Thursday, June 17, 2010

More links

Dorothea Salo [spelling corrected...thanks, Eric] regularly writes about institutional data repositories. The ALA Washington Office reports on a meeting where libraries were viewed as having a key role in data curation.

Eric Hellman asks if public libraries are in a death spiral. He reflects on his experience in industry when a major contraction took place. He suggests that cutting hours is counter-productive, and advocates more fund raising like NPR. I respect Eric and his writing, but it is clear to me that he has not had to manage in the public sector. Much of the public does not believe the bad news of budgets until it hits them. Been there, done that. He includes a list of links to articles about public libraries being in trouble. I have talked about some of my experiences in July 2008, (twice), August 2008, and even earlier embedded in a post on customer service.

I am no longer sure where I picked up this citation, but it has good advice for bloggers, Bloggers: 7 questions to ask before hitting "Publish".

There was also a thoughtful post about copyright by Laura Crossett with both some good information, and interesting insights and reflections.

One of my electronic friends posted a link to this article which simply demonstrates the wrongness of the Arizona bill and other efforts to target immigrants legal (like this kid) and others. After all, there is only a very, very small number of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances whose ancestors (or they) are not immigrants. Certainly somewhere back there (in the 1800s) all my ancestors came from another country! This attitude scares the crap out of me!

Facebook privacy settings take another beating in this blog post from John Henry Clippinger. (Is that a pseudonym?) David Lee King also posted about the settings, with a screen shot and some cogent observations.

There is a great post for anyone thinking about freelancing. (It is a thought I entertain from time to time...) It is a good mix of philosophical and practical. [Note to self: see if there is a part two and/or three!]

And finally, I noted the issue with the California Digital Library and Nature Publishing Group. Steve Lawson was first on my radar with "UC to Nature Publishing Group: DROP DEAD." I then picked up on the story in the Chronicle of Higher Education. There are three which summarized the issue well for me, starting with Dorothea Salvo, and including both Eric Hellman and Steve Lawson. Eric's post includes links to actual documents. And here is the Library Journal summary of the dust-up.

Social Media Rules

Michael Stephens has written a post called Social Media Best Practices for Libraries. There is great content there, but it certainly does not spell out a suggested policy for a library. He does that in a separate post suggesting a policy for Anytown Public Library.

There is a great article in Public Libraries (November/December 2009, p. 23-25) by David Lee King and Michael Porter about dealing with comments. (I can't find the electronic version on the ALA/PLA web site.)

Jill Hurst-Wahl has a great series of posts on rules for using social networks. Here is #9.

Is this the end? I don't know. I think it will develop over time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Insurance - Medical


No matter how far away you are, or what thunderstorms are in the vicinity (we have had some strong ones tonight), you probably heard me when I picked up my prescriptions tonight.

I have two conditions for which I take maintenance medications. One of them I have been taking one prescription or another for over 30 years (think 6 doctors, in five different states). Today was the day to pick up the refills.

One refill was just fine.

The other, the cheap one (less than $5 per month) had a note: 14 day prescription. Why? I don't know. There was no other note on the paperwork (from a national chain). Ironically, 17 days from now I will be on a different health plan. (That would be my employer's idea not mine....and my fifth health plan in five years.)

Anyone who does not admit that the current system is broken, has their head in the sand, and is not grounded in reality. Why can some administrative person in an insurance company or drugstore chain decide that what my doctor (the one who went to medical school and then internship and residency, and in my case has many years of practice) had decided that I need to take, is not correct?

In 14 days, I will refill the prescription, and make them give me an explanation. [And the rise in my blood pressure is what the medication is supposed to control! They are not helping!!!]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Great ALA Program

I won't be at ALA Annual this year, however one of my friends, Sylvia Turchyn is the Intellectual Freedom Round Table's Program Chair. She has lined up a great program:

Burning Man, Libraries, and the 21st Century: The Intersection of the Individual and Society

Saturday, June 26 | 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Washington Convention Center, Room 143 B/C

Can you imagine living in a city where censorship does not exist? Where your First Amendment rights and liberties are not only tolerated but encouraged and celebrated? That culture is created and that society exists in physical form for one week every August in Black Rock Desert, Nevada in the community known as Burning Man. The Intellectual Freedom Round Table is delighted that Larry Harvey, Executive Director of the Burning Man Project, will join Lauren Christos, Chair of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table, in a lively conversation on how intellectual freedom informs the Burning Man experience and our 21st century society. IFRT envisions that our program will challenge and expand the boundaries of currently held intellectual freedom beliefs. Through the social experiment that is Burning Man, the audience may come away with new and creative ideas to explore intellectual freedom in their personal and professional lives. There will be ample opportunity for Q&A from the audience. For background information on Burning Man, please visit
She is also looking for folks to blog the program itself (which I wish I could do), so if you are interested, send her a note.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Here is a set of random links...first in a while, but lets me clear a bunch of tabs...
  • Here is an interesting take from a school librarian for a Jewish school on various social media sites. (Oh, and it is a wiki rather than a blog...)
  • Nice article from about the new library director at Boston Public Library. Having grown up in Massachusetts, and spent time in Wisconsin (not far from Minneapolis/St. Paul), I can really identify with a lot of the comments on culture in this piece.

Traditional Cultural Expression

One of the topics which is likely to hit ALA Council this session, is a resolution on Traditional Cultural Expression.

I was very confused about what happened at ALA Midwinter with was proposed and then withdrawn, and at the time, given very little time to read and reflect, I was admittedly confused by the content, and therefore happy to have it taken off the agenda. That document is here (as CD#20.4, you will have scroll down).

Since then I have learned more.

Here is the document which engendered discussion, but note that it is not a resolution, but merely a statement. There is a web site, but it does not seem to have much newer than that to which I linked here.

Let's start with the definition of "Traditional Cultural Expressions" which is included in the document. In a footnote, the document explains the term.
For the purposes of this document, traditional cultural expressions are defined as, but not limited to, narratives, poetry, music, art, designs, names, signs, symbols, performances, architectural forms, handicrafts.
Wayne Bivens-Tatum, a librarian at Princeton, has written a long (almost 3,500 words) and thoughtful post which lays out many of the issues.

He starts by noting: "The basic thesis of the document is that librarians should be sensitive to the desires of indigenous communities regarding library collections of "traditional cultural expressions," i.e. objects, documents, etc. created by members of those communities." And like him, I agree with this in principle.

He has a section on philosophical objections which include his analysis of the language (which helped me understand). It ties the "cultural expressions" tightly to the creator or expressor. I think that is where I also begin to have problems.

I can't summarize or do justice to his long section on librarian objections. However, at one point he says:

Some parts of this document are utterly incompatible with such values. In the discussion, the other librarian posed the problem as possibly one of colonialist versus indigenous people's values. This is the cultural relativist perspective. But the Enlightenment perspective would pose it as a problem of universal versus local values. Who's correct here? Your position on this will probably determine your position on some of the more mystical portions of the document.
The tempting position to defend is that the values of the indigenous peoples should take precedent because they were both the victims of aggression and the creators of the "expressions." I'm tempted by this argument. However, one can be sensitive to the suffering of indigenous peoples without sacrificing universal values.
In his section with reasons to support a revised document, he has this cogent paragraph:

Returning some collections is also completely justifiable, but from the universal perspective of justice, not the local perspective of sanctity. Justice trumps even education and intellectual freedom. The important question is, how did these collections come to exist? Were they stolen? Purchased? Traded for? Acquired as gifts? The prominent libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick based his philosophy of distributive justice on the principles of justice in acquisition and justice in transfer. In other words, if property was initially acquired justly (via the Lockean proviso that enough and as good is left for others), and transferred justly, then whoever owns it in the end is the just owner. If we find at the end of the line that ownership isn't just, the principle of rectification requires us to reallocate resources in a just manner if possible.
Now, I would have gone even further and said, that if the "expression" had been legitimately (i.e. justly) obtained, then the control of it remains with the owning institution (library). It is part of why I support the return of skeletons, mummies, and the like which were pilfered from graves during the 19th and 20th centuries in the name of science and history.

My friend Melora Ranney Norman talks about TCEs with an "intellectual freedom" slant in her new-ish blog librarygist.

Her post is in a question and answer format. She is very up front about her issue in her second question:

Does it create a First Amendment/Library Bill of Rights conflict to officialize a document asserting that libraries should participate in the restriction of content when a cultural or religious group asks us to, whether by actually restricting the content in-house, or by returning it to the group so that they may do so themselves?
It was in reading this question back in early May that fixed the issue in my head...well, at least for now. If Melora's reading of the document (and I think mine, too) is that adopting the statement on TCE, ALA is suggesting that a group can control the distribution of something (folklore, stories, etc.) after it has left them, then we are allowing an outside "agency" to censor what we do. She uses an example of a group which believes that anatomically correct illustrations are abhorent, and therefore, all such depictions should be returned to them. She further cites the controversy of a couple years ago where a Danish cartoonist drew an image of Mohammed.

I have been going back to this over the past month, and still am both confused, and concerned that Melora is correct. If so, I am opposed to adopting the current version of the statement.

"We" have been promised that a task force, appointed by the ALA President will meet, listen, work on the document, and have public meetings at ALA Annual before anything comes back to Council. I hope that they can create a document which is both clear and inclusive, and that it avoids the pitfalls which Melora has identified.

At this point, what I long for is someone like Walt Crawford to gather any other relevant posts, digest them all, and offer his opinion from his perspective, which he refers to as "the radical middle." After all, this is what he often does in Walt at Random, and does incredibly well in Cites and Insights.

Hungry Town

Huh? I can hear you say?

I just finished reading Tom Fitzmorris's Hungry Town: A Culinary History of New Orleans: The City Where Food Is Almost Everything. Now, I don't usually do book reviews here, but this one inspired me.

I met Tom at the Maple Street Bookshop when they held a book signing a few weeks ago. I will admit that it was the offer of free Sazaracs, that pulled me in.

Tom Fitzmorris has been a New Orleans food critic for a number of years, and for a variety of publications. He also has a very successful radio show. He gained national prominence with his web site which tracks the number of restaurants in the New Orleans area. Post-Katrina, it began serving as an index of the recovery of the city.

One of the statements that lives with me (and I had subconsciously found to be true), is that in New Orleans, the most common topic of conversation is food. In other cities it could be politics, or the weather, but here it is food and restaurants.

On August 26, 2005 there were 809 restaurants in the index. This includes small neighborhood "joints," but not fast food or take-out only locations. By April 17, 2007, there were exactly the same number of restaurants, and today it is almost 1,100. Not a bad place to live.

The books includes a great deal of history about various establishments, both current and closed. It also includes a few recipes, and tales about some of the famous chefs from New Orleans.

I highly recommend this book.