Monthly Archives: May 2012

Are Summer Reading Programs Also Irrelevant?

I suspect that this is a controversial topic, and since ‘Tis the season’ for summer reading, let’s see how controversial. A library director friend told me that in some places the summer reading programs are still a good thing, although in these times of reduced budgets she sometimes wonders. But, moreover, summer reading is one of those sacred cow things that public libraries still do blindly. She noted that the program use to create a bridge between school years in which there was a recommended reading list for age groups to help them continue to read and not lose ground during summer months. Supposedly, it also helped kids start on that next level of reading.

Another friend commented to me that maybe this summer kids would either be reading on their Kindle or laying on a blanket under a tree with a good book, and wondered which option they would choose. She knew which option she would choose, but it’s really hard to find a shady tree with nice grass, the smell of flowers and a soft breeze. Ah, the good old days…….

Many of today’s local public library summer reading programs are driven from a national level through a consortium of states that support Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) Aren’t summer reading NEEDS local, based on the local school’s assessment?

(I would have used their CSLP logo here, but they have their website locked down with a message that says their images are copyrighted, so….)

Used to be the summer reading lists were created in partnership with local school librarians. Is that still happening? Anywhere? Or, has summer reading become an excuse for libraries to give kids some cheap piece of plastic toy or gold star and say they read a few pages? Are any summer reading programs using technology, or eBooks, or mobile devices to enhance technology literacy? Personally, I suspect there is little or no thought as to whether a nationally developed summer reading program will benefit MY community. Is summer reading just one of those ‘library things’ that comes around every year to justify the library’s existence and increase gate count during the summer, so why put any more thought or resources into it than necessary?

Any program that is continued because ‘we’ve always done it’, is the worst justification for the expenditure of library resources that ever existed. A 21st Century Library meets the needs of their local community. Does a national program meet your local needs? Do you even know what your local needs are? Should summer reading be placed on the Zombie Librarianship list?


Filed under Uncategorized

Zombie Librarianship

What a great perspective on our profession. Sally Pewhairangi’s Blog post at finding heroes borrowed the concept from John Quiggin’s book Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us. The premise was highly fitting to the free market economic situation after the ‘crash’ in 2008, and it certainly is relevant to librarianship today. Many in our profession seem to be wandering aimlessly looking for some place to fit in – as opposed to coming alive and creating their future library state.

Librarians have held on to many old beliefs because we’ve always done it that way and no one has stepped forward to replace those ideas. Sally recognized that there are at least –

7 dead ideas that still walk among us
1. Social media is not worth worrying about.
2. Librarians know what is best for their customers.
3. Committees and working parties can create innovative services.
4. Blocked websites are something libraries have to put up with.
5. Organisational models based on the industrial age still work.
6. ‘Provide and pray’ is not a bad investment.
7. Google and Amazon are the bad guys.

She feels elaborating on those seven ideas is unnecessary, which may be an overestimation of her profession’s members, but concludes with her own “top five reasons for keeping the zombies in librarianship.”

1. You don’t have time.
You have 24 hours just like anyone else and you just can’t fit any more in. You’re already working 10-12 hour days, and you can’t delay one thing for this. Don’t worry, it’s the most common and obvious reason for zombie librarianship.
2. You don’t have the budget or resources.
Money (and resources) is tight (as always) and is already committed to other projects. It’ll have to wait until the next budget round, as will killing those zombies.
3. It’s not your job.
You don’t get paid to do this. You don’t care if it could fast-track your career. You’ve got a monthly report to write, the usual meetings to attend and Lorna’s morning tea to go to. The walking-dead.
4. You tried this before and it didn’t work.
The situation is exactly the same as it was 5 years ago when you attempted to get this off the ground. There’s no way it will work now.
5. The company isn’t in the gaming industry, we make consumer electronics.
Why would we want to invest in gaming, when consumer electronics is working well for us? This is a bit left-field isn’t it? Let’s stick with what we know works.

I’m going to go out on a short limb here and say that her suggestions are intended facetiously. Her final question for readers, and the whole profession is – “Will you fight with or against the zombies?”

She is absolutely right – it’s time to chose sides people! But, I think there should be more zombie librarianship ideas added to this list.
8. Librarianship still consists of only collecting, organizing, archiving, and disseminating information.
9. The library paradigm didn’t change when the Internet became available to everyone, so it hasn’t changed.
10. SLIS or ALA will tell us what to do to survive.
11. It requires a master’s degree to be a ‘real’ librarian.
12. ……..
13. ….

How about you? What other zombie librarianship ideas are still walking among us?


Filed under Uncategorized

Introducing Google’s Knowledge Graph – Things, Not Strings

Google is telling us how we will learn in the future. It’s pretty much that simple. Google’s Blog post on May 16 – Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings – announced that it is developing a new search tool.

Search is a lot about discovery – the basic human need to learn and broaden your horizons. But searching still requires a lot of hard work by you, the user. So today I’m really excited to launch the Knowledge Graph, which will help you discover new information quickly and easily.

Take a query like [taj mahal]. For more than four decades, search has essentially been about matching keywords to queries. To a search engine the words [taj mahal] have been just that – two words.

But we all know that [taj mahal] has a much richer meaning. You might think of one of the world’s most beautiful monuments, or a Grammy Award-winning musician, or possibly even a casino in Atlantic City, NJ. Or, depending on when you last ate, the nearest Indian restaurant. It’s why we’ve been working on an intelligent model – in geek-speak, a “graph” – that understands real-world entities and their relationships to one another: things, not strings.

So, if you ever had any misconception that librarians might still have a roll as gate keeper for information seekers – FORGET IT! Computer programmers have taken that away from us.

AND – “This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.” so this is just the beginning of our slide into obsolescence. Every librarian reading this should begin looking for a new profession.

I’ve been writing for some time that commercial enterprise will fill the void, and since they have the resources to do it NOW – not in 10 years after committees debate the situation – it is ready for public consumption. People will ALWAYS select the best tools available to provide the services they want, and what used to be traditional library services are no exception. There is no more love affair with the local library simply for the esoteric pleasure of ‘books.’ Life is too practical, progressive and technology oriented.

I’m afraid that the Partnership for 21st Century Skills idea of teaching information and media literacy will be too little too late. Young people – excuse me, ALL people – will be inexorably drawn to Google’s new knowledge graph like bees to blossoms.

Be sure to watch their video at the bottom of the post.

We hope this added intelligence will give you a more complete picture of your interest, provide smarter search results, and pique your curiosity on new topics. We’re proud of our first baby step—the Knowledge Graph—which will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the “Star Trek computer” that I’ve always dreamt of building. Enjoy your lifelong journey of discovery, made easier by Google Search, so you can spend less time searching and more time doing what you love.

Posted by Amit Singhal, SVP, Engineering

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Is the 21st Century Library a Fad?

When I saw this Huffington Post headline – The “Pop-Up” Library: A Mini-Movement of Knowledge – I just had to respond to what appears to be almost a counter culture movement (Actually I hate to give it that much credit, but what should it be called?) within our profession – and unfortunately the media – toward making events into a “LIBRARY” when everyone knows they are NOT LIBRARIES.

I first heard about the “pop-up” fad on an Anthony Bourdain TV show about restaurants that are popping up in odd places, sometimes overnight. They offer great food – according to Tony – stay in business often with volunteers, and close about as quickly as they opened. The point being – as I understand – to spotlight good food and fun times among foodies.

The fad is apparently also filtering into weddings. You can find evidence online, and even in the movies. The recent film The Five-Year Engagement ended with a pop-up wedding of sorts. It was ‘planned’ by the bride and friends, was a surprise to the groom, but he got to cafeteria-style pick his wedding in the park in San Francisco on the spur of the moment. Cute idea – but it is the movies.

Back to the Huffington Post article by Ryan Mack (Financial Expert and Economic Commentator) that states;

On this day, May 1st, deemed by many as May Day, activists from across the country had gathered in protest hoping to breathe fresh life into the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Five hundred gathered in Bryant Park and over 300 gathered on the Brooklyn Bridge. However, these two activists in Brooklyn decided not to participate in the protests and wanted to create change in a different way.

Margaret, an unemployed librarian, and Adam, an architect looking for work, decided to create the “pop-up” library. The idea is simple. Gather as many donated books as possible (they got their original books from the Occupy Wall Street library), collect furniture from the street to paint in nice bright colors, get mugs of coffee and put it all out in urban locations throughout the community. They had carefully selected areas of the community that looked as though they could benefit from some brightening up … not only with paint and bright colors but also with knowledge. There you have the “pop-up” library.

So, here we have a perfect example of a writer – “Financial Expert and Economic Commentator” to be exact – labeling an unemployed librarian and an out of work architect giving away books left over from an Occupy Wall Street event as “There you have the “pop-up” library.” Seriously? Talk about misleading and fact distorting headlines. Mack goes on to finish a story about two enterprising and laudable people who are trying to improve peoples’ lives, not make a library.

They admit to “activating the space”, “engaging the community” and just trying to help people out – but their self labeled “pop-up library” has such an appealing label that it was too tempting for Mack to pass up and just write a factual headline that stated “Enterprising Citizens Helping Neighbors”. Their books came from the Occupy Wall Street event – which was another NOT LIBRARY.

The Pop-Up fad is becoming popular, so why not label this a “pop-up” library? Everybody wants attention! Mack hopes it goes viral, I’m sure the young people on the street do also, and stuff like this often does. But at what cost to REAL libraries? What will this fad accomplish for making libraries relevant to the community?

I know – let’s associate the vital information services that a real LIBRARY provides with a fad – they can both fade when the novelty of the fad is gone.

A fad is any form of behavior that develops among a large population and is collectively followed with enthusiasm for some period, generally as a result of the behavior’s being perceived as novel in some way. A fad is said to “catch on” when the number of people adopting it begins to increase rapidly. The behavior will normally fade quickly once the perception of novelty is gone. Wikipedia

To me there are two forces at work here.

First, the media who is always looking for a story to make headlines because that is there business. That’s who they are. That’s how they make money. They are not going to change any time soon, so we just have to deal with that – which is why the Partnership for 21st Century Skills is trying to educate young people with Media Literacy.

Second is the lack of leadership within the profession to give direction and give a believable and understandable answer to that nagging question “Why do we need libraries in the 21st Century?” At a recent state library association conference, ALA President Molly Raphael stated that she still gets this question far too often, but she didn’t offer an answer.

Seems to me like if the profession came up with a good answer for that question, we could put it to rest. Did our 20th Century predecessors get asked why libraries were needed? Not during the first 90% of that century. So, we’ve had a couple of decades to create an answer – but I haven’t seen or heard it. Instead we’re having Oxford style debates to make light of the issues.


Filed under Uncategorized

eBooks For Libraries Campaign

Kansas is in the forefront of the campaign to bring more eBooks to more Libraries.

Last summer I reported that Kansas was one of the partners in a venture with 3M to find “a solution to digital libraries, and will partner with cutting edge local libraries to explore and move forward the digital library effort.”

The new digital library will go into beta testing this summer, and 3M has revealed the names of some of the libraries, including Saint Paul Public Library (MN), Bergen County Cooperative Library System (NJ), Maricopa County Library District (AZ), Douglas County Libraries (CO), Darien Library (CT), Richland County Public Library (SC), and the State Library of Kansas on behalf of the Kansas Digital Library Consortium.

I also reported last June that “According to Library Journal, June 21 Post:

The state librarian of Kansas, with the backing of state attorney general’s office, is planning to terminate the Kansas Digital Library Consortium’s contract with ebook vendor OverDrive and is asserting the bold argument that the consortium has purchased, not licensed, its ebook content from OverDrive and, therefore, has the right to transfer the content to a new service provider.

Now, Executive Director Gina Millsap, Topeka & Shawnee County (KS) Public Library, has launched …

… a new grassroots campaign targeted at libraries, readers and communities around the country. I want you to be among the first to add your names to the petition. Here’s the link:

The intent is positive – to educate readers and library users about the current ebook market and how libraries may currently purchase ebooks and to establish a way for readers, who are also library users, to become familiar with and to give feedback to publishers. Since most readers don’t read by publisher brand, (“I want everything you have published by Random House” isn’t something we typically hear) we think this could be a good thing for publishers and libraries.

We are also encouraging librarians to educate themselves, their boards and their customers about the current ebook situation so that they can speak about it knowledgeably and civilly and ultimately, make good decisions for their libraries and readers.

If libraries are ever going to be as significant a presence in the eBook market as they have always been in the pBook market, we all need to take collective action to let our opinions and demands be known.


Filed under Uncategorized