Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mid August Links

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is what, 25 or so years old, I wonder what took so long for Final regulations on disability access to libraries and other places issued reported in Library Law Blog, among other places.

Library Society of the World (a sort of anti-ALA) has its second coloring contest (in part to celebrate the end of the summer).

The last couple days, Rory Litwin of Library Juice, Library Juice Press, and Litwin Books (among other ventures and adventures) has been waxing philosophically about libraries and librarianship. On August 18, he ruminates about standards and accreditation. The next day he wrote A Brief Note about Libraries and Elitism. Both are well worth a read.

Bobbie Newman (librarian and writer at both Librarian by Day and Libraries and Transliteracy) has a thoughtful post on the role of control in the age of social networks. [I found it fascinating since my daughter has just taken a new job where social media is part of what she does. She even gave me permission to tell her when I notice something...]

Brian Herzog (a librarian in Massachusetts) has an interesting blog: Swiss Army Librarian. There are two recent posts which caught my attention: the "Reference Question of the Week" in July and dealt with Postal Service and address changes, and a Checklist Reference Desk Manifesto. The first reflects an notable federal government attitude/policy where some things are free online and others cost, while the paper process is free. Address changes is one. Filing income taxes is another. As of this past filing season, you could file for free if your income was low enough, if you were too high, you had to pay to file electronically (even though electronic filing saves the government money). Where is the logic? The on my list for work.

I just loved this Illustrated Guide to a PhD, especially since getting a PhD in LIS was a topic in the car this morning.

One of my new guilty pleasures is reading Will Manley, daily, at his new blog!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Skills and shifting skills

Several days ago, a friend who is a librarian (but not working as one) sent me a very thoughtful note about the skills needed for the 21st century job hunt.

The day he sent it to me, I had spent a good quarter hour with one of our library users. He had found a posting for a job on Criagslist, but did not know how to apply. First we walked through getting an email address, and then we went through the reply process on Craigslist.

Other days it has been helping folks find their way through various job application web sites. Yesterday, it was 15 minutes on the phone with someone who was trying to apply through a civil service web site.

Here is what my friend said:

Recently I’ve been helping a group of unemployed adults apply for apprenticeships. Many of these people have been without jobs for years; some are parolees, others simply down on their luck in these recessionary times. They have many strikes against them: criminal records, long breaks in employment, lack of marketable skills. Most of them find the process is like trying to jump onto a speeding conveyor belt. And in fact it is the process that they find daunting, even more than their own personal challenges or lack of qualifications.

Over the past few years the job-seekers’ required kit has gone from simply owning a pen (for filling out applications) to the possession of a resume (required to demonstrate experience) to the ability to understand and manipulate computer applications.

Take a look at how job-seeking works these days:

There are almost no more newspaper help-wanted ads. Job seekers must search the internet for openings and then complete applications online. Most of these applications require applicants to attach documents such as resumes and to submit the whole to whatever firm or public entity is offering the job. The process assumes the following skills and abilities:

1. First, the possession or adequate control of a computer. Occasional availability leaves the person at a distinct disadvantage: it takes hours of searching to find openings, hours more to submit applications, and then the applicant must wait for results, invitations to interview, et cetera. The person forced to use the public library computer or one at a job center has too few opportunities to search and apply and respond.

2. Second, the ability to use a computer and the internet with sufficient skill to make the process work. A large portion of the population have difficulty with keyboarding; they type so slowly as to make application an ordeal, particularly in the case of resumes and cover letters—and this is assuming a fair level of literacy, which with the longer-term unemployed is often not the case.

3. Finally, a high level of patience and the ability to endure frustration. This has to do less with the win/lose nature of job-seeking than it does with the cold, faceless and often maddening character of the internet.

Over the past few years I’ve been involved in teaching word-processing and internet skills. This has meant attempting to transfer some portion of the typical internet skill set to classroom groups. Success or failure seems to be determined by the characteristics of incoming participants much more than their desire or effort.

Successful participants will already be adept at keyboarding skills. Those who enter the class without touch-typing skill will almost certainly fall behind and, if they do complete the course, will not be able to compose text or use the computer at any reasonable level of function.

Successful participants will have a computer at home to practice on; otherwise the learned skills will evaporate within days.

Successful students will have a reason to continue to use and polish their computer skills, be it on a job or just internet surfing.

It goes without saying that illiterate or semi-literate students will fail to come away with anything of value.

Though this is the case, most of the programs existing to help the long-term unemployed merely offer their clients a quick run through computer/internet skill sets, then release them into the broad world to thrash about unaided. What the system calls for is a way to offer employment that doesn’t rely so heavily on skills and abilities that are scarce among potential applicants.

There is much talk about the “digital divide,” but the real problem is that there is and will continue to be a class of people who will never become proficient in computer use, in the way that a percentage of people will never become fully and functionally literate. Teaching computer skills is important but obtaining work is much more so. Rather than attempting to teach a smattering of skills it would be better to provide ongoing services to these job-seekers, including personal guidance through the entire process of obtaining work. To believe that the long-term unemployed can simply vault onto the moving conveyor of the employment machine by themselves is wrong and counterproductive.

Let me repeat: There is much talk about the “digital divide,” but the real problem is that there is and will continue to be a class of people who will never become proficient in computer use, in the way that a percentage of people will never become fully and functionally literate.

This is so true and is redefining what libraries can and will offer, but also makes it more difficult to measure any success (outcomes) which is what so many funders want to know about.

Much food for thought here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mid-Summer Links

Joshua Neff wrote an interesting take on the "specialness" of librarians. He come to an interesting conclusion.

Not really a library, but this place in Hungary sounds interesting. [It is tempting to chuck it all. Watching Anthony Bourdain last night in a re-run of when he sailed the Caribbean made me want to chuck it all and open a rum shop with a little library on some tropical beach...]

Steve Lawson posted on his blog a rant/tirade/thought-piece which he received anonymously from a reported Assistant University Librarian which argues that libraries are dying. It is worth a look.

I had to post this one activities in NOLA from a new-ish blog. This post is about an early July event which mocks a much older Spanish event.

The Wall Street Journal has done a series on privacy on the web here is the first one on the business of spying.

The Atlantic has a long, thoughtful piece about Closing the digital frontier which predicts the end of the browser.

The Scout Report (from the University of Wisconsin published resources on homelessness resources.

Eric Hellman starts his ever thoughtful post on copyright from with this great quote: "Here's the most important thing I've learned about intellectual property law: the lawyers who say "yes" when you ask if you can do something are much, much more expensive than the lawyers who say "no"."

"Want to Innovate? Stop Working So Hard" is the title of a thoughtful post by Bobbie Newman on her librarianbyday blog.

A good article on basic rules on making charts

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cooperation - Shrinking?

I was going to just post Peter Bromberg notes on leaving Library Garden as a link in a long list of links. But then I thought better of it. He takes the time upon his departure from the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative (SJRLC) to reflect on the continuing pattern of library cooperatives to being consolidated ... usually driven by budget forces rather than by a plan or vision.

It happened in Connecticut in 2003. It is happening now in Colorado, Massachusetts, and Illinois. It has been happening, in a way, to the OCLC "partner" systems over the course of the past year to year-and-a-half.

Now, let me note, I used to be the chief honcho at one of the multi-type library cooperatives in Connecticut. That single, state-wide organization had to fight for its life in the last state budget cycle. The systems in Illinois have been more than decimated. Several have simply ceased to exist!

Most of these cooperatives have a long history, and are the results of grassroots cooperative efforts of librarians to provide better service to the public. Most date from the 1960s.

I wrote about some of my experiences, and personal knowledge, with multitype cooperatives in an article which was published by ASCLA [the ALA division, the Association for Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies]. As I look now, I can't beleive that it has been a decade already!

It is sad to see some parts of the consolidation. I was in Connecticut when that happened, and while the Connecticut Library Consortium is, by all accounts, successful, I think some of the personal touches have gone away. As it, they are still providing some of their services based on the old [CLSU] regions.

Maybe I am just reflecting that change is hard. In a way, I hope that is all that I am reflecting. Peter has some comments on the process in New Jersey. I suggest you read his thoughtful post/article.