Monday, July 24, 2006

Racketeering Janitor Hired by Gary Public Library

But he wasn't even hired to be a janitor. His job is "affirmative action officer and director of inventory control." I'm not really clear on what "inventory control" amounts to in a library setting.

Perry Gordon, the janitor in question, lacks qualifications listed in the job posting, such as a bachelor's degree and a background in employment law. His mother sits on the library board.

That pretty much explains things.

For more laughs, here is a longer report on this.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Mystery Author to Write New Bond Novel

An unnamed but famous author will write a new James Bond novel, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming.

Apparently the name of the writer will be revealed upon publication. (If the author really is so well-known, it would be obvious to many who he is by the style of writing, so long-term anonymity--such as we are seeing with the unnamed Ludlum author--is unrealistic.)

The story suggests (to me) the famous mystery author will be revealed upon publication, then will publicize the novel with appearances, etc.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Who Is Writing Robert Ludlum's Books?

Best-selling thriller author Robert Ludlum died in 2001. Several novels have been published under his name since then: The Sigma Protocol, The Janson Directive, The Tristan Betrayal, The Ambler Warning, and the upcoming Bancroft Strategy.

Who wrote all these books? Supposedly Ludlum left some unpublished and/or unfinished manuscripts as well as notes/outlines for future books. We (meaning the book-consuming public) don't really know how much or how little of Ludlum's own writing is contained in these posthumous works (if any) because there is no statement in any of them spelling it out.

On the copyright page of the Ambler Warning is this statement:

Since his death, the Estate of Robert Ludlum has worked with a carefully selected author and editor to prepare and edit this work for publication.

That's it. No one is named. There is an "author" (not Ludlum) who had a hand in the production of the novel: the statement above says so. On the covers of these books, Ludlum is listed as the sole author. Many people probably bought these books thinking Ludlum had written them himself.

Reviewers of these books, on the other hand, know what's going on and state that Ludlum did not write them. But they have received generally warm reviews--sometimes lauded as better than most of the thrillers assuredly penned by Ludlum himself!

The Secret Ludlum Writer

The person writing the Ludlum books must keep his name and role hidden from the public. No doubt that's in his contract. Former ghostwriter Michael Gruber was in a similar situation before finally publishing Tropic of Night under his own name in 2003. Will the Gruber Effect eventually hit the Ludlum author and will he publish under his own name at some point in the future, gaining some publicity and notoriety as the writer of Ludlum's posthumous thrillers? How long can this guy stand it to be in the shadows, and doesn't there come a point in his career where it's in his best interest to drop the veil?

The Ludlum Cottage Industry

Aside from thrillers published solely under Ludlum's name, there is the Covert-One series of books. In addition to Ludlum's name, the real writers are credited on the covers as well: Gayle Lynds, Philip Shelby, Patrick Larkin, and James Cobb.

Eric Van Lustbader has been contracted to continue the "Bourne" series of books and is listed as the author on the covers. If the Estate of Robert Ludlum is willing to give Lustbader (and to continue the practice of crediting the Covert-One authors) writing credit, why not the secret author of the new "Ludlum" books as well? I assume the idea is that these new Bourne books are Lustbader's creations, with no help from any unfinished manuscripts or notes from Ludlum.

The answer can only be money. If a new thriller is marketed as written by Ludlum right there on the cover, that means far higher sales than if the name is John Smith, or some other unknown writer. People will buy the brand name "Ludlum" in far greater numbers than if the truth were told on the front of the dust jacket. The name "Robert Ludlum" has been trademarked. With (presumably) two authors writing "ludlum" books, that means more can be published within a shorter timespan--perhaps a consideration in not having the secret writer pen the Bourne stuff as well.

The Estate of Ludlum feels it owes no obligation or explanation to the public over the authorship of these new novels. But is that the end of it?

We can deduce that the secret writer is not a well-known name, otherwise it would make no sense for him to write in complete anonymity. But the writer had enough credentials to be tapped for the job in the first place. If he is a known mediocrity, that would be cause to continue the gag order. Perhaps a word analysis of the novels, as provided by Amazon's book search feature, can provide some clues.

Will the real author(s) be named at some time in the future--along with the exact contributions of each writer for each book? Yes, but it may take a while. Some day Ludlum's papers may be housed in an academic library and then scholars can sort out who wrote what.

Legal Liability

In 2000, a fan of the books of Lawrence Sanders filed a class-action lawsuit claiming Sanders' estate and the publisher misled fans into believing Sanders was still alive (he died in 1998) by publishing McNally's Dilemma under his name. A settlement was reached and consumers received $13 if they bought the hardcover copy of the book. In that novel, the ghostwriter's name (Vincent Lardo) was listed in small type on the copyright page. In the posthumous Ludlum novels, the name of the "carefully selected author" is not revealed.

In 2001, a reader sued Penguin Putnam after discovering William J. Caunitz wasn't the sole author of the novel Chains of Command. The ghostwriter's name, Christopher Newman, was listed on the copyright page. A New York State appeals court threw out the suit.

Has no one sued Ludlum's estate and St. Martin's Press? No doubt they feel they are on solid legal ground by not naming the ghostwriter in the books, as the others had done.

There is a whiff of an underworld-style operation going on here, isn't there? There is some ugliness in the book publishing world behind the curtain. Obviously, the Estate of Robert Ludlum and St. Martin's Press are engaged in a deception of the book-buying public by placing only Ludlum's name on the covers of these new books, and by refusing to tell us the name of the "other" writer.

It's a fraud, it's a lack of respect for Ludlum's fans, and it has something of the underworld about it. But it's the book publishing business today, isn't it? Ghostwriters keeping big brand names running when otherwise they would stop. Publishers and estates refusing to fess up and give credit where credit is definitely due. Cash is king.

See Also: The Ludlum Betrayal

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Libraries Adding Spanish-Language Materials

After the recent dust-up over funding for Spanish-language materials at the (what must surely be the world-famous) Gwinnett County Public Library in Georgia, here are a couple new stories on libraries feeling the need to add Spanish-language materials to their collections.

The number of Hispanic residents in Indiana is growing, and public libraries there are upgrading their Spanish collections.

And an article on the Dallas Public Library:

"The function is to be a place where all the people in the community can come and have all the same resources. It's about connecting information with people," said Leonardo Melo, manager of the north Oak Cliff branch, which bustled with activity on a recent afternoon.

Local librarians said they see themselves as egalitarian purveyors of information. They don't question whether their patrons are legal immigrants, and they serve them no matter what language they speak.


Well, that makes things easy, doesn't it?

Buried near the bottom of the story:

This year, Richardson allocated $3,000 from its $275,000 budget for adult foreign language materials.

And:

"All that money within that foreign-language pot had to be divvied up among 18 languages," including Urdu, Farsi and Vietnamese, Ms. Lee said.

Yes, like I wrote some time ago, librarians, if they are to serve everyone, need to be aware of all the foreign-languages spoken by members of their communities.

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Porn and Internet Filters

Another public library is doing some much-needed soul-searching over allowing patrons to view porn on computers.

This time it's in Lubbock, TX.

While it is legal for people over the age of 18 to view that type of material, some say it's inappropriate to do so at a public place such as the library.

Well, of course. But what have the librarians there been doing?

"When we do have a complaint, we will talk to that individual who is accessing something that might be deemed inappropriate, and we ask them not to do that," Clausen said.

That's ridiculous. Ask them not to do it? Without a policy forbidding them from from viewing porn in the library? That makes no sense. But it's encouraging to hear that the library board is discussing the problem.

I wrote on this topic earlier here.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

2006 National Book Festival

The Library of Congress Web site has updated the National Book Festival page with the 2006 information. The event will be held Saturday, September 30, 2006. Over 70 authors will make appearances, including:
  • George Pelecanos
  • Joan Didion
  • Michael Connelly
  • Scott Turow
  • Alexander McCall Smith
Laura Bush is the host. Here is the press release. The site has webcasts from previous festivals.

I've attended the Festival and enjoyed hearing famous authors recite their works and answer questions from the audience.

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The Impending Librarian Shortage

More talk of the "impending national librarian shortage." Missouri University's School of Information Science and Learning Technologies will receive $615,365 from the federal government.

This money will be used to recruit and educate 9 doctoral students.

With many librarians set to retire, especially those in senior positions, the grants are intended to aid in the education of those seeking to enter the profession and bolster its ranks. According to a 2004 study by the American Library Association, 45 percent of current librarians will reach age 65 between 2010 and 2020.

Meanwhile, a partnership of Nevada libraries and the distance program at the University of North Texas received about $700,000. 40 Students will receive about $10,000 to help pay tuition.

"The program is designed to education librarians because there is an anticipated shortage. Many of the skilled librarians are expected to retire shortly, so we are trying to increase the numbers to replace them," said Sara Jones, state librarian.

Still no sign of the "anticipated shortage." I'm sure we'll all see it rear its ugly head soon, won't we?

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Porn-Viewing at Libraries a Growing Problem

The Tucson-Pima Public Library will install privacy screens around its computers so passers-by won't be exposed to pornography.

I wrote earlier about patrons at DC public libraries viewing hardcore porn at computers with children nearby.

Clearly, librarians need to take responsibility for this problem and ensure that children aren't exposed to pornography viewed by lonely adults at public computers. Placing screens around computers to protect the kids from these unfortunate patrons' obsessions is one solution, another is to provide an enclosed adults-only computer section where kids aren't allowed.

But that would force library managers to rethink the physical placement and arrangement of furniture and collections, which might well overstrain the abilities of some. It's a lot easier for library managers to just sit back in their offices and leave the computers as they are, abdicating their responsibities to their communities. It's a tough job being a librarian, isn't it?

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Rice University Revives Its Press Online

Rice University's Press went belly-up 10 years ago. But now it will be relaunched online. People can read the entire book online or order a bound copy from an on-demand printer.

The article in the Wall Street Journal states that electronic books "have been slow to catch on generally, and some universities that have experimented with the format have found lackluster demand."

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

North Korean Libraries

The reclusive nation of North Korea, led by the strange dictator Kim Jong-il, has been in the news lately for continued bizarre antics, this time for firing missiles into the Sea of Japan.

According to a recent AP story, North Korea is "embracing the digital age." There is a new e-library at the Kim Chaek University of Technology with 10 million titles on its local intranet:

"Our e-library built under the deep love and concern of the great general Kim Jong Il is superior compared with other libraries because the students can search and access any kind of books that they want to read in a quicker way," spokeswoman Won Yun Ae told APTN.

The books available online at the university are approved by authorities in North Korea, where all media is state-run, and are mostly technical or scientific. The Korean government tightly restricts access to the broader, worldwide Internet.

Libraries are mentioned in a couple recent books on North Korea. From Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley K. Martin:

Kim [il-Sung] got involved with some friends in organizing a reading circle and a private one-room library in a rented room. Their library offered love stories as a come-on to attract new members but concentrated on revolutionary works, which he says the group kept on a "secret bookshelf." [p. 22]

After the party they were taken to see the Dear Leader's [Kim Jong-il] personal film library, which they found to be a three-story building where some 250 employees cared for an astonishingly full collection of more than 15,000 films from around the world. [p. 315]

This effort was evident during my visit to the Grand People's Study House, a grandiose pile of masonry billed as the country's central library and "center of intellectual activity." Predictably, a gigantic chalk-white statue of Kim il-Sung, seated in an easy chair and reading the Workers' Daily, dominated the vast lobby. Several rooms of the library were devoted to an exhibit of books published in North Korea. A librarian there, Li Hyung-ran, boasted that more than 1,300 volumes of Kim il-Sung's works and more than 700 volumes of works by Kim Jong-il had been published. The latter included a fifteen-volume set of Kim Jong-il's achievements in guiding the country's literature and art.

The shelf for Korean literature in general -- novels, poetry, criticism -- was considerably smaller than the shelf for the works of Kim il-Sung, and even there it was impossible to escape the main theme.

Here, said the librarian, was a historical novel, also in fifteen volumes -- a fictionalized account of the deeds of Kim Jong-il. And over here, "these are the illustrated fairy tales told by the Great Leader and the Dear Leader," she said.
[p. 352]

And from Kim il-Song's North Korea by Helen-Louise Hunter:

Not far away is the beautiful Korean-style Kim il-Song Library, dedicated to Kim on his seventieth birthday in April 1982. The North Korean people devoted hours and hours of volunteer labor to the building of the library, as they did to the building of the Revolutionary Museum in 1972. [p. 23]

The Kim Il-song Library, designed to accommodate 10 million books and to serve as North Korea's Library of Congress, was constructed in a matter of a few months. [p. 125]

Each year the regime has allocated additional resources to improve the facilities of Kim il-song University. The main campus library boasts over 3 million volumes and 1,200 seats, but according to foreigners who have toured the campus, the elaborately furnished library rooms have no one studying in them. Many different editions of Kim's collected works, bound in leather, adorn the bookshelves, but no one seems to be reading them. [p. 213]

Here is a photo of the Grand People's Study House (also called the Kim il-Sung Library), North Korea's version of the Library of Congress.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Chewing Tobacco Banned at Seattle Libraries

The new rules at the Seattle Public Library are out:
  • No chewing tobacco outside the library (Do they have a library cop monitoring this? Do they inspect your mouth or what?)
  • You can't take your shoes off while in the library
  • You can't bring any article into the library that is bigger than 14 inches wide by 17 inches tall by 20 inches deep
  • You can't put your feet on the furniture
This last rule brings back an awful memory from many years ago when I was a regular visitor to the Akron Summit County Public Library (OH). I was reading a book and had propped my feet on a small low table directly in front of my chair. A psychotic librarian (no exaggeration) ran over to me at top speed from all the way on the other side of the library and demanded I remove my feet from his precious table.

I should say here that I've never been to Seattle. Don't know that I'd want to go either--at least after hearing about the Seattle Public Library. I wrote something earlier about their phony librarians acting as willing dupes of socialist and Democratic party organizations by drafting a petition to impeach President Bush and present it at ALA in New Orleans.

Seattle Public Library sounds odd, doesn't it? Don't you seriously wonder about the management, not to mention the regular "librarians"? The entire system sounds atrocious from my perch on the other side of the country.

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Librarian Fired Over Religion Reinstated

A federal judge in Kansas City ordered the Rolling Hills Consolidated Library (MO) to reinstate Connie Rehm, who lost her job in 2003. She claimed religious discrimination, saying working Sundays conflicted with her religious beliefs as a Lutheran.

I had written about this earlier ("Librarians and Religion").

I think the question now is whether the librarian would really care to work in such an environment--and for such awful library management. I wouldn't.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dust-Up Over R-rated DVDs

A public battle between the Loudoun County (VA) Board of Supervisors and the library board of trustees has developed over spending money on R-rated DVD movies.

The Supervisors voted 8-1 to ask the trustees to stop spending county dollars on adult-oriented movies. The trustees decline, and intend to buy more of the same. It's amazing that the Supervisors are almost unanimous on one side of the issue, but the trustees, I assume, are all on the other side. Where sits the Loudoun community between them?

The librarians unnerve me by resorting (as usual) to charges of "censorship" (the last refuge of scoundrel librarians). It's almost a cliche that when librarians scream "censorship!" then you know they're doing something wrong and inappropriate for their communities.

What is proper for the community? Not all libraries should have the same materials. The San Francisco Public Library should probably have a very different collection than the public libraries in Loudoun County. The reason, as anyone who reads this blog knows, is because it is the library's role to reflect its community. Are the library trustees in Loudoun reflecting their community?

According to the story:

In Loudoun, the policy espouses a "freedom to read" philosophy that encourages the acquisition of materials for "everyone within the community," said Douglas Henderson, the system's director.

"It's not our goal to have material that's appropriate only for kids 13 and under," Henderson said.


It's a somewhat strange statement from the director, isn't it? I don't see anyone asking that the collection include only materials for 13 and under. And his response begs the question why his libraries don't include X-rated materials since, according to him, the libraries must have something for "everyone within the community."

If R-rated materials are "necessary," then why not X-rated? I don't see from these comments where Henderson has given this much thought, or perhaps he's hiding something.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Was Borges a Lousy Librarian?

Jorge Luis Borges is remembered as one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, based on the strength of his short stories, "The Library of Babel" among them.

Borges was also a librarian. But was he a good one? I recently combed through the bargain book shelves at the local barnes & Noble and came across a book called "Borges: A Life" by Edwin Williamson. Naturally, my first thought was to go to the index in the back and look up the word "library." This led me to page 292 and a discussion of the well-known story of how Borges had been "promoted" out of the Miguel Cané branch of the Buenos Aires Municipal Library in 1946 and installed as the director of poultry inspection. (Borges was later appointed as director of the National Library in 1955 by an anti-Peronist government.)

The author suggested that there may have been objective grounds for Borges' removal from the library:
  1. His record of absenteeism (apparently not a proud one)
  2. Infringing standard civil service rules against becoming involved in political activities
The "promotion" to inspector of poultry is always given in biographies as a deliberate insult to Borges--as a reward for his anti-Peron agitations. But was someone trying to do him a sincere favor? According to the book:

The only difference between Borges and the many others who were to lose their jobs was that he was one of the best-known writers in the country. And it was for precisely this reason that he gained the sympathy of certain writers who worked at the Secretariat for Culture.

The only way to keep Borges from being fired was to transfer him elsewhere. It was decided he would be a director of Beekeeping (apicultura in Spanish). The book states that it was Borges and his pals who distorted the word to avicultura (poultry in English) for the purpose of marketing the transfer as a deliberate humiliation. Borges then played it up as an instance of "political persecution."

The account is interesting because this is the first I've heard that the promotion was for beekeeping not poultry, as well as the idea that his influential friends were actually trying to do him a favor, not humiliate him.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Little Library Music

Considering the growing acceptance of "noise" in libraries, I think it will soon come to pass that more libraries will pipe in background music to modernize and round out the modern library experience.

What kind of music would be appropriate would depend on the library, but generally, I expect the future trend of music in libraries to follow this pattern:
  1. Classical (Mozart, chamber music, piano concertos, etc.)
  2. Jazz/Big Band
  3. Classic Rock (50s, Elvis, Beatles)
  4. Modern Rock/Country/Rap
In other words, libraries will gradually move chronologically through the history of music--starting gently, lightly, and as unobtrusively as possible with classical music, and eventually moving to current sounds (depending on the library--some may well stay with classical or jazz if the music somehow fits in with the libarry's mission).

Probably 20 years from now it will be standard practice and expected by users that public libraries provide background music throughout most of the building--excepting "quiet rooms" of course.

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Raves, Raps for Noise in Libraries

An article on the new library in Belmont, CA focuses on the increased noise level in libraries across the country:

As communities across the country eagerly raze their World War II-era libraries and replace them with modern counterparts, they're incorporating features like open children's areas, Wi-Fi access and islands of computers, along with teen zones and cafs.

Often accompanying these features is a steady hum of conversation, the sound of children calling out, audible sounds from earphones, and the tap-tap of computer keyboards.


But some, such as the person quoted here, see the end of silence as a tragic loss:

"Noise has increased in society everywhere, and I guess they just feel they're out of step," said Pera, a San Mateo resident, of those leading the cutting edge in library design. "They're trying to keep people's attention in a highly distractable age."

The first post on the Reflective Librarian a couple years ago (I'll have to repost it sometime) proclaimed that the Good Library is one that reflects its community, while the Bad Library is one that doesn't. (It follows that the Good Librarian is one that reflects the community as a whole as well.) By following the noise, libraries are mirroring trends in our society in general, so nothing wrong with that at all.

Another story discusses the new Greenboro District Library in Ottawa, Canada:

Ottawa's newest library is no quiet scholarly retreat, and that's just fine with the people who worked over the last decade to see it built. It is a busy, sometimes noisy place that resembles a big bookstore in the way it tries to connect readers to books.

But on the other hand, a private book club called the "Accompanied Library" was evicted by its tenant over too many noisy parties. This behavior seems strangely at odds with the Introduction posted on the library's Web site, which advertises itself as:

a quiet space for reading and working in busy downtown Manhattan.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Another Librarian Hinders Police

Hasbrouck Heights (NJ) library director Michele Reutty refused to give police the circulation records on a man who had allegedly made sexually threatening comments to a 12-year-old girl outside the library.

It's a familiar story by now. The cops want to get a bad guy and a librarian stands in their way.

Reutty told them they needed a subpoena. They got one. But no--Reutty said there was a mistake on the subpoena--she still couldn't give them the man's records. So she made the cops get a second subpoena before she finally had no choice but to hand over the records. It was well over a day before the police got the records they wanted as a result of Reutty's delaying tactics. Who knows what the wanted man might have done to some child in the intervening hours.

Borough officials were angered by Reutty's "blatant disregard" for law enforcement. The library board will meet July 10 to decide if any disciplinary action should be taken against her. I hope they do take action--like kicking her out of the library business and forcing her to go elsewhere.

Is Reutty's motivation here really about "privacy rights"? Does that explain her behavior which, to the casual observer, seems antagonistic and hateful toward law enforcement? Doesn't her behavior seem sympathetic to the potential criminal the cops were chasing? Some librarians are hiding their motivations behind an outward symbol of ethics (privacy rights), when their actions are guided by reasons deliberately kept hidden--reasons not so ethical.

The entire "privacy" rationale used by librarians and gaining nationwide attention is nothing but a sham to hide the immoral, unethical motivations guiding some librarians who unfortunately have found a home in our profession.

As I've stated before, my hope is that the increased technological proficiency demanded of librarians now and in the future will tend to weed out extremists and improve the profession as a whole, as higher salaries and status encourage a better class of people to enter our ranks. My wish can't happen too soon.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Library Reinstates NYT After Cancellation

The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio has reinstated the library's subscription to the New York Times. The library dean, Mendell D. Morgan, Jr., had cancelled it to protest the newspaper's publication of a secret CIA program to track the financial dealings of terrorists.

Some library staffers had complained about "censorship" when Morgan cancelled the print newspaper, although I find that charge specious. The cry of "censorship" is a knee-jerk reaction for some librarians who use it to hide their true reason for opposing the removal of something--their personal affinity with its sentiments.

Librarians "censor" things all the time by buying books they agree with and not purchasing the ones with a differing viewpoint. The myth of librarians as unbiased arbiters of the provision of information is undeserved.

Academic librarians are supposed to provide materials that mesh with their university's mission and academic programs. The actions of the New York Times obviously demand some discussion whether it still belongs in some libraries.

To blindly continue to subscribe to a newspaper regardless of what it publishes because it is a famous "staple" is an abdication of responsibility. I hope the librarians who were quick to shout "Censorship!" will give this some thought.

Morgan said he may still cancel the print subscription after discussing the issue with others on campus.

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Fuss Over Cuban Propaganda for Florida Kids

The Miami-Dade County school board wants to ban a Cuban children's book called "Vamos a Cuba" from their libraries. The book is aimed at kids 5-7 years old:

It shows images of smiling children wearing uniforms of Cuba's communist youth group and a carnival celebrating the 1959 revolution.

I haven't seen the book, but it certainly sounds like propaganda from Fidel Castro's Communist government targeting young kids in Florida. The idea is to teach them to have a positive view of Cuba while they are too young to know the truth and hope that they retain that distorted image of Cuba as they grow older.

I see no reason why school kids in Florida should be subjected to propaganda from a foreign government. Kids should learn the truth about Cuba, not fairy tales. It is the responsibility of the school board and the libraries to collect books that will educate, not brainwash. This demands a process of selection and collection development.

Sadly, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the book must remain on the library shelves until a hearing July 21, apparently as a result of a lawsuit from the ACLU.

"Censorship" is not always a bad thing--not at all. Some books, in some circumstances, should be banned. This is one of them.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Alouette Canada's Digitization Project

I hope I spelled that right. "Alouette." An awkward word if your first language isn't French.

Alouette Canada is a new digitization project that will include books, historical documents, newspapers, and other items of some value to Canada's heritage. I don't see any digital books or anything else on the Web site yet, but there is--in the best French-heritage tradition--a "declaration" which announces 2006 as the "launch year."

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only) tells me several Canadian universities have signed on to the project, which will be mostly publicly funded. Enough has been collected ($120,000 by my count) to support the effort for the next few months, but after that, who knows.

It sounds like a worthy endeavor, but will the money really be there to keep the thing afloat for a long period of time? No solid long-term funding source has yet been found.

My reaction as a consumer of digital products: Throw a book on the Web site already. Let's see something.

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Google Library Project Wins German Legal Victory

Google won a legal victory for its library book scanning project in a German court, according to a story in the Guardian. A book publisher, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft (WBG), backed by the German publishers association, had asked for an injunction to prevent Google from scanning its books as part of its project.

The article states:

The copyright chamber of the regional court of Hamburg indicated though it did not rule specifically that it agreed by telling WBG that its petition for an injunction was unlikely to succeed. The court rejected WBG's argument that the scanning of its books in the US infringes German copyright law.

How much effect, if any, will this have on the U.S. lawsuit against the library project? In any event, this must raise Google's expectations of a positive outcome on this side of the Atlantic.

I previously wrote about the U.S. lawsuit: "Debating the Google Library Lawsuit."

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What's Wrong With Dogpile

Walt Mossberg, tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal, was the keynote speaker at the closing seesion at the SLA Conference in Baltimore earlier this month.

After his speech, he fielded questions. Someone asked:

"What do you think of Dogpile?"

Mossberg replied: "Do you work for them?"

This reminded me about this metasearch engine that currently garners all of 0.5% of the search market. Google, in comparison, leads the way with almost 50%. Dogpile, so the scuttlebutt goes, is popular with librarians. Mossberg, apparently, doesn't rate it so highly (although I don't think he addressed that question but answered another the woman had asked).

Personally, I've never liked Dogpile very much without really consciously understanding why. But now I want to examine what there is not to like.

What's wrong with Dogpile? The name of the service is a negative. A "dogpile" is something negative. I don't want to think about a dogpile, much less surf to a Web site that would name itself that. I see on their site that the word has a different origin than I would have thought:

The inspiration for Dogpile came when its founders noticed that different search engines often return different results for the very same term. The more engines they searched the more results they found.

Following this discovery, the founders set out to create a way to bring the Web's best search engines together in one place to deliver more comprehensive and relevant results.

To capture this idea, the founders borrowed a sports term used to describe players piling on top of one another in the celebration and the Dogpile search engine was born!


But of course, I imagine few people think of this meaning for the word "dogpile." I wonder if people who work there even think of that meaning. Dogpile to me has a hugely negative connotative meaning--and I'm the customer. You just don't hit your customers with negatives. Hello 0.50%! Of course, there are other reasons why competitors like Google and Yahoo! are far ahead. The words "Google" and "Yahoo!" aren't negative at all, are they?

Librarians, I gather, supposedly like Dogpile because it produces results for your search from several of the most popular search engines: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask, etc. You don't need to go to the others; just go to Dogpile and search them all at once!

But that's the problem. You don't get what the others offer. For example, if I search on the phrase "Paris Hilton," Dogpile returns an anemic 90 results! Google, on the other hand, returns 94 million. And Dogpile seems to mess with my phrases in quotes, sometimes ignoring them.

I learned a bit more about metasearch engines like Dogpile at searchengineshowdown:

Problems: These multiple search engines are a commendable effort; however, the problems still outweigh their benefits. All have significant limitations as a comprehensive search tool. They are subject to time outs, when search processing takes too long. Since most only retrieve the top 10-50 hits from each search engine, the total number of hits retrieved may be considerably less than found by doing a direct search on one of the search engines. Advanced search features on individual search engines are not usually available. Phrase and Boolean searching may not be properly processed or available. Often they exclude one of the major databases such as Google or Ask.

It's fun once in a while to see which search engines queried by Dogpile return which results, but I don't think I'll switch from the popular search engines anytime soon.

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Study Confirms Little Overlap Among Search Engines

A new study has found little overlap among search results on the first results page of 4 major engines: Google, Yahoo!, MSN Search, and Ask Jeeves:

Findings show that the percent of total results unique to only one of the four Web search engines was 84.9%, shared by two of the three Web search engines was 11.4%, shared by three of the Web search engines was 2.6%, and shared by all four Web search engines was 1.1%.

This small degree of overlap shows the significant difference in the way major Web search engines retrieve and rank results in response to given queries.


The paper is titled: "A study of results overlap and uniqueness among major Web search engines." Citation: Information Processing & Management; Sep2006, Vol. 42 Issue 5, p1379-1391.

Previous smaller studies also found little overlap in search results, one of them a study by Dogpile.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Wall Street Journal Features LibraryThing

Today's Wall Street Journal includes a story on LibraryThing.com and its creator, Tim Spalding. This is a Web site where anyone can catalog his/her own collection of books.

The first 200 titles are free. Unlimited use costs $10/year or $25 for lifetime membership.

The name of the service seems a bit off the mark, but sounds useful for someone wanting to have a catalog of his/her personal book collection on the Web. Sounds easy, too, but I haven't tried it yet. Not sure I want or need my book collection online.

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Letter Offers Insight into Pinder's Firing

Recently I wrote that Jo Ann Pinder may have been fired from her job as director of the Gwinnett County Public Library because she refused a hug. Probably there's some truth in that.

A letter from the Gwinnett public library board has been revealed. It was drafted a few days before she was fired and listed various interpersonal communication shortcomings of hers that the board was concered with--including problems with employees, public officials and board members.

There had been some speculation, including from myself, that this was a "conservative" versus "liberal" issue.

Library managers and a lack of people skills. Seems I've written a lot on this lately.

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Library Reverses on Spanish-Language Books

The Gwinnett County library board (Georgia) will reverse its previous decision to halt funding for Spanish-language adult fiction books, according to a news article. I had written about this situation previously.

Apparently the negative publicity on a national scale changed their minds.

Bill Roa of Duluth, who took issue with the decision to cut the books, said he was happy to hear of the board's apparent change of heart. But Roa, a Colombian-American, said the board should consider adding books in other languages, such as Bosnian and Hindi.

Well, that would only be fair, I think. If you have speakers of Bosnian and Hindi in your community, and you make a decision to provide materials in some selected languages, why not all? Fairness would demand that Gwinnett find out all the foreign languages spoken in their community and purchase some materials in every one of them.


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Monday, June 26, 2006

Albright Too Right for ALA

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was the keynote speaker at the ALA Conference in New Orleans. On the political spectrum, where would she stand? Certainly she is somewhere left of center. Those on the right routinely disparage her. But even as a Democratic Clinton-era appointee, she is still not left enough for ALA.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on her speech:

Attempts to condemn Castro's imprisonment of independent librarians and burning of books have been defeated at past ALA conventions, so for Albright -- who became the nation's first female secretary of state during the Clinton administration -- to criticize the Cuban regime before the group was potentially explosive. But she did not dwell on the history of the organization's attitude toward the Castro regime.

This is ALA today: such a strong defender of the Communist regime of Fidel Castro (Castro!) that it will refuse to support Cuban librarians abused by him!

What percentage of Americans support Communism? One percent? Three percent tops? Is there really no one who thinks it strange that Madeleine Albright's support of librarians under Castro's thumb would be "potentially explosive" to ALA librarians??

We are in the Twilight Zone.


But she won her loudest applause for oblique slaps at President Bush.

Castro yay; Bush nay. ALA librarians, circa 2006.

Other bloggers have reported on Albright's speech, including the antics of members of the so-called "Social Responsibilities Round Table" who distributed a flyer against Albright's appearance!

I'd like to see ALA sponsor a survey on the political persuasions of its members. Clearly, communists, socialists, and liberals are represented in faraway greater numbers than in the general population. Supposedly there is a push afoot to bring more "diversity" into the profession, but so far as I've heard, that doesn't include political diversity.

And as I've said before, it is not in the best interests of libraries or librarians for the national library association to be skewed so far in one direction. A moderate political course should be charted to keep doors open on both sides of the political aisles. This would benefit not only the profession but the people libraries are paid to serve as well.

The ghastly current situation of a pro-Castro (Castro!) library association needs to be immediately addressed.

I defy any ALA official to make a logical case for a politically unbalanced association as it stands today. I'm up for a few more laughs.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Updike on 'Scan This Book'

Today's New York Times Sunday Book Review includes an essay by John Updike which is mostly a response to Kevin Kelly's widely discussed article "Scan This Book!"

Updike finds many faults with Kelly's vision of a digitized future and is persuasive in some ways, but comes off as someone pining for the world of his youth in others. I have to admit his skill with words enables him to effectively disparage some of Kelly's over-the-top pronouncements.

He questions to what extent the online world can reproduce the traditional one:

Books traditionally have edges: some are rough-cut, some are smooth-cut, and a few, at least at my extravagant publishing house, are even top-stained. In the electronic anthill, where are the edges?

Without looking, I know they're there. Not the same thing, but electronic books can have edges. Anything in the real world can have an electronic counterpart. "As offline, so online." The "edges" are there.

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Funding Foreign-Language Books

Last week I wrote about the situation at Gwinnett County Public Library in Georgia and their decision to stop buying "thrillers, romance novels or other works of adult fiction in Spanish." I assume this doesn't include books in Spanish on how to learn English. And apparently this isn't the same thing as an English-only policy.

Today's Los Angeles Times picks up the story with the obligatory and predictable quote from an ACLU rep. His assertion is extremely debatable whether illegal immigrants are "part of the community" and libraries should cater to them!

The issue is, of course, services for legal immigrants and does that mean libraries should buy foreign-language books for all languages spoken in their communities.

Buying foreign-language material is a tough case to make, I would think, since it seems every day public librarians cry about tight budgets, forcing hard decisions on what to buy, cutting staff, and so on.

Libraries, of course, can and do serve immigrants in many ways other than by providing books in their native languages--but is that absolutely a necessary piece of the service puzzle?

Have libraries that support these purchases provided books in all languages for all the various languages any residents speak or read? Which libraries have researched their communities and have come up with a master list? Funny questions, huh?

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Porn for All at DC Libraries

Patrons at DC libraries view hardcore porn on the internet with children nearby, according to an interesting letter in today's Washington Post. (I know, I know--"So what's the problem?" is what some ALA-variety librarians would say.)

The letter-writer complained to the librarian:

"The librarian I talked to was as disgusted as I was, but she had her orders. What appalls me is the utter hypocrisy of those who allow this to go on in the name of liberty. Those who rationalize this in the name of the First Amendment are the true pornographers -- not those who run the Web sites."

This is yet another example of what's wrong with librarians. A total absence of any sense of responsibility to their communities, backed by laughable references to the First Amendment: "Children can see harcore porn on these computers!" "Oh it's ok--remember the First Amendment!"

Public library administrators such as the ones responsible for this have an agenda and are in effect waging their own cultural battle with their own constituents. Users such as the letter-writer can be pesky for some librarians who don't like "interference" from those they are paid to serve!

The DC Public Library: Porn, decay, political grandstanding, inept, irresponsible leadership--"Engaging Minds, Expanding Opportunities"--the motto is empty rhetoric.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Map Dealer Stole from Famous Libraries

A leading dealer in rare maps was found guilty of stealing about 100 maps from libraries worth a total of about $3 million.

E. Forbes Smiley III, the thief, apparently used an X-Acto knife to cut the maps out of books, and was discovered when he dropped the knife at a Yale library. Other libraries he "patronized" included Harvard, NYPL and the British Library.

The article says Smiley's crimes started in 1998, but another dealer is quoted:

"It's your gut," said Arader, who said he warned others that Smiley might be stealing. "The guy was buying stuff and selling it to my customers for 70 percent of the wholesale auction price, and he was doing it for 20 years."

Smiley seems to have been giving his customers an extremely good price for many years. And those no doubt extremely knowledgeable customers interested in buying old maps must have known they were getting a deal too good to be true.

But the customers looked the other way and didn't ask too many questions, I wuld surmise, because they wanted the maps at an impossible price while probably knowing they were stolen. It seems a common theme in stolen artwork. Criminals are tough to catch because they provide collectors with a fabulous bargain and the customers pretend they see nothing amiss in the deal.

It also indicates continuing security problems for rare materials in libraries. My first library job was in a rare book room and we kept a close watch on users, who were limited in where and how they could use the materials. But this article doesn't make clear if the maps were in a rare book/map room or in a more open collection where thieves could easily cut out pages without much trouble. I would hate to see the rare book room where a user could do this unnoticed!

Are these famous libraries mentioned in the story taking adequate precautions for protecting such valuable items? Doesn't sound like it to me. Lucky for them Smiley dropped the knife where it was noticed!

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Politicized Librarians Damage Our Profession

Employees of the Seattle Public Library have passed a resolution calling for President Bush to resign. That resolution will be introduced at the ALA Conference in New Orleans.

I'm wondering if these Seattle "librarians" have free access to psychological counseling services? I suggest they seek out such counseling at whatever price is necessary.

Who cares what these extreme left-wing people think of Bush or any other national political figure? And why are they so concerned about politics and not librarianship? What are these people doing in our profession? If they don't want to be librarians, then leave. Be social workers. Join the staff of politicians like Dennis Kucinish or organizations like the Communist Party of the USA.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin wrote about "unhinged librarians" protesting against First Lady Laura Bush's appearance at the ALA Conference. She quotes ALA councilor-at-large Mark Rosenzweig, whose rant must be read to be believed.

These phony so-called "librarians" are damaging the library profession with their head-scratching antics that only serve to call attention to the general public across the nation that there is something seriously wrong with librarians.

Can you imagine if these people were as passionate about their profession as they are about politics? Can you imagine how much further along we and our users would be?

I've written before about "reluctant" librarians. They are here because no one else would take them. They are failures who desperately looked for jobs in libraries after all else failed, and unfortunately were successful. They found a home in the American Library Association, which is notable more for its promotion of partisan politics (hello Fahrenheit 9/11) than for librarianship.

Years ago when I was a library school student, the older librarians expressed strong disappointment with ALA for becoming involved with things unrelated to librarianship. Things have only gotten worse in the intervening years.

A good first step would be the closing down of the ALA "Social Responsibilities Round Table," a grotesque piece of furniture around which are seated the aforementioned Rosenzweig and others with similiar extremist views.

Librarians, such as those in Seattle, need to get back to librarianship, and ALA is supposed to set an example for that by cultivating political neutrality and librarianship above all else. Otherwise, they need to get out of here and make way for real librarians who have a passion about this profession and aren't so clueless as to pass resolutions that have nothing to do with libraries.

There are a lot of great students coming out of library schools these days. I've met some of them. It's a shame fake librarians are currently standing in their way.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Future of Search, or, How to Beat Google

Most Microsoft workers search with Google. This comes on the heels of a widely-quoted statement by Bill Gates that Google has "done a great job on search."

Google is the champion of search results equaling a listing of decent links. But in terms of what search could--and will--be, Google's results are crude and primitive when considered from the viewpoint of the ultimate goal of search. But we don't see Google that way because at the moment, it is "state of the art."

What is it that search should be that Google, Yahoo and MSN are not? As Gates mentioned in the link above, search is still too much of a treasure hunt. You don't always find what you are seeking, or it often takes a long time to get to the place you want to go.

But the problem I was to address is the search result screen from the major players circa 2006. It's really nothing more than a list of links--some on target, some not, plus a few ads.

The way to beat Google is this: search results should be a sort of portal of information on the desired topic. If a searcher types "Paris Hilton," the results shouldn't be a list of links. The searcher should be taken to a portal page devoted to Paris. The page would include links as one small part of it. The searcher would see a number of sections or "web parts" (similar to a SharePoint page). One part would include news stories, photos on another, videos on a third, plus Wikipedia-style information on her career, a section on popular Paris blogs, and recent newsgroup postings. Many more possibilities, obviously.

The future of search is a portal results page for whatever the researcher wants--a person, a topic, a music group, etc. A portal for anything that can be searched.

I know what you're thinking. What about the "Lincoln" problem? If a searcher types lincoln, does he want the car or the president? Which portal does he get? One solution is to present the searcher with an intermediary page of several portal options, of which the searcher would select the one he wants.

Search results as just a list of links has got to go. The searcher wants a smorgasbord of information options on his desired topic. Google isn't delivering that ultimate goal, and neither is anyone else. If I were in the search business trying to knock off Google, I'd look into this with all the R&D I could muster.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Murder at the ALA Conference

Murder at the ALA Conference is the title of a murder mystery I've been thinking about writing for at least 10 years. Though I've outlined plots for it dozens of times, I haven't written it yet. But now with all the murders in New Orleans recently, it seems newspaper headlines may beat me to it.

How dangerous is New Orleans? Five teenagers were murdered over the last weekend, and Mayor Ray Nagin asked the National Guard to come visit his friendly city and help restore its usual composure.

But not to worry. The murders were miles away from the ALA Conference area, and occurred at 4am, too. A Statement was released Tuesday from the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau regarding safety in New Orleans. The Cliff Notes version:

New Orleans is safe! The National Guard will help patrol desolate areas far, far away from the conference site. It's not like guardsmen carrying machine guns will ring the convention center and escort librarians to their hotels. Chill, you won't get killed, really!

And as for the recent unfortunate murders, "Police investigating the situation are following strong leads that indicate vengeance was a clear motive, stemming from an incident that occurred in early May in neighboring Jefferson Parish." Well that's a relief! Nothing to worry about. Those vengeful killers aren't likely to be gunning for librarians, are they?

No doubt this safety Statement, released just before the start of the conference (a historical first, surely?), should quell the fears of jittery librarians unnerved by the spate of violent shootings. After all, there are killings in big cities all the time, so waddaya biting your nails about?

Can you imagine what a public relations nightmare it would be--on top of everything that's happened to New Orleans lately--if a library conventioneer goes down for the count? Screaming headlines! Murder at the ALA Conference! New Orleans has a strong interest in this event coming off without any hitches. I'll bet there will be coppers around every corner of the convention center.

As for my novel, I can't give away too much in case I write it (is there really much of a market for such a mystery, I keep asking myself?), but I'm envisioning a liberal versus conservative plotline where the main characters forget about librarianship, which they never cared much about anyway, and become feverishly obsessed with politics, of which they know very little but imagine themselves experts, and spend their time at the conference plotting to destroy their fellow librarians who hold differing viewpoints.

All fiction of course.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Libraries and Hispanics

The Gwinnett County Library Board's decision to cut their Spanish language fiction budget sheds more light on the firing of former director Jo Ann Pinder (apparently no official reason for her firing has been given).

It's looking more and more like a clash of cultures is at work, with the ousted Pinder as the liberal (who supported the Spanish budget) and the board as the conservatives, who want to move in a different direction.

The "liberal" model of dealing with the growing Hispanic community is to encourage bilingualism, illegal immigration, and champion bi-culturalism. The "conservative" way is is opposite: assimilation, encourage Hispanics to learn English, and an end to open borders.

Until now, America has taken a laissez-faire attitude toward Hispanics because they provided a service and no "threat" was perceived. They are "doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there" as Vincente Fox put it. That explains why America has allowed Hispanics to "get away with" illegal entry into the country without much of a fuss at all. But with illegal immigration now a national concern, this model is disintegrating.

Is it the business of libraries to encourage Hispanics to stay within their own separate culture or prod them to assimilate? Do libraries spend money on foreign language material when budgets don't allow them to satisfy the needs of their predominantly English-speaking users? The answer, I speculate, depends on the librarians.

Gwinnett's Spanish language collection is described as being "an instant hit" resulting in a dilemma: Do you halt a popular service because funds should be spent on programs more useful to most of the community, and in a larger sense because the popular service discourages assimilation and instead fosters a widening chasm between two American cultures--and therefore works to weaken national unity (although of course not everyone agrees with this reading)?

The article quotes Board member Brett Taylor:

Libraries, he said, should be about bringing different parts of the community together. "Even if we're reading in English and they're reading in Spanish, we see each other," he said. "We're together."

But we're not. Together but apart. That's the problem. Suppose over the next decade 40 million Vietnamese migrated to the United States. And suppose they made little effort to learn English and most spoke only Vietnamese. Then what? Libraries scurrying to find the funds for trilingualism? We see each other so we're together? A people whose primary language is English trying to learn Vietnamese to connect in some way with their fellow Americans--instead of them learning English? Is it in the best interests of immigrants to not learn English?

How many libraries have strategic plans for services for immigrant communities? How do you decide how much to spend on foreign-language materials? Should libraries strongly encourage immigrants to learn English and deliberately keep foreign-language collections to a minimum?

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Dying from Too Much Data

Death by data. Information overload threatens to kill the quality of research.

"We are starting to die from data," said a science professor quoted in an article in the June 23 Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only). The criminal is digital technology, churning out an ocean of information making it tough for scientists to stay afloat in their own field.

Librarians are expected to provide the needed help by categorizing and archiving the data, and according to the article, librarians are already doing that at Purdue, Johns Hopkins, and UC-San Diego.

Challenges:
  • Vast data troves to be processed
  • Poorly organized data
  • Unsecure storage
  • The need to protect proprietary information
  • "Small Science" data is vast but little attention given to it
  • The players (scientists, librarians, scholars) don't yet know their roles
  • Finding funding
The old model of a Librarian (1.0) as a walking encyclopedia of knowledge is ludicrous and impossible in today's world. Librarians of today and tomorrow need 2 skills:
  • The ability to organize mountains of data
  • The ability to find small units of data hidden in an ocean of information in a short time frame


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Monday, June 19, 2006

Debating the Google Library Lawsuit

Today's Wall Street Journal offers some insight into two opposing views of the lawsuit filed by book publishers against Google over its Library project, under which the search king will digitize millions of books (both in and out of copyright). No link to the story ("Debating the Google Suit") which is available only to subscribers.

The publishers' complaint:
  • Google is copying entire copyrighted books to provide "snippets" for its searchers
  • Providing snippets is a "crippled" approach to access and publishers have a better idea
  • Google is providing a digital copy of the book to the library--publishers want to charge libraries for that
  • Google isn't paying copyright owners anything
  • Google isn't asking permission

A Stanford law professor defends Google's approach:
  • If permission is necessary, that would block content from becoming accessible on the Net
  • If the law recognizes that kind of veto power, that will chill innovation
  • The scanning and access is minimal--just a snippet not a full page--which is protected under fair use
  • Fair use has been about the right to make a profit, which is what Google wants
  • The snippet is not a substitute for the original book

Publishers feel Google is horning in on their territory and restricting their own profits with their actions. They want total control of their books. If I had to make a prediction (I love making predictions), I would say that the courts will decide that there is room for both Google and the publishers. Forget any total victory for one side on this; both will get something, but not everything they want.

Of course, the two sides could always settle with an agreement between themselves that they can both live with. This avenue should have been thoroughly explored before the lawsuit.

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DC Library Proposal Draws Divergent Views

Today's Washington Post published several letters on Mayor Anthony Williams' proposal for the construction of a new main library building instead of refurbishing the old one.

I think the first letter-writer asks some questions that need answering.

Regardless of whether it's best to upgrade the current library or build a new one, Mayor Williams is interested in building his own legacy. He had nothing to do with the old building, but could always say a new one resulted directly from his own "leadership."

Let's not look too hard to find the obvious motivations from such politicians. A new building would be "his" in a way the old one isn't.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Google Botches Shakespeare eBooks

Google has launched a new Shakespeare site with digitizations of his works. The Google ebooks I examined all appear to be based on print books from the Harvard library.

Many of these Google ebooks have serious problems due to the conversion from print to digital. I'm a bit surprised that Google didn't check and edit the results for some of the more prominent titles before going public. Didn't they have anyone click through the pages to find obvious problems? Apparently not. It's very shoddy work in some cases. At the bottom of each page is the proud motto, "Digitized by Google." If I owned the company, I wouldn't want my name associated with some of this work.

Let's start with Hamlet. Here is a screenshot of one of the problem pages:

Google Hamlet

On the right are smeared words, and a couple of lines of type on the bottom are distorted (very common among the books I checked that have problems). You can read the distorted text in many cases, but Google includes a "search inside the book" feature. If you try to find the phrases from much of the distorted text, the search feature won't find them!

Let's move on to Julius Caesar. Here is a screenshot:

Google Julius Caesar

The words along the right margin are cut off! The reason of course is because that is the middle of the page where the binding is, and the mechanism used to scan the pages didn't or couldn't flatten the page enough to read all of the type. This is a right-hand page; the same problem exists for left-hand pages as well. Needless to say, this interferes with the search feature as well.

I'll finish with the Merry Wives of Windsor. Here is a screenshot:

Google Merry Wives of Windsor

Would you want your company's name on this product? Blurry, unreadable type that can't be found with the search engine, and who would want to try to read it anyway.

To be fair, not all the books I checked had problems (not that I looked at every page). Problem books include:
  • Othello
  • Macbeth
  • Comedy of Errors
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • Love's Labor's Lost

Books I didn't see anything seriously wrong include:
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • King Lear
  • The Tempest
  • Richard II
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Timon of Athens
  • The Taming of the Shrew

A little effort in terms of quality control or simply having a Google employee click through books to find obvious problems would have gone a long way. But Google apparently wants you the reader to do the job for them free of charge. At the bottom of every page is a link to notify Google of any problems, such as the ones I've described above.

I guess they're saying it's your job to notify them of bad pages; they're not going to take the initiative themselves.

I'm really starting to worry about Google.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Library Director Fired for Refusing a Hug

No one is really saying why Jo Ann Pinder was fired as Director of the Gwinnett County Public Library (GA).

The Gwinnett County Public Library Watch says it was an attitude problem:

"Jo Ann Pinder's inability to accept the role of humble public servant. If she had been more cooperative and respectful with past and present board members this would not have happened."

But according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Pinder was fired for refusing a hug:

During the meeting Monday, board member Brett Taylor cast the lone vote in favor of keeping Pinder as library director. Based on conversations with fellow board members, Taylor said Wednesday he thinks an incident at a May budget workshop was the "nail in the coffin that turned the tide" against Pinder.

Pinder attended the May 15 workshop even though days before she had suffered a serious back injury. Taylor said board member Dale Todd went to hug Pinder after walking into the meeting late, but Pinder stopped her.

"Jo Ann said, 'Dale, please don't touch me,' " Taylor recalled.


So the moral is, if you're a public library director and you want to keep your job, hug the board members, at the very least. Another "people" problem.

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Berkeley Library Director Quits Over Union Problems

Berkeley Public Library Director Jackie Griffin resigned after butting heads with the local union.

The problem apparently was caused by the implementation of RFIDs in books combined with talk of staff layoffs, although there seems to be some dispute about whether the two were related.

For how long can automation and technological advances be restricted in the interest of keeping as many people as possible gainfully employed? I would hate to think my own job could be in jeopardy just because my library put RFIDs in the books. That would be a wakeup call telling me my job and career need upgrading so I'm not so easily replaced!

There is the suggestion of "people problems" as well, as some librarians claimed unfair treatment. It sounds somewhat similar to the situation in King County, Washington, where union-represented workers voted "no confidence" in the director, Bill Ptacek, apparently over his plan for "clustering" librarians.

Compare with the firing of the director of the Gwinnett County Public Library because she refused a hug.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

DC Library Debate

Renovate, or build a new one? That's the decision facing Washington, D.C.

Mayor Anthony Williams wants a new Central Library built, while some, such as the Washington Post's Benjamin Forgey, think the old building should be renovated and kept as the city's main library.

All agree the current library is in serious disrepair. I've been in it myself. It was a soul-shaking experience I wouldn't care to repeat. There's a whiff of death in DC's public libraries, with the main branch emitting more noxious fumes than any other library I can remember visiting.

What I find interesting is the mayor's comments and justification for a new library. Remember, the DC libraries have been underfunded for years and have been allowed to fall to their current state by Mayor Williams and other local politicians. You can't pretend to care about your libraries when you allowed them to go to an early grave.

But now, suddenly the mayor got that old time library religion, and he wants to throw bushels of money into it. A new library will be the savior of DC! The mayor lists all the social ills it will help solve. If a great library is so important, why hasn't there been any action all these years?

The current MLK central library is in terrible shape, thanks to political apathy. Why should anyone believe a new building won't suffer the same fate? But they're serious this time, aren't they? Things will be different this time around, won't they?

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Google's Federal Search Engine

Google has launched a new U.S. government Web site.

It is similar to FirstGov, but offers personalization features. After logging in, you can click the "add content" button and select from a list of subjects.

One would think that a giant company like Google, the leader in online search, will blow the doors off FirstGov, if for no other reason than that you would always expect a for-profit business to produce a better product than government agencies, which usually aren't thought of as very efficient, or having reputations for producing quality results.

But the current iteration of Google's "U.S. Government Search" doesn't look impressive and seems to be riding the popular wave of personalized Web pages. But as I said before, Google likes to begin humbly and end proudly, so maybe the site will eventually become much better. But is that Google's intention for it? As for now, it will rely on Google's name to build up an audience.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

SLA Attendance: I nailed it!!

13 off!

My prediction for total attendance at the 2006 SLA Annual Conference was made on May 30, 2006. I predicted 5,857:

With all this in mind, I think the 2006 conference attendance will be 5,857.

Total attendance was just announced at the Closing Session: 5,844. I missed by only 13 attendees! Statistically, that's a bullseye (don't ask me to prove it--it has to be).

They don't call me "Mesmerini" for nothing. See the link above for how I reflected on what the attendance might be, then went out on a limb and came within 13 of the actual number!

I am now offering to predict future conference attendance for any upcoming conference, and my fee is priced modestly at $1,000/per prediction. I am also offering a training service for helping other people predict future conference attendance at the humble price of $5,000/per 1-hour online session.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Springer to Launch New eBook Collection

Springer is launching a new eBook Collection. My comments on it are over at the SLA Conference Blog here. If your library is looking into purchasing ebooks, Springer's new offering is definitely worth a look. It launches June 20, but that didn't stop me from posting a sneak peek screenshot.

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Parrots Invade SLA

Parrots Invade SLA

A constellation of parrot stars invaded the SLA Annual Conference in Baltimore. This reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's movie "The Birds." I wondered if they would, on cue, suddenly attack us all after appearing trained and docile.

I didn't notice them using their famed "dead parrot" routine, probably because they knew Monty Python had already exposed that trick.

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