Idea Vault: “The Keys of Knowledge”

Image by Bohman/Flickr

Image by Bohman/Flickr

On the drive up to work, I had an idea for an advocacy effort for libraries. Here’s the skinny:

Libraries around the state issue the Governor a library card. The card is issued to the Office of the Governor, not the individual, so as to avoid any political hangups. This card can be activated or symbolic at the discretion of the library. The library or library system sends the governor the card along with a letter thanking the Governor for their membership in the community and why the library/library system is important to the community it serves.

To combine efforts, a state library association/council could solicit these types of letters and cards from libraries around the state, collect them, and present them as a whole. The cards could be mounted in a frame, or laminated into a giant cartoon-like unfolding wallet accordion, or (as the title of the post suggest) take a hole punch and put all the cards on a giant keyring and present it as “The Keys of Knowledge”. In any event, it can be ceremonially presented to the Governor as a complete package.

The followup would be to send the Governor a letter each year thanking them for renewing their cards and providing them with stories, statistics, and other current happenings of the library. With a new Governor, a new card can be “issued” and the advocacy begins anew.

Note: This can be used for any government position that libraries would like to make a connection. Mayors, Freeholders, City Councils, State Legislators, Congressmen, and (yes, we want to eat our Wheaties) Presidents.

The Ben & Jerry Blog Bounce

ben and jerry

Earlier this week, I had sent out a group message noting the passing of the 4,000 member mark of the Facebook group “People for a Library Themed Ben & Jerry’s Flavor”. The flow of new members into the group was starting to trickle and I was preparing for the final promotional lunge. I sent out a message to all 4,000+ group members, set up a post for people to vote on a flavor, and hunkered down to wait for the answer from the Flavor Gurus. Knocking out a couple of tweets, I was ready to give one last go, once more unto the breach.

And so it began.

Birdie, a regular LISNews poster, took my final message and put it up on the site. Stephen J. Gertz took that copy and placed it on the Book Patrol blog of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (which got a subsequent link on Steven Cohen’s Library Stuff blog). From here, it was posted by Menachem Kasier in the New Yorker’s The Book Bench blog (I got notice of this through this very succinct tweet.) My friend Margaret sent me a link where website Jezebel had picked it up from the New Yorker.

At this point, I’m just non-stop grinning. But there’s more!

The Times Online, a British publication, posted about in their Comment Central section; it was even on the front page of their Comment section, right next to a opinion piece on legalizing drugs and the Prime Minister appearing on TV. (Hmm. Perhaps not the best spot…) The British news site Guardian had also posted about it in the Books area of their Culture section (with prominent links off their Culture and Book pages). More importantly, they were able to get a comment from Arnold Carbone, Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Guru in Chief. Here’s a quote of his passage:

Arnold Carbone, Ben & Jerry’s flavour guru, said the company had honoured musicians with its flavours in the past – last year it launched Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road (chocolate ice-cream with peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks) for Elton John – so a library-themed flavour was a definite possibility.

“From Cherry Garcia to Bohemian Raspberry, some of our best-loved flavours have been fan suggestions. We’ve honoured rock’n’roll icons, so why not librarians?” said Carbone.

He suggested a Malt Whitman: “a malt ice-cream, with chocolate alphabet letters and two decadent rivulets – one caramel and one fudge – as an ode to writer Walt Whitman”.

I was floored. I couldn’t stop grinning or giggling to myself for at least a half hour. But that’s still not the end of it.

From what I’ve heard from some of my Twitter buddies, some of the food blogs have picked up on it. Serious Eats has their take on it as well as Slashfood. I’m also seeing all sorts of other librarian and library oriented blogs picking up on it. (Here, here, here, here, and here on Digg.) Just unbelievable. It’s been fascinating to watch this bounce around the net. Part of me wonders if it’s done bouncing, the other half can’t wait to see where it will go next.

Fingers crossed!

Update: LA Times Book Blog Jacket Copy. The Atlantic’s Food Section Today’s Specials. LISNews again (Thanks, Birdie!). Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish.

Update part 2: Nicholas Basbanes’ blog on Fine Books Magazine. Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life. Baltimore Sun’s Read Street Blog. Epicurious. The National (United Arab Emirates). Journal Star The Book Report (Lincoln, NE). True/Slant.

Here’s a link to a Google Blog Search for the subject.

Wednesday Night Open Question

Deserted Island by Mrs eNil

Deserted Island by Mrs eNil

I was browsing The Flavor Bible this evening when I found something that got me thinking. When they polled more than thirty of America’s leading chefs about the ten ingredients they would take to a desert island for the rest of their lives, the number one ingredient was salt. It is nature’s flavor enhancer and an important ingredient for influencing the taste of a dish.

So, I started wondering what ten items a librarian would bring to a deserted island. (Yes, a library on a deserted island. It’s very Gilligan-esque.) Furthermore, what would be the number one thing?

I think the ten item list would get various mileage depending on people’s specialties, but I’m going to hazard a guess for #1:

Index cards.

What do you think?

UPDATE: To rephrase, “if you were EXILED to a deserted island with a library, what item would you bring to help you manage the library for the rest of your life?” How’s that?

Library Day in the Life

Since it sounded like a lot of fun, I took up the Library Day in the Life Project started by Librarian by Day. Here is what my Day in the Life looked like; I took notes throughout the day.

The alarm goes off. And the cold war via snooze button proxy begins.
I finally arose after a good long wakeup time period. My morning routine is rather simple: shower, dress, grab breakfast and my bag, and head out to work. Except, of course, that I’m out of my breakfast bars so I have to grab one of my wife’s. And, based on how I am feeling, I grab a yogurt as well for snacking at the office. This day has the hallmarks of being “exceptional”; when I turned on the radio, I heard a lovely British voice on the BBC World Service slowly say the phrase, "actual rapes in prison". I quickly swap to the Preston & Steve Morning Show where they are discussing Penn State being named the #1 party school in the United States.
For the record, I am cursed never to arrive on work on time. Whether it is five seconds or five minutes, The Fates conspire to put time wasting obstacles in my path. Unless I leave at the crack of dawn, I will never be on time. Ever. This started long ago when I was flew past my birth due date by almost a month. My mother has not allowed me to forget this since then.

At any rate, I enter and bid everyone a good morning (including Socrates, pictured right). I check in with my boss Suzi and help pull patron holds. One of the books on hold eludes me till I call over others to double check me and realize I’ve read the number completely wrong. Exceptional day, indeed.
I’m on the reference desk this morning, so I log into my email and Twitter there. Mercifully, the inbox has not full of dire emergencies that need my attention RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Quickly I catch a few easy reference requests and questions and then things settle down. I put a reserve on the Job computer and the one next to it for my Job 1 on 1 later today.
No lie, it takes ten minutes to catch up on Twitter. Apparently, there are people who start working before 10AM and have access to the internet. I have to keep clicking till I reach my own last post. I click on links in order to open them in other tabs so as to read through them as the morning goes on.

As the morning turns into afternoon, I get a call from my coworker Joan about the text message pilot program. We are working on putting the final touches on publicity so we can start advertising as soon as possible. This is the final week of preparation before we start churning out publicity for the text message pilot program. A quick call up to Nancy Dowd at the State Library and we’re back on track. Also, I remembered to share all my Google Documents with the rest of the team for this program while I was thinking of it. And finally, I got to polish off the wording on the staff instruction; now, it awaits some graphics (more on the later.)

During this time, I was have a steady stream of patron interruptions in the form of fielding questions, calls, program registrations, and meeting room signups. I did have a nice conversation with one of my previous Job 1 on 1 participants who has found a job. It’s not in his field, but he’s happy to be employed and the hours give him time to find something better. I felt pretty relieved since, out of all the participants I’ve had so far, he’s been the most desperate to find work.

I was able to chat on IM with The Strange Librarian. We were able to arrange for our library based double date (my wife is a librarian, her boyfriend is an archivist), chat about customer service (summary: fines bad, but people gaming the fine system worse), and the lively chat on Twitter regarding librarians and the Martyr complex. And, oh yes, the lusty libido that the library lodges.

But the real question is figuring out what to get for lunch…

…which ended up being a tuna salad on sesame bagel from one of the local  places. (They make a pretty stellar bagel.) “You Got Another Thing Coming” by Judas Priest was on the radio; it certainly felt like the theme for the morning.

I ate lunch with Suzi and Jackie (our circulation staff pit boss) and talked about library technology and swapping library system gossip (an always educational time). After lunch, I got to my desk and organized myself for my Job 1 on 1 and everything else that needed to happen later that day.


This was my Job 1 on 1 appointment. These can vary from people who need help with their resume and cover letters to people who are looking for search term help. At the very least, I introduce them to our Jobs & Career LibGuide, talk about social networks and its value in the job hunt, and try to coach where needed. For the patron this afternoon, it was some resume updating and helping with places to look online. We ran a couple of searches and got her some leads, so it was fruitful for her. Hopefully, I’ll be seeing her at the library on a regular basis so I can check up.

Finally, I get a chance to sit at my own desk and sort through the heaving living mass that is my workspace. I’m a note person so there are scraps of paper all over my desk full of reminders, ideas, plans, messages, and stuff I don’t remember writing. I get to check my emails, Twitter, and Google Reader as I relax into some serious desk time. (I can’t help but smile as a couple of items relating to the Ben & Jerry’s group come through the Reader and Twitter.)

I spent a good deal of time trying to take a photograph of my own phone for the staff instruction sheets for the text message program. Between the auto focus, the phone lights turning off, and trying to get the right angle, it was good lesson in micro-irritation. I got a couple of shots to come out which I will use on staff sheet.


I hope this little visual aid will help my colleagues with the rest of the instructions.


Most days, when the time chimes to 4pm, I am overwhelmed with the desire to nap. It doesn’t matter whether I’m on a desk, a program, a meeting, wherever; I want to just curl up in a corner and take a rest. Today was no exception.


One of the Rivershark people I know sent me a request to post a flyer for Epilepsy Awareness night at Campbell’s Park on the Camden Waterfront on August 21st. So I printed out enough copies for all our branches, wrote a note on each envelope, and sent it off to all of our branch managers and the coworker who handles publicity at our headquarters location. Hopefully, this will make it more likely for them to post it and get more people interested in the event.

From there, it was play time on Twitter and Google Reader as I checked out all of the links, posts, and whatnot that I had saved up through the day. The one that leaps to mind is TwitPaint which seems like a fun tool. From there, it was a matter of catching up with everything else and putting things into place for tomorrow’s work day. But, soon enough, the clock hit five and I hit the bricks. It was a day that got better as it went along and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

As always.

I thought this would be more of a rigid timeline of my day, but adding context felt like the right move to do. It’s been fun to write, fun to dig up all the links, and fun to do overall. I’ve been enjoying the Library Day in the Life posts I’ve seen so far and look forward to seeing more!

Which Ice Cream Flavor Will Library Folks Savor?

Vote on which flavor reigns supreme!

Yes, there are only two choices in this poll. I decided to model it after our own democratic system.=D

If you haven’t joined the Facebook group “People for a Library Themed Ben & Jerry’s Flavor”, click here.

For those who wish to use the Ben & Jerry’s Suggest a Flavor form to their Library themed flavor in, click here.

Thank you for your vote!

The AP is Mad as Hell and It’s Not Going To Take It Anymore

The Associated Press, a widely recognized prize winning news organization, has decided that it is not going to take it anymore. They are looking to control their content by adding a “digital wrapper” to stories so as to ensure that they are being read through licensed sources. This is intended to thwart unauthorized search engines and aggregators who derive profit through ads placed next to links to AP stories. Also, it will allow them to determine what is being read on individual computers and what sites people are gaining access to them. Furthermore, they want news sites that use their content to run the same software as part of a “digital permissions framework” that would inform the publisher of their permission obligations with individual stories.

I can’t even begin to describe all of the major problems and issues of this move (announced earlier this year but beginning to be implemented now). I think the right metaphor sounds something like this: after they realizing they had closed the barn door sans horses, the AP is going to where the horses are and attempting to build a new barn around their current position. Their next announcement has to be the invention of time travel which will allow them to go back to the point in time where internet practices and customs were being formed, insert their business model, and destroy this future free internet content timeline.

All kidding aside, there are some immediate concerns. First, while they have given assurances that no private information will be gathered, how can this be guaranteed? There is no denying the fact that a little piece of digital code is reporting information about a reader back to a centralized information center. (I’m sure that privacy advocates will have a field day with that one.) Second, what amount of web traffic constitutes the need for a site to obtain a license? While they have indicated that they are not interested in going after bloggers, their actions in the past have indicated otherwise. (And their announcement that even “minimal use” would require a license is not very convincing.) Third, what about web tagging sites like Delicious and Diigo? Does the sharing of links through these third party sites constitutes a need for licensing (for me or for the site)? Could aggregations of AP stories through these sites be considered a trigger condition for licensing? Fourth, what exactly does this mean for search engines? While the major players in the search engine field have licenses with the AP, how will their content control affect the results of a search? (On a related note, if I was an AP shareholder, I would be asking how this would not drive news content consumers to use other wire services such as the CNN, the BBC, and Reuters?)

The big looming issue here is that of copyright and fair use. As a librarian, I really can’t see how the AP is going to do an end run around fair use. Titles are not copyright protected and the use of a fraction of the total words of an article does not create a copyright breach. While I can appreciate and understand their desire to protect what they have created, it is not the way to do it in this business and computer culture environment. (I couldn’t even find one article that applauded this move for this post.)

We live in a connection culture where information and ideas are passed from person to person through links. And the more links you have to something, the more likely it is to be seen by others. Taking away those links is lowering the chances of your content being seen and passed to others. When companies are making billions of dollars through linking, why would you restrict or confiscate the very things that drive traffic and revenue? It makes no sense in light of other free content examples. (e.g. New York Times.) It’ll be interesting to see how it does play out, but I have a feeling I know how this one ends.

This is not the last call for the end of free content on the Internet. But it should be the last call for companies to stop trying to apply 20th century solutions to 21st century issues.

Idea Vault: Live Streaming

I was fiddling around with the video recording functions of my digital camera the other day when I thought, “Why not use it with the blog?” I didn’t have anything to say at the time (or anything I felt like putting into a video) so I set it aside. On the drive to work today, I realized that video would be a good way to record some of the random ideas that I’ve just tweeted in the past. While some of those ideas are toss away, some ideas (like this one) stick to me. And being the good little organized librarian that I am, I thought that I could tag it so I could find it in the future. The name “Idea Vault” came to mind so that’s what these types of entries will be called. Plus, as Steven Bell taught me, there is a certain power to video.

So, here goes something.

Oh, and if there are libraries doing this now, I want to know!

Enjoy the Silence

Photo by SuvikoThere’s an opinion piece on the Christian Science Monitor website that’s been making the rounds on Twitter and various RSS feeds. A librarian in Texas by the name of William H. Wisner wrote an opinion piece called “Restore the noble purpose of libraries”. And if I read it correctly, the library needs to (1) restore the silence of the library by removing any technology that makes any noise, including ones carried by patrons; (2) remove any form of visual, audio, or interactive technology from the children’s section; (3) librarians need to learn books to the point of oral recitation, regardless of specialty; (4) comes to grips with the fact that libraries are popular because they are free despite our professional ethics which tout that we provide access to all regardless of their ability to provide supporting payment; and (5) that we stop being “information scientists” and start being scholars again through rote memorization of printed materials so we can once again love and defend our societal purpose.

Or, the funnier way of summarizing his article:

I need to stop prostituting myself, learn Middle English, write humorous non-existent interviews with celebrities who used to date while handing out beverages to make the library “personalized” again and restore the public trust.

Either way you look at it, it’s a strange theory.

To his credit, I will now grin like an idiot while I’m refilling the paper to the printer. While I whore myself to the paper beast, I will relish in the idea that the reason the printer is empty is that people decided to print out timely  and relevant information and take it with them. Quite frankly, that’s all the more reason to construct library based mobile applications so that people can reach the same information on their noisy cell phone or noisy laptop. Or more reason for me to teach classes so that people learn how to use all of the library sources from home so they can print on their own paper. Or just embrace a combined format approach that yields the best resource or information regardless of the medium. Or, heck, for that matter, I’ll give them whatever literature work they want in whatever format they want: print, large print, even audio!

By my own admission, I’m not much of a reader. So I will confess that all of these new audio, video, and interactive technologies for children make me pretty jealous. I really had to struggle with reading, not because I was bad at it or suffered a disability, but because it wasn’t as interesting compared to watching or hearing the work. Oh sure, we can dismiss decades worth of studies on the different learning habits of children and just stick with reading. My brain and character certainly aren’t much worse for it after all these years. But I’m not going to work at a library with that kind of children’s section. I’ll be over at the fun library with the games, the videos, and the noisy interaction and enjoy the more progressive learning models.

I’m sad to say that my library doesn’t offer free coffee. Sure, I could lament the fact that people love us because we are free and then proceed to give away something for free, but I’d rather not sully the incredible dividends that taxpayers get from their investment. Nor would I care to disparage all of the free adult and children programming offered that enriches the lives of the patrons who use it. Far be it from me to possibly heap any more disgrace on the dedicated professionals in the field who work longer hours with more responsibilities for stagnant or shrinking wages and benefits because of the love they hold for their patrons and profession. To be fair, I’m sure some of them also offer free coffee.

Mr. Wisner is certainly welcome to his opinion and the enjoyment that he gets from handing out coffee while building relationships by chatting about Proust or Picasso with students and faculty. As for me, you can find me in the future where information architecture and communication networks interact so as to provide seamless content delivery and global sharing of user derived content  while providing the highest level of patron interaction and satisfaction. Oh, there will be books there too. Print is not dead, just it’s business model.

(And if you too enjoyed his opinion piece, you can check out the preview of his book “Wither the postmodern library?” on Google Books. If irony was chocolate, this would be Godiva.

The very short history of #followalibrarian

This is a quick entry to set something straight. After some searching, I found the tweet that launched a thousand other tweets. The origin of the hashtag #followalibrarian came from “KJ” (@catagator). Here’s her tweet to me that contained this awesome hashtag. catagator

So, I want to give credit where credit is due because the number of librarians I was able to follow because of her awesome idea was huge. Already, this is yielding dividends in articles, blogs posts, and other great sources. I’m looking forward to next Friday’s #followalibrarian. I’ll have to make sure to get my list ready!

To provide the proper context of her tweet to me, I had been asking for recommendations for other people to follow.


My memory might stink, but at least my search skills don’t. =D