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October 21, 2005


It's official: ALA2006 will be in New Orleans:


(CHICAGO) The following statement has been issued by American Library Association (ALA) President Michael Gorman:

"I am pleased to announce that we are planning to hold our 2006 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.

"As you know, we have been following the situation in Louisiana very closely over the last two months, and have been receiving almost daily reports from local authorities on the damage and reconstruction efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Last week, a delegation from ALA traveled to New Orleans to assess the situation. The delegation found that downtown, the French Quarter, and the Garden District had largely escaped flooding, and that essential services have been fully restored in those areas. They found the conference center and conference hotels bustling with hundreds of workman repairing broken windows, installing new drywall and laying new carpeting. Restaurants are reopening on a daily basis, and plans are already underway for Mardi Gras in February.

"Our primary concern, of course, must always be the health and safety of our members. Both the Louisiana Department of Public Health and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency have found no cause for concern on the part of visitors to New Orleans. By law, all of the ALA conference hotels have conducted or will soon be conducting EPA air quality audits and all restaurants must meet strict inspection requirements prior to reopening. While much publicized, health advisories regarding mold have directed to those re-entering flooded houses.

"We realize that many sections of the city, and particularly the Ninth Ward, have suffered tragic damage, and that many New Orleans residents have lost their homes forever. If we truly care about the residents of New Orleans, however, the best thing that the association and its members can do is to go to New Orleans and lead the reconstruction by example. Our conference will help to provide the jobs and tax revenues needed if residents are to reestablish their lives and for the city to fully restore services, including library services. We speak often of how libraries build communities, and we now have chance to show the country and world that librarians build communities, too.

"I hope that you will join me in New Orleans. I am certain that we will have an extraordinarily productive and enjoyable conference, as we enjoy the welcome and celebrate the rebirth of a city we all love.
"More information on the reconstruction in New Orleans, as well as sources for further information on the health and safety issues discussed above, will follow."

I'll be pretty ambivalent for the obvious reasons for a while ...

October 20, 2005

Grab bag

Lots of things going on ...

1) I'm going to IL next week. I'm making no promises to blog or even pay 100% attention, but it should be pretty cool. Plus, you know ... Monterey. Barking seals. Otters. All of the good.

2) Google has another lawsuit on its hands over the library portion of the Google Print project.

Mrs. Schroeder noted that while “Google Print Library could help many authors get more exposure and maybe even sell more books, authors and publishers should not be asked to waive their long-held rights so that Google can profit from this venture.”

3) A couple of European policy wonks muse on a world without copyright [caveat lector - I think it's an interesting article but I don't necessarily subscribe to any and everything in the article; I just thought it would be nice to share]:

What might an alternative idea of copyright look like? To arrive at that alternative, we first have to acknowledge that artists are entrepreneurs. They take the initiative to craft a given work and offer it to a market. Others can also take that initiative, for example a producer or patron who in turn employs artists. All of these artistic initiators have one thing in common: They take entrepreneurial risks.

What copyrights do is precisely to limit those risks. The cultural entrepreneur receives the right to erect a protective barrier around his or her work, notably a monopoly to exploit the work for a seemingly endless period of time. That protection also covers anything that resembles the work in one way or the other. That is bizarre.

We must keep in mind, of course, that every artistic work - whether it is a soap opera, a composition by Luciano Berio, or a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger - derives the better part of its substance from the work of others, from the public domain. Originality is a relative concept; in no other culture around the globe, except for the contemporary Western one, can a person call himself the owner of a melody, an image, a word. It is therefore an exaggeration to gratuitously allow such work the far-reaching protections, ownership title and risk-exclusion that copyright has to offer.

4) Things to make you go "awwwwww ...": online erotic magazine Nerve [perhaps not safe for work, depending on the intensity of the pr0n filter] has named cataloguer extraordinaire Sanford Berman as its Crush of the Week:

Just last month, the bearded, bespectacled seventy-two year old wrote the Library of Congress to "warmly suggest" the creation of a new subject heading close to our hearts: "anal fisting." And for that, he is our crush of the week.

That last entry won't do me any favours in fighting off the porn spam, but Sandy is worth it ...

October 12, 2005

The colors, the colors ...

I'm usually not a visual person (as you can tell from the awesome design of this blog). And I'm not a heavy user of Google News.

But this visual map of Google News stories is so mondo peachy keen ... it's already in my bookmark toolbar.

Yes, I know I'm late to the party: it's been BoingBoinged and /.ed already. So, does anyone have any info/advice about this tool? Have you used this professionally? Will the designers/coders accept dark chocolate as offerings?

October 06, 2005

Things I Learned at the LITA Forum

(Caveat lector: I chose not to blog any sessions at LITA, mostly because I knew I couldn't summon the level of concentration needed to do a good con-grunt. There are lots of good entries on the LITA Forum at the LITA blog, if you want the full flavor of the conference.)

Opening Session: Googlezon VI: Return of the Librarian
I'll provide a quote from the beginning of Roy Tennant's talk that may have some context later on: "Like some sort of grade B movie, we've stood idly by while Googlezon has kidnapped our patrons and ravaged our collection and building budgets. Are we going to let them get away with it? Of course not! Come hear about how librarians can still vanquish Googlezon and win back our rightful place as the guardians of the world's knowledge and all that is good."

Presidential End-of-Term Web Harvesting: Apparently, whitehouse.gov has a robots.txt file approximately 2400 lines long. Go see for yourself. Also, Heritrix rocks, but I sorta knew that already.

Predominant thought of the day: Where is Walt?

Sponsor showcase: Didn't talk to any of the sponsors. I'm not employed as a library worker and just didn't have anything to say. Did I imagine things, or did Sirsi/Dynix has 2 tables?

On the way out (Day 1): As I signed up for the blogger cocktail hour, someone scanning the Dine Around board saw the sheet and asked, so what's the dealio with blogs anyway? (note, no quotes ... the question was asked much more professionally) We talked a bit about blogging and RSS feeds. It turns out that the person works for a company specializes in audio/video conversion & preservation. He said that their business has gone largely from preservation in various physical formats (as an end goal or primary motivator for customers) to digitization. Huh.

Keynote session - danah boyd: At the very least, this session is proof that even if you wear a fuzzy hat that looks like an accessory from a cosplay convention, it doesn't mean that librarians won't take you seriously. Is very disturbed by (maybe even contemptuous of) librarians' traditional gatekeeper rols and was upset by Roy Tennant's 'Google-bashing' keynote. Unfortunately, I had to leave (law school stuff) before she started talking about blogging and other new information channels. I'm really sorry I missed this:

It wasn't so long ago that librarians were seen as pirates. How dare you let people take books for free? And make copies!?!? You are all a bunch of thieves!


We all run by different rules but we all have the same goals in mind. My only request is that you don your eye-patch, practice your arrrr's and help protect the distribution of information in all its forms.

And to think that I already own a Jolly Roger. Yes, I've been thinking about the librarian/pirate dichotomy for a while now. Maybe I should get a furry hat AND an eyepatch ...

Gorman keynote: I MISSED GORMAN! ARRGGGHHH! (Darned law school stuff). The few people I asked about his speech didn't really have a lot to say -- no flying chairs, no wild, intemperate statements or rebuttals during the Q&A.

Lunch: Tasty, but I've seen more vegetarian options at a BBQ shack. The bread, the mushroom soup and the corn had no meat; everything else did, including both salads (Thai Beef & shrimp Louie) and both pastas (Italian sausage lasagna & farfelle with chicken). Strange.
I talked with danah boyd after lunch. Since she started her keynote with acknowledging that she was scarred by librarians as a youth, I told her my Mapplethorpe story. Unfortunately, danah seems to be pretty library-phobic: getting through an undergrad degree with only a couple of social visits to the library is actually feasible, if disappointing; but being a doctoral student at one of the best research institutions in the country and having never gone to any of the main libraries is ... well, shocking. More strange.

The obligatory Google session (TOGS): Very well-attended. Lots of questions. I asked one, of the UMich librarian on the panel: would the library use the scans provided by Google of federal government documents to facilitate unlimited access to the Michigan public as part of its depository program. She (and it was a she!) said: YES! How cool is that ... I wasn't expecting it. Huzzah. One of the audience members just could not believe that Google doesn't have major, proprietary plans to squeeze whatever potential profits can be made from of indexing of the digitized books in the Google Print program.

Post-TOGS: a. I found a very pretty, semi-expensive PDA (Palm Tungsten C, to be exact). I turned it in. I'd really like a really pretty, semi-expensive PDA at some point. Note to self: get crackin' on those scholarship apps.
b. I sorta recognized the Google Rep (Ben Burrell), but I couldn't place him and I knew he wasn't the rep at the big LITA panel in Chicago with Google & the G5. I left the room, but he ran after me! He recognized me and knew exactly where we'd met before: in the exhibit hall in Chicago ... we bought rolling luggage from the same vendor and he remembered that I was at the Internet Archive. That was sssoooooo sweet of him.

Policy Geekery (OITP Update): Rick Weingarten and Carrie Lowe were great. Both are really concerned about CALEA. And it appears that E-Rate is steadily losing support in Congress. I asked Carrie if this could be connected to perceptions that the digital divide is either solved or as good as it could possibly get. She said that she thought that such perceptions were a factor.

Blogger cocktail hour: I missed it completely. But I took home lots of leftover appetizers from the SJSU SLIS reception.

Poster session: I usually don't go to poster sessions. But this was a no-conflict session and in the main portion of the conference area, so I wandered. The only person I talked with in any depth was Diane Ward, presenting on RFID and libraries: I asked about labor concerns over RFID and issues over how RFID can/should be used with media (CD & DVD disks, in particular). Diane believes that RFID should free up library shelvers and other circulation staff to become better trained in higher-level and more interesting library tasks. And, there is a vendor, , that specializes in RFID tags that can be applied directly to CDs, DVDs and other media.

Closing session: David Levy - Information and the Quality of Life: It was a thoughtful, soothing, measured talk. Given how the talk was about the pressures and costs of information overload, trying to furiously take notes on it seemed to be antithetical to the point. However, I will always remember this talk, and not just because I taped it for personal use: it was the first time I've heard a Carlin word from an ALA speaker at the dias. In response to one of the questions, he mentioned that he had heard that a school district (perhaps in Tacoma, WA) was eliminating recess because there was just no time, and the superintendent justified it as a way to prepare kids for their future roles in the global economy. As most of the audience murmured disquietingly, Mr. Levy added his own commentary: 'If this is true, then we are f*****' (because this is a PG-13 blog). Many gasped, succumbed to nervous laughter and then applauded his forthrightness.

Overall: I walked in on Friday wondering why I had paid so much out of my own pocket for an IT conference for librarians, given that I'm not a systems librarian, a digital librarian, or, any type of librarian for the foreseeable future. I walked out Sunday musing over all of the things I'd learned and grateful for all of the encounters I experienced. It was a good conference and it made me happy to be a LITA member.

The return of Kepler's

I was pretty heartbroken over the closing of Kepler's Bookstore in Menlo Park. But happy days are here again: it's re-opening! This Saturday, Oct. 8th, at 11 am.

From Clark Kepler, via the Save Kepler's website:

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all of you who have loved and supported Kepler's this past half century and who have come forward to help make Kepler's renaissance possible. Your outpouring of support has been astounding and humbling. I have always known that you appreciated and valued our service, but I could never have known how truly and profoundly held your feelings were. We are blessed to serve such a mindful and responsive community. With your sustained patronage, Kepler's will be there with you, and for you, providing books and writers with varied ideas and provocative opinions for another fifty years.

October 02, 2005

Yahoo! goes into digitization biz (with a little help from the Internet Archive and UC)

It's official:

An unusual alliance of corporations, nonprofit groups and universities plans to announce today an ambitious plan to digitize hundreds of thousands of books over the next several years and put them on the Internet, with the full text accessible to anyone.

The effort is being led by Yahoo, which appears to be taking direct aim at a similar project announced by its archrival, Google, whose own program to create searchable digital copies of entire collections at leading research libraries has run into a series of challenges since it was announced nine months ago.

The new project, called the Open Content Alliance, has the wide-ranging goal of digitizing historical works of fiction along with specialized technical papers. In addition to Yahoo, its members include the Internet Archive, the University of California, and the University of Toronto, as well as the National Archive in England and others.

I'm admittedly biased, but I think this is big. And cool. Some of the features (from the Open Content Alliance's FAQ):

  • [M]aterial will be free to read, and in most cases, available for saving or printing using formats such as PDF
  • Metadata for all content in the OCA will be freely exposed to the public through formats such as the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) and RSS
  • OCA welcomes all efforts to create and offer tools (including finding aids, catalogs, and indexes) that will enhance the usability of the materials
  • All material will be in the public domain or with the express permission of the rights holder
  • Current content collections include material from: European Archive; Internet Archive; National Archives (UK); O'Reilly Media; Prelinger Archives; University of California; and University of Toronto

It is not as ambitious as the Google Print project, but it has the potential to be a very useful supplement, as well as a way to promote open standards and collaboration.

In other words: Woo hoo!!