Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Random notes - Email server crash not bad; family stuff

Well, the good news is that the email server crash was not too bad. The technician from the company which holds our service contract brought in a replacement, and by noon, email had returned to all Library staff. Of course, we had to call to tell them!. The Proofpoint server, which screens our email for spam, captured all the messages (as best I can tell).

I'm getting ready for the adventure of a lifetime. On Friday morning (in the wee, dark hours) I will be departing for the National Jamboree. This is a quadrennial event for Boys Scouts, and I will be serving as the Scoutmaster for a troop of 36 boys (with three Assistant Scoutmasters). I guess the pressure is beginning to get to me. I keep double checking my lists, and looking at the pile of clothes to pack and bring. Both of my sons have attended this event in the past, and my younger son is attending -- this time as an Assistant Scoutmaster for another troop. I am sure it will be fun, once we are on the road. Until then, it is emails and phone calls from stressed parents and scouts.

Actually, that was what I thought about during most of my driving today. I went to camp (Camp Sequassen in Winsted CT) for a couple of scout-related meetings. The bonus was being able to see both my younger son and my daughter who are on staff. I ate dinner in the dining hall. That is always interesting. It was wonderful to see the scouts and other staff and their interaction with my kids (can a 21 year old, and a 19 year old still be kids?). As a parent, I often wondered if we were doing the right thing and the best thing. I guess that I am getting satisfied that we did a pretty good job. That is gratifying!

So probably no more than one post before Jambo. Then there will most likely be an hiatus of almost two weeks while I am in Virginia. I am still fussing over whether to bring the laptop or not. I hear that there will be some wireless and some spots for power, so right now, I am leaning towards it. Time will tell. If the wireless is as promised, and I can get some digital photos, watch out!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Email server crash

Well, our still under warranty server for email has died. My tech person said that it has been going all week, coming up, crashing, and then re-setting itself. It is stressing me incredibly to come in to work and not have the new messages.

Our vendor arrived while I was in Tech Services. He had a replacement server to hold us over while we get the bad parts in the mail server replaced.

Such is life.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Thirty years ago

Where were you thirty years ago? I know exactly where I was.

July 15, 1975 was the day my father died. He was 48. I was taking the "Foundations of Librarianship" course, my first course, at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. The course was taught by a school librarian from Urbana (whose name is lost in the mists of my mind), library historian Michael Harris, and the head of cataloging at the British National Bibliography, Michael Gorman. Yes, that Michael Gorman. All three were very supportive as I made the arrangements to return home for several days for the funeral. My father's death was not unexpected. It was the end of a year-long struggle with cancer. But it is still a traumatic event. There have been many times of the past 30 years when I wished I could have had his advice, or shared a moment with him. [My mother is still alive and in good health. She turns 80 in the fall.]

It was also the day the Donald Hornig announced his resignation as the President of Brown University. He is the President who signed my diploma. He may have been a good chemist, and maybe even a good teacher. My assessment (then and now) is that he was not a particularly good administrator. He was a University President at a very difficult time, he became President in 1970 just after the campus unrest and Kent State shootings. While he presided over the establishment of Brown's Medical School, he also was president for the first strike of Brown University staff -- the support staff in the libraries. I served as a representative to the University Library Committee. I vividly remember one meeting which he attended to answer questions. He looked ill, and was extremely nervous. I actually felt sorry for him, he seemed so out of place.

So.....a little history for today's date.

Monday, July 11, 2005

"States' Rights" and ALA Council

First, let me be clear that this is my personal opinion. Not that of the ALA Executive Board, or even of any group which I may (or may not) have represented in the past. In ALA, I spent some seven years as a Chapter Councilor, and find the "attack" on Chapter Councilors to be distressing.

The ALA Council list [if you are not registered or logged in, go here first] has been full of discussion about two of the resolutions passed at Annual. In both cases the many of the Chapter Councilors spoke against the resolutions which others on Council viewed as important.

The first was the Resolution on Threats to Library Materials Related to Sex, Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation drafted by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table Councilor Carolyn Caywood. In its first, draft it had language to send the text of the resolution to specific states. That was quickly removed. However some of the language which remained could be interpreted as gently chastising the chapters for not doing enough to guard intellectual freedom including access to certain materials.

I am writing this in several sittings, and portions of this may yet show up in a post to the Council list (once I see how they look on the page).

In the discussion of gay literature, not one of the Councilors who spoke talked about the content of the resolution (which is explicitly covered by ALA Policy 53.1.15). All talked about the practical, political implications of making the statement. I believe that the folks who were aggressively pushing the resolution passionately believe in the rightness of their cause. However, I think they underestimate the public perception of ALA, and the usefulness of this statement. For me it is a question of tactics. I want to win the war, not just win the current battle.

Early in the conference, a colleague whom I love and respect, and who served with me early in my Council career, came up to me. She and I have sparred on other issues, and sometimes sparred on the tactics as opposed to the content. However, we treat each other with respect when we disagree. She said to me: "Michael, you have to stop this resolution!" (At that time, specific states were named.) She went on, "Do you know what this would do in my state? This would be more ammunition for those who want to control the information in libraries. Furthermore, at a meeting earlier today, another colleague said 'I don't need the Great Satan ALA to come into my state and tell us what to do!'" [And yes, she said it with the vehemence of italics and capitals!] She went on further, "Do you know how much it pains me to hear my Association, for which I have worked in various ways for over 3 decades, to be referred to as the Great Satan ALA?" In some senses it was a rhetorical question. However, it serves to illustrate the depth of feeling.

I guess, I am thinking that this resolution could become a kind of Pyrrhic victory. Yes, ALA Council passed it. How many legislators care? How many reactionary legislators will use this as further ammunition in their battle to "protect the public?" My concern, and it has taken me a couple of weeks to frame it, is that while ALA Council feels better for having restating an existing policy, the publicity surrounding this will give further ammunition to legislators who will continue to paint all of ALA with a liberal bias a la Dr. Laura.

It was unfortunate that a couple of Councilors took the phrase "States' Rights" and used the imperfect analogy of the civil rights movement to sway many Councilors to vote for the resolution. The issue of gay literature was not about the need for libraries to have the literature and provide access to it. As I see it, the discussion was one of political tactics and statements. Those pushing the resolution insisted on focusing on the access to the literature, while those opposing it, focused on the political results of the tactics.

Who is right? I don't know. Does it really matter who is right? What matters is whether libraries can continue to serve the information needs of all our users. This is especially true for the needs of questioning teens who often feel repressed at home and school.

What scares me about the dialog is the direction it has taken. Jim Casey said "However, we have learned during the past four years that there is no moderation among the intollerant and little point in seeking compromise with those who look upon those on the other side of the 'culture wars' to be 'proponents of evil.'" Should we give them more ammunition.

Interestingly the discussion on the second resolution is becoming blurred with the one above, that resolution came from the Membership Meeting: Resolution to Decrease Division Dues for Retired Members. It is an issue where the ALA Membership Meeting (with a quorum of 75, and only 65 voting) sent an issue to ALA Council to deal with.

I voted against both of these. The first because I believe that its passage will delay the efforts to achieve the goals set out in ALA Policy (which were never subject to repeal), and the second because division dues are set by each division's rules. It is up to the division. A new Councilor (Heather McClure) raised an interesting point: if costs continue to rise, and you are giving a discount to the large number of retiring "baby boomer" aged librarians, who is left to bear the burden? The answer of course is the Next Gen Librarians -- who we have not successfully captured in the Association. I am worried about this one!

7/14/2005: I updates with a link from the OIF for the resolution on library materials. Jessamyn's comment has a link to a site which also has it.
Notice: This entry will be revised to include links to the exact language of the resolutions, once I find those links!

It's Public

Well, I guess it is now official. In her web log, Rochelle noted this humble offering. It is in large part thanks to Rochelle, that I did this. (There are other of my colleagues whose web logs I have been sporadically reading including Karen Schneider, Jessamyn West, and Walt Crawford. Reading them helped me to decide to create my own.)

This weekend was primarily related to fatherly and scouting activities. In two weeks I'll be at the 2005 National Jamboree at Fort A.P.Hill in Virginia. (The web site even has a countdown clock.) Saturday my troop (Troop 437, Nathan Hale) was doing a dry run of assembling our gateway. Here is a photo. I love the fact that it has a book. It was designed by several fathers, without my input. Note that the group is not particularly tall (or old). It is a good group (and there are a number of scouts missing from this photo.) We repeat this one more time before leaving for Virginia on July 22.

Note, that means that there will be a brief hiatus of 13 or so days while I am more or less incommunicado.

I promise the next post will be library related and cover the current Council discussion on Chapter Councilors and at least two of the resolutions discussed this past conference.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Home Work

This is my first post from home, to test my dial-up connection. Moments from now, I head to pick up the two kids from camp (where they are working), on the way I will begin shopping for a new furnace for the house. I have done the math to calcualte the size of the house (about 1100 square feet), and am slightly scared about this. But the old furnace was installed in 1969, did not work well last winter, and the water heater has a leak, so it is time.

Once the kids are here, no time at the computer for me!

Happy weekend

Friday, July 08, 2005

Fourth Literacy

The nice folks at "It's all good" alerted me to this move by ETS. It is called Fourth Literacy. Librarians have been talking about this for years. What is scary is the stats which the ETS folks cite about web usage. It shows that the Digital Divide is still around [Scroll down the page to the indents....someday I'll be good enough to paste a more exact link]. Based on the public computer usage here, it is true!

London and more

When I drive, I think. That can be good and bad. There have been times when I have been driving a familiar route, and gotten to a point where I don't remember driving the previous couple minutes.

Last night I was driving to a meeting and got thinking about the days events in London. First, ALA Exec Board members have heard from our President (Michael Gorman) that he is safe in London. He is there at the CLIP meeting representing ALA. That was good news.

The events there had me first thinking about the four days I spent at the Rotary International Convention in Chicago just ahead of ALA. London is a diverse community with folks from all over the globe, not unlike the Rotary Convention which had folks from 162 countries around the world. Many dressed in the clothes native to their countries so there were folks from Africa in colorful dresses and shirts (many with a colorful print which included the Rotary wheel), from various Asian countries, and a bunch of Scotsmen in kilts.

It got me to thinking about who was likely to be on the subways and buses of London: Britishers on their way to work; immigrants from the former British colonies in Africa and Asia; tourists from the Continent and the U.S.; in other words, it looked just like the crowds in McCormick Place from June 18 - 22.

Why do people do the horrible things like setting off bombs. The backlash against the people or groups responsible is not going to help the presumed cause.

I was driving by the Hemlock and Aspetuck Resevoirs. They are the source of drinking water for the greater Bridgeport area, and are owned by the Aquarion Company (founded originally by P.T. Barnum). It is a beautiful drive along the shore, and I got to thinking about human nature.

Over the years I have noticed that people who are truly happy, are accepting of others they way they are. Happy people don't care about the color of your skin, the religion you practice/don't practice, who you love. They accept each individual. It is the people who are unhappy who seem to be driven to have everyone be like them. They want everyone else in the world to think and act they way that they think and act. I have to admit....I try to be like those who are happy.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Driving, Weather, and "ALA Post-Partum Blues"

Monday, I headed out to visit one of the branches. To get there I usually get on I-95 and go a couple of exits before heading down to the streets. When I did that, I suddenly realized that I had not driven on a limited access highway in over two weeks! It was almost un-nerving.

For those not familiar with I-95 in Bridgeport, it is an overcrowded, very high traffic highway which has been undergoing re-construction through Bridgeport since 1998! Someday it will be done, I hope. For this project they are widening the shoulders, installing new dividers and re-building every bridge. Of course, every bridge means most of the road through the city. As part of my drive to work in the morning, I am under parts of it as it goes over the harbor, train station, and stays above ground for almost a mile. It is quite a project.

Yesterday evening, I left the office to go to a meeting at a different branch. It was cloudy, gray, and humid. (Actually a little bit of a relief from the unrelenting sun I had during my two weeks in Chicago.) When I got to the branch (in the north part of the city), the sun was shining (and I regretted that my sunglasses were in the back of the car). Leaving the meeting, the sun was still shining, but the clouds to the east were ominous. They stayed that way. After a quick dinner I headed out to some errands, driving further east as the clouds glowered even more threateningly. Finally at about 9, it started to mist. Unfortunately that is all we got, and while it is cooler today, it is still humid.

I have had several emails from ALA friends, and think that we are all in the "ALA Post-Partum Blues." For many of us, we get to spend some concentrated time together working on important issues, thinking thoughts about the big picture and enjoying working hard on the process. We get to vote and make decisions. Now we are back home. For me, that means the every day realities of things like building problems, staff issues, and even a less-structured schedule. While we email back and forth between conferences, that personal contact is really important. I am looking forward to seeing how ALA's community software works. I am very much in favor of having technology help us to do our work, but this "blues" I am feeling are clearly related to a sense of missing the personal interaction.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

First Posting

Welcome. We are half a decade into the 21st Century, and it is about time for me to create a blog. We'll see how well this goes. At least this starts as a free service (therefore there is no cost, a scout is thrifty after all).