the search for the next big thing

For those unfamiliar with the library field, librarians have a strange relationship with technology. On one hand, the library field has been quick to follow new trends of audio and video technologies. Even as we speak, my library is moving towards Blu Ray and expanding web based technologies such as eBooks and downloadable content such as movies and mp3s. We are working on bringing the library and the patron closer together through the internet with an online calendar, databases, and other remotely accessed sources.

On the other hand, it wasn’t long ago that libraries were playing catchup to one of the biggest technologies, the internet. When the internet was emerging as a means for global communication, the majority of libraries balked at the addition of computers. Books, it was said at the time, was the main mission of the library. The internet was something that fell outside of that mission. Eventually, obviously, the massive amount of information exchange was too much to ignore. The internet rewrote the mission of the library in terms of the mediums that it could be expressed in. Combined with the linking of broadband communication networks and global information resources, literally a world of knowledge was brought to the simplest library setup.

At work today, I was sitting at my desk and scrolling through LISNews when I stumbled upon this article. While I try to pick apart some of the underlying technology being used there, it was only on the way home that I really thought about what part of my job entails: finding the next big web technology that the library can use. Ok, it’s not exactly my job description, but it is something that my reference and committee work seem to demand. It’s something that certainly interests me since I’m a gadget and technology oriented guy.

As of recently, Facebook and Twitter are the hot fads that some libraries are making their presence. I’m on the fence about Facebook for a couple of reasons. Our library system filters it out due to some major behavioral issues that were arising from it (we had patrons of all ages monopolizing our computer resources for it and straining the system). So, to have the library on Facebook while filtering it presents a kind of hypocrisy. Plus, with the number of applications and other addons, it feels like it could go spammy very quickly. (This same argument could be used for MySpace, another site we filter as well.)

I think my problem with Twitter is that I haven’t been able to integrate it to my life, so I’m not sure how it would fit into others. I have friends who use it and then use LoudTwitter to post a days worth of Tweets to their blogs (a neat way to bring all the messages together). In looking how it is being used in the media (specifically, CNN), I think it runs the risk of generating too much output. With the low character count of a Tweet, it works well for the Facebook style update but not a full on discussion level conversation. Granted, an outlet like CNN would be looking for something that is short so that it can be evaluated for on air use quickly. But I think we lose something if we come to rely on 140 characters or less to get our points across. To me, in larger exchanges, it turns into information overload.

In looking at reader sites such as GoodReads and LibraryThing, I see something good but not a means for the library to hook into it. The current round of automation doesn’t make exporting into one of those sites an option; and in the overall scheme of things, I don’t see it in the spirit in which the site is intended. As they stand right now, they are perfectly lovely reader’s advisory since it offers a fellow booklover’s review of literature that might be taken more to heart than a librarian consulting a resource like Novelist or pamphlets generated by one of my wiser colleagues in the system.

A site like LibraryElf represents something that should be integrated into the next round of library automation: it will send you a text message reminder of library holds, due dates, and reserves. (Currently, in our automation system (Horizon), we can send emails to patrons for holds and reminders for due dates.) But while that represents a future integration into library automation, it does not in fact create an library/patron interface now.

As I look at these sites, for me it still begs a question: what’s the next big technology thing for libraries? What is the next connection out there that will integrate what we do into the lives of our patrons? Or make the access of library resources that much easier? I don’t think libraries will fall behind the same way they did when the internet emerged as I stated in the anecdote at the start of this post, but I want to be on the forefront of the next library technology trend. I’d like to think that TextMarks from Blake’s article and invention would be a technology available now to utilize, but I always come back to the same thing: what’s the next big thing?

With such lofty library philosophical musings like that, I can rest assured that my job will never be dull.

(Cross-posted at LISNews)

pitchfork futures are up. way up.

A friend of mine put this article from Rolling Stone up in his blog about the bailout and AIG. While I had read various blogs, heard the talking heads on television, and other print media articles, this put it all in perspective. If anything, it quite possibly made me a tad more religious for I don’t think some of these people will see justice in this life. I have never wanted to own a pitchfork more than any other time in my life, even if I wasn’t using it for its originally created purpose.

The article also served to reverse my position on the bailouts and the incredible amounts of money involved here. Not simply because it is against the very nature of free market capitalism, but that these people deserve to undergo either financial reorganization or bankruptcy. (As my father put it last night, “They should get the haircut they deserve, not the bolstering.”) This would allow the companies to come down in size to the more manageable (read: easier to regulate) levels prior to 1999. It would also send a clear signal that such organization behavior will not be tolerated.

I’m not completely unsympathic to the plight of the people who work or worked for the company who are going to lose their jobs from this financial crisis. Having been let go a couple of times in my jog history, I would hope that this would create the change or innovation I underwent in changing fields. The march of industry will go on, just to a different beat.

power to the people

Of all things to be looking into over the internet (and perhaps I’ve exhausted all of the juvenile ones), I’m looking into how to form a political action committee and starting one with my friends. Yes, seriously. And why not? The age of Obama has proven that the internet is a perfectly viable means of harnessing a grassroots effort. Political activism is currently in vogue right now, my interest in the World of Warcraft is winding down, and I’d like to do something different that is both helpful and meaningful to me.

The good news is that finding information on PACs is relatively easy. The Federal Election Commission has a good FAQ complete with a guide and forms for an interested individual. The bad news is trying to read the guide. I wish I could say that it was a file thing, but it’s more of the fact that it is written by lawyers under the direction to write something “user friendly”. So it meanders through regular people talk and ominious awful legal talk. I had a year of law school before going into library science and this crap gives me flashbacks. However, in cursory reading, it’s not that bad. Sure, it’s a 134 pages of gobbelty gook, but it doesn’t feel like a hot fire poker enema. So, it might be worth sloshing through.

This has also been a (gasp) educational experience. I didn’t know they came in multiple flavors (organization or company based versus nonconnected versus a leadership variety) and that that their spending limits are comparable to individuals (which makes sense when I think that people make their own PACs or donate to other PACs so they can make multiple contributions to a single campaign, thus gaming the system; yay American democracy). The most important position in the PAC is the treasurer since apparently you cannot function without one. In fact, it’s the only position listed and discussed to any extent. Since it’s all about money, it makes sense. Then, oh yes, there is a section that is all about communication. It’s like tips from your grandparents about what you can say or can’t say on a date. If you mention a candidate, the money goes there. If you get money that is earmarked for a candidate, then it goes there (I think). Then there are types of solicitation that resemble downhill slalom skiing. And you have to spend $1,000 before you have to register with the FEC. And then what I read starts to meld together in my head as it gets into filing and filling out the forms for filing and so forth.

From there, it is about what kind of candidates to support. This is a two fold question. The easier of these is whether you are going to support local or federal or both. If it is both, then two bank accounts will need to be maintained. Of course, this begs the question: what sort of platform would this sort of PAC support?

I have a firm faith in my friends that there could be a consensus found for a platform that we would all support. We cover a range of the political spectrum, but I don’t think we are incapable of finding compromise on issues. Obviously, this could be a fatal error to the whole PAC idea, but I have some hope. What I would be looking to support would be pragmatic politicians who could supply sensible solutions to various issues (e.g. energy, education, and other domestic issues) regardless of their political party. This might be the most complicated part of this proposal, but it also might be the most exciting in getting into some good political discussions with friends.

Now, as a nonconnected PAC, you can solict the general public for funds. In looking at the Obama campaign, my take on it would be utilizing PayPal and CafePress. I’d have to investigate PayPal more, but it is an excellent means for collecting money and moving it to actual bank accounts (especially in combination with CafePress). Why CafePress? Merchandising. Bumper stickers, bags, hats, t-shirts, and everything in between. It would raise money for the PAC and it gives people some unique swag. (Ask about our $100 bumper sticker!)  And it is harnessing the power of the internet to boot.

This might be the dawn of a new age of politics. Or something like that.

news that makes me smile

This will warm the cockles of your heart.

Anthony Morris’s job search hit a snag this month when the Queens Borough Public Library notified him that he could not get a new library card until he paid about $80 in fines.

Mr. Morris, 31, had been unemployed for eight months and did not have the money. But he had amassed an armful of library books he needed to prepare for an exam that was part of the application process for a job at Con Edison, and he also needed a library card to browse online classified sites. So he asked if he could work off his debt.

After 22 hours of sorting books in the reference section at the Jamaica branch, Mr. Morris got his library card — and was asked to apply for a part-time position at the library.

(Source: NYT via LISNews)

pretty soon, nothing happened

After being issued the challenge to put forth a budget, the Republicans answered… with a 19 page document that contained no actual numbers. (You can see it for yourself here.) Glenn Thrush from Politico reports that even the release was subject to some bickering as the party members split between actually creating a budget with numbers versus putting *something* out there to win the news cycle. Sadly, a budget is longer than a news cycle. This budget is something we have to live with long after the cameras turn off.

Now, I will admit that, at the Center for American Progress (a noted progressive site), I scored in the ‘liberal democrat’ range on their Interactive Quiz. (Although, it is hard to take a website quiz where you rate issues 1 through 10 as gospel, but that’s another story.) But I’m not a partisan hack. If there is a house on fire, I’m not going to argue about where the water comes from. I want to see all the solutions brought to the table. And this just disappoints in a way that makes me very, very sad.

I used to think I was a Republican in Exile, someone who was driven away by the social conservatives who hold views that I find disagreeable. (The pro-life, pro-death penalty stance makes my head hurt.) The conservatism of my youth (small government, fiscal responsibility) has been replaced by the pragmatism of the absolute cluster fuck of a mess we are in. And if the Democrats and liberals of this country are offering the better solutions, I’m willing to go along with them. For those who think this is a compromise of my values, it might be. But I live in the real world which demands solutions for the moment. And a 19 page critique of the President’s budget without hard numbers is not a solution as much as it is a partisan talking points memo. Like Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Macquire, show me the money.

Maybe I should feel sorry for them. It’s not easy to be a Republican these days. They really do need some time in the wilderness. Or we need more political parties. Or less yelling at the far right and the far left and people like myself feeling like a kid passing notes between feuding parents.

I need a drink.

Update: Vermont gay marriage bill

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

“Douglas Will Veto Marriage Equality

The Vermont governor will veto the marriage equality bill passed overwhelmingly by the state Senate. The margin in the House is also very high, as Douglas conceded:

“I’m sure that legislative leaders would not have advanced this bill if they did not have the votes to override a veto. I will accept the outcome of their vote either way.”

So why Douglas veto? His purported answer is unserious:

“The urgency of our state’s economic and budgetary challenges demands the full focus of every member and every committee of this Legislature.”

He can’t sign a bill and focus on the economy as well? Here’s hoping the legislature hangs tough and a third state legalizes marriage equality. Next up: Iowa. Then back to California, where the legislature already voted for the measure, only to be stopped by a funamentalist-funded initiative.”

Yeah, this “we have to concentrate on the economy and nothing else” mindset is just plain baseless. The best way to describe it would be like this: no one pays to see someone who only juggles one object at a time.

because i kenken can

In the last month, I have been rediscovering my love of games. I’ve constructed a wish list on Amazon to keep track of the games I would like to collect over time. Over the last couple of years, the major extent of my gaming has been on World of Warcraft. (I admit, I love me an MMO.) But there has been a hole in my recreation and that whole has been gaming.

There are a lot of good memories connected to games, mainly card ones. My mother’s side of the family is extremely big on card games. There wasn’t many a family gathering that went by in which some sort of game (board, card, or otherwise) was not played. Some of my best memories with my maternal grandparents were around the kitchen table with an after meal game of cards. It is one of those things that I miss more than anything about my time with them.

The wife and I had some friends over tonight and we ended up playing Phase 10. It’s a better card game for a rainy day at the beach house or lazy Sunday afternoon, but not on a work weekday night. We ended up stopping after 11 just to make certain people could get home for the work day tomorrow. Since my grandmother moved out of the house and into nursing care almost a year ago, I think this was the first time we’ve had friends over for such a purpose. It felt great, really, and certainly overdue. I need to arrange for more gaming nights, perhaps with different games or themes in mind.

At any rate, while I cannot indulge in these types of games all the time, I can always have a logic problem book on hand. A month or so ago, I purchased a couple of New York Times crossword books for the nightstand. It’s a nice way to relax and get into the sleeping comfort zone, especially since I’m doing the real easy ones (nothing past Monday, so far as I can tell). After reading about KenKen in Time, I had to give it a try. The sample puzzle I tried on the website was enough to have me jonzing for more. After work, I met the wife for grocery shopping and then made a b-line for Barnes & Noble. While I was there, I got a KenKen book, another crossword book, a Hidato book, and a Sudoku book (I have one for my work bag, but not for my nightstand).

Let me tell you, I think that KenKen will consume my brain. It really is that addictive. I’ve already gotten halfway through this book which means I will have to find a few more in the next week or so. It’s a dance of numbers and logic  that, while I make mistakes, I learn from them on the next puzzle. I’m hacking my way through the 5×5 puzzles at the moment, but they are things of beauty, I tell you.

There was an article on Will Shortz I read recently about why people are attracted to crossword puzzles. He talks about how it comes down to you versus the puzzle maker in a battle of wits where all the potential answers are known, but there is the element of deception, guile, humor, and subterfuge in constructing clues to mask the true answers. This may not exactly be the case with KenKen or Sudoku, but the battle remains.

I need to go now, the books are calling me again.