What's interesting today

The New York Times Opinion Pages: Stop the Great Firewall of America
This is why you should care about two bills in Congress right now, SOPA and PROTECT-IP. The third paragraph sums it up nicely. Once you’ve read this please visit the EFF and write to your reps in Congress.

American Libraries: On My Mind: An unplugged space
This is an interesting column that proposes that libraries create “Walden zones,” a communication-free area where people can disconnect from their gadgets.

Radical Reference: Alternative Guide to Dallas
The librarians of the North Texas Radical Reference Collective put together a cool map of cool places to go in Dallas during the Midwinter meeting, including vegan restaurants and other neat places to check out.


IL2011: Wednesday Keynote

Internet 2020: Trendwatch Smackdown
Roy Tennant, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.; James Werle, Internet2; Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Rochester Institute of Technology; Stephen Abram, Gale Cengage Learning

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What's interesting today

Simmons GSLIS: Cloonan To Step Down as GSLIS Dean
The dean of my graduate school has decided after a decade that it’s time to take a break. Thank you for making GSLIS an awesome place to become a librarian, Michèle!

American Libraries Next Steps: Broadcast Collaboration
A quick look inside the library at NPR. Did you know their librarians are embedded throughout the journalistic and production staffs? And also that they are going all-digital in preparation for moving to a new building in 2013? Sounds like some very forward-thinking folks.

Avos: Last Call for Delicious Users: Transfer Your Bookmarks
If you haven’t already authorized this (or packed up and taken your bookmarks elsewhere) stop reading and click here to make sure your bookmarks are transferred when Delicious re-launches. It’s also probably not a bad idea to export them today or tomorrow so that you have them in hand if you don’t like the new look of the site. (The migration is apparently happening this weekend.)

Insatiable Booksluts: Banned Books Week: What Subversives Are You Reading?
Despite the brevity of this post, the author is able to succinctly make several interesting points about the overall makeup of the books that show up on our banned lists, and why they’re being challenged. It is also a nice reminder that librarians do a lot more than shelve books and help you find journal articles, as a profession we are also dedicated to protecting your right to read whatever the heck you want. In a librarian’s perfect world, people offended by books would simply choose not to read them, and to prevent their children from reading them, thus leaving the rest of us free to bask in whatever “filth” or “smut” we so desire. Anyway, Banned Books Week starts on Saturday, so go head and pick up something to read! Try Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a young adult book by Sherman Alexie (and certainly one of those that is also resonant for adults).

American Libraries: ACRL Invites Applicants for Immersion ’12 Program
If you’re an instruction librarian, please start figuring out how to get yourself to Immersion. I’ve never been (not for lack of trying) but from everything I’ve heard from GSLIS classmates who have attended, it is amazingly helpful in developing as a teacher.

What's interesting today

Mashable: Why Browsing Is So Important to Content Discovery
This is a great, well-written article on why browsing is such an important part of information discovery, and how we’re losing this as we rely more and more on search alone.

ALA: Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2010
Banned Books Week is coming up (September 24-October 1). Here’s the Office of Intellectual Freedom’s list of most frequently challenged books last year. Always an interesting list, and I noticed that “And Tango Makes Three” has been number one or two since 2006. (It was released at the end of April 2005.) Anyway, take a look at the list and pick out one to read!

Swiss Army Librarian: Library Media Box and Other Vending Machines
What I think is cool about these vending machines that dispense library materials is that you can put them anywhere. I love seeing stories about things like this being placed in train stations, convenience stores, etc. I can’t quickly find it now, but I seem to also recall seeing a story in the last couple of years about some small lockers set up in a convenience store, which allowed people in a town with no library to place holds on materials in the library system that served their region, and they could pickup and drop off at these lockers. (From the 9/7 AL Direct.)

Library Journal: To Fix Higher Education, Start by Eliminating Tenure
Steven Bell poses three questions to Naomi Riley, author of The Faculty Lounges: and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For. The whole question of tenure and research vs. teaching is an important one. It seems that the focus is on faculty doing research, which is certainly part of what is driving the discussion about “is your fancy education really worth it if the professors listed in the admissions book teach one senior seminar a year.” The topic might not seem to impact libraries much, but Bell makes some important connections, which he asks Riley about.

WiMax, Take Two

Back in February of 2009, I attempted and failed to sign up for Xohm, Sprint’s WiMax service. My overall experience led me to believe that the service wasn’t quite ready to be launched — coverage in Baltimore wasn’t all that widespread, and the Mac support was entirely given over to their developer network, in a lame attempt to get other people to do the work they should have done before launching. I returned the modem I’d bought, griped about the experience online, and soon thereafter Xohm disappeared from view.

It turns out that a company called Clearwire had bought Xohm from Sprint, and they stopped taking new subscribers while they did things like expanding the network and making sure the software and hardware was compatible with the Mac OS. How sensible. They also eliminated the need to install any software on your computer in order to use the service (Xohm required some crazy widget/app thing, for no apparent reason). The pricing for the service, now called Clear, is still smack in my price range ($30 or $40) for basic home service. It’s a little more for a subscription that works with a USB modem that you can take with you anywhere, and you can also bundle voice with any of the plans. One especially nice touch is that you have a choice of a two-year contract and leasing the modem, or a month-to-month contract for which you buy the modem outright. I went with the latter, because if I’m going to wind up paying for the modem anyway, I might as well do it up front and not have to deal with a contract. Continue reading

On Twitter

I resisted Twitter for a long time, and when I finally signed up I felt a bit sheepish about all my pooh-poohing. So why did I finally sign up? Because friends were having conversations there that they weren’t having via other mediums, like chat and Facebook. I have found that I really like hearing about the stupid annoyances and routine happenings of the lives of folks whom I care about but rarely see. Recently, danah boyd wrote an interesting post that defends the social aspect of Twitter, in the face of a report that finds that the majority of tweets are meaningless blather:

I vote that we stop dismissing Twitter just because the majority of people who are joining its ranks are there to be social. We like the fact that humans are social. It’s good for society. And what they’re doing online is fundamentally a mix of social grooming and maintaining peripheral social awareness. They want to know what the people around them are thinking and doing and feeling, even when co-presence isn’t viable. They want to share their state of mind and status so that others who care about them feel connected.

That is exactly what finally drew me in. Once there was a critical mass of people I cared about on Twitter, I started paying attention to their tweets, and eventually I jumped in myself because it seemed silly to email someone in response to a tweet they had posted Sunday night, which I was seeing in my newsfeeds over lunch on Monday. I still really don’t care about following news organizations or random famous and semi-famous strangers and librarians. To me that’s not what Twitter is for, though it makes sense to use it that way (and I do follow a few of those types of accounts). That’s also partly why I still have my account locked, because I don’t use the service in such a way that I see any reason for some random person I have never met to follow me. To me it’s a social space similar to Facebook, and I apply the same rule of  “do I (or would I if you lived nearby) hang out with you in real life?” before I friend or follow someone.

It strikes me that all this kind of silly stuff we post to Twitter is probably what people who talk on the phone a lot talk about. Despite the fact that I will post it on the Internet, I still won’t pick up the phone and call any of my friends to discuss these kinds of little things.

Politics of Class Online

I find Danah Boyd‘s work absolutely fascinating. Her application of ethnographic research methods to the technology sphere, and in particular social networking, contributes immensely to my understanding of these technologies and how they’re being used. I just read a transcript of a talk that she gave at the Personal Democracy Forum last month (The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online) and it’s really gotten me thinking. Here, she’s looking at another side of the digital divide which I think gets lost in the conversation:

Social media does not magically eradicate inequality.

When we talk about the digital divide, we’re usually focused on access. Who has access to the web? What kind of access? Is it access they can afford? Is it access that is convenient? Are the speeds at which they can connect fast enough to actually engage with what’s going on? But in my experience, that conversation rarely gets to a point where you’re talking about what they’re doing when they’re online and who they are. Have you ever thought about the fact that there are class and race differences between who is using MySpace and who is using Facebook? As she points out, on the web we (as a society) are essentially replicating all the different social stratifications that exist out on the sidewalk. It makes sense if you think about it — with social networking sites many of us are essentially just recreating our offline social networks. That means you go where your friends are. But how many of us are aware of this, and to what extent?

Anyway, I highly recommend reading through this transcript if you have an interest in social media, social networks, and how people use them. This kind of broader thinking can really help to provide a better context for what’s happening in the different areas in which we’re all focused (for example, I pay attention to reports and information about what undergrads are up to, and  give maybe a cursory glance to the stuff on other age groups).