Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Great Scot!

Rock On!

When searching for an interesting Librarian web log to write about, I bumped into one which has a sentimental meaning for me, that is The National Library of Scotland.

Being part of a first generation of Scottish descent, I sheepishly admit to not knowing much about my own history other than what I learned from Mel Gibson's Braveheart

How sad. But now, thanks to finding the National Library of Scotland on the web, I can do as much research as I'd like on my family history; as well as learn about my brothers and sisters-in-arms in the library world in Scotland as well as the United Kingdom.

This library has fascinating collections from studies on the ancient people who roamed the Scottish highlands to a well kept collection of everything you need to now about Harry Potter (a creation of native Scotswoman J.K. Rowling). Of course, I didn't see collections on other famous Scots such as Sean Connery, Rod Stewart, Annie Lennox and Ewan McGregor; but I'm not holding my breath. I am hoping, however, that there will be one there one day for Eminem, although an American, claims Scottish descent.

The blog itself appears to be updated monthly, and it could use more daily and recent news - but hey, it's Scotland, not exactly the most exciting place of events.
They do provide a fascinating digital library with history and maps, as well as numerous online resources, which not only provide online reading but other Scottish related links.

If you're in a pinch for British research, check out the National Scottish Library Web Log online. Perhaps when I'm done with this class, I will submit the online research portion on Eminem for them. Let's not forget this Son of Scotland!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Library Flashback

One of my very first memories is of a library.

Does one expect that kind of statement from a library
student? Well, in my case it is true. My mother
used to take me and my four siblings to our local Chicago Public
Library branch. Except in our neighborhood, this
was no ordinary branch.

My local branch was in the Chicago neighborhood of Austin,
which neighbors on Oak Park, IL. The Austin branch is in the
old Austin Town Hall building, built in 1929. It is a huge,
beautiful building. I could not have been more than 3.
To a 3 year old everything seems big, but this really was.
I was in awe. I can remember the smell of the books, how
incredibly high the ceilings were, the people
sitting at tables reading. I also remember my favorite book
from that library - Curious George. Those library
days with my mother were exciting. I wish I could
think of a way to describe it that would capture how
special it was. "Exciting" seems like such a cliche,
but that is what it was.

The North Austin branch was, sadly, not nearly as
impressive a building, but nonetheless, it was still
a treat to go there. What would we find there? Would
there be any new books? It was a one room storefront
on North Avenue. One corner was devoted to
children's books. I remember taking out the same books again
and again, books about dogs (I loved dogs) Nancy Drew,
and one book in particular that showed you how to bake
bread.

Sometimes, just to see how the other half lived, we
visited the "modern" Oak Park Library. Even in those
days (the 1970s) that was one cool library. Oak Park
has a new library today that is even more amazing.
They even had a section of the library where you
could listen to albums! Yes, LPs - vinyl. (with giant
1970s headphones, of course)

Of course, we could not check out books from the Oak
Park Library as we were Chicago residents. One of
many (attempted) snubs we West Siders endured from
the Oak Parkers.

At our local parochial school the "library" was a
converted classroom, and again, I checked out the
same books again and again. When you checked out a book
from the school library you wrote your name of a
sheet a paper that was taped to the inside cover of the
book. So not only could you see who read the book
before you, you could also see how many times you
had checked out the book yourself.

Before the Chicago Cultural Center was the cultural
center it was the main branch of the Chicago Public
Library. This was during my college years. I
would go there to people watch more than anything else.
I would take the newspapers that were attached to the
long wooden poles and sit at a table and "read" the
people who came and went. Essentially it was me,
many elderly people and many more homeless people.

My father worked for many years at the Cook County
Law Library. I used to go there to "study" which really
meant staring out the window (it is on the 29th
floor of the Daley Center) and nap, just like many of the
lawyers there, only I was not billing anyone $150
per hour.

So, what makes a library? Is it the building, the books, the information, the employees, the visitors,the memories?

Will this next generation, raised in the Internet
age think of libraries as quaint old institutions,
or as a waste of taxpayers money? I have a lifetime
of memories of libraries, good and bad (my purse was
stolen as I napped in the Cook County Law Library)
I still get the same feeling when I enter a library
that I did when I was 3. Awe. Sometimes it is awe
of the physcial structure (like the Oak Park Library or
the Harold Washington Library). Mostly it is awe of
all the stories sitting on the shelves waiting to be
told, or all the information waiting to be shared
and taught.

One day last fall, my mother took my nieces and nephew
her grandchildren) to their local Chicago Public Library branch.
She recognized the employee at the front desk and he recognized
her. He had worked at the North Austin branch 30 years earlier.
"A kid in a candy shop" - that expression is often
used to describe a state of happiness. Thanks to my
library".

Check out the fabulous Oak Park Library!

Has Google become the new Napster?

Has Google become the new Napster? Will I, or should
I, become the Lars Ulrich of the library world?
(bloggers note: Lars Ulrich is the drummer of
Metallica who successfully sued to stop the free
downloading of music by Napster). Though, I guess I
did not need to explain that, you could have googled
him.

At first read, of course I agreed with the publishers,
but after thinking about it....aren't public libraries
essentially doing the same thing? Libraries buy books
so that we (the general public) don't have to. I know
there are differences, the authors and publishers make
some money when libraries buy books, but wouldn't they
make a lot more if there were no libraries? I am
always amazed at the books in the collection of the
Chicago Public Library. Just last month I wanted some
mindless entertainment and thought I would read a
celebrity autobiography. Looked it up on Amazon,
almost bought and then on a fluke looked it up on the
CPL website....they had it! More than one copy of it
too! And it was even at my local, northwest side
branch! I thought there was no way the CPL would
carry such "fluff" material, but there it was. I
checked it out, read it and returned it. And saved
myself $20 in the process!

So, what is an agreeable solution to the Google vs.
the Association of American Publishers? How many
people want to read 200+ page books on their computers
anyway? And it's not like you can curl up on your
couch with a 200 page print out of your book. I don't
know, but I don't see the same problems for authors
that musicians faced with Napster. Should we
librarians join forces with the publishers and authors
and do a Lars Ulrich? Who would be our Lars?

Which brings me to another issue.......what is the
goal or desire of an "artist" (be it a musician,
author, painter, etc) anyway ? Is it a way to emote,
to express themselves? To share their vision of the
world? To leave the world a better place? To seek
fame and approval? Or, to do all the the above and
make a buck in the process? What was it Deep Throat
(of Watergate fame) said?..........FOLLOW THE MONEY.
But that is a another debate for another time.

From the October 19th issue of Chicago Tribune:

"Google Sued by Publishers Over Online Library Plan
>
> Bloomberg News
> Published October 19, 2005, 1:23 PM CDT
>
>
> An organization of book publishers including Pearson
> Plc's Penguin unit and McGraw-Hill Cos. sued Google
> Inc., the most-used Internet search engine, over its
> plan to create a digital Internet library of printed
> books.
>
> The Association of American Publishers sued today
> after talks broke down with Google over copyright
> issues raised by the Google Print Library Project.
> Publishers say Google will infringe copyrights
> unless it gets advance permission for the scanning.
>
> "While authors and publishers know how useful
> Google's search engine can be and think the print
> library could be an excellent resource, the bottom
> line is that under its current plan Google is
> seeking to make millions of dollars by freeloading
> on the talent and property of authors and
> publishers," Patricia Schroeder, the group's
> president, said in a statement.
>
> It's the second time Google has been sued over the
> project. In September, three writers and the Authors
> Guild, representing 8,000 authors, filed a
> copyright-infringement suit, also in New York
> federal court. In August, the company suspended
> scanning copyrighted books after publishers'
> criticism."

Whatever happened to Napster? See for yourself!
>

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Patriot Act and the Library

The Library of Congress was created in July 1776 during the first meeting of the Continental Congress. The mission statement for this great institution states simply, that its goal is to “acquire, preserve and make accessible the world’s knowledge for the Congress and for America’s use and to maintain a universal collection for future generations.” Certainly, our founding fathers could not have predicted the terror attacks in the United States over two hundred years later; however, I believe that what they set out to accomplish is now in jeopardy. The mission statement of the Library of Congress establishes a tool for all American citizens – that we all have the right to equal access to public materials in order that no one would be deprived of learning new information.

A librarian is the gatekeeper to the materials in the library. Librarians that are responsible for a collection that are open to the public, such as an academic law libraries that are also a federal document depositories, are part a unique group that are dedicated to the preservation and providing access to multiple resources. On April 3, 2004, the American Association of Law Libraries released a “Resolution on the USA Patriot Act and Related Measures That Infringe on the Rights of Library Users.” They expressed the same opinion that many other organizations have by showing commitment to preserving and enhancing an American’s right to access information:
“Certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, the revised Attorney General Guidelines to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other measures increase the likelihood that the activities of library users, including their use of computers to browse the Web or access email, may be under government surveillance without their knowledge or consent; and… the American Association of Law Libraries opposes any legislation, regulations or guidelines that have the effect of suppressing the free and open exchange of ideas and information.”

I agree with AALL’s statement. Other organizations must come forward to help citizens become aware of the fine print in this law. Some public libraries are making patrons aware of what this law means and what it can do to an average citizen. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, one such place is the Santa Cruz (California) Public Library. The branches of this library have posted signs that state, “Although the Santa Cruz Library makes every effort to protect your privacy, under the federal USA Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56), records of the books and other materials you borrow from this library may be obtained by federal agents. That federal law prohibits library workers from informing you if federal agents have obtained records about you. Questions about this policy should be directed to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20530.” More institutions should be as courageous as the Santa Cruz public libraries in order to inform patrons of their rights, as well as warn them if those rights are endangered.

AALL has clearly stated that its support the effort to combat terrorism in the United States in any way that it can, provided that an American’s civil liberties, which include the right to certain privacies and free speech, are not violated. This is truly the intellectual argument – to open our libraries and federal depositories, or a patron’s history of viewing any collection of works, set back what our founding fathers intended to do in 1776. If the Library of Congress’ mission statement is accurate, an American citizen’s right to access information in libraries is unique from that of many less developed nations throughout the world. The USA Patriot Act threatens what those founding fathers created for us all.

Want to see a librarian's opinion? (Not to mention a spotlight on our beloved teacher, Michael Stephens). Check out Librarian's Rant!




Google: Friend or Foe?

Google: Friend or Foe? Can my years of experience and schooling be replaced by a single word? Is "google" a word anyway? These are my thoughts as I finish my Master's Degree in Library Science. Am I suffering through my own Industrial Revolution? Am I the horse being replaced by the Model T of thenew millenium - The Google T?

I am one of those people who, for one reason or another, never gets to watch a movie from beginning to end. Many times I am asked "Have you seen such and such movie?" And my standard response is always "yes, I have seen bits (or most) of it" So, as I settled into watch a movie, most of which I have previously seen, my future flashes before me. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. She plays a libriarian of sorts, a source of all knowledge in an undefined company. His character is set on selling the company an "electronic brain", a new-fangled thing called a computer. So the game is on, man (really woman in this case) versus machine. And, since this is a Hepburn-Tracy movie, it is also man versus woman.

This new fangled machine (which is the size of the space shuttle) is loaded with all sorts of information. However, it is no match for Ms.Hepburn's amazing memory and it short circuits (if that is what computers did in those days). Woman conquers machine and, in the end, man conquers woman. (again, it's Hepburn and Tracy, so what can one expect?)

Now, here's the sad part, although I have seen bits and pieces of this movie over the years (it must be a favorite amongst insomniacs) I never knew its name. Irony of ironies, I Googled.

And in 2.1 seconds I got my answer - "Desk Set"

Katharine would have been disappointed in me. Want to visit Google?
Check it out at www.Google.com