Monday, December 26, 2005

What I did on my Christmas vacation

Christmas has come and gone. The last thing I bought on Saturday [drum roll please], was a new 40 gallon, gas-fired hot water heater. With the help of my son, we wrestled it into the car, brought it home, and lugged it to the basement. It replaces a hot water heater I installed about 17 years ago. Here is a photo of my handiwork.

Since I sweated connections on to the cold and hot water pipes the last time, it took only about an hour and a half to take out the old heater and put in the new one (except for the vent to the chimney). Then I went and bought new vent pipe. It took more than I thought to assemble the 2 foot section. (my previous experience had been with 4 inch or larger vent pipe, and clearly that makes a difference). However, by just after lunch, we had hot water again. The old water heater has gone to the dump…oh, excuse me, transfer station. Next Monday, we replace the attic stairs. Stay tuned. This is all possible because son #2, home from college, wants stuff to do! His help has been invaluable.

Yes, the furnace behind the water heater is on the list. However, that is not a job I think I want to tackle on my own. For that I plan to hire help. We'll try to limp through this heating season, although the state's incentive of no sales tax between 11/25 and 4/25 may push us over the edge. The water heater had no sales tax, and 6% of $400+ is money. For the furnace it would be more!

Merry Christmas

Pictured here is my favorite Christmas present. It was bought as a “gag” gift, but I love it. “So, why a buffalo?” I hear you say. Well, as a scout leader, I have taken a training course called Wood Badge. When you take Wood Badge you are assigned to a patrol named for an animal. In the United States, the patrols (in the order that we sing/march in to events) always appear in the following order: Beaver, Bobwhite, Eagle, Fox, Owl, Bear, Buffalo, Antelope, and anything else. (I know some who are members of the Wolf patrol.) I “used to be a Buffalo, (as the song says). Therefore, I have a small collection of buffalo items. This will be added. I am on staff for the next Wood Badge course, and will have lots of items to loan to the Buffalo Patrol.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tumult in Massachusetts over Mao's "Little Red Book"

What a fire storm.

I first wish that the newspaper reporters (and others) would remember to cite the full title of the law correctly. It is USA PATRIOT Act. All those capital letters are there for a reason, it is an acronym. Here is what it stands for: Unoting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.

I'll not post the links to the original story, which is being questioned in some circles. The statement from UMass/Dartmouth is interesting. I hope that they stand by their staff.

The Library Director there is Ann Montgomery Smith, former Library Director of the New Britain Public Library, and Executive Director of the short-lived Partnership of Connecticut Libraries. I first saw the statement after she sent it to a law librarian's list. The newspaper report noted above includes the full text also.

The story in the paper ABOUT their first story is fascinating, as well. It shows how paranoid we have all become. And who would not be paranoid with the recent revelations about wiretapping and surveillance without judicial approval?

Thanks to Jessamyn West for the links from today's issue of SouthCoast which seems to be the online version of New Bedford's Standard-Times (daily newspaper).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More on Library 2.0

As I was cleaning off my desk this morning, I found one more loose piece about Library 2.0 which expresses some of my concerns. It was at Information Wants to Be Free by Meredith Farkas, the Distance Learning Librarian at Norwich University.

Meredith asks all the right questions...the questions which trouble me. She starts with the premise which seems to be ignored in some of the other pieces on Library 2.0, "Libraries around the world are in such different places--in terms of their technology, their population, and the needs of their population."

I'm open to suggestions for more to read about Library 2.0, but at the moment, I still think that all that Library 2.0 is about is customer service. Library 2.0 simply focuses on the technology end of customer service without any discussion of the other aspects of library work.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Library 2.0 -- Does it disenfranchise those who need us most?

I collected together several articles about Library 2.0.

The original article by Ken Chad and Paul Miller which started it all

Jessamyn West's thoughtful response

Michael Stephens' piece on ALA Techsource

There is much about the philosophy behind the discussion with which I agree. At the same time, I sit here as the City Librarian in a community which has computers in only slightly more than half of the households. So many of the technology solutions included in the discussions of Library 2.0 completely disenfranchise those who are on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.

So I wrestle with this.

Yes it is important that the Library be everywhere (#1 on the Chad/Miller list), and we need to remove barriers to access (#2). But isn't lack of technology a barrier to access if all the data/information or service is available only electronically (or even with a priority to electronic users)? Participation of users (#3) has been a fundamental part of the creation of public library service. Most public libraries have either a governing board of users, or an advisory board. When I think about the Library in comparison to other units of government, we certainly have been flexible and led the way(#4). Do we get the technological best? Not always. We do not have the money (resources). However, most libraries I know (no matter what type) do a spectacular job of getting incredible value for the resources we expend.

Part of what I worry about most are some of the issues which Michael Stephens raises including his point: "the library is human." I see a rush by some library administrators to self-check. That allows libraries to re-deploy staff. Does it make for a better service to the library user? I'm not so sure. The reason why many of the public use branch libraries (which inevitably have more limited resources than the "main" libraries) is because of the personal service which a branch (especially a small branch) offers to the regulars.

I still need to read more and think more.

Do I think we should abandon the technology? No! And I firmly believe that articles of this type are critical to improving service. They get us to begin to think outside the box. But at the same time, some of the thinkers (while providing an important service) forget about the real-world issues which so many library administrators face.