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Since I began teaching reference, I have discouraged students from using Google for their treasure hunts for a variety of reasons, mostly because I know they already know how to search Google. As Google changes, though, my new reason for discouraging students from using Google is that their new attempts to personalize and socialize search results are leading away from “objective” understandings of a page’s quality*. For many reasons, this is not good for library use.
I was one of the early adopters of Google. It was refreshing after the cluttered pages of Yahoo and Lycos to see that simple expanse of white. As they perfected their algorithms, the searches got more and more precise. I knew I could get a balance of precision and recall that was satisfying to me. At some point, the search results began to get less and less satisfying. I could tell when they were messing with their algorithms because it would get harder to get good results with the same search strings I had been using all along. Here is one person’s example. I was getting irrelevant results like this all the time. (In fact, I just searched for “precision and recall” on Google and got pages of SEO pages, along with wikipedia and scholarly articles I don’t have access to at home without jumping through hoops.) Part of the reason for this is that Google has been “personalizing” my search results, sometimes based on where I am (though it thinks I am in a large city with the same name in another state, so those results are generally useless), sometimes based on what I have searched for previously.
Here are some pages focusing on changes at Google and why it might become a less useful search engine as it tries to become more social:
First, we’ll start with Google’s own explanations of the current changes to search: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/search-plus-your-world.html. Notice the adorable hand-drawn graphics and quirky search examples. This is to distract you from what is really going on. While they are personalizing and socializing your results, they are also gathering information about you. Worse than that, though, they are limiting what you can find using their service. I honestly don’t mind trading some anonymous data that will be aggregated in order to get good search results, but I mind very much that their limited understanding of who I am will dictate what they show me. I’ve long been concerned about the effect of the Internet on the availability of information– I contend that the amount of information actually available to many of us goes down if we rely solely on the Internet/Web. I guess that’s a post for another day.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/01/25/145830858/googles-new-privacy-policy-will-allow-tracking-across-services An NPR article about Google’s new privacy plan.
http://techland.time.com/2012/01/17/why-googles-biggest-problem-isnt-antitrust-with-search-plus-your-world/ and http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/01/google-search-is-dead.php These articles trace Google’s decline from the “simple white box and search results that made the search engine such a joy to use in the first place” to where it is now. (The discussion of the Olympics search reminded me of my futile attempt to use Google to find out where and when a conference happened last year so I could do a write-up on it.)
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Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like book awards. (Someday, I might write a post about that, but not today.) Therefore, I usually don’t follow book awards except those which I am obligated to know about because of my job. That’s why I pretty much missed the drama last week over the accidental shortlisting of Lauren Myracle’s Shine
for the National Book Award. I do know that if I had heard her name being announced, I would have been pleased. I’ve met her in person and she is a wonderful, charming, generous person, in addition to being a person who writes about and FOR young people in an original, daring way.
Today, the news broke that she had been pressured to withdraw to preserve the “integrity” of the award and the judges’ work. On one hand, I understand that the judges did not select the book, but on the other hand, this is both a worthy book and a real human being that they have humiliated and hurt to preserve the “integrity” of their work. Also, what does it say about their “integrity” that they first said they would consider the book in addition to the other five and then changed their mind and tried to privately shame her into withdrawing from consideration? Did they think that would make things better? Why didn’t they just say last week, “oops, we made a mistake and named the wrong book and forgot to fact-check before making the announcement.” (Let’s not even go into why phones are terrible media for important things.) I think that would have been easier to stomach than this.
My heart aches for Lauren. I can imagine how horrible it feels to have something like this dangled in front of you and then snatched away. I hope that she gets lots of sales out of this and her book gets the attention it deserves. As for the award itself, I will continue to ignore it and read books based on their own merits.
Publisher’s Weekly article
By now, most everyone has seen this list of gripes that some Borders employees believe they had hidden from their customers. Accompanying the legitimate complaints against customers doing appalling things (like tearing up the store or leaving their children alone to tear up the store) are the complaints that bother me enough to write a post about it. The anonymous former employees don’t like your taste in books. They don’t like helping you find a book with very little information to go on. They don’t like that you’re confused because the store changes every week. And frankly, they would rather you shop elsewhere. They might have thought they were keeping these opinions a secret, but they weren’t. Underlying many of the comments posted to the various sites that have featured this picture is the idea that there is such a thing as being too good to work retail.
The reason I even bring this up here is because librarians have chimed in agreeing with many of the points on the list, including the frustration of finding a book with little information. In some ways, I understand the booksellers being frustrated, since they might not have been trained in reader’s advisory or reference. But librarians? Librarians who should know how to ask questions to find out what the patron is really looking for? The real problem I see is that patrons can tell if the librarian feels inconvenienced or is looking down on the patron. Patrons can tell if the librarian would really rather you go elsewhere. We can’t take patrons for granted. Patrons who feel slighted or unwelcome in the library will just go away. They might not make a grand fuss about it, they might not ever tell you why they’re not coming back; they’ll just find themselves too busy to go to the library. They’ll buy all their books, or borrow them from friends and family, or just stop reading. Do we have such a glut of patrons, of readers, that we can afford to alienate them? And why would we want anyone to leave the library feeling like an inconvenience?
Please note that I am NOT advocating allowing people to trash the library (or bookstore) or leave their children unattended. This is unacceptable behavior. What is NOT unacceptable behavior is: looking for the latest Oprah Winfrey book, reading Twilight, remembering only a few details about a book you heard about on the radio last month, or being confused because the corporate overlords dictate moving everything around every week so customers CAN’T find anything without your help. (The last one is bookstore specific– I hope libraries don’t get into that habit!) It’s a real Catch-22 to the customer, who knows he’s inconveniencing you by asking questions, but who has to ask because everything is different now.
I know how appalling some people can behave in public. I have cleaned up after my fair share of them (both as a worker AND as a fellow customer.) But we HAVE to recognize the difference between the horrendous, thoughtless behavior that is unacceptable and the normal human behavior that allows us to have a job.
Seth Godin says something I probably need to hear every day. Write every day, in public. This is very hard for me because I worry about the repercussions that follow speaking one’s mind. It’s not that I worry about my writing not being good enough– I wrote professionally for years and I know my writing is at least adequate. It’s that I worry that if I express the wrong opinions, I could put my career in jeopardy. Pretty ironic when my career is studying and teaching librarianship. I also pay attention to discourse and how policies are shaped and how they then shape the people who have to enforce them. In other words, I think too much.
I do agree with Seth Godin and I am going to try to write more, publicly, every day. I think it will help my writing for publication as well. I’m working on several articles and a couple of research projects. One article is on culture shock in school libraries and the other is a narrative of my experiences doing institutional ethnography in a school. I want to write it in a way that would be useful to a librarian who wants to examine work processes and discover how to change them for the better.
This semester, I’m teaching Teen Lit, Children’s Lit, and Cataloging. I am going to try to get back into the blogging habit to see if I still have anything to say. I have a lot to say, but I try to answer the three questions: is this true, is this kind, is this necessary? Will it improve the world? I don’t want to add to the noise– there are a lot more blogs out there than there were when I first started blogging 12 years ago.
It’s been a long time since I last posted. I’ve been off earning my PhD in Library Science. Some people might be able to continue blogging while earning a PhD, but I’m not that energetic!
I focused on school libraries and youth services in my research and classwork. This blog will focus on issues of library services to youth and the underserved. I’ll also look at technology and new media in connection with how it shapes library work with and by youth.
This semester, I’m teaching Youth Services and Internet Reference, so it’s likely most of my posts will be related to those two topics.
I have a lot of half-finished posts sitting in my drafts folder. I’ve been busy with school, Scouts, conferences, and various other things. I saw I got tagged for a meme, though, and since I’m currently procrastinating on a paper, I decided to go ahead and do it.
Book Meme Rules
1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people
All places of public resort require the restraint of a police, and places of this kind peculiarly, because offenses against society are especially apt to originate there.
The next three sentences take up about a page: it’s John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty.
Consider yourself tagged… but I think I’m the last person to do this meme.
Despite my frustration with Second Life, I’ve been hanging around there more than I was ever able to before (new computer.) The Library 2.0 people have done a fantastic job with the design! I really hope I am able to make SL work with my graphics card when the new update is made mandatory, because I would love to get into volunteer reference or reader’s advisory. I’m a member of 2 SL library groups, but I haven’t heard anything from them for a couple of weeks, so I’m not sure if they’re having the same problems I’m having.
I know I’ve been mostly negative about SL in the past, but I can really see the potential. Tonight, two classmates and I were trying to figure out whether we would have time to get together and discuss our projects. Something like Second Life would be very cool for that. Yes, it would just be chatting with our avatars as visual representations, but it would add another element for those of us with learning differences.
So, my old computer crashed and I had to get a new one. It’s beautiful… a Dell Latitude D620. Everything I had hoped the old Toshiba would be. However, I have hit a snag. I was hoping to get more involved in Second Life. I’m a member of two library groups in Second Life. I logged on tonight, enjoyed the terrific graphics and the beauty of Rachelville (that is a very nice place!) Then… CRASH. Turns out the developers of Second Life do not support my video driver… one that happens to be fairly common in education laptops. So those who would like to use Second Life as a vehicle for education might want to rethink that idea until the developers see fit to support more than two types of graphic cards.
I’m both attracted to and repelled by Second Life. I LOVE the idea and think some of the execution is wonderful. However, I see it as a further enforcer of the digital divide. My brand new, best computer I can afford on a graduate stipend with student financing is not compatible with Second Life. Where does that leave people using refurbished P2s? Or schools? Second Life is currently solely for the technological elite, not for the regular people. Which is sad, because I really wanted to get involved and finally have a computer that’s fast enough.
mercedsunstar.com :: Library jobs get the ax. I can’t understand a school culture that doesn’t value the librarian. Essentially, this is the message sent by this decision. I would like to understand more about where the librarian fits in and why the librarian is considered expendable in education.
I’m in Seattle! I was busy from 7:30am to about 10:30 pm yesterday. A lot of great sessions on youth services, mostly focusing on school librarians. The conference site charges for wireless, but our hotel has complimentary wireless! Not that I’ll have a lot of time. I do still plan to live-blog ALA, since they will have complimentary wireless.
It’s great here! I’ll try to post later, but now I have a class to deal with.
I said yesterday that I would be blogging ALISE and Midwinter (live-blogging will depend on whether I have an electrical outlet handy, since my computer has a battery life of less than an hour.) Shortly after I posted that, I got an e-mail from ALA about how they’re enabling bloggers. I can even get a blogging badge! I’m not sure what the purpose of that is, but it sounds neat. I joined ALA’s Midwinter Flickr group, so I will be posting some of my pictures there. I’ll also be posting other pictures on my own account so my family can see what I’m up to.
I love technology!
It’s almost the start of a new semester. I’m working on finalizing the syllabus for Literature for Children. This is my first time teaching adults and it’s one of my favorite subjects, so I’m very excited.
I’m starting the semester in Seattle. I’m attending my first ALISE conference and then attending the ALA Midwinter conference. I’ll be observing and recording a focus group on romance novels. I also hope to gather audio for LISRadio shows for this semester. I plan to try to live-blog the conferences as much as possible, with pictures.
The first semester went by in a kind of haze. I was overwhelmed by the transition… it was much more difficult than going from being an undergrad to a graduate student. I wonder if it was made harder because I was in the same institution, so I was used to things being a certain way. Being a doctoral student is definitely an education.
I was pleased with how my classes went in the fall. I came out of them with two ideas that I’m going to work into presentation proposals.
This is a very interesting idea. Jon Udell is tracking his search process. He says “I’m less inclined to accept that some people are natural information hounds, and others aren’t, and that’s just the way of it. Innate talent clearly plays a role, but so does learned skill. What the learnable component of effective search may be, though, is very unclear. So I’ve begun to reflect on, and document, my own search habits in order to try to discover what it is that I’ve actually learned how to do.” He’s tracking his own search patterns at del.icio.us and would like for others to do the same. I’m intrigued and might play along. I like to think of myself as a good searcher. If it’s the kind of thing one can find on Google, I can find it. But maybe that’s not true. It would be interesting to submit my tactics to the scrutiny of all.
Via The Distance Librarian.
This week’s LISRadio showcase is an interview with University of Wisconsin professor Adam Nelson. Professor Charley Seavey attended a session with Adam at a recent conference and was intrigued by what he had to say about the connection between print media and education. I was especially interested in what he had to say about how video games and new media can lead kids back to books. As kids learn about events and subjects from their games, they look for more information about those things… in books. New media allows kids to learn guided by their own interests.
I am a fan of Markus Zusak. He is one of my favorite newer YA authors (along with John Green). I ate I Am the Messenger in just a few hours. The Book Thief was much more difficult to read, and shows another dimension of Zusak’s imagination.
Liesel Meminger lives with a foster family in a small town outside of Munich in the early 1940s. Her accordion-playing foster father teaches her to read, although her career as a book thief begins while she is still illiterate. Her family takes in a Jewish man, the son of a man who saved him in World War I, and Liesel befriends him. The story is narrated by Death, who gives a different perspective on life and war.
The story has the dark humor you would expect from a book narrated by Death.
Since I don’t have a separate blog for my YA reading, I’m going to post those reviews here. I did not have extra time this Thanksgiving break, but I took time to finish two books that have been hanging over my head since the semester began.
The Burn Journals is Brent Runyon’s account of his recovery from a self-inflicted fire that almost killed him. It is incredibly hard to read, because it reminds me that boys can be in incredible emotional pain, yet not know how to reach out… or even want to reach out for help. After Brent survives the fire, he realizes that he does want to live, and he can’t even remember why he set himself on fire in the first place.
My life revolves around boys. I have two of my own, I have a brother who is just 14 months younger than me, we were raised by a single father. I am a Cub Scout assistant den leader and intend to go on to be involved in Boy Scouts next year. My interests as a librarian are middle schoolers… kids the age Brent was when he hurt himself… and reluctant readers. With all the interest and exposure, it’s still clear from this book that I just can’t know what’s going on in their heads, their hearts, and their souls.
This week’s LISRadio showcase is an interview with Michael Powell, owner of the famous Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Interviewer Charley Seavey went to Portland in the spring and conducted the interview in the store. This is the first airing of the interview.
Presented by Vera Florea, Springfield-Greene County Library
10:00-10:45, Thursday October 5, 2006
This session immediately followed a Make it and Take it session for children’s librarians, so we met a few friends who were leaving with their plant-pot bells and their paper plate bean shakers. It looked like their session was great fun.
Vera Florea discussed several of the different projects the Springfield library carried out with other organizations. Some of the collaborations were with Friends of the Library, Parents as Teachers, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army, the school district’s summer school program, house of hope, and their parks and recreation department. She said library outreach is important because children can’t get themselves to the library.
Some of the projects were family reading bags, a wee read program, stories to go, and discovery bags. I will discuss them in another post.
Presented by: The Mid-Continent Public Library’s GLBT Group
Thursday, Oct 5, 2006, 9am-9:45am
This was a great session. The presenters covered how to build a core GLBT collection.
They started with describing how to define this core collection. They looked at lists generated by the ALA and by some GLBT writers’ groups. They compared this list to the holdings at the libary and purchased books using rotating budget money.
Advice for forming the group:
-treat it like a real organization
-send minutes up the chain of command
-know how to evaluate a need
One presenter said the group started with a request for Out magazine. The group started with a small collection and just put it out. Then they watched circulation statistics. They said every item circulated, despite the location and apparent demographics of each branch. Eventually, patrons will start requesting the items. For outreach, they made bookmarks and left them at GLBT centers.
They wanted to make sure the collection fit three types of needs: legal, health, and social. They also wanted to make sure the collection was balanced along the GLBTQA spectrum, without being too heavy in one area.
Then, the subject of talking to the administration came up. The group informed the rest of the librarians what they were doing, then met face to face in a staff meeting. They emphasized the importance of being professional and responsible about the whole thing. Only one book on their desired list was turned down, most likely because it was in Graphic Novel format.
This was a really good session. The presenters noted that the way they went about building the collection served as a pilot program for building collections for other populations (such as foreign language collections.)
Another thing that was neat about the presentation was that at least one board member attended (as an audience member) and spoke up when another attendee asked about how the group dealt with the board. He said their board was supportive of the group.
The only thing that bothered me was the repetition that “They’ll know the authors,” implying that GLBT patrons already have knowledge of what they’re looking for. I’m not sure that applies across the board, though. In a small rural town, GLBT patrons might not be exposed to any kind of information about writers, books, or magazines to watch out for.
This week’s LISRadio showcase is an interview with author O.R. Melling. Charley Seavey interviewed her at the ALA conference in New Orleans. It is the next to last of the New Orleans interviews.
As I said yesterday, the Library and the Community presentation was very interesting. It covered two of my current favorite themes: outreach and democracy. OK, maybe Democracy is a bit of a stretch here, but it does show people without means that the library is for them, too. One thing that really upsets me is when public libraries are treated as if they are only for the powerful people, even when it’s not the powerful people who need their services the most (this will probably come up later, when I discuss a friend’s presentation on the Commodification of the Library.)
Ms. Florea talks about collaborations with different community agencies. Some examples:
- Creating tote bags with books about issues facing families (divorce, death, new babies) and having local aid agencies give parents “prescriptions” for the tote bags
- Leaving recently de-selected but still decent books at WIC offices for parents to read while they’re there or even take home if necessary
- Providing traveling storytimes for community centers with childcare, such as the Y or Boys and Girls Club, who can’t always get their children to the library
Various funding options were discussed. Some of the outreach was carried out with the help of grants from Health and Human Services and other organizations.
Attendees also shared examples of outreach from their communities.
This week’s LISRadio showcased author interview is an interview with author Alexandra Sokoloff. Charley Seavey ran into her at the Sisters in Crime booth at the ALA annual conference in New Orleans this summer. I think this is the last of the New Orleans interviews.
This week’s LISRadio library podcast showcase is an On the Job show interview with John Furlong. He is a Missouri librarian and a graduate of Missouri’s SISLT. The most fascinating part of this interview is his discussion of his experiences with a lending library in Nicaragua. He also talks about training other librarians on how to use circulation software.
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Degree or Not Degree, That Is the Question. Of all of the new crop of posts I’ve seen today about library education, Josh Neff’s has the best comment thread. This is an extremely touchy subject. It’s a sensitive subject for me.
It’s fascinating to me how so many librarians feel their educations were useless and they didn’t learn anything in library school. I’ve only been to one library school, but I am a completely different person than I was two years ago. Maybe my school is extraordinary (well, I’m partial to it), but it has changed me. The program balances theory and practice very well. Students coordinate internships at libraries that interest them. Even though we don’t have a health sciences program, we have a health sciences library where students can get experience. We don’t have an archives program, but we have archives where students can work. In the school library program, students have to have 10-11 semester hours of practical experience, focusing on certain aspects, with reflection and guidance.
I find the comments made by Mr. Neff’s coworkers to be a bit passive-aggressive… “Bet they didn’t teach you this in library school.” They don’t and can’t teach you everything in library school. My view of library school is that it builds a theoretical base of knowledge about libraries and librarianship, gives structured and guided practice at specific aspects of librarianship, and grounds students in the intellectual history of the profession. It doesn’t teach how to clear a printer jam, how to clean up patron vomit, how to handle an 11-year-old asking to learn how to French kiss. It doesn’t teach you how to deal with a library board (or how to craftily stack that board when you get the opportunity.) Perhaps there is an assumption that there are things that are appropriate to learn on the job.
Bloggers often seem frustrated at the lack of classes on things like blogs and wikis. Perhaps my school is unique, but in many of my classes, we had choices of assignments, including electronic formats. In at least one class, starting a blog was a required practice. (This was the genesis of my Tween Lit site.) I would prefer to see technology worked into classes in that way, rather than requiring a specific class on just learning html/blogs/wikis/exciting new social software of the future. A specific class on current software would always be in danger of being behind. There is a danger, though, of being too far on the cutting edge. One of my classmates is working in a library that has no OPAC– just a card catalog. A conference I hope to present at is asking presenters to bring their own presentation gear or go without because of the cost of the equipment. Schools can have such aggressive filters and firewalls that starting a wiki can be an impossible dream. Students need to know how to do things the lo-tech way as well.
I am continuing my education because I believe in the MLS (or, in my school, the MAISLT). I like that people come into the field with a variety of undergraduate degrees (and other graduate degrees) and a variety of backgrounds. That adds a richness to our profession.
I think library school professors/ researchers bring great value to the profession. They have much to teach to those willing to learn.
Last week, we had a visit from Thomas Mann, a Library of Congress reference librarian. It was an excellent visit, about which I will post another incredibly long post (actually, two parts), but a key thought is that library “evolution” is a myth. When librarianship changes, it’s not “evolution,” it’s a result of decisions– conscious or unconscious. At least some of the people making those decisions need to be people with an awareness and understanding of library history, library sociology, library psychology, library culture. You don’t need a degree to be one of those people, but library school is (should be) a safe place to get that kind of knowledge.
One more interesting point from Mann’s lecture: people are defending “library as place” in a way that makes them not libraries any more. We have to think about the implications of what we are doing and the history of what has been done. That’s true in librarianship and it’s true in library education. How is this movement for reform different from the other movements for reform in the last century?
Disclaimer: My words here represent only my own beliefs. No agreement or endorsement by my school or my professors is implied or stated. My interpretation of the words of Thomas Mann are only my interpretation.