory structure and come up with names of categories used for sorting Web sites.\”

\”Some of what scientists consider the possible pitfalls of human interference were on display at a recent meeting at Northern Light\’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.\”

Potter Title

The secret is out: The title of the fourth book in the Harry Potter series is \”Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.\”

The Right To Link

Legal pressures on linking continue to increase. The RIAA, The Mormons, Napster, these are just a few of the lawsuits that appear to be testing the legalities of the WWW itself. Will a legal ruling in the United States have any effect on the WWW? After all, it is the WORLD WIDE web, not the USW. As large corporations, with deep pockets, fight to keep the power and influence they are used to, they increasingly lash out (legally) at the web. Regardless of the outcome, the web may be changed by lawsuits sometime soon.


If linking becomes illegal, even in some instances, what will become of the net?

If a site is “illegal”, how do you find it?

Do sites that link to it become illegal also?

Legal pressures on linking continue to increase. The RIAA, The Mormons, Napster, these are just a few of the lawsuits that appear to be testing the legalities of the WWW itself. Will a legal ruling in the United States have any effect on the WWW? After all, it is the WORLD WIDE web, not the USW. As large corporations, with deep pockets, fight to keep the power and influence they are used to, they increasingly lash out (legally) at the web. Regardless of the outcome, the web may be changed by lawsuits sometime soon.


If linking becomes illegal, even in some instances, what will become of the net?

If a site is “illegal”, how do you find it?

Do sites that link to it become illegal also?

If it becomes illegal to link to illegal, immoral, or somehow just wrong web pages, will it become illegal to link to someone who then in turn links to objectionable content. Where will the lines be drawn?


This could lead to someone suing yahoo, because yahoo links to LISNews, LISNews links to Slashdot.org, and Slashdot.org links to mp3world.com (the site in question).
Yahoo, no doubt has the deepest pockets, guess who would get sued?


But isn’t this done everyday by traditional media outlets?
Think of it another way, phonebooks, magazines and newspapers do this sort of thing everyday. They are not exactly linking to illegal MP3’s, but the have ads for escort service, head shops, and other things. Now these are generally companies that are doing something that is illegal, or at least, not entirely legal.


There is a difference between speech and exploitation. It is just plain illegal to download and use an MP3 that you did not buy, and probably should be. Artists deserve some kind of compensation for their work, and royalties on CD sales are one way they make a few bucks. Napster is making (or will make) money on other people’s hard work. How?


If I make a copy of a CD I bought and then sell it, I am breaking law. I made money on someone else’s hard work. Now sites and services like MP3.com, mp3world.com and Napster are selling a service, or a programming (supported with ad sales, not exactly selling, but they are making or will make money on others work) that lets you get other peoples work for free, and they make money on it.


Freedom of speech is not without limits Maybe the web needs some kind of limits set on linking. If the intent of something is to break the law, or leads to a broken law, maybe it shouldn\’t matter that it\’s just a link. After all a link is really just a mechanism that someone uses to obtain information. The courts have ruled time and again that freedom of speech is not without its limits. If a law allows punishment of intent, and not the links themselves, the law may not be so bad. Will any laws that are passed make any sense, or be enforced in any meaningful way?


Can we trust lawyers and judges to write a fair and well balanced law that will allow liking to remain untouched, and still punish those who hide behind the internet and free speech to commit crimes, however trivial they may be?
Probably not.


In my opinion, linking needs to remain free of any constraints, laws, restrictions, or rules. The WWW and the Internet depend on linking. The amazing wealth and success generated since 1994 has been due to, in no small part, the freedom to link. No country can, or should be allowed to, take away this now fundamental freedom of the web.

The Real E-Books

This Article makes some sense. They say the future of Ebooks is in files you can download to, view on and print out from the computer you already own. Short and Sweet!

\”The economics look good too: E-books require no printing, binding, inventory or shipping costs, allowing these savings to be passed on to the author in the form of higher royalties.\”

From Techreview.com

This Article makes some sense. They say the future of Ebooks is in files you can download to, view on and print out from the computer you already own. Short and Sweet!

\”The economics look good too: E-books require no printing, binding, inventory or shipping costs, allowing these savings to be passed on to the author in the form of higher royalties.\”

From Techreview.com
The great wonder is that this hasn’t happened any sooner. The first digital books date back to 1971 when Michael Hart was given a virtually unlimited account of computer time on the mainframe at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois and decided that widely disseminating the contents of libraries was the greatest value computers could create. He typed in the text of the Declaration of Independence and so began Project Gutenberg, which now includes more than 2000 classic works online, all free. To date, these are all plain text files—lacking the typeset-quality formatting that makes books eminently readable, somewhat compromising the reading experience. “When we started,” Hart recalls, “there was only uppercase—how about that for a compromise?” Because Project Gutenberg’s books were no longer under copyright, the original e-books required no copy protection schemes. Hart explains: “We encourage everyone to repost our books in whatever formats they want. The most books to the most people—that’s our only real goal.”