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December 31, 2003

A plank in a platform

Karen Schneider has already pointed out that one of the candidates for ALA President, Barb Stripling, has her own weblog.

Ms. Stripling has an entry on library support staff and what ALA can and should do for them. Actually, us. And I'm really glad to see this:

"ALA is finally awakening to the fact that library support staff are essential to the profession and to the association. Last spring, ALA held its 3rd Congress on Professional Education -- with a focus on support staff issues. Several of the recommendations from COPE 3 stand out to me as high priorities for study and action by ALA."

In May 2003, I was the NMRT delegate to ALA's 3rd Congress on Professional Education: Focus on Library Support Staff. COPE3 was eye-opening in a lot of ways. Some support staffers are shouldering a lot of frustration and a fair amount of resentment over how they've been treated, ignored or otherwise taken for granted.

Even how to refer to library workers who don't have (and don't plan to get) an MLS was fraught with ... compromise. Long ago and not so long ago, library workers who weren't in positions that required a library degree were regularly referred to in the literature as:


They are nouns, but to many, those terms feel like adjectives. Even the term "paraprofessional" sets people off: any implication that people who have devoted their lives to library work are less than professional in their competence, values or achievements is galling to some. Through word and deed, library support staff have been underappreciated and undervalued for many years.

COPE3 is only a start to dealing with the full, good-faith inclusion of library support staff in the library community ... but it's good to know that people are paying attention.

December 30, 2003

Pure Corn

I find reading romance novels keeps my brain from overheating from stress/pre-occupation. I recently found a doozy:

Perfect Partners
by Jayne Ann Krentz

Krentz specializes in Seattle regional settings, small towns, and throwing together 1) a young, naive and winsome woman who's rather feminine, tends to have a traditional or semi-traditional occupation and is sexually inexperienced (or underexperienced) with 2) a tall, dark, intense businessman who's a corporate shark, on the outs with his family (if they're still alive) and is fueled by some sort of revenge, either consciously or subconsciously.

The female protagonist of Perfect Partners is named Letty. Letty is a former reference librarian who is bequethed a Seattle-based camping gear company by her deceased great-uncle. Oh, what fun.

Some choice quotes:

"Now, instead of owning Thornquist Gear, the rapidly expanding Seattle-based company that specialized in camping and sporting equipment, Joel had himself a new boss. The thought was enough to make him grind his back teeth. A librarian, for God's sake. He was working for a librarian."


"'Tell me, Letty, do you have any experience in the business world?'

'No, but I've read a great many books and articles on the subject since I learned that Great-Uncle Charlie left me Thornquist Gear.'

'Books and articles, heh? You know, Letty, there's quite a difference between the business world and an academic environment.'

'Is there?'..."


"Tomorrow morning she would try to find out exactly what bad blood was that ran between Joel and the Copelands. The inquisitive librarian in her would not rest until she knew what happened fifteen years ago."


"The very existence of libraries held out hop for the future of the human race, as far as Letty was concerned. If people had enough sense to collect and store information and make it available to everyone, perhaps they would someday have enough sense to use that wisdom to stop wars and find a cure for cancer.

"Being a corporate president was interesting work, but Letty knew that a part of her would always be a librarian."

I'm sure there's more. I hope there's more ...

What's your story, morning glory?

This arrived in the New Members Round Table list-serv (among others), and is presented here with the permissions of the author(s). If you are interested in participating, please contact Todd and/or Angela directly.

"Hello everyone. My name is Angela Boyd. I got my MLIS at SJSU this past May and now am working part time for the Los Angeles Community College District. Todd Michael Grooten and I got this idea that we'd like to share with you and ask for a bit of help on. We've been reading stories on how people became librarians and were absolutely fascinated. We would like to gather as many of these stories as we can from you and make a book out of them. If you'd like to share your wisdom with us (maybe you've actually published a book) or would like to contribute your story to our project, we would LOVE to hear from you. You can reach me at angela.boyd@myrealbox.com and reach Todd at grootent@msu.edu. Thanks!

Angela Boyd, and Todd Michael Grooten"

December 27, 2003

Computer update

I woke up this morning, got ready to go out to brunch with friends, turned on my laptop to get my mail ... system failure.

I am now typing this from my brand-new 14" 1Ghz iBook. Not as cool looking as the Titanium PowerBooks, but oh well. Thank you so much for your assistance, Brian ... I need to return your disks to you, as I hope to never need them again. I'll find a way to rehabilitate the ThinkPad ... AFTER I'm done with the thesis.

December 25, 2003


I have a 'deal' with my laptop, which I bought via auction for school: if it holds out for the 3 years it takes me to graduate, I will set it free and install Linux on it (it's an IBM Thinkpad. Unfortunately, the blasted thing is trying to renege 6 months early. Bad sectors, disappearing files, no-loads, yadda yadda yadda for the past two days.

Luckily, the whole thing isn't hosed. One program that is hosed: MS Access. Which I abhor, but I kinda really need for my research. And I'll be darned if I'm going to pay over a hundred bucks for a program I'll only need for another 4-6 months.

So, two things:

Happy Christmas/Yule/Kwaanzaa/Boxing Day/Solstice. And happy 12 days of Christmas, and Orthodox Christmas. May your days be merry and bright (or dark and brooding, whichever you prefer).

and ...

Can anyone recommend a good, cheap database program? In 6 months, I hope to migrate to Filemaker for the Mac, but I need a program now to run on my Thinkpad. If I can import my existing Access file, that would be rich dark chocolate frosting on the cake ...

December 23, 2003


I owe Frederick Emrich an apology.

He sends me a direct invitation to a Mid-Winter forum on Information Commons and the role of libraries in promoting it ... and I forget all about it.

Mea culpa, Mr. Emrich. And my schedule has been duly amended.

(P.S. --> For the rest of you ... if you're going to be at Mid-Winter and you're interested in the public domain, you should show for this.)

December 20, 2003

Mid-Winter planning shenanigans

I got a bit over-excited about my first ALA conference. I overbooked it by a couple of days: turns out that the last two days are little more than business and committee meetings. I have no business, I'm on no committees, there's no need for me to be there after Monday evening. Southwest was very accommodating and switched my return flight for an extra 6 bucks. Yay.

Here's my current conference schedule. What sort of basis it has in reality, we shall see (except for the ticketed stuff on Friday). If there's something I've egregiously missed and you want to school me, please feel free. And if you want to *gasp* wanna meet for coffee or sumthin', send me e-mail.

December 18, 2003


The Register has an article about Google's new beta for full-text search results, considered to be roughly analogous to Amazon's "Search within the book" feature. The writer, Andrew Orlowski, goes from describing the potential pitfalls of Google Print, to why Google sucks, to why the Internet sucks.

It's a bit precipitious, and like most articles/op-eds in The Register, is wildly confident in its own assumptions and conclusions. And the site's writers often like to take a contrarian view of IT and Internet issues. Nonetheless, Orlowski gives major shout-outs to librarians while puncturing the once and future hype of the Internet as a replacement for libraries:

  Taxonomies also have been proved to have value: archivists can justify a smirk as manual directory projects dmoz floundered - true archivists have a far better sense of meta-data than any computerized system can conjure. If you're in doubt, befriend a librarian, and from the resulting dialog, you'll learn to start asking good questions. Your results, we strongly suspect, will be much more fruitful than any iterative Google searches.   

What's written in the article is little more than what's been bantered about in the library press on how librarians need to fight against the perception that they have been/are being rendered obsolete by various tools of information access. Orlowski's 'Quantum Theory' is more snarky than what you usually get in American Libraries. I'm sure many people would disagree with his conclusion of the promise of the Internet (going back to 1994) being just as dubious and suspect as the Internet of 2003 ... there's a certain signal-to-noise ratio that begs at least a small amount of consideration. And that swipe at blogging was pretty unnecessary.

But in the end, he returns to the value of information professionals and the systems they design/build/utilize:

  The disappearance of "the Internet" - in its c.1994 incarnation isn't too much to worry about. It never really existed, and what we must value is the information archives we have now. If in doubt - ask a librarian, while you can still find one.  

I doubt the worm (or the Zeitgeist) has turned ... libraries and librarians (and other information professionals) will continue to have to defend their collections, their best practices and themselves by any means ncessary. But this does, I think, provide a little inspiration ... and optimism.

Guest Entry: Little Black Sambo

The following was written by my fellow student, friend, colleague, soon-to-be alum and co-writer Marti Krow-Lucal. After reading the LISNews.com entry on the new edition of "Little Black Sambo," I asked Marti for her comments -- she wrote on the story and its controversies for a class in Intellectual Freedom at SJSU.

"There are a couple of points that need to be made about the Story of Little Black Sambo, by Helen Bannerman. Born in Scotland in 1863, she married a surgeon in the British Indian Medical Service and lived in Madras with her husband and children for thirty years. Every summer her daughters were sent away from the lowland city to a hill town, Kodaikanal, because the climate of Madras was reputedly unhealthy. She wrote Sambo for them one year on the train to Kodaikanal.

The story was taken to London by a friend of Bannerman and published in 1899 by Grant Richards (who paid five pounds for the copyright). Because of defects in the copyright, the work passed quite quickly into the public domain and was republished dozens of times in the U.S. from the 1920s on, often with new illustrations (and without having to pay royalties, an important consideration to this day).

Questions began to be raised about Sambo as early as 1932, when Langston Hughes denominated it a �pickaninny variety� of picture book and pointed out its ambivalence: �amusing undoubtedly to the white child, but like an unkind word to one who has known too many hurts to enjoy the additional pain of being laughed at� (Children�s Library Yearbook). Nonetheless, although it began to be challenged in the late 1940s, it remained in the majority of libraries, and large numbers of children, black and white, became acquainted with it as a matter of course in school, at home and at library story time well into the 1970s. The authorized version has never gone out of print and it is available today not only as a book, but on various websites .

Sambo is often described as a �trickster� tale in which the smaller and weaker saves himself by outwitting the bigger and stronger. This figure appears in folktales around the world both in animal guise (Anansi, Iktomi, Coyote, Reynard, Brer Rabbit, etc.) and as a human (Hershele Ostropolyer among Yiddish-speaking Jews, �Francisco de Quevedo� in Mexico, etc.). But this is not an accurate description; Sambo is not really a trickster. He has only one strategy for dealing with the tigers who want to eat him. He bribes each one by offering it an article of his clothing or a belonging until he has nothing left but his underwear (luckily for him, at that point no more tigers appear). He does suggest novel uses for the slippers (ear-slippers) and the umbrella (hold it with the tail) when the two of the tigers are ready to reject the utility of his belongings and eat him. But once the clothing is gone, Sambo starts crying and walking home in his underwear; he no longer affects the action of the story.

The tigers, ignoring Sambo, begin to quarrel about which of them is the grandest and to chase one another around a tree. As they run faster and faster, they miraculously melt into butter which is found at the foot of the tree by Sambo�s father Black Jumbo. He puts it all in a brass pot and takes it home for Sambo�s mother, Black Mumbo, to cook with. She uses it to fry exactly 251 pancakes (27 for Black Mumbo, 55 for Black Jumbo, and 169 for Little Black Sambo). Sambo does get his belongings back, but only because the tigers are too busy chasing one another to pay attention to him when he asks them if they still want his clothing.

Sambo is saved by Bannerman�s deus ex machina turning the tigers into butter, not by his own cleverness. The innocent child protagonist saved magically is typical of nineteenth-century �fairy� (not traditional folk) tales written by middle-class writers for middle-class European and American children; this is the genre to which Sambo truly belongs.

Many middle-aged (white) people wax nostalgic about Sambo�s charm, recalling the ear slippers, tiger butter and pancakes affectionately. Fortunately for them, two reworkings of the story have appeared recently (Marcellino�s Story of Little Babaji and Lester's Sam and the Tigers). In both books the same episodes appear as in the original, and the pictures are more attractive than Bannerman�s, in which the tigers may be charming but the people are not.

I believe the affection Little Black Sambo inspires has more to do with nostalgia for the reader�s childhood than any intrinsic merit of the tale (since I never read it as a child, I am not nostalgic about it). "Sambo" is a name too corrupted by historical misuse to be attempted as a clean slate, even with new illustrations (Marcellino and Lester obviously recognized this, as Bing did not). And linguistically the names Black Mumbo and Black Jumbo mean nothing individually; their sense comes when they are joined (mumbo-jumbo) to mean "obscure or meaningless talk or writing, nonsense, meaningless or ignorant ritual" (New Shorter OED). To my mind this cannot be construed as anything but demeaning and discomfort-provoking, regardless of Bannerman's conscious intention. It certainly provokes discomfort in me, annulling any possible charm the story might be supposed to have (I find little charm in it, and I am white).

There is an appropriate Spanish saying that it would behoove people desirous of re-presenting Little Black Sambo to attend to: "No mientas la soga en casa del ahorcado" - "Don't mention the rope in the hanged man's house." Even if you think it's all perfectly innocent or even wonderful, be aware that there are people for whom it's painful and offensive - and think again.

December 16, 2003


In theory, this institute on Internet law at Harvard U. should make me really happy.

Especially since, unlike the one held earlier this year at Stanford, I'll have the time to take off of work to go. And it's scheduled so that I'll still qualify for the student rate.

Only, around the same time, I hope to be shelling out a large amount for a brand spankin' new Apple portable (still vascillating between the iBook and the PowerBook). At what might be my last chance to qualify for the educational discount. I suspect I can only shell out for one thing.

Computer vs. one-week law school test drive. Oh, pfui.

Government Documents

There's a re-org taking place (that I'll discuss in detail in another entry), and my job tasks are changing. One of the most important changes is that at some point soon, I'll no longer be responsible for in-take functions of international government documents here at SUL.

Gov Docs is a trip. Ask anyone on GOVDOC-L. Whatever tech services model you have for whatever function you do, for either serials or monographs ... Gov Docs will go off the flowchart. Working with Gov Docs calls for quite a bit of problem-solving.

Sometimes, the vendors (i.e., the government agencies) help. Sometimes, not so much.

As part of the re-org, I also changed cubicles, and while moving, I found an old claim response. It's for a newsletter issued by the European Space Agency called "Preparing for the Future: ESA's Technology Programme Quarterly." We hadn't received v. 11 no. 2 (supposedly published around September 2001); I initiated a claim for it in February 2002.

The verbatim response:

"L.S. [I think this means Library Specialist -- my title]

To day was your claim for Preparing for the Future on my desk.

You are correct that you are missing 11-2 and others.

The problem is that the context of these issues has a political impact.
And no one will take responsibility so we have decided no to print
The missing issues

In week 8 we have put in the mail volume 12-1 and we hope that we can continue"

How cool is that? 'We can't send you the issue because it's a political hot potato and no one can handle the truth ... in the meantime, enjoy what may be our last issue ...'

Dude, I will NEVER get that kind of a response from jobbers like Swets or Absolute. I'm gonna miss Gov Docs.

December 15, 2003

Interview -- Michael McGrorty

Like many entering the library profession, Michael McGrorty has held one or two careers along the way. His resume includes:

* a stint in the U.S. Navy
* several positions as a labor investigator/compliance officer
* serving as a private investigator
* working for The Man as a probation officer
* authorship of a mystery novel and more than a dozen articles/poems

As a library science student in the SJSU distance education program (based at CSU Fullerton), McGrorty has added several essays/articles to his c.v., interned at libraries in South Pasadena and Pasadena, won an ALA Spectrum scholarship, is on the California Library Association Assembly, and has recently been appointed Editor for CLA's bulletin, California Libraries.

Now, before he gets that additional sheepskin in hand, he's trying for one more entry on his resume: ALA Council 2004-

I had never heard of a student running for ALA Council, so I wanted to find out what's making him run and why he's driven to make the rest of us slackers (i.e. me) look so bad. He graciously answered my questions via email:

Q: You're running for ALA Council before you graduate with an MLS from San Jose State University. Why not wait until you're "a librarian"?

A: For the same reasons I didn�t wait until I�d graduated to run for CLA Assembly [California Library Association], or become editor of California Libraries; because I believe that I can make a contribution and that I should do something for libraries and librarians, who have done so very much for me. Aside from that, I think someone has to raise important questions about the nature of publicly-funded libraries, especially in regard to establishing more stable funding, and in regard to privacy and control issues such as have been revealed in the aftermath of the USA �PATRIOT� act. Finally, I want to give a voice to the concerns of my colleagues�new graduates and those still in library school, who are facing a hard spell of waiting for available jobs. I�d like to see libraries �adopt� students and new grads�maintain contact, give something to keep them from losing faith or disappearing into some other line of work.

Q: What sort of resources and support does it take to be an ALA Councilor? Isn't it expensive and time-consuming, having to attend each Annual and Mid-Winter for 2 years?

A: I don�t know that it takes much support, but I�d gladly accept contributions in unmarked bills. I imagine and certainly hope it is time consuming, but I don�t see any difficulty in attending meetings, except that I have a tendency to doodle when things get dull. The real strain will be staying in hotels; generally the beds are so soft I have to use the floor, and I will miss my two terriers.

Q: What do you see as the future of ALA and how does that affect your decision to run?

A: I see ALA becoming more of a voice for librarians than it has been in the past. This has been the trend in many organizations faced with similar challenges, such as among teacher organizations in the seventies and eighties. ALA has begun to stress the significance and indeed, the necessity of the librarian in the information structure. It took the threat of the Internet, or at least the perception by certain segments of the public that the Internet made the librarian a disposable item, to make this occur, but no matter how it is a good thing. As for my choice, I would not be running if I didn�t feel I could come down hard on the side of better pay and increased control for librarians. After twenty years defending equal pay provisions and other federal and state workplace rights for workers, I have a pretty good idea of how the employment world turns and the ways in which the game is played. I see ALA putting together some sort of mechanism to assist librarians in seeking redress, and I�d be happy to take a role in that. Librarianship is a calling, but it is also a job. To get and keep good people we must make it worth a talented person�s while to work in this field, and I�ll do whatever I can to make that happen.

Q: What is your platform and do you have a target audience/constituency?

A: My platform, in a few words, is to increase support for those entering the field, make earnest, concrete attempts on the local level to raise pay and eliminate salary inequities, and to otherwise be of service. My target constituency is anybody in the library who cashes a paycheck, but especially the person who has to get another year out of the old Buick because there isn�t enough in the bank for a new one.

Q: What do you want to accomplish as a Councilor?

A: In concrete terms I�d like to create a unit of the organization whose function is to assist local librarian groups and individuals in determining what steps they can take to increase salaries and benefits, and also to better working conditions. I�d also like to see about creating a program whereby libraries could adopt students�give them work and encouragement along the way to a degree, rather like an apprenticeship, something the trade needs very badly. Of course I�d also work as a conduit for member concerns, which is perhaps the most significant of the roles of the job.

Q: There is a lot of emphasis on recruiting new librarians/library support staff in the professional literature, yet there's been something of a backlash on a few list-servs for new and up-and-coming librarians: lots of hiring freezes and threats of layoffs, low entry-level pay and the need to move to different sections of the country in order to get a profession position have made some people rather cynical towards recruitment and talk of shortages. What's your perspective and what can/should ALA do in this regard?

A: Nobody should be expected to be happy in this situation. We were recruited into the field by folks who told us that the profession was graying and retiring in record numbers; that libraries had an unprecedented number of vacancies and that we would have no difficulty finding work. The result of this was the largest enrollment in library school history, followed immediately by a collapse of the hiring market. Obviously, nobody lied to or misled us; circumstances have conspired to put all of us in this fix, and certainly the libraries would dearly love to hire. And they will hire, eventually. But people don�t eat in the long run, they eat every day, and the landlord isn�t interested in your potential. ALA can�t make the economy turn around, but they can help libraries maintain links with those of us who are waiting for the market to change, and they can push for libraries to use library students and the newly-graduated in other capacities in their libraries. We can�t all move to East Okobogee to apply for an opening, and the frustration is understandable.

You should perhaps see my article �Message to the Bridge,� in the latest edition of Public Libraries.

Q: One of your main platform planks is better/more equitable pay. ALA has created an Allied Professional Association, in part to promote pay equity initiatives in new and various ways. As an ALA Councilor, you would also be part of the governing board of ALA-APA. How much of your focus would be devoted to ALA-APA and how do you see that body becoming an effective force for change within the profession?

A: I would suggest that APA is a great first step, but the emphasis of the organization has to gradually shift from libraries to librarians. Communities, cities, universities and businesses create and support libraries. They only secondarily support librarians, and believe me, if push comes to shove, the building wins out over the staff. Somebody has to advocate for the librarian, and the larger unit that performs that task the better the result will be. Case in point is the American Medical Association. They have something to say about hospitals and health care, but they have a great deal to say about doctors�and the politicians listen. Overall you can count me in on APA and anything else working to the same purpose.

Q: Do you know if other library/information science students have been nominated for the ALA Council? If so, have any won?

A: Not that I am aware of. It�s a bit lonely out here.

Q: What should people who haven't regularly read your missives (on the CALIX-L and NEWLIB-L lists, as well as LISNews.com) know about you and why they should vote for you?

A: I am 47 years old, married with two terriers. I have about 120 rose bushes. I like to walk and hike and write. You should vote for me because I take my work seriously and I think that librarians are just about the best people on earth.

M. M.

December 10, 2003


See, I tried talking my group into creating a condom database for our info retrieval theory class, but noooooooo ... now I'm not prepared for this career (except for taking reference and collection development, but a condom database in my career portfolio would have really made my application stand out ...):

Library skills can lead to way-out jobs that nobody could expect. Megan Butcher used her MLS degree to become the manager of a store that sells sex toys. She says the reference interview is directly applicable, just relating to different information. She also has a collection management responsibility, including toy reviews and customer interests. She says, �I�m trying my best to make �librarian� and �sex� go together, one toy at a time.� (Butcher, 2001)

-- From "Librarians in the Information Age: Alternative Uses of MLS Degrees" by Darwin McGuire, LISCareer.com

Can we make a doll outta her?

December 09, 2003


Jessamyn West is the subject of a Bookslut interview. Near the end is the following exchange:

If you could require one continuing education program for all librarians what would it be?

Customer service. Including the reference interview, how to tell when a patron is done with you, computer troubleshooting, basic web design, marketing your library and just generally learning to be affable.

Whereupon I had two reactions.

The first was fundamentally selfish: 'Oh for goodness sake, not her, too ...' I get nervous when people talk about how librarians need to market libraries for a very basic and personal reason: I was in marketing. While I was in marketing, that's when I decided to become a librarian. Because 1) I hate marketing and 2) I'm no good at it.

To be fair, I was involved in marketing stocks and financial performance, not products or services ... the former is a good deal less glamourous than the latter. I was hideous at cold-calling, but I learned how to toss around the boilerplate to make an earnings release re-emphasize the company's new themes for performance/mission/market/blah. And I whipped up not-bad corporate brochures with nothing more than Word 6, Powerpoint slides and Windows 3.1.

But the parts of the job that I truly loved were helping people with their computers and helping people find information. That was only 5% of my job and it wasn't enough. And the rest, except for the desktop publishing part, bit the wax tadpole (a very euphemistic understatement). So, I thought about library school or tech support and I quit my job and eventually went to library school.

So now, I go to SLA events, and read about what other things about library education, and go to conferences that discuss the future of librarianship and I keep hearing the same thing: we must market our selves, our services, our libraries in order to be successful and useful and patronized. And I believe that's true. I also believe that if -- on top of being a good researcher, having a modicum of tech savvy, having an interest in helping others and a desire to work on becoming articulate -- in order to be a good librarian, I have to develop a skillset in an area where I not only have no interest, but that I have actually failed at ... that's when I start looking at LSAT schedules. While the above may be an ugly sentence, it is one without exaggeration. And I know I'm not the only library student who feels this way, even if there are increasing levels of interest in joint MLIS/MBA programs.

My second reaction was about the use of commercialized language and concepts to advance information commons and non-consumerist models of community resources. But I'm willing to cop to it being a rationalization of the first reaction.

December 08, 2003

A Library Memory

This is just a little exercise in nostalgia. Stems from a number of things:

1) It's my birthday ... I'm officially in my mid-30s (cue thundering minor key music over really loud tick tocks)

2) As I attempt to finish my studies and become "a professional", I find it interesting to look back and see if/how my relationship with libraries have evolved (although the incident below did not directly influence my decision to study library science)

3) I don't have a bunch of really good library stories. In fact, I have two. Here's one.

The librarian at the information desk of my one-time neighborhood library in South-Central Los Angeles was not only the stereotypical librarian, she was the archetype from which the stereotype had devolved. Very mannered and aloof, with very straight posture ... like teachers from the earlier part of 20th century. She had the hair in a bun, cat-eye glasses from the 60's on a chain and lots of beige and peach and rose cardigan and skirt sets. She was very disapproving. When I was a kid, she seemed to remember every fine I accumulated, and looked on with disapproval when she saw my pre-pubescent self creeping through the adult non-fiction stacks and checking out such material as The Sixties Report and The Autobiography of Lucky Luciano. When I was 14, she would not let me check out The Color Purple because I was not yet 16 and LAPL in its wisdom gave the book restricted access (or so I was told by her). I was convinced it was revenge.

I didn't think she liked me very much. Luckily, I loved books more than her approval, so I kept happily going to libraries, including that branch. A cute library assistant was only a secondary motivator.

In the very late 1980s, I managed to land a very nice, college student-friendly job at the Temporary Central Library, doing database searches for the new "electronic card catalog". Around the same time, the world of art and government grants had begun the Clash of Titans: the NEA Four had been called out and the work of Robert Mapplethorpe was being tarred as obscene on a number of fronts. I had never seen Mapplethorpe's work (outside of one self-portrait that was popular with alternative newspaper photo editors -- it involves a bull whip); I wanted to find out what all of the fuss was about.

LAPL had a couple of Mapplethorpe books, all in locked stacks. I filled out an ILL request at my little neighborhood library and waited to hear back. After a few weeks, during a conversation with my boss, Juan, I mentioned my ILL request and my curiosity regarding Mapplethorpe. A couple of days later, Juan had a present for me: a friend of his worked in the locked stacks of the Central Library and agreed to loan Juan the book for the afternoon.

Mapplethorpe's Black Book became the focal point for all of the DBM crew that afternoon. It was photos of various black men, a few of whom were Mapplethorpe's lovers. As a rather sheltered, somewhat prudish (but intensely curious) person, I found some of the photos quite ... startling. The much more worldly people among us were also ... startled ... by one photo in particular: a beautiful sepia-toned print of a man in a pinstripe suit. The photo was from mid-chest to mid-thigh and might have been rather pedesterian if it wasn't for the fact that the model's fly was open and his flaccid penis was completely outside of the fly. The size of the member and the audaciousness having the model otherwise COMPLETELY clothed left even the most jaded sexual adventurers among our group blushing from shock.

That said, no one seemed grossly offended. I perused to my contentment and gave the book back to my boss, satisfied that I had come to my own conclusions about Mapplethorpe's work.

3 weeks later, I received a notice in the mail that my ILL request had come through and the book was waiting for me at my local branch. My mother insisted on coming with me to the library, but I was able to shake her off once we entered the building. Waiting for me at the circulation/information desk was the librarian of my childhood, holding the Mapplethorpe book. She explained that I could not check the book out of the library but I could keep it until closing time.

She then began opening the book to random sections and looking at the photographs. 'It's so nice when young people take an interest in art,' I remember her saying. She flipped to another section. 'Not enough young
people these days do so ...' Another flip. Right to the most titillating photograph in the whole book, the one that made all of my co-workers blush and gape and stutter.

The librarian turned 5 different shades: at least 3 of them red and the rest white. She slammed the book shut, shoved it across the desk at me, turned and never said another word to me. Ever. I don't even think she could bring herself to look at me again. After fighting very hard and quite successfully at not laughing at this fit of pique, I found a quiet corner away from 1) children and 2) my mother, and breezed through the book again. I snuck it back to the circulation desk while the librarian was away ... I could only hold a straight face if I didn't have to face her again so soon. As it turned out, I needn't have worried.

Somehow, a spell was broken. I realized that no one had to approve the choices I made about what to read ... and that librarians come in all shapes, sizes, fashions and philosophies; just because someone looked like the perfect (or stereotypical) librarian didn't mean they were perfectly suited to the task (pun intended).

I like to tell people that my decision to pursue a library career came from watching "The Music Man" too much as an impressionable teenager, but I believe that my neighborhood librarian also played a key part. While I have no plans to become a public-service librarian, I would like to find her one day and dedicate my career to her.

December 04, 2003

More 'last mile' initiatives

Thanks to Daniel Theobald on the CALIX-L (California Libraries), I've learned there's an initiative to push for broadband infrastructure to every home in CA by 2010. The details of the initiative follow.

I'm afraid that right now, I'm far too skeptical about this, for the following reasons:

1) California is having trouble making sure that all the children in the state gets basic health coverage. I love my broadband, and in an ideal world, these two things wouldn't compete with each other. But in this world, they are, and unless the initiative depends completely on private support and gov grant money (and since this isn't for educational purposes, how much grant money would there be?) for this sort of thing, I don't know whether it will succeed.

2) Have I mentioned that I love broadband? Adore it. But does high-bandwidth internet service to every household qualify (yet) as the 21st century version of the Tennessee Valley Authority? As you can tell by the way I've framed the question, I have my doubts. I'm willing to be convinced, though, if you want to leave comments.

Gigabit Today
December 2003



1. Task Forces Develop Agendas for Building Gigabit Network
2. New Task Forces Being Formed

1. Municipal Fiber Networks Increase; Funding Challenges Persist
2. RBOCs Slow to Embrace Fiber All the Way to the Premise
3. Senate Amendment Increases RUS Broadband Funding
4. CDMA Schemes for Broadband Wireless Communications
5. Internet2 Land Speed Record Broken





We feel that not only is it [fiber] a good idea, it is the future of our business. We just don't see a future in plain old telephone services over a copper network.
--Tim McCallion, President, Pacific Region, Verizon
During Gigabit or Bust Initiative Roundtable Meeting, November 5-6, Sacramento, CA


The Gigabit or Bust Initiative leaders and its 13 task forces got down to business quickly at the November 5-6 Roundtable Meeting. More than 95 gigabit believers attended the Sacramento meeting, and they brought passionate energy to the work at hand.

Task forces spent the two days identifying the opportunities and obstacles to achieving one gigabit throughout California by 2010 and establishing action plans to achieve this goal.

This Gigabit Today issue is dedicated to introducing the task forces, their chairpersons and the individual goals the groups' identified during the Sacramento roundtable. We encourage you to investigate the task forces and join one (or more) that shares your interests and goals. For more information about each task force visit:

To view the video clips and slide presentations from the event visit:

John Jamison, Chair

Ubiquitous broadband connectivity is the next "Great Leap Forward" in the development of the Internet. We cannot enjoy the benefits of ubiquitous broadband until the network infrastructure is in place. The Broadband Technologies Task Force is the keystone of the Gigabit or Bust Initiative.

Join the Broadband Technologies Task Force and help determine the appropriate technologies that will allow one gigabit ubiquitous broadband by 2010. We are currently developing a list of suggested pilot projects.

Tad Marburg, Chair

Entertainment is California's largest export industry, and it is the second largest U.S. export industry. The Entertainment Task Force will bridge the chasm between education and the entertainment industry to find solutions for challenges such as intellectual property rights.

Join the Entertainment Task Force and participate in a collective effort to educate entertainment companies of the potential of one gigabit.

Victor Braud III, Chair

The Fiber Task Force is responsible for identifying the carriers, enterprises, governmental agencies, right of way owners, and other public and private entities that are interested in optical fiber infrastructure projects in California. We are seeking members who have the vision, pride, and commitment to build a network that will reach the state's residents and businesses by 2010.

Join the Fiber Task Force and help build the infrastructure that will deliver gigabit service throughout California.


Barbara O'Connor, Chair

The ICT Literacy Task Force is defining how to integrate technology training into academic and consumer content so that California will continue to be a technology leader. Nations from across the globe are defining literacy standards and California must follow their example. The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development has a Program for International Student Assessment that will test ICT literacy worldwide in 2006. Thirty-one countries will measure their workforce's ability to use technology in the context of math, science, social science and language.

Join the ICT Literacy Task Force and create a framework and standards for measuring ICT literacy in California.

Jack McConaghy, Chair

The IP Task Force is identifying the IP rights issues that arise when consumers can access content via a gigabit network. One of the main goals of the Task Force will be to identify the IP roadblocks that will hinder the deployment of ubiquitous gigabit broadband.

Join the IP Task Force and help solve one of the Gigabit or Bust Initiative's most challenging issues.


CENIC is a not-for-profit corporation serving the California Institute of Technology, California State University, Stanford University, University of California, University of Southern California, California Community Colleges and the statewide K-12 school system. CENIC's mission is to facilitate and coordinate the development, deployment and operation of a set of robust multi-tiered advanced network services for this research and education community.

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December 02, 2003

Walking the walk

First, a little background:

The essay that's just been accepted for publication (see earlier entry) is one of several on the same theme to be published in an ALA publication. The editor sent a group email to all of the authors, with the copyright assignment form attached.

Fellow essayist Samuel Trosow took issue with ALA's boilerplate (posted with his express permission):

"I am very surprised, and actually quite disturbed that at this late date, after all has been said about open access initiatives, authors' rights, and the over-reaching by commercial publishers, (much of this critique coming from ARL, ALA and other library associations), that an ALA publication is still demanding a
full assignment of exclusive copyright. In order to publish the articles in question, the publisher does not need the the full transfer of copyright, only specific permission to reproduce this article in the named journal (as well as the subsidiary rights to include article in other subseuqnet formats for the journal, electronic or otherwise).

"That ALA's copyright agreement is based on the same assumptions as contained in agreements from publishers such as Reed Elsivier (for example) is indeed quite amazing. I will make some changes to the agreement and FAX it back this afternoon. On a broader level, I would like the publication to review it's copyright agreement policy so it is in keeping with the best practices that open access advocates are demanding from other publishers."

ALA's basic copyright policy for its periodicals is here.

Mr. Trosow brings up very interesting points. I'm not well-versed in copyright clearances between authors and publishers, so I can't comment as to whether I think ALA's policy promotes fair copyright and the information commons. But what did yours truly, Fierce Warrior for the Public Domain, do? Signed the copyright form as fast as humanly possible and faxed it ASAP to the editor. Mostly because I'm hoping that my work will eventually gain a currency that it doesn't have now. No one's paying me for what I write (except for a $25 gift certificate to EBSCO for one paper); what is it worth in commercial markets or the information commons? In music biz terms, do I have to pay to play?

December 01, 2003


AIDS Awareness Ribbon

It's World AIDS Day. Being a wannabe librarian and not a wannabe artist, I'm providing links to resources and information than making the site black:

AIDS.org: Frequently Asked Questions
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
The AIDS Memorial Quilt
American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR)
The StopAIDS Project
HIV InSite (run by the UCSF School of Medicine)
NIH's Office of AIDS Research
AIDS Library of Philadelphia
AIDS Education Global Information System
AIDS History Project

Requiescat in pace, Prof. Jackson ...