On banning and burning

We had a materials challenge a couple weeks ago. And yes, our instinctive reaction was to wish the person would be quiet and go away and not bother us. But we listened to them, explained our policies and why that is our stance, gave them a form, and encouraged them to discuss it with us further if they wanted. This person has decided not to formally challenge the items in question, that allowing their opinion to be heard was enough. However, this made us think about the issue. We had to scramble to find copies of the policies and form. We had to take a moment to regroup and think how to handle this with compassion for someone's feelings and beliefs. We have things sorted much better now, and if someone does kick up a bigger fuss in the future, we are more prepared to handle it well.

Which leads me to the larger issue of the church planning to burn the Koran this weekend. A lot of people think this is stupid. However, some people are also asking if we have any right to try to stop them. What is the line between free expression and hate crime? Frankly, I don't know. A simple test would be "Does someone get hurt by it?" but that opens up an entirely different barrel of rabid monkeys that is equally problematic, so I will leave it alone for now.

Neil Gaiman's post on defending the indefensible sums up my opinion on all forms of censorship, and (of course) does so far more eloquently than I ever could. In short, I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

So yes, I think this is wrong. And I believe these people have the right to be wrong in public. And the rest of us have the right to tell them they're wrong by joining International Read a Koran Day or any other movement you see fit, or just by living your life in an unprejudiced way. ALA's response is entirely appropriate: encourage people to think rather than simply react.

One thing for sure, Banned Books Week is getting progressively more interesting this year. Usually we have a display and discuss it with anyone who asks about it. Now I'm wondering if we should try to have an event as well.

I am queen of reference!

A student needed to find some SEC filings from 1996. Not one of "those" students - she had actually called the SEC trying to get information and got a call back. (Some days, your tax dollars actually do work.) She had been assured the filings were available in LexisNexis, but the kind SEC lady wasn't sure how to get there, since she has things like that bookmarked for quick reference.

Based on the phone call, the student had the official titles ("In the matter of..."), the numbers, and the dates of the filings. But we couldn't turn up anything in LexisNexis. It finally hit me that we have the poor-people version, and the SEC probably has access to everything that LN can dish out, so we moved on.

The SEC website only has filings from 1999 on. Even Google Scholar only gave me an article that cited these things as examples. Despite these people being the Big Bad Evil Corporate Bad People of the 90s, there were no Wikipedia entries on them. Lately, I keep turning up things that Wiki does not have. (And if I knew enough to add an article, I wouldn't be looking for one, so don't even suggest it.)

As a last, desperate measure, I searched Bing (because that is the default search bar CIT has on our browsers) and found a mention of the actions taken against them in the SEC Newsletter, which is backfiled that far in convenient PDF format. Yes! This will do! She printed off the page of each that mentioned the filings and went home happy. And so shall I. :)
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Conference death match

I have been asked to be on a soon-to-be-proposed panel at ACRL 2011. This is completely awesome and I'm really flattered that the people involved thought of me. The catch is, this conflicts with Computers in Libraries.

Now, I hear you saying, "Ace! They're a full week apart! That's plenty of time to do laundry and repack." And you would be entirely right, except for two things. Collapse )

Collapse )So that's that. Anyone who actually read all this, I applaud your tolerance. I have all weekend to think about this, try to remove the personal stuff from the relevant stuff, and let Bosslady and my co-panelists know first thing Monday.

A dirty job, but someone has to do it

We are in the middle of Weeding. Not just weeding, in the sense of "Oh dear, some of this might be a bit outdated." This, my friends, is Weeding, in the sense of "Why do we have a book explaining that one's physical build can predispose one to a life of crime?" Weeding in the sense of, having only gone through the H and J sections and children's lit room, we have deleted several thousand item records. Shelves that were once too full to hold new books now have room to see what is there, rather than just a mass of stuff. We have also gotten rid of some truly disgusting things that we hardly wanted to touch, even to remove, and probably removed some mold problems in the making.

Of course, we have some dissenters among the faculty. We also have some faculty who are helpful in sorting out what is a classic and might just need a cleaner copy and what is horrible and must go. Things that are not in utterly hideous condition (or, in one case, so morally offensive we all felt sick) are going to Better World Books as fast as we can get boxes from them and convince UPS to pick them up.

It has been slow going, but we are nearly done with the top floor of the stacks and we have A Plan. Dividing things up between the three of us, we have what looks like a realistic goal for the end of February. Beyond that, who knows? It would be completely awesome to finish the whole library before July 1, but there's the catch that we have other things to do too. *le sigh* Further updates as we progress.

Library =/= free bookstore

I was very glad to see an article in the November American Libraries about students coming to the library wanting textbooks. It's not just us!

We occasionally have someone who thinks this is where you buy textbooks (usually parents with helpless freshmen trailing behind them) and we have to send them to the far side of campus (a whole three buildings away) to the real bookstore. Most, however, are just looking to check out a textbook so they don't have to buy one, or maybe they just don't feel like checking under the seat of their car to find the one they already have. I know some schools keep one or two copies of every textbook Just In Case, but we can't afford that. Students get very annoyed that we don't have a freebie for them, even though other people in the class had to shell out for it. (Imler brings up many points on why relying on library copies is A Bad Idea anyway.) It's sad that their first experience with the library is us saying "No" when at any other time we would say "Yes, let me show you the metric ton of stuff we have here and online!" I guess it's part of them learning that not everything is going to be handed to you. Welcome to Grownup World. :D

But hey! Only seven years after getting my degree, AL has finally told me something useful. Woo. I wish the article was online, because it's quite good and I would love to link to it.

Hello, new semester!

Let's see... Thus far, we have three patron computers completely offline and a fourth that won't print. (Our wireless is working - yay! - but has never been able to send to a printer.) The registrar needs to wait a few more days to send us a student list, so everyone gets their expiration dates updated individually, expect for new students who have to give me all their personal information just to get a book. And we have no one to work the late-late shift tomorrow night.

And yet, it's a whole lot better than this time last year. Here's to a not-quite-insane start to things!
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For the "What the...?" file

Today is the day for government to have Teh Dumb. Not that this is unusual, but these two things were brought to my attention within minutes of each other and... just... oh, stupidity.

NC wants to tax internet sales. Unsurprisingly, Amazon has declared they don't need the hassle (not to mention the precedent) and will no longer allow third-party sales to anyone in the state if this goes through. Way to stimulate the economy, guys. I'm even more glad now that I left.

The Wall Street Journal article on this requires a subscription, but comments are viewable and interesting.

In an equally spectacular lack of understanding of how things work, Bozeman, MT wants your passwords before employing you. Yes, all of them. But hey, you don't have anything to hide, right? That Yahoo or Gmail address isn't linked to, say, your Paypal account, is it? And even so, I'm sure the applications are stored somewhere totally secure. But if you're in Bozeman or considering moving there, remember that their current policy is to only hire the completely clueless.

Copyright vs the blind

USA, Canada and the EU attempt to kill treaty to protect blind people's access to written material To sum up:

"The main aim of the treaty is to allow the cross-border import and export of digital copies of books and other copyrighted works in formats that are accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have other reading disabilities, using special devices that present text as refreshable braille, computer generated text to speech, or large type. These works, which are expensive to make, are typically created under national exceptions to copyright law that are specifically written to benefit persons with disabilities...

The opposition from the United States and other high income countries is due to intense lobbying from a large group of publishers that oppose a 'paradigm shift,' where treaties would protect consumer interests, rather than expand rights for copyright owners."

Because heaven forbid that someone use your content in a clever or helpful way that you didn't think of the first time around. Even worse, blind and dyslexic people might read books and learn things and enjoy good stories! We can't have that sort of thing going on, certainly not. I just said to a colleague (regarding another issue) that these copyright owners act like spoiled two year olds who don't want anyone to play with their toys, even if it is for something good like education or medicine. Or, apparently, people with disabilities being able to enjoy books the same as everyone else.

It's one thing when accessibility is an issue due to omission or simple circumstance, like the very old buildings on our campus. It's another thing entirely when someone deliberately cuts people off because of physical impairments. That is selfish discrimination.

Sugar OS: pretty sweet

When I first heard about Firefox Portable I thought it was the most brilliant thing ever. Then I saw OpenOffice Portable and thought that was pretty awesome too. Then someone Twittered this article and I knew I had to try Sugar on a Stick. It took a little work to get it going, but it's pretty amazing. I'm going to try to (semi)live blog my working with it.

Wednesday night I ran to Kmart after work for a new flash drive since I didn't know how much mine would need clearing off to make the install work. Lucky me, 2GB sticks were on sale for $8, capless design and backpack clip included. Woohoo! I can put an operating system on my belt loop. It's not putting a man on the moon, but the guys who did that would be (will be, probably are) bowled over by this.

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By this time it was late and I was worn out. I had already been up late two nights this week reading Little Brother and another late one would have been bad. I closed things up, ejected the stick, and tottered off to brush my teeth.

Then came two agonizing days of not doing anything. I kept the USB stick in my bag like it was my blankie, occasionally taking it out to look at it wistfully. I thought about trying it out on my work computer so someone else would have to fix it if I screwed up, but then I would have to explain to the nice CIT person why I screwed up their otherwise perfectly-running box. Then I would owe them many, many cookies. So I waited until last night and pulled out my older laptop, which is still a good, faithful friend but less of a loss than if something happened to Ruby.

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I promise that all of this is so much easier than it sounds. A lot of it is pushing the right button at the right time and saying "Wow, I never knew this stuff was here!" Next post I'll talk about the programs.

Coincidence or...

I just realized something. The two books I'm reading right now are Little Brother and The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation. This is a complete coincidence, really, but I thought it an interesting one. (I also read Hennessey's almost dismissive summary of copyright just before learning about the Pirate Bay verdict. I'm having a severe lack of entropy this week.)