Librarians pitted against Google

The Guardian has posted this little exercise, comparing the time it takes to answer certain questions using Google, the phone or a library (but not the helpful advice of a librarian who may have helped improve the library’s times no end).

It reminded me of those reference question tests I did at library school. The memories of failed reference questions meant that I was thinking “why didn’t he go straight for the Whitaker’s Almanack?” on question 4.

Teaching politicians about filters

Filtering is not as hot a topic in the UK as it is in the US because, as yet, the UK has no equivalent to the filtering laws affecting public libraries in America. However, this story from the BBC News site shows that the politicians in Britain are getting a little taster of what filters can – and can\’t – do. Last month, the House of Commons installed email filters to block spam and pornography. It has been revealed, though, that the filter is also blocking emails discussing important issues such as the Sexual Offences bill. It has led to some Members of Parliament to ask questions about the \”inability of filtering engines to work effectively\”. An earlier story had reported that the filter was also blocking emails written in the Welsh language, which understandably upset the Welsh National Party members of parliament.

Real books for adult learners

Almost a quarter of the population of the UK is estimated to have some kind of literacy problem, yet there is apparently still a lack of reading material of a suitable level that is not embarrassing to read in public. The Guardian has this interesting story on a new public library initiative to identify fiction and non-fiction titles suitable for adults over the age of 16 with reading ages of 9-14. Volunteers have been \”test-reading\” a selection of books and have drawn up a shortlist of 40. This collection, entitled \”First Choice\”, is now being promoted in libraries up and down the country.

Libraries and disabilities

CILIP (previously the UK Library Association and
Institute of Information Scientists) has just released a
briefing paper on the employment of people with
disabilities in library and information services. This is
the latest in a series of guidelines on equal
opportunities issues relating to the library and
information world.

Do you look like a librarian?

Ruth Kneale has written a great investigation into librarians\’ views of the public perception of librarians in the Internet Age. I see I\’m not the only one to get the comment \”You don\’t look like a librarian\” or \”You have to do a Masters degree to be a librarian!?\”. A very interesting read, which suggests that the public perception is gradually changing.

\”You don\’t look like a librarian!\” I heard that so often while I was in library school in 1997-99 that I set my email signature
file to be that quote, and vowed that I wouldn\’t change it until I went two months without hearing it. Well, I finally
changed my signature file in the spring of 2002!

[Seen on Shifted Librarian]

Neil Gaiman likes librarians!

For nearly a year now, I\’ve been reading the journal/blog of one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman. It is always interesting and amusing reading anyway, but he was at ALA last week and as a result has written some nice words about librarians (scroll down to the entry from Sunday 16th June).

\”I don\’t think it\’s overstating things to suggest these people are the thin grey line between literacy and barbarism\”

If you like what you read in the journal, I would highly recommend his novels – try last year\’s excellent American Gods. I\’m just disappointed that I\’m not in the US anymore and so couldn\’t be at ALA this year.

To boldly read as no-one has read before

A couple of great links found thanks to a little blog called The Future of the Book [with help from Marylaine Block\’s Neat New Stuff].
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a grant to develop a 3-D digital library of rare books and manuscripts, in this story.
Meanwhile, scientists at Leeds University in the UK are working on a device which will be enable you to read a book without opening it, using the Star-Trek-esque \”terahertz waves\” which produce a readable image when passed through a book. More on this from Ananova.