Friday, January 29, 2010

Tax Form Season

From a post on PUBLIB, I picked up this blog posting in Closed Stacks (a group blog and this post in unsigned).

First of all, the title is great! Tax Season: Who Needs It?

The leading paragraph drives home a critical and growing issue: government agencies unilaterally deciding to end provision of paper forms without considering the impact on either the end user or the library.
In an increasingly paperless world, it seems as though people have decided tax forms, along with birth certificates, death certificates, and wills, are better off in paper form. Unfortunately, the government does not share the same sentiment. For the past few years, they have cut the amount of forms and information they send to libraries, and tell us, “It’s all on our website!”.
The library I currently work in serves all state agency employees, supports the state's public libraries, as well as any one who calls, contacts us, or walks in.

We have a huge collection of tax forms. We are seeing large numbers of people also come in for state tax forms. State forms are being made available in paper, almost exclusively, through public libraries.

In Louisiana only 42.9% of households have Internet access, compared to 50.8% at the national level. Where do various government and business entities think that the unconnected are going to get the forms, or submit the data asked for (e.g. job applications)? They are going to come to the public library.

January links - part 2

LibLime purchase what does it mean? Go to Hellman has an interesting take.

EBSCO exclusive contract comments the great Open Access advocate Dorothea Salvo has a great set of thoughts about the implications of the EBSCO contract

Getting older? An interesting post

A great post on Twitter and ALA is Everything I Needed to Know about Twitter I Learned at Midwinter on the YALSA blog

Heidi Blanton has an interesting post on managing conference information.

The Learning Commons is one of the hot topics in academia. I have a close personal friend who "coordinates" the Learning Commons for a Louisiana private university, so I hear a lot about it. Kim Leeder has an early January post on In the Library with the Lead Pipe (a great blog title, I think) with a very broad vision of what LC is all about. Read it here.

The New York Times is back-sliding! In the beginning of the web, their web site was free. Then they went to a pay site. Folks stopped reading it, and did not pay, so they went free. Now, they are going back to pay or at least "partial pay." Ars Technica has a good overview.

Facebook's privacy changes caught attention. Here is some of what I picked up:
Violating contract with users
Facebook developer says privacy is over
And then a comment about why the new policy is wrong

What the Internet and filters can do. A respected Canadian magazine has to change its name. Here is the story.

Will Manley is blogging at a new location. Here is his new blog. Even though we worked in Arizona at the same time, I never met him until he spoke at the Connecticut Library Association back in the late 80s or early 90s.

One of my nieces is working at the Olympics as part of an internship. She is blogging, and it should be interesting to read her experiences.

Agnostic, Maybe [Andy, in New Jersey]has a couple of interesting posts, the first is on the future of libraries, and the second is a reaction to another author's post called "Nothing is the future."

Monday, January 25, 2010

ALA 101 Summary

I thought that I had done this before, but my search does not find it.

So, and because I want to share with the NMRT folks, here it is:

It appears in eight parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview
  3. Divisions
  4. Round Tables
  5. Offices
  6. Committees
  7. Buildings and Finances
  8. Overall ALA Structure and Governance
Enjoy! While they are almost 4 years old (yikes!) they are almost all still true! CLENE (a round table) has changed its name to LEARN. I would note that there is some good stuff in the comments.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Library Rockstars" and the "Great/Radical Middle"

Walt Crawford does the wonderful Cites and Insights on a regular basis (monthly with occasional special additional issues).

Among the things I appreciate about Cites and Insights is that Walt actually cares about how it looks on the page. This past year he changed typefaces, and in various places there were discussions about that. I found when I started a job which including newsletter production, that I care about how things look on a page. The Adobe PDF format is great for that, because the creator gets to really determine how it will look, and the user can't change it.

Before ALA Midwinter 2010, Walt produced a special issue ("Cites ON a Plane 2010"). I am sad that he will be taking it down, now that Midwinter is over, but do understand why. After all, it is a collection of items which have previously appeared in Cites and Insights. However, either I missed some of the issues (and I generally print out each issue and share it with colleagues), or I am now reading and reacting to them through a different lens. One of my insights in this compilation is how true Walt is to his word when he calls himself (in Walt at Random) "The library voice of the radical middle."

The "rockstar" article is from the June 2008 issue (pp. 13 - 20) [it is in html here].

Indeed, I started composing this before getting to the end of the Cites on a Plane issue, and find that the "On the Middle" article is equally engaging. Appropriately enough, this article is from the December 2007 issue (pp. 16-22) [it is in html here]. (Isn't December usually a time for reflecting back on the year? This article certainly has some cogent reflections which are still true two years later.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ALA Midwinter 2010 - Thoughts and Regrets

This is long overdue. It was a very interesting conference which included moving hotels suddenly, and therefore being further away from the Convention Center than I would have liked.

On the plus side, we had a chance to meet up with some of our non-library friends who live in and near the city. One upside of the hotel move, was that it was only about a 15 minute walk to the apartment of one set of friends. (And it is a spectacular apartment.)

My regrets -- I was not at OCLC Blog Salon, and therefore missed having a chance to chat with my library friends as much as I would have liked.

It was cold, it was snowy. It felt good to get home!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

ALA Midwinter 2010 - Final Calendar

Because I have posted a number of other things, I am posting the final (or as final as it ever will be) version of my schedule here.

It has been revised as recently as Thursday afternoon.

The only info in here is my ALA Schedule from January 15 - 19. It is (of course) still subject to revision.

Travel "issues"

Prelude: Back in the summer of 2007, I wrote about our Road Trip from Hell which started at ALA Annual in DC. It was a two part story, with Part 2 here. On that trip, the airline was American Airlines

The Story: Christmas brought us another adventure. We left on Christmas Eve morning to go to Jamaica. We were flying on US Airways [aka Useless Airways]. Now, remember that we are leaving New Orleans, and going to Montego Bay. Which airport is not in a fairly logical route to Jamaica?
  • Atlanta
  • Miami
  • Memphis
  • Charlotte
  • Dallas
While Memphis is not very logical, the correct choice is Charlotte, and that is where we went from New Orleans (MSY). We got there on time. After the hike from the arrival gate to the departure gate (international wing), the board showed that both flights to Montego Bay were delayed. Our 9:30 am flight was about an hour and a half delayed. We got breakfast, and then the flight was scheduled for an 11 am departure, then 11:30 am. Finally, they put us on the plane at noon. After a series of mostly unintelligible announcement from the pilot about electric switches, and then an engine problem, they let us off the plane at 3:30. We went to get food (and were among the first off). No sooner did they get everyone off, did they cancel the flight. There was a mad dash to the main ticket counter (and we had a head start!).

Of course the ticket counter was outside security, and folks with checked luggage were expected to collect their luggage. (After the aforementioned adventure, we rarely check luggage ... never on vacation.) We were #4 in line. There were two agents when we got to the counter. Remember, it is now 4 pm on Christmas Eve, and we were supposed to be in Jamaica, at the pre-paid resort several hours ago (even after the 90 minute bus ride). We overheard the first agent say to the person, "Well, I think I can get you there on the 27th." My companion nearly lost it then. More agents arrived, and we got to the counter. The agent got us confirmed seats on a noon-time flight, on (ironically) American Airlines the next day.....from Miami. However, the flights to Miami were full, and we were #3 and #4 on the standby lists.

We went back through security and to the Miami gate. We looked at the board to see what other options there were. Once the flight was announced, they were looking for volunteers to be bumped to a later flight (first class) or a flight to Fort Lauderdale. As the boarding proceeded, we went to the gate. The gate agent, Philip B [yes, I wrote a complimentary note] worked very hard. First he said, I can get one of you on this flight for sure. So we said, what about getting us to Ft. Lauderdale. He said it was full, but there was a seat to West Palm Beach. Then, he said, there is a train which costs about $7 and goes from West Palm to Miami. We said we would take it!

So, I get to go to West Palm Beach. First Class. That part was fine. Then I got there and talked to the agent. He said, yes, there is a train, but it is not real close to the airport. He said there is a bus, or you can take a cab. I asked if US Airways would pay. He said he thought so, and gave me a sheet about how to contact them. I went down to the ground transportation desk. They sent me to the bus stop, but the last bus had left about 20 minutes before. So cab it was. $29 including tip! Not real close was true! Got to the train station, and boarded a train that was much like the double-decker commuter trains in Chicago, after buying a ticket at the station. The train left.....but it was not a short ride. It was almost 90 minutes!

Meanwhile, my companion got to Miami, got the hotel and meal vouchers, and got to the hotel. We chatted on the phone and said, don't take the shuttle to the airport and then the hotel shuttle, just take a cab. I walked out of the station, towards the cabs, and looked up...there was the hotel across the street! Life was good.

The next morning was uneventful, and we arrived in Jamaica. We had contacted the resort, and while they would not refund our room cost, because we had been in contact, they did give us a voucher for a free night for another stay.

Now comes the fight with US Airways. Remember that I was told that they would pay for me to get from West Palm airport to Miami? Well, I followed all their directions. After several days I received an email. No, they would not pay. Instead? Two $100 certificates for travel. But wait, there are restrictions.....they cannot be used on the Internet, you have to call them. Well, on a later leg of the trip, I tried to call to change date of departure, after three calls and three hours on hold, I never did talk to an agent!!!

Here is the lesson. In our first disaster, we chose to fly through the airport which is the major hub and headquarters of the airline. In the second disaster, yes, we flew through the airport which is the major hub and headquarters of the airline.

So....When in doubt, don't fly through the airline's major hub and headquarters!!

A final note. We came home after the Christmas attempted bombing fiasco. In the airport US Airways was announcing that "TSA Policy now requires that each passenger be limited to one carry on item." Well, that pissed me off. Even more so, when, at work, I received a document which included the note below:
US Airways: Temporary policy effective immediately (updated December 26, 2009): To better comply with new industry security requirements issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), US Airways will temporarily amend its baggage policies on all in-bound flights to the United States from foreign destinations. Each passenger will be limited to one carry-on item per person, and first and second checked bag fees will temporarily be waived. These changes do not apply to flights from San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Croix.
It is really clear to me, that the rule is not a TSA rule. It is the way the US Airways has chosen to deal with the new (silly) rules. If it is your rule, US Airways, own it. Don't blame someone else. No other airline is using this rule.

I did have an "A-Ha" moment. Useless Airways (US Airways) was formed from Allegheny Airlines. In certain circles, Allegheny was known as "Agony Airlines."

[I hope this does not "jinx" my trip tomorrow.]

A brief note on reading/listening

Inspired by Jessamyn....I just did the math for the whole year 2009.

I read 39 books
I listened to 52 books (That is an average of one per week!)

Not bad. If I have spare time, I'll go back and count the other years.

January links

I need to read and understand this better, but Char Booth has written an article in Library Journal about data visualization which I just can's seem to get my head around ... yet.

I found a new, interesting blog: Go To Hellman. It was brought to my attention in the discussion about ebooks. Here is the second post. And here is a third one.

The wonderful Jenny Levine wrote a great post about Twitter and policies (oh, and ALA). I am thinking I should find the time to consolidate all that I have learned into a new post.

In a really "library geek" vein, there is a post on ALA Techsource about RDA and FRBR -- which are supposed to replace AACR2. This post has some diagrams which help explain. (The bottom line for the non library geeks is that it should make our catalogs/access systems much more user friendly, and theoretically even better than Amazon or Google!)

And finally in this list, and to bring it back full circle, Ryan Deschamps has written about the future of the library and Seth Godin's comments. Read it here. [I have an issue with the title, it should not be "Neither Libraries Nor Information is Free" but "Neither Libraries Nor Information Are Free." Grammatically, both "libraries" and "information" are plural nouns, and the conjunction compounds the pluralness.]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Read and Listened to: July - December 2009

This particular compilation is in chronological order (not reverse). That means that the first one in each category is the one I read first during the time period.

Books read, July – December 2009

College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Coeds, Then and Now by Lynn Peril

Rabbit, run by John Updikere Nicola Kraus

Here in the world by Victoria Lancelotta

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Opportunity for Leadership: Full and Informed Participation by Mark Winston

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

Protect and Defend by Vince Flynn [found at an airport]

L. A. Candy by Lauren Conrad

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer Twilight #2

Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library: How Postmodern Consumer Capitalism Threatens Democracy, Civil Education [sic] and the Public Good by Ed D'Angelo

Rabbit Redux by John Updike

Words that work: It's not what you say, it's what people hear by [Dr.] Frank Luntz
Work-related reading assignment

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer Twilight #3

Breaking dawn by Stephanie Meyer Twilight #4

Life among the Lutherans by Garrison Keillor

Street gang : the complete history of Sesame Street by Michael Davis

Books listened to, July – December 2009

Crusader's cross by James Lee Burke, read by Will Patton

Not another bad date by Rachel Gibson, read by Nicole Poole

Night Listener by Armistead Maupin, read by the author

Luke's story by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, read by Robertson Dean

Do gentlemen really prefer blondes?: bodies, brains, and behavior-- the science behind sex, love, and attraction by Jena Pincott, read by Laural Merlington

The day I ate whatever I wanted: [and other small acts of liberation] by Elizabeth Berg, read by the author

One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell, read by Carrington MacDuffie

Nature girl by Carl Hiaasen, read by Lee Adams

I like you: hospitality under the influence by Amy Sedaris, read by the author

Behind the scenes at the museum by Kate Atkinson, read by Susan Jameson

Blood and thunder: an epic of the American West by Hampton Sides, read by Don Leslie

John Cleese at the Beeb by John Cleese

A Drinking Life by Pete Hamill, read by Jonathan Davis

This just in by Bob Schieffer

Man gone down by Michael Thomas, read by Beresford Bennett

The irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British spy ring in wartime Washington by Jennet Conant, read by Simon Prebble

Quentins by Maeve Binchy, read by Terry Donnelly

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters Performed by Patrick Fraley with Edward Asner and a cast of 50; music composed by Kenni and performed with Joshua Zucker

The unnatural history of Cypress Parish by Elise Blackwell, read by Scott Sowers

Only dad by Alan Titchmarsh, read by the author

The lovely bones by Alice Sebold, read by Alyssa Bresnahan

First, break all the rules: what the world's greatest managers do differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, read by Richard Rohan

Rabbit is rich by John Updike, read by Arthur Morey

Rabbit at rest by John Updike, read by Arthur Morey

Rabbit remembered by John Updike, read by Arthur Morey

"The Commute"

I've been thinking about this for a bit, and wanted to share some commuting reflections as well as comments about what I get to see every day on my way to work.

My current commute (each way) is longer than all of my prior commutes combined. One way it is double what my two longest commutes were. I drive almost exactly 80 miles each way. That's 160 miles a day, or 800 miles a week. I've been tracking my mileage (and MPG). In 2009, I drove over 35,000 miles with an average MPG of just about 28.

People wonder how I can do it. Well, I can tell you that part of the reason this commute is not such a killer is that it is predictable. It is about the same time each day, with predictable trouble spots, and it predictably longer (in time) going home than coming in. For 9 years I drove a route where I never knew how long it would take. Some days it was 30 minutes (for the 20 mile drive). Other days it was an hour or more. There was lots of traffic, and an accident on one roadway would result in tie-ups on the others. It was not predictable, and it was tough.

So, reflections on this commute include: the sun, the route, scenery, roadside "events," highlights.

In this winter season, I get to see the sunrise in my rear view mirror, and I get to see the sunset in that same mirror. Some of them are pretty spectacular. What I have noticed recently is that frequently even the clouds in the opposite direction can be as beautiful and colorful as the ones around the sun. Tuesday (1/12) was a perfect example. The low, scattered clouds in the east took on the pinks and purples of the setting sun, and created a great view as I trekked home. Eventually, I will get to do the drive in full sunlight, and I do look forward to that.

Each morning, I head out on Carrollton Ave, along side the streetcar line. I go past the end/beginning of the line the mile and a half to I-10, passing the Archdiocese of New Orleans Seminary, and a cluster of stores and restaurants between Earhart and the Interstate. The trip on the Interstate is what folks see coming into town from the airport. Cemeteries, the malls, etc. line the road. Just after the airport exit, the highway passes the end of the runway. It is not unusual to see planes taking off or landing immediately overhead. (It is kind of cool, if somewhat close.)

Then, after the rest of Kenner, it is across swampland to the lake. In the area of the interchange with I-310 are a bunch of trees (lakeside) where there are often a large number of egrets roosting for the night. They sit on the branches with their heads tucked under the wings. Big white spots on the trees. Just past, on the other side, are some cypress trees, and in the top of one of them is a large nest. Last summer I would have sworn I saw a bald eagle nesting there.

Then it is on the to the end of Lake Pontchartrain and the Bonnet Carré Spillway. The lake is fairly shallow, and with winds from the East or Northeast, there can be waves which seem to raise the water level. However, with no wind, or winds from West/Southwest and a low tide, the lake can seem rather low. (However that is a difference of only about 2 feet...not really tidal in my mind.) The bridge from the St. Charles Parish border to the I-55 interchange is about 12 miles. (If you go north on I-55, there is another 20+ continuous miles of bridges.) On I-10, you hit solid ground for the weigh station (usually open) and two exits for Laplace. Then it is another 4 - 5 miles of bridge across swamp to solid ground.

The next stretch is where I see more cars along side the road. From the end of the bridge to US-61 is about 15 miles of nothing but swamp. There are some areas which are "DMAP Posted No Trespassing." There are only one or two exits, and no visible buildings. At night (going home in winter) it can seem desolate. There is more swamp after US-61 before hitting the edges of the Baton Rouge metro area. Exit 177 has a large outlet mall and a very large Cabela's store.

It is usually somewhere after there that I hit traffic going in, and lose it going home. There is construction going on from Exit 166 past Exit 160 to the I-12 interchange. I just hope it is a widening of the road, because it seems like a choke point. After I-12 merges in, what you see is malls and urban area. The last stretch, I-110 to the exit, can be tense with folks merging in from I-10 on the left and then a series of three left exits. But by then I am home free -- or standing in traffic on my way home.

Once (just before Christmas), I did see a couple of deer standing along side the road. However, I have not seen a dead deer (road kill) in the more than a year. There is the occasional racoon or nutria. More often than not, the northern equivalent of "roadkill" is the dead vehicle. Sometimes the vehicle is there for a day and gone, and at other times it seems like a week or more.

At this time of year, there are not only the "road kill vehicles" but, further off the road, closer to the "swamp/forest" are the big pick-up trucks. These are clearly hunters. A couple of times I have seen them pulling on waders, and/or getting ready for hunting. There are also sometimes fishermen (sometimes with boats and trailers). There is no fence between the highway and the natural lots of access!

Anyway...that is my daily commute.

Monday, January 11, 2010

ALA Calendar - Midwinter 2010

Here is my attempt at inserting my ALA calendar using Google Calendar.

The only info in here is my ALA Schedule from January 15 - 19. It is (of course) still subject to revision.